Psalm 55 • Deuteronomy 11:18-28 • Hebrews 5:1-10 • John 4:1-26
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
Psalm 40 • Deuteronomy 10:12-22 • Hebrews 4:11-16 • John 3:22-36
While John baptizes on one side of the Jordan and Jesus on the other, John catches onto the ploy of others to incite jealousy, and yet he is clear that the important one is not himself, but Jesus. He models commitment and service, and even leadership, and then he is able to step aside when Jesus enters.
As John, we are encouraged to have courage and confidence to walk in the ways “of our living active God, to love him, to serve the Lord our god with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands.” Beginning from a narrow, human perspective, the perspective gradually widens and it becomes increasingly inclusive and expansive.
In walking in the ways of Christ, we are also reassured of the vastness and the steadfastness of the love of Christ, and the ever-present grace beginning with our ancestors shepherded through Egypt who have become “as numerous as the stars in the sky.”
Moving from this limited and human perspective that we experience with John at the river and on this earth, we are taken to the broader arena and breadth of Christ’s love, and we are able to both recognize and appreciate all that is given to us. Although thought of and expressed in quantifiable “earthly” terms, no number and no words can accurately describe what is there for us.
“Many, O Lord my God are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them they would be too many to declare.”
Convincingly, God is ever-present, seeing all, knowing all, understanding all, without number or impartiality, provided that we, like John are able to step aside when Jesus enters.
— Kelley Lewis
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Psalm 119:49-72 • Deuteronomy 9:13-21 • Hebrews 3:12-19 • John 2:23–3:15
Today’s readings include one of the most influential passages contained in the Bible, discussed at length and in depth by biblical scholars and the basis for many sermons in a variety of Christian churches—including St. Paul's.
That passage is John 3:5 which is “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.’’ This particular passage is considered relevant to baptism, a sacrament of Christian churches. As we heard recently at St. Paul’s, the priest finalizes the rite by saying “you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
If only it were that easy: Water, Spirit; Done. Extending my reading on the scholarly interpretation of this passage was a true eye-opener about the conflict and controversy within and between the Christian churches about the meaning of the phrase “born of water” in both physical and metaphorical contexts. Does it refer to the mother’s amniotic fluid, so anyone who is born is “born of water,” or does it refer to baptism as we practice it? And how does this relate to being “born again”? I know what my faith community’s understanding is, yet there is less than unanimity, to say the least. How will we ever move toward communion with other followers of Jesus, i.e., “the holy catholic (universal) Church,” when there is disagreement on something so intrinsic?
You know what? I don’t really care. Let the people above my pay grade argue about and discuss the meaning of the phrase “born of water.” I just know that I am “born of water” thanks to my Mother, and I have been “born of water” by being baptized with water poured over my head. Rather, I am more focused on being “born of Spirit,” which is why the words of Psalm 119: 64-68 have much more importance for me.
O Lord, you have dealt graciously with your servant, according to your word. / Teach me discernment and knowledge, for I have believed in your commandments. / Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word. / You are good, and you bring forth good; / Instruct me in your statutes.
And let others debate.
— Diane Wakat
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Psalm 45 • Deuteronomy 9:4-12 • Hebrews 3:1-11 • John 2:13-22
We are the sinners. We are the moneychangers. We are the thieves. We are unworthy of God’s temple. You got that, right?
What just happened? It seems like only a moment ago we were singing carols of sweet joy. “What child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?” And it was so comforting, at Christmas, to know that the angry and jealous God of Israel was locked safely in the Old Testament where He couldn’t hurt anyone anymore. And what a joy it was—“Joy to the World!”—to have this much nicer, warmer and fuzzier—this much cuter God, the God of the Christians, born a babe in a manger.
How frightening now to discover they’re the same God. The baby has grown up to be a man, and the wrath in His eyes—as He quotes the prophet Jeremiah and hunts the moneychangers from His temple—is the wrath of that dread tribal God who swallowed up the enemies of Moses, who buried the rebellious Korah alive in a great pit, and slew the flower of Egypt’s youth in an evening, and covered their still-grieving brothers in the Red Sea.
The carol’s question is a chilling one, today: Just what child is this?
Thanks be to God.
Thanks—because the only thing worse than being judged guilty is not having a judge. How often have the people of God cried out to God, “Judge us!” How often has Israel lamented—feeling its sin—that no real justice would come.
Today, it has come. The gospel—the good news—is that we don’t have to be cynical. Israel has what Israel has long desired—a just judge. A jealous God, whose name is Love.
Related chapters: Jeremiah 7 (den of thieves), Numbers 16 (Korah), Exodus 12 (Passover), Exodus 14 (Red Sea), 1 Samuel 8 (judgment)
— Ash Faulkner