Friday – March 26, 2021
Your word [is] a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my path.
A Word of Hope
After 30+ years of studying the Bible, both randomly and focused, I’ve decided that a respectful and thoughtful reading deserves a liberal understanding instead of a literal understanding. In our world of commentaries, there are thousands upon thousands of Bible interpretations. If we were also able to count the the number of people who have picked up and read any of the Bible, we could count those as interpretations as well. Most of us receive what we want to receive from the Bible.
This lays the foundation for what I’m considering today. My first serious studies of Scripture were in Bible Studies connected to a very conservative church. It was so Bible-centered that it was called a Bible Church. The Bible was dictated by God, immutable, and inerrant. I started this journey believing that I had to take the Bible’s many books at face value, of which I had been told should be literal. I was also told that all of the laws and commandments, though they were written long ago, still apply to us today.
As my studies progressed and I actually read the narratives, I’m sure you can guess this opened the door for all kinds of misinterpretation particularly concerning the Hebrew and Greek laws of the day. Taken from a literal point of view would mean it’s OK to cut off somebody’s hand or take an eye of someone who has wronged you. It’s also perfectly acceptable to sell your daughter into slavery in order to pay off a debt or condemn your son to death for disobedience to the patriarch.
Most of these cruel and archaic laws were brought to you by everybody’s favorite, the Book of Leviticus, which also contains the Bible’s most comprehensive collection of our daily sins. The list of transgressions seems to have no end, like the sin of wearing clothing woven from both wool and flax or the sin of planting more than one crop in the same field, the sins of wearing makeup or having a tattoo, the sin of touching the skin of a pig, and of course, the sin of eating virtually anything that is appetizing…makes me wonder what they would have said about potato chips or a burrito supreme. When I questioned my Bible study facilitators about how any of this was relevant today, I was told that we need to think about equivalents, such as worshipping a golden calf being the equivalent to watching too much TV. I was not told how much was too much. Leviticus or Exodus didn’t mention airtime.
Then one day, I discovered there were different approaches to studying God’s Word and therefore interpreting those ancient Hebrew and Greek texts. The term “literal” was replaced with “liberal” in my understanding of what had seemed to be inexplicable. I was able to separate the world of an ancient desert culture from our own, but also recognize when their truth was also my truth. Some things never change. I am grateful for that. But, in the case of Leviticus, some things change drastically. For that I am even more grateful.
Thank you for the stories, poetry, wisdom, and histories of your ancient followers and for Jesus’ own interpretation of his world centered on the power of love. Huey Lewis would be proud.
Order of St Francis and St. Clare
Thursday – March 25, 2021
Psalm 95:1-3, 6-7
Come, let us sing to our God; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before God’s presence with thanksgiving, raising a loud shout with song. For the Most High is our God, the great sovereign over all else. Come, let us bow down and bend our knee and kneel before our God. For God is our Maker, in whose presence we live, and in whose hand we are held. Oh, that today I will listen to God’s voice.
A Word of Hope
This week’s liturgical reading for meditations focuses on the last three sentences of that Psalm of praise to God. These verses ask us to do something which is very foreign to the life of most Americans; yet it would have been very understandable to ancient Israelite worshipers. “Come, let us bow down…”
Recently, I saw Megan Markle’s (former Duchess of Sussex) interview in which she had been surprised to learn that even within an informal setting of the Royal family, when meeting the Queen, she was expected to bow. Why? Certainly, it is a sign of respect for the rank of the other person, but it is also a signal of where one’s attention is placed. I imagine that a bow to royalty while continuing to eat a breakfast pastry or chomping on a big wad of bubblegum might be considered an indignity and a sign of disrespect. Why is it any different when we approach God in prayer?
At that time, we want God to hear our voice and speak to us. We want to demonstrate the reality that God is very different than we are, and that God is sovereign over all. So, a bow to God is more than just a sign of respect. It also signifies that we want to focus our attention on the experience with God. Now, do we have to get down on our knees to pray? As an Episcopalian, I learned when to pull down the kneeling bench at appropriate times in the worship service. But did that really help me focus my attention toward God, or the arthritic pain in my body? The body position is not as important as the position and focus of one’s mind and attention. Our act of bowing before God might consist of a few moments of focused quiet before prayer in a manner which would indicate, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
The Psalm not only addresses the concept of “bowing down” as a measure to focus of our attention. The writing also says we should “bend the knee”. What does that signify? When two humans meet to talk, it may include a challenge of which one will get in the brightest conversation, best argument or that powerful last word. It’s like a test of dominance. Standing upright and face-to-face, we can look each other in the eyes as equals. However, when we pray to God there should be no question of a meeting of equals.
We are not equal with God. God is always sovereign! Now, that does not mean that we have to beat our chest and wail aloud “I am nothing, woe is me.” That’s not how God sees us, but we must realize to whom we are speaking. By “bending the knee” of our mind’s focus, we recognize the sovereignty of God over our life. That step is the essential beginning to live a full and productive spiritual life. We must acknowledge that the desires of God for us also represent the very best opportunities for our life and interaction with other people.
Psalm 95:1-3, 6-7
Come, let us bow down and bend our knee and kneel before you, our Maker, in whose presence we live, and in whose hand we are held.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Wednesday – March 24, 2021
Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.’ When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
A Word of Hope
While there is a bit of sadness realizing these were probably the last words Jesus would preach in public before his arrest, I am also comforted knowing there was hope as Jesus became the steppingstone to God. Without the physical sacrifice, as Christians we would be unable to embrace God in the way we do today.
There is a very slim, feeble looking plant which grows in dense and gloomy Asian forests that defies all odds of surviving. This skinny stalk with thin leaves gathers strength and pierces its way up to the topmost boughs where for the first time it lifts its head into the sunshine. And now, being in the light, it produces beautiful flowers that will bring forth fruits and new seeds.
In the same way, Jesus is the light of our lives. We are the seeds of God, and the more we let the love of Christ into our hearts the more we can bless others. The gospel is the “light.” It is called “light” because of its penetrating and subtle nature. In our darkest moments, Gods’ light in the written words of the gospels, are promise reminders of everlasting hope and love.
God’s love was also displayed at this supreme hour in Jesus’ existence first through the birth, the death and finally the resurrection. Everything God reveals is an aspect of Gods’ greatness, glory, and beauty. In this text, John reminds us that we don’t just see the light of Christ, we become and are the children of light. This means when the seed of God, through the life of Christ falls to the ground and dies, the spirit will continue, through us, to bear amazing fruit.
Creator God of all things let us remember as children of your bright and holy nature, we aren’t just witness to your glory, instead we are called to shine forth your glory so others may see the light as well. Amen
Tuesday – March 23, 2021
1 Corinthians 13.13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
A Word of Hope
Oh, how lovely it is to give love. When I give love, it is like the walls of a dam burst open. I realize, that as the waters travel freely, I am able to give even more love than before. The heart is a muscle like any other, and the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. Here’s the magic of giving love: eventually, and sometimes immediately, you get it back. Love is not something you put in a jar and leave in your pantry, but it is given like a meal. That meal can feed five, five hundred, or five million, and like any meal, it gives strength to the one who eats it. This strength is actually a capacity for giving more love. So, as you give love, you create even more love, in yourself and others.
Love teaches love, kindness teaches kindness, and mercy teaches mercy. Without knowing it, by giving a kind word, we are leaving something behind for the next generation. Look for every opportunity then, to love, for love turns this world into a paradise. If love teaches love, then hate teaches hate, cruelty teaches cruelty, and apathy teaches apathy. We must then overcome hate with love. Without wood a fire goes out. If we do not feed our neighbors hate, then there will be less hate. The same is true of love.
There are a lot of fires in the world burning our people with a contagious hatred. We are surrounded on all sides by this flame. Our choices will either save this world or hasten its destruction. God’s people must be determined, dedicated, and diligent if we are to break the dams surrounding our hearts and cause love to flow like a mighty river. Overcome hate with love. Do not return hate for hate, but forgive, show mercy, and compassion. Then, you will have understanding. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. As Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Loving and merciful Spirit,
You have given us the most precious gift of love. Let us not bury it within ourselves. Help us to be vulnerable, and if we are injured for the sake of love, heal our hearts. Open our eyes to see the countless opportunities You have given us to love, and may we get it back a hundred-fold. Bless You Great Spirit for all that we shall receive. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – March 22, 2021
2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Words of Hope
I spent my first year of college at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. At that time, Baylor was under the authority of the Southern Baptist denomination and students were required to attend Chapel services on a regular basis,
At the time I was a semi-practicing Jew, and the theology I heard in those services seemed very foreign to me. Looking back, it was a good chance for me to be exposed to the kind of religion I didn’t want in my life.
Most of the message focused on the words of God as written in the King James Bible and biblical inerrancy was heavily implied. My problem with that was the inability of the preachers to grasp that the stories in what they called the Old Testament were theological texts, not historical accounts in many cases. The dogma of biblical inerrancy essentially killed the underlying vibrancy of the stories which were meant to be interpreted by the reader. That tradition is why the Talmud was written and why the whole field of Rabbinical scholarship existed.
Needless to say, I have brought a lot of my Jewish heritage to my journey as a Christian. One thing that attracted me to Cathedral of Hope was the Gracie Allen quote I found on a mug in the gift shop, “Never put a period where God put a comma.”
It was part of the larger message of our church that God is still speaking.
That’s also why this passage from Paul’s epistles is so poignant to me.
“Our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Those who claim that God is completely contained in a book limit God’s scope and seek to pin God down with letters. For me, that essentially kills the word of God and I know from experience that God is indeed still speaking.
Awesome God, though we cannot ever fully understand you, we pray that we will be open to hearing your message in many places and from many voices. For you speak to us not just through Scripture but through your Spirit.
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