I Am the Lord Your God

Elizabeth_II_&_Philip_after_Coronation

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

 

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only God in the universe. That is my statement of faith. I cannot prove the belief, but that does not make it any less true for my life.

For God to be Lord means that I belong to Him. Compare the image with Medieval England where there developed a hierarchy of lords. The list in descending order was (and is) king, prince, duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron. Baronets and knights did not receive the title of lord.

Each of the lords had commoners who belonged to them. They were not slaves and could choose to leave. Several barons also belonged to a viscount who had his own commoners to protect and receive taxes from. So, a commoner would call his baron—lord—and the baron would call his viscount—lord, and on up the chain.

We Christians have two Lords, Jesus and God. Notice that Jesus never put himself on the same level as God but bowed to Him as Lord.

It should be no surprise to read the passage in Luke because that is exactly how Jesus behaved. He acted as a commoner. If God chose to elevate him to a higher office, that was God’s decision. Most of Christianity accepts the Trinitarian belief that God has taken three forms, and I do as well. Still, while on earth, Jesus was a man who did not strive to be more than a man.

Nor should we. Every human is born common, even if we find ways to give one another exalted titles. When we go to sit at God’s banquet table, none of our earthly titles will mean anything. You may find yourself sitting between a former President and a street bum.

Jeremiah and Psalm 81 state the argument in the negative. By failing to live the life described by Jesus, anyone of us may end up outside looking in at God’s banquet.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

God Is a Consuming Fire

wheat-bundle-1lb_MED

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

 

Unlike your ancestors, you didn’t come to Mount Sinai—all that volcanic blaze and earthshaking rumble—to hear God speakMSG No, you have been allowed to approach the true Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly JerusalemPhillips

The true city is presented to us by the Son of Man in today’s reading as in all other Gospel readings. How would God deal with the crippled woman? God would heal her, even on the Sabbath. We know that is true because that is what the Son of Man did.

Many Christians complain today about how degraded the Sabbath has become and long for the days when all businesses were closed and people stayed home. Yet, in the past 100 years those Sabbath days have not existed in the US. At least some businesses have been open and at least some Christians have taken advantage of them. In the 1930’s, movie theaters became some of the first business to install air-conditioning and Christians flocked to them for the comfort if not for the movies. After church meals are taken increasingly at restaurants. Like the Pharisees, we too often miss the truth.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the SabbathNIV My uncle was a staunch Methodist and firm believer in resting on Sunday. But he was also a farmer and when the wheat was ready for harvest, work continued through the Sabbath. We do not live in a one-rule world. What is right for me may not be right for you.

Jeremiah was chosen before inception to be a prophet. Every human who has ever lived has been given a task to do. Most have refused to do it. In fact, most never know what the task is because they choose to live far from God. We must be listening to God and willing to do as He asks, even if it is to shake the foundations of the world.

We live in a world of shaky foundations, but we long for the firm foundation of the world to come.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fireNIV

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Vineyard of the Lord

Vinyard

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

 

Both readings in the Old Testament speak of the vineyard and of the Judgement upon it. As Isaiah put it, God looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. NIV

Jesus seldom spoke of this aspect of his role of Messiah, but it was always present in the undercurrents. When John the Baptizer talked about Jesus, he said that Jesus will baptise you with the fire of the Holy Spirit. He will come all ready to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to clear the rubbish from his threshing-floor. The wheat he will gather into his barn and the chaff he will burn with a fire that cannot be put outPhillips

So, when Jesus said, I have come to bring fire to the earthPhillips he is not saying anything new. In fact, the idea that the Messiah would cleanse the land was commonly understood among Jews of Jesus day, based on many texts in the Old Testament.

We also need to connect that fire with the Spirit. Ruach is the Hebrew word meaning spirit but also meaning breath and wind. Pneuma is the Greek word which means spirit, breath, and wind.

A strong biblical image involves the thrashing of wheat. Before the machines of the Nineteenth Century, grain was cut and tied into small bundles called in America, shocks, or sheaves in Europe. These shocks were taken to an open area and beaten on a stone or hard floor until the grain popped loose from the head. This was done on windy days so that the lightweight chaff would blow to the side, leaving a pile of clean grain. It was as true in Jesus’ day as it is today that the purest grain earns the highest price.

To complete the ancient picture, once the grain had been scooped up and safely stored, the chaff that had been removed by the ruach/pneuma, it was burned. In the physical sense, wind and fire worked together to keep the grain pure. In the theological sense, the Holy Spirit separates the impure people from the pure and the impure are cast into the fire.

Jesus was expressing his eagerness for the process to begin purifying God’s Creation.

We now live in a world between the beginning of purification and the unseen end of it. The author of Hebrews describes what we are experiencing by listing what happened to God’s faithful even before the days of Jesus.

We should expect no less in our own lives. Living a life dedicated to doing good as God sees it will naturally invite others to criticize us, even some of the people of God. We live in a world where people suffer, good and bad. When we leave this world and stand before God, His Holy Spirit will blow away those who opposed God. They will receive their reward. Those who are the real grain of the Work of God will remain before Him.

Keep the faith.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Waiting for the Master

file5331311639504

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

 

Talk about contrast. In Psalm 50 we read, I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before meNIV

But we turn to Isaiah and read, “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me? says the Lord.I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats
.” NIV

Which is the Word of God?

Both. When we read the whole of Psalm 50 and Isaiah 1, we should understand that in both passages God’s rebellious people are being instructed to stop doing only the outward manifestations of being a God-people and return to the true nature of Godliness. In the paraphrase by Eugene Peterson: I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinningMGS

God expects us to worship him, but to also to, Stop doing evil, learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow. CJB As Jesus put it, Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit, like people waiting for their master’s return after a wedding feastCJB

Think about how often Jesus used weddings to describe life eternal with God. He even assured us that it would be like a wedding feast. Matthew 22:2: “The kingdom of Heaven,” he said, “is like a king who arranged a wedding for his son.” CJB

While Jesus tells us in other places that we will be guests at the wedding (perhaps even the bride), in this passage he is admonishing us to be ready for his return. When the master of the house left for a feast, the servants remained at home keeping the house in readiness for the master’s return, be it midnight or five am. The master might want a bath, fresh clothes, some food or drink. All had to be ready for any possibility.

We cannot forget that Jesus calls us to be servants, not masters. He calls us to give, not to expect others to give to us. Jesus calls us to Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widowCJB In short, Jesus calls us to do good.

Oh, and while we wait, have faith as did Abraham.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence