Joy in the Morning!

Doing Justice

Have you ever wondered why Jesus told people to walk around naked? It’s a topic I am hoping to make my first sermon sometime in the next two years. In the meantime here is a really short answer I offered in response to an answer on a midterm. I hope it has relevance to your life even though you may be missing all the details and context from the class! Here goes…

[Walter Wink]* appeals to the verses in Romans, 1 Thessalonians and 1 Peter, which say “do not repay evil for evil” and to Matthew 5 where it says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’, but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them your other cheek also. If someone sues you and wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” 

He appeals to these texts because he believes that this passage has often been misinterpreted to passivity instead of nonviolent resistance. 

He interprets the slapping on the cheek in view of the necessity of a blow on the right cheek being given as a backhanded slap rather than as a punch. Being backhanded was a blow met to degrade. Punching was something one did when they fought an equal. He believes Jesus was telling victims to communicate to their abusers that they had the same human value and dignity as their abusers. 

Wink interprets giving of cloak as well as tunic to indicate exposing the evilness of the system. Only the poorest of the poor were being stripped of everything in the time of Jesus. By the time someone was suing them for their tunic instead of their land, they had nothing. By walking out of court naked, the victim would shock his abusers as well as expose the true result of their actions. In that society the naked person was not the one on whom shame was put but rather the one who was looking upon the naked. 

Wink interprets going the second mile to be a way in which the oppressed Israelites could take the initiative against their Roman oppressors. Roman soldiers were allowed to impress service on civilians and force them to carry their pack for a mile. To carry the pack a second mile would be to put the soldier in a position of possible punishment. Perhaps he would be put on barley instead of wheat, made to stand outside of the officers’ tent holding a lump of dirt, flogged or a number of other punishments. Whatever the case, the soldier wouldn’t know what was happening to him as a result of the Jew’s “generosity”. Wink calls us to consider the humor of the scene of a Roman soldier begging a Jew to give him his pack back! 

This interpretation is about finding a way to resist evil without becoming evil in the process of doing so. By exposing the injustice of the system room may be created for just change.  

Well, that’s that! I have much more to say on the topic, but it’s time to hit the road running. I have far more to accomplish this week than I can imagine doing.

May the grace of God be with us as we go throughout our day and resist evil in the ways Jesus teaches! Consider His life. Never did He condone it. Always did He resist it. Let us do the same, but without becoming evil in our means of doing so!

*Most information in this answer is taken from pages 98-111 of The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium, Walter Wink, 1998.

Joyful thanksgiving!

This morning I was having a conversation with myself as I thought about my life. I giggled and said, “Laura, of course God loves you! He even jumps up and down when He sees you because He is so happy!” I laughed knowing it was true, if not literally then certainly metaphorically. It’s sweet to be a child of God.

Recently I have reflected that sometimes His children will not treat me like good sisters and brothers. I have considered that sometimes they will treat me quite awfully, but God never will. No matter what happens, God will always be my good Father. He will never stop being faithful and true, kind and loving. He will even never stop being joyful as it is a natural result of His good character.

Today I am so grateful for my good, good Father! I pray that as we go throughout our day, we will experience His goodness in abundant measure! May His family be ours. May we love and be loved! And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, dance!!!!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:3-4

Me, not first

“If a community had to choose between building a shelter for the poor and a synagogue, they were required to build a shelter for the poor.”* Such was apparently the guidelines for semi-autonomous Jewish communities in the 12th century.

When I read this line, I couldn’t wonder how different the world would look if Christians had traveled the world with a similar concept in mind over the course of the last 550 years. What if instead of conquering indigenous peoples in the name of Christ and decimating their livelihoods and cultures, we would have approached the world with humility.

What if before building our own frivolous cathedrals and unnecessary church buildings, we would have been content to gather in homes and warehouses until the needs of those less advantaged than us were met first? What if this was the way we planted churches today?

There is nothing I can do to change history, but perhaps there is something I can do in order to properly reflect on how I interact with the world from this point forward. Maybe “me first”, “mine first” and “ours first” will never lead to a better world. Maybe that is not what the kingdom of heaven is about.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 14:33-35

Today as you go, may you remember that following Jesus is about putting His words into action. It isn’t about finding deep and mysterious, unobvious truths in Scripture. For did not He Himself contend that the way is simple, pure and obvious?

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.'” Luke 10:21

* Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks. Interfaith Just Peacemaking : Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Peacemakers

Today I am going to celebrate all the people I love in my life. Right now some of them don’t like each other, but I am going to rejoice that God has called and ENABLED me to love them all – Democrat and Republican, gay-affirming and homophobic, rich and poor, self-employed and day laborer, corporate executive and street cleaner, mansion dweller and gutter sleeper.

It’s Marin Luther King Jr. Day, so I think it is only appropriate that I am spending the day reading (hopefully) 150 pages of a book in my biblical and practical peacemaking class.

Here is a quote that got my juices flowing this morning, “To be a Christian means that loyalty to the ‘Christ’ paradigm is the final standard by which to evaluate Christian action. To declare oneself a Christian means to confess that ultimate reality is fundamentally revealed in the biblical paradigm of redemptive history, a norm that reaches its culmination in the Christ event. It is neither possible nor proper, then, for Christians to attempt to develop the norms for politics on independent rational or philosophical grounds apart from revelation. That would, in effect, mean that revelation is not really the absolute presupposition from which Christians operate, that something alongside faith is of equal value.”*

While I disagree with this author on many other points, I think I can agree with him on that one!

Praise be to Jesus Christ for His great love for me!

For while I was still a sinner He died for me. (Romans 5:8)

While I didn’t want anything to do with Him, He gently persuaded me to reconsider my rejection of Him.

Yes! “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9

Today let us all be peacemakers!

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Today, be reconciled! Be blessed!

* Friesen DK. Christian Peacemaking & International Conflict : A Realist Pacifist Perspective. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press; 1986. 

Shared Knowledge with God

“the knowledge they share with God, in the original religious formulation, or the knowledge they share with other members of their community, in secular understandings.”* The quote struck me. It was a definition of conscience.

What does it mean to share knowledge with God? Would I define conscience in any other way? Where does a deep sense of knowing the difference between right and wrong come from if it doesn’t come from God? If it does come from God, would that then not be knowledge shared with God?

Honestly, I love that such a brutal book on the ethics of war (secular not Christian) left me with an uplifting and redemptive thought.

The book itself was challenging and not cheerful. Parts horrified me even with my B.A. in history and my background in military history. It was filled with blood from beginning to end. Because it was a book on ethics, we studied about massacres, genocides, atomic bombs and the surprisingly devastating siege.

Little known fact: more citizens died in the siege of Leningrad in World War II than in both atomic bombings and at Tokyo, Dresden and Hamburg.**

The book was disturbing from beginning to end. I am glad a few pages from its end, it cheered me by reminding me of Romans 2:14-15.

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

Today as you go about your day, consider the common knowledge you have with God and celebrate its truth! When your conscience condemns you as you are about to do something, stop, look up (and around), remember that your conscience is shared knowledge with God, stop and do what your conscience celebrates instead.

Know that God loves you, and celebrate that you innately know what is righteous, pure, holy and true!!!

*Quote from Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer. Fifth edition. 2015. Page 342.
**Page 160

A Pearl of Great Price

I have been thinking about how Revelations says that the twelve gates of heaven are made of pearls. One pearl for each gate. Pearls.com says that natural pearls form when, “an irritant – usually a parasite and not the proverbial grain of sand – works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called ‘nacre’, is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed.”

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

I have been considering that Paul and Barnabas said, “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”. Acts 14:22

Paul also said that the way of the cross is so simple that it is a stumbling block to the religious and offense to those who are learned.

“Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The world looks different to those who are being saved. Faith changes life.

