Category Archives: Lectionary

The Veil of Death

 

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9 

 

Paul’s letter gives us a new understanding of Moses’ problem with reflected glory. Today’s reading begins with:  If our Gospel is “veiled,” the veil must be in the minds of those who are spiritually dyingPhillips But, to fully understand his meaning we need to read 3:7-4:6.

Paul takes us back to Moses and his efforts to be the emissary between God and God’s Chosen People. The problems were numerous because the people did not understand what Moses was telling them. They, like us, could not see God. Even Moses never saw God.

He spent weeks on the mountain listening to God. In Exodus 34:29-35 we have the description of Moses adopting the veil after being in God’s presence. The text does not tell us why he did that, except that he did it for the people. Moses’ face was in full view as he repeated the words of God. He veiled his face after God’s words so that the people would know that he was just Moses again. (Another understanding of why Moses veiled his face is that he did not want the people to see the radiance disappear from his face. That way, the people would understand that Moses was always available as the go-between.)

For Paul, the veil is all about hiding the Word. For all those who accept Jesus as the Word of God, they will understand what Paul is saying. For those who reject Jesus and God, it’s as though there is a veil blocking the words or at least the meaning of the words.

One of the early church leaders (Ambrosiaster, c. 370 AD) put it this way: Unbelief casts darkness over the splendor of the power of God. ACCS

Why does the Bible talk about hiding the Word? Why did Jesus preach in parables instead of saying straight out what he meant?

  1. Campbell Morgan wrote in The Corinthian Letters of Paul published in 1946 (a year after his death): It is said that our Lord adopted the parabolic method in order to hide the truth. He did nothing of the kind. He adopted it because of their blindness, and as a lure. He told them stories and gave them illustrations, by means of which to awaken their interest, if possible. But they were blinded, as men are blinded still.

God reaches out to the lost. He never gives up. He says with Elisha:  I will not leave youNIV

The Psalmist has God saying: Gather to me my faithful, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice. CJB

Again, the message in Mark, This is my beloved Son; listen to himESV is the ultimate statement on the veil. We may give up on God, but He never gives up on us.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Have You Not Heard?

 

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 
Mark 1:29-39

 

Sadly, there has been a disconnect between science and Christianity for several centuries. There should not be. Scientists seek facts. A fact can be proven to be true or false. The proof comes with physical observations and measurements.

No scientist would disagree that a person named Jesus bar Joseph lived in the first century. The evidence is substantial. But, no scientist has proven that Jesus is the Son of God, nor that God exists.

I believe both but cannot prove either. Faith is required. Faith takes us beyond the science.

The Big Bang and Evolution are both theories. They were presented as possible explanations for how the universe works. Over the decades since, evidence has been collected which help to prove the theories to be correct. Neither is yet considered to be a Law, as in the Law of Gravity. But there is little evidence to prove them false.

On the existence of God, many scientists reject Him for lack of facts; many allow that he may exist because nothing proves the theory to be false; and many believe in God. In fact, the study of the stars has shown us that the whole system exists almost despite what is possible. It is easy to believe that a power we can neither see nor measure is holding it together.

Likewise, while there are millions of fossils and millions of live observations to suggest evolution as Darwin described is true, they also suggest that changes occur when God steps in to make them.

Consider that humans have kept wolves around for thousands of years and that now we see them in the form of St. Bernard’s and teacup poodles. Despite that tinkering, they are all dogs.

I believe that evolution occurs when God changes DNA.

Who has plumbed the mind of the Lord,

What man could tell Him His plan?

Whom did He consult, and who taught Him,

Guided Him in the way of right? JSB

 

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
 NIV

God has created an amazing universe, and he has placed us on a small pebble near a sun that is a weak flashlight next to the biggest stars above us.

He placed us here because we are in timeout for our misbehavior. If this is our timeout corner, think what our real universe will be like.

Have faith.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Can I Do It or Not?

Illustration by jbrown67 (DeviantArt)

 

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28 

 

Mark barely began his Gospel account when he recorded Jesus violating the Law of Moses. Granted, most of the people in the synagogue did not consider what Jesus did as work, but it was a violation. Healing is not to be done on the Sabbath unless the person’s life is in danger. The man possessed by a demon could wait until Sunday to be healed.

As a follower of the Messiah, I need to understand why Jesus would say—in Matthew 5—Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill themNIV and then violate the Law. Not once, but many times. He even did it again that same day by healing Peter’s mother-in-law. The other healings in the next verses were accomplished after sundown, meaning Sunday on the Jewish system, so were legal.

There is no easy answer. Accepting that Jesus is the Son of God simplifies the problem somewhat. But, accepting that Jesus was the fully human Messiah complicates the issue even more.

One of the most basic Christian concepts about Jesus is that he came, in part, as a shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. In Jesus’ day, and in some parts of the world today, a shepherd worked all day, every day—even sleeping with the sheep at night. So, why would the Good Shepherd refuse to tend his flock on Shabbat?

Paul dealt with a similar issue in his letter to the church at Corinth. The Law of Moses considered all food used to worship false gods to be an abomination. The Jews living in Corinth, therefore, never bought meat from anyone who might be selling left-overs from such sacrifices.

One special worship days—with all the gods there were plenty of them—meat would be piled up and offered at fire-sale prices (pun intended). The poor could afford to buy some of that meat, something they could not do most days. What they wanted Paul to tell them was that it was all right to eat the cheap meat.

Paul answered much the way Jesus would have. It is not easy to think that we “know” over problems like this, but we should remember that while knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can make him grow to his full staturePhillips Paul also made it clear that the meat sacrificed to an idol is just as pure as any other meat, because idols are nothing.

Paul might have said something like this: if a store owner says he worships money, my buying his produce does nothing to me in my relationship to God. The owner may have to answer to God, but not me.

Every forum (marketplace) in the Roman Empire collected a fee to shop there. It was actually an “offering” to the god Caesar. We do not know how Jews and Christians dealt with that in the First Century or what Paul had to say about it. I guess that he said, ‘We know Caesar is just a man and this is another tax, so pay the tax.’ Besides, when the Christian shopper looked at items in every shop, she also saw the idol representing that owner’s beliefs on display in the shop. In the early days, a Christian who boycotted such shops would have gone hungry and naked.

What is the bottom line? Jesus makes it clear that people come first. In all cases, ask what is best for the other person. If what I do may cause another person to become weaker in faith than I should not do it. I can argue that I have the right to do it, but that is not the Jesus way.

Always do what is best for those around us.

Here is a link to a good video about Corinth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=653&v=ynhH6tPeFLo

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Come, Follow Me

 

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62: 6-14
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Mark 1:14-20

 

In Mark, Jesus begins his ministry with these words: The time has come at last—the kingdom of God has arrived. You must change your hearts and minds and believe the good newsPhillips Then Mark had Jesus calling his Twelve. Notice also that Jesus’ first words came after the imprisonment of his cousin John.

Jesus made sure that John completed his mission before he began his own. Some people, then and now, point out that Jesus was somewhat callous regarding John’s fate. He is not on record as speaking to Herod on John’s behalf, or of speaking about John at all. For Jesus, John was finished, and he had his own work to do. We have no way of knowing the sorrow Jesus felt, but we do know the joy he felt about the Gospel.

The kingdom of God has arrived.

You may notice that many translations read like this: repent and believe in the gospelESV I chose to use Phillips translation because the Greek word metanoeo means to change your whole way of thinking.

The Kingdom. What is it? God’s Kingdom. Rule by God. It is the Kingdom that the whole history of Israel points toward. God intended for Israel to be a Theocracy, but it did not work out so well. Looking back, we can now see that God was preparing the way for His son to institute Theocracy.

Between Moses and King Saul, God’s Chosen Ones learned the basics of rule by God. But it was not until the Messiah walked on earth as a human that we could see how it was supposed to work.

The kingdom of God has come nearNIV Phillips had the kingdom arriving, but nearness is the better meaning of the message. The Kingdom of God has not taken over the earth, but it is sprinkled around. Like yeast, it is infecting the earth. Like salt, it is seasoning the earth.

We get a sense of what the complete Kingdom will be as we watch followers of the Messiah spread his love throughout a hate-filled world.

Come, follow me.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Price of Wisdom

 

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 
John 1:43-51 

 

O Lord, You have examined me and know meJSB

You are so familiar with all my ways
that before I speak even a word, Adonai,
you know all about it already
CJB

The wisdom of God is beyond anything we can comprehend. Before I was born, God knew every word I would say, every thought I would think, every dream I would dream. He also knew every emotion I would experience, every love and every hate.

I took a college class in English history in which I had to wade through the actions of a dozen or so kings, finding out which made wise decisions, and which failed to do so. At least I did not have to keep track of the six wives of Henry VIII (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived).

When we humans study history, we know next to nothing about what those long-dead people were thinking, and we can only guess what would have been the best choice in every case.

But God knows every thought, as well as every option open to the king, prince, minister, or peasant. God knows what our lives would be like today if King Charles I had not chosen to force the English people to return to the Roman Church. That decision led to a four-year war in which both sides executed uncounted churchmen on both sides. Charles was executed, and Oliver Cromwell set himself up as the all-powerful Lord Protector.

Or consider a smaller decision. During the American Rebellion, a British sharpshooter (sniper) had an American officer in his sights, but when he saw that it was George Washington, he chose not to kill him. That may effectively have ended the war. It certainly would have changed the development of the office of President if we had still won our independence. Only God knows.

One year at church camp—I was about eleven—we all went on a picnic in a wooded spot below a cliff. Several of us ran to the cliff and, having climbed it several times before, we had no fear. What a difference my one decision made. Instead of climbing face in, I chose to face outward and fell thirty or so feet, landing poorly on my feet. I was lucky to sustain a bad ankle sprain as the price for my certainty that I had wisdom.

What is the Price of Wisdom for God? He knew that 146 people would die in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It would have been so easy for him to smother the flames that started in one rag bin.

God set us loose in this universe where our decisions often have disastrous results. He created us with the ability to make choices. He gave us the knowledge of right and wrong. He agreed to let us have our way.

The price is that God must suffer all the horrors we suffer. He must stand by as we knowingly or unknowingly harm ourselves and others. He also knew that 79 years to the day, another 87 people would die in a New York fire, the second most deadly in the city.

God cries for us. He does not want these bad things to happen, but He must allow us our freedom. Without freedom, we cannot choose God, and He wants more than all else for us to choose Him. That is the only choice we can be sure will end in the best way.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence