Bread – Edges

December 31, 2008


Readings for Wednesday, December 31

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 26:1-9; 2 Cor. 5:16-6:2; John 8:12-19

            Psalms 46, 48

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The word “edge” conveys images of hurt, hostility, pain, suffering, gloom, discomfort.  The phrases “edge of the blade,” “edge of reason,” and “edge of sanity” all sound like movies without good endings for someone.

 

Given the way 2008 has gone for many people, I propose that December 31 now be called the “edge of the year.”

 

Have you ever noticed, however, how a single letter, a single word, a single added ingredient can change the meaning or results of something dramatically.  For example, add the letter “l” to “edge” and you get “ledge.”  Instead of a place where you fall off (edge), you now have a place were you can stand up (ledge).  Instead of a place which cuts (edge), you have a place which supports (ledge).  Instead of a place leading to doom (edge of reason, for example), you have a place leading to restoration and salvation (ledge of reason).  Instead of having something you want to let go of (edge), you have something you want to hold onto (ledge).

 

By adding a new letter, we can turn the “edge of the year” into the “ledge of tomorrow.”

 

By adding Jesus Christ to our lives, by believing in Him and yielding our lives to Him, Jesus can turn the “edge of life” into the “ledge of life.”  By adding Jesus Christ to our lives, by believing in Him and yielding our lives to Him, we can stop falling off the edge and start standing on the ledge.

 

Isaiah again says it well – what happens in “that day,” the day the Lord appears in on earth and in our lives,

 

            “In that day this song will be sung …:

            We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts …

            You [God] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in You.

            Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal….”

 Isaiah 26:1-4

 

December 31 is within the twelve days of Christmas, while the wise men seek to find Him.  Let us join these wise men and also seek to find Him and

 

Let us adore Him!  Amen.

 

Have a Holy and Amazing New Year!

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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Bread – Retribution

December 24, 2008


Readings for Wednesday, December 24

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 35:1-10, 59:15b-21; Phil. 2:5-11; Rev. 22:12-21;

                        Luke 1:67-80

            Psalms 45, 46, 89:1-29

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How odd it is as a topic for Christmas Eve that I should have the topic “retribution.”  But I did not pull this word from thin air, but from today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah:

 

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; The wilderness will rejoice and blossom…

say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,

He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.”  Isaiah 35:1-4

 

To someone hearing “with divine retribution He will come to save you” 700 years before Christ’s birth, this probably sounded like God as a warrior coming from the skies to wreak havoc upon the “bad people” and “save” the good ones.

 

There was a problem, however, and that is that we are all “bad people” through and through.  We Christians call it “original sin,” but translated it means that we are born polluted, we are born rotten, there is no good in us.

 

So, in the famous words of C.S. Lewis spoken through Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia book series, there is a “deeper magic” afoot.  There are two halves to the phrase “He will come with … divine vengeance” and “He will come to save you.”

 

How could this prophecy be fulfilled when, in order to save you, God had to come with “divine vengeance?”

 

The answer begins at the birth of Christ, the incarnation of God in the flesh, establishing the base of operation for your rescue, for your salvation … a rescue which ends on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

 

You see, if man is to be saved, God’s retribution must be delivered upon man, but man cannot bear it — so God became man so that God Himself could bear the retribution which we deserve and which is necessary for us to be saved.

 

God did come, incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and “with divine retribution, He [came] to save you.”

 

Through the fog of high-flying music, grand parades, massive advertisement, warmth of fire and family … see this … this baby Jesus … God’s vengeance, His retribution, brought to earth so that you may be saved.

 

And then, seeing this clearly, you will indeed have reason to both come to Him and adore Him.

 

Have a Holy and Amazing Christmas!

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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Bread – Arrogance

December 19, 2008


Readings for Friday, December 19

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 10:5-19; 2 Pet. 2:17-22; Matt. 11:2-15

            Psalms 40, 51, 54

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“Arrogance” means being full of pride and self-importance.*  We have a slang term for it – being full of oneself.  Because the word has such a negative connotation, if we were to stand in front of a mirror and ask if we were arrogant, we would probably respond “no, that is impossible!”  However, if we stand in front of a mirror and ask, on any given occasion, whether we are full of pride, full of self-importance, or even full of ourselves, we would probably say “yes.”  Therefore, to be accurate, it is fair to say that, in those times and places, then “yes, we are arrogant.”

 

Today’s lessons significantly focus upon arrogance and God’s hatred of it.  In Isaiah, we read:

 

“I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.  For he says: ‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.”  Isa. 10:12-13

 

And in the second Epistle of Peter, we read:

 

“These men [bold and arrogant men] are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.  Blackest darkness is reserved for them…They [bold and arrogant men] promise them [unstable in faith] freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for a man is slave to whatever has mastered him.”  2 Pet. 2:17-19 (parenthetical references are to verses 10 and 14)

 

Against this attitude of humanity that believes that we have achieved “by the strength of my hand” (when we have not) and that we have acted correctly because of “my wisdom, because I have understanding” (when we have neither), God does not break into the world with the fullest demonstration of power but with the fullest demonstration of restraint.  He does not come to the arrogant in the form of a warrior but in the form of a baby.

 

Why do we celebrate Christmas when it is Christ’s death and resurrection which saves those who believe in Him?  Maybe it is because we know that there could be no death and resurrection, no Easter, without Christ’s birth.  But maybe there is also another reason.  Maybe we celebrate Christmas because we know that our great arrogance, based upon false assumptions and foundations, can only be overcome by incredible meekness, based upon real power.

 

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Talladega Nights is the “grace” said by the race car driver over a dinner made up of almost every fast food imaginable.  The “grace” is said to the “baby Jesus” and after being criticized for his continuing to pray to the “baby Jesus,” the race car driver states that he likes praying to the “baby Jesus” and he’ll keep doing it as long as he wants to.

 

Like all good comedy, there is a deep truth behind this scene.  Ricky Bobby, the race car driver, was at the top of his game and was full of pride and arrogance, all based upon false assumptions and foundations.  And yet even he realized in his heart that he owed a great deal of thanks to God’s willingness to become nothing so that he (Ricky Bobby) could become something (for real), and that deep knowledge caused him to say “I will pray to the baby Jesus if I want to.”

 

In a sense, for many people Christmas is like Ricky Bobby’s mealtime, a time to acknowledge God but that is about it.  But piercing through that fog of self-centeredness is also the realization that we need what God has to offer – we need the Christ-child.

 

So this Christmas season let us not just offer a prayer to the Christ-child because “we want to,” but let us set aside our arrogance and let us adore Him!

 

Amen.

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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*Adapted from the definition given in Webster’s New World Dictionary (College Edition) (1976)


Readings for Friday, December 12

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 7:10-25; 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5; Luke 22:14-30

            Psalms 31, 35

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We are introduced to Isaiah’s reference to the coming of Immanuel by Isaiah asking Ahaz, king of Judah, why he was afraid of the countries of Aram and Ephraim.  In asking this question, Isaiah repeats the Lord’s words:

 

“…for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin…The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria in only Remaliah’s son…”  Isa. 7:8-9

 

The Lord is saying “trace back the source of power” and you will find that it only goes to “only” a person.  Paraphrased, “The countries of Aram and Ephraim cannot be faithful to war when their power comes from “only” a person.  Therefore, why are you afraid?”

 

Then the Lord, through Isaiah, tells Ahaz to ask the Lord anything, and He will do it (as a demonstration of power and faithfulness which comes from power).  Ahaz responds in much the same way we probably would, out of false humility, and tells the Lord “never mind.”  In response to Ahaz’ “never mind,” the Lord responds that it does matter and that He will show his power (and faithfulness which is made sure by power) by doing this:

 

“Therefore, the LORD himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  Isa. 7:14

 

Very shortly we will celebrate, not a “holiday” as promoted by our news media, our commercial companies, and through them, Satan, but the very real birth to a very real virgin of the very real Immanuel, promised to us by the very real Isaiah to the very real Ahaz in the very real time of approximately 750 years before Immanuel’s birth.  God has power, unlike man, and as a result is faithful.

 

The reality of God’s power and faithfulness is reflected throughout Scripture and history, not only ancient history but also recent history.  Not only in the history and lives of Isaiah and Ahaz, but in the history and lives of … us.

 

Because He (God) has power to be faithful and to deliver what He promises, Paul can write in today’s lesson with complete assurance “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”  2 Thess. 3:3.

 

God said through Isaiah that He was sending a “sign.”  Later, Jesus asked the Pharisees if they could read the sign.

 

God’s sign … His incarnation through the virgin on earth – Immanuel… is before you.  It is the sign of God’s power and faithfulness through the ages to those He loves.  It is the sign of real power expressed out of real love by a real God in real weakness to a real world steeped in real sin made to real people – me and you.

 

Come, let us adore Him!

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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Bread – If

December 2, 2008


Readings for Monday through Tuesday, December 1-2

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 1:1-31; 1 Thess. 1:1-2:12; Luke 20:1-18

            Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11

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This writing marks the first anniversary of Bread.  It is the beginning of the Christian season of Advent, the beginning of the church year.  Bread began one year ago at the beginning of the church year, at the beginning of our joint anticipation of the coming of Christ into the world.

 

After describing a world which ignores God and is rampant with sin, Isaiah says:

 

“‘If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  Isa. 1:19-20

 

Everything hinges on that little word “If.”  Built into that little word is a major assumption … that man (we) have the ability, that we are able.  In other words, the statement “If you are willing and obedient…” assumes that we have the ability to choose to be willing and that we can choose to be obedient, both at the same time.

 

The “willing” which is being referred to here is not a “willing” such as an exercise of the will, but more of an attitude of “wanting” or “desire.”  The Hebrew word (Strongs #14) “[G]enerally speaking … represents the inclination or disposition which leads toward action, rather than the volition which immediately precedes the action.”*

 

So, another way of saying this is that “If you can have the right attitude of desire and from that desire be obedient (in all things), then …”

 

Put this way, the “If” becomes a much higher hurdle.  It is not a simple exercise of the will which is needed, coupled with some obedience, but a radical attitude adjustment from our natural status as rebel to “willing obedience (to the commands of God) in all things.”

 

In fact, the hurdle of “if” is so high that we cannot jump it on our own — we need help.

 

And as we begin the church year, we acknowledge that help is indeed on the way.  Thanks be to God!

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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*Citation is from the “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament,” contained in the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB) (AMG Publishers 1990)

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