Jesus promises a hundred times as much as I had before, but then He adds, “along with persecution”. Mark 10:30

He says I cannot be His disciple unless I carry a cross. When He said this, a crucifix with someone dying or dead hanging on it was likely within sight. If not literally, certainly each of His immediate hearers could clearly remember the last time they saw one. (Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:27, Mark 8:34)

Yet the way is not hard.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

A happy letter

“I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” I love the musical quality of this part of first John. He writes to children because they have been forgiven and know the Father. He writes to fathers because they know Him who is from the beginning. He writes to young men because they are strong, have the word of God in them and have overcome the evil one.

It’s always encouraging to know that the Bible was not written to beat us over the head with all kinds of harsh sayings and impossible demands! It was written because it is possible for us to know God. Praise be to His glorious name!

Later John says that he is writing to them because they know the truth already. They need no one to teach them for the Holy Spirit is in them and teaches them about all things. As that Spirit (anointing) has taught them, they are to remain in Him!

What great news! The writer isn’t talking down to his readers because he fully realizes that they don’t need him at all! They have the Spirit of truth. It is an echo of what Jesus had told the Apostle John the night before He was crucified.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:12-15

Today may you be encouraged, remain in Him and know all truth!!!

In all this I am greatly encouraged

I am so encouraged. In all my troubles, my joy knows no bounds. It has been so good to start a new year encouraged. My life is overflowing with good things, bright futures (for my friends and me) and hope. Irrepressible constant hope!

As I continue with my studies, I read things like the following quote from my Biblical Interpretation class, and I am encouraged.

“Accordingly, more necessary than familiarity with ancient peoples and their cultures, more basic than learning the biblical languages, and more essential than good techniques in interpretation are such dispositions and postures and gestures as acceptance, devotion, attention, and trust.”*

I hear of a friend who is receiving checks in the mail (literally), and I am greatly encouraged.

Another friend inquires about an assistant position and is asked to apply for the director position. By this I am greatly encouraged.

My joy knows no bounds. The road hasn’t always been smooth, but I am learning to dance around all the obstacles.

I pray that today you may be encouraged. Allow your heart to fill with hope over all the good things in store for you.

Saint Peter once wrote to those in pain, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

Today may this same inexpressible and glorious joy fill your spirit and soul! In the middle of the struggle, may your joy know no bounds!!!

*Green, Joel B. Seized by Truth : Reading the Bible As Scripture. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008.

Survival of the Fittest

I have been listening to a podcast about animals, and the phrase “survival of the fittest” is brought up consistently. It is no secret to anyone that in the natural world it is the strong that survive while the weak perish. The fastest lion will always eat the slowest gazelle. One must always be at worst the second slowest gazelle to survive.

I can’t help but wondering if survival of the fittest was what Paul was talking about when he said that all creation has been groaning since the beginning of time. I love this passage in Romans 8:19-22.

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

When Paul said creation was hoping to be liberated and to share in the freedom and glory of God’s children, I wonder if he meant we are all waiting for the day when everyone survives not just the fastest – or at least the least slow.

I say this because the kingdom of God works differently. In the kingdom of God it is the weak who are strong. Jesus said to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Jesus instructs His disciples:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

There is the ever present warning that we must be as a child in order to enter the kingdom of God. For Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 (similar passages are found in Matthew 18:3, Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:15)

Does creation groan waiting for the day when the weak not only survive but thrive? Does the animal kingdom cry out for the day when the strong will not eat the weak? Do snakes cry out for the day when eagles will not eat them? Do birds cry out for the day when snakes will now swallow them? Is every one wanting this rat race of pain to finally end?

After speaking of all creation, Paul says in reference to us, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:23-25

We can wait for the day when the physical creation stops groaning patiently and with great confidence knowing this day WILL come. In the meantime, remember that there is rest for the weary human being!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Perhaps today you will go to a job that seems like it is simply a race for the “survival of the fittest. As you do so, rest in Him. Know His grace is sufficient for us! Be patient. Wait confidently. Hope with great assurance that some day ALL the weak will thrive!

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious”

Isaiah 11:6-10

« Older Entries