Bread – Sight

June 29, 2012


Readings for Friday, June 29 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 20:1-13; Rom. 5:12-21; Matt. 20:29-34; Psalms 102, 107

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From our reading today in Matthew – “…they [two blind men] cried out all the more, ‘Lord have mercy on us, Son of David’ … Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’” Matt. 20:31-33

In our misery, we cry out in our prayers “Lord have mercy on me.” When God talks to us and asks us what we want, what will be our reply?

Will it be “I want food” or “I want a job” or “I want to be cured of this disease” or “I don’t want to hurt anymore?” These are the things in life which we consider practical, which will help us confront the daily grind of a broken world, of broken relationships, of a broken body. These are the things we are inclined to ask for. The two blind men sitting on the side of the road in Jesus’ day were probably beggars. The kinds of mercy shown on them by other passersby were probably a few coins or perhaps a fish. This is probably why Jesus asked “what do you want?” The answer could very well have been a bowl of porridge.

Instead the answer was profound – “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” In many respects, this is a request that even transcends them becoming un-blind. They could have said “We want to see.” But somehow these blind men knew that mere sight was not enough, that the kind of sight they wanted, that they needed, was the kind of sight that was “opened.” There is no really good English term for this. It is like the difference between “seeing” and “really seeing.” It is like the difference between merely seeing a person standing in front of you and seeing into and through that person, into their heart. It is like the difference between noticing someone and loving someone. Both involve sight and seeing; only one involves having your eyes “opened.”

So the beggars, who were probably in need of food, shelter, wine, and some purpose in their life, asked instead that their “eyes be opened.” Another name for this might be “discernment.” Another name for this might be “wisdom.”

The kind of sight which is open is given freely by Jesus in this passage, and the rest of Scripture tells us that wisdom (open sight) is available to any Christian who asks. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Jas. 1:5

Are we today sitting in our misery, asking for a better government, better health, better job, better this or better that? Or are we asking for our sight to be opened, that we may see clearly and openly in the evil day, that we may see clearly and openly both ourselves and our neighbors, that we may see clearly and openly our God.

See, when the blind men’s eyes were opened, what (or, more properly, who) was the first thing (person) they saw? Jesus. Not the world, not themselves, not other people – but the truth. They saw the Truth, the Way, and the Life. They saw Jesus.

Do you have something to be miserable about, angry about, upset about, depressed about? You are a son or daughter of Adam and Eve and so the answer to that question is “yes.” Jesus is walking down the road and asks you, “What do you want?” What is your answer? That your sight be opened so that you can see Him, or a bowl of porridge.

The question is His; the answer is yours. What do you want? Mere sight or sight that is open. The solution for today or the solution for eternity.

What say you to Jesus’ question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

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Bread – Uphold

June 25, 2012


Readings for Monday, June 25 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 16:1-19; Rom. 3:21-31; Matt. 19:13-22; Psalm 89

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In Romans today, we read “We hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. … Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Rom. 3:28-31

This quote touches on one of the great Christian controversies, the roles of grace versus law. It forms one of the great divides among churches. On the one hand we have those Christians who believe that grace may start us and may sustain us, but it our obedience which fully matures us into salvation. In this camp, it is grace plus works (obedience to the law) which saves. On the other hand we have those Christians who believe that it is faith alone in Christ alone which saves, and works before or after have nothing to do with it except as good works may be evidence of a new birth, a transformed heart. In this camp, it is grace only (the sovereign work of God) which saves.

There in fact may be those who say that the passage I have just quoted is not a salvation passage, but a “justification” passage, slicing and dicing the various stages of a Christian’s growth to maturity. I do not have the brain power to engage in these distinctions. It seems to my simple way of thinking that if I am not “made right” before God by something (obedience to the Law) or someone (Jesus Christ), then I am going to be consumed by God’s wrath against my sin. So, it seems to me that this is essentially a salvation passage.

What is fascinating to me about this quote however is that Paul says that “by this faith,” he and the followers of Christ have not rejected or overthrown (or superseded) the law, but in fact “uphold the law.”

In some respects, this is confusing because it seems like he is saying two things can occupy the same space at the same time. By saying that the law is superseded by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are saying that it is not overthrown.

One explanation I have heard for this is that the Law went from a role of bringing us to salvation (which it could never do because we cannot obey the entire Law all the time and all sin offends God), to being a “taskmaster,” showing us God’s standard so that we can recognize our sinfulness and therefore be brought to Christ.

However, I think that Paul may be actually saying something else.

First, what is the Law? Although the Law in its entirety comprises many things, the keystone is the very first thing – “I am the Lord your God … You shall have no other gods before me.” Deut. 5:6-7 By saying that “…by this faith…we uphold the law,” Paul may very well be saying that, in recognizing that we come to faith by God’s sovereign action and by no works on our part, we are acknowledging the truth of this first commandment, that there is no other “god” except God. By “this” faith (faith in Jesus Christ) we are acknowledging that we are not a god, that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, that we come empty-handed, that we are dead in our sins, and that God’s gift of faith and, through faith, salvation is truly His sovereign, holy, loving, merciful act, neither earned nor deserved by us. By true faith in Jesus Christ, without works, we are saying that God is God and we are not. By this faith, we are “upholding” the law of God.

Second, there is an active component to this. “By this faith … we uphold the law.” How are we obedient? Why are we obedient? The answer is “By this faith.” Through this faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we uphold God’s law by a heart of gratitude, a desire to be obedient, and desire to reflect God’s holiness in our own lives. In this way and “by this faith,” we “uphold the law.”

So, the law brings us to Christ. By our total reliance on God, we reject ourselves as “god” and therefore uphold the law. By our gratitude “by this faith,” we strive toward obedience to God’s standards for our lives, and so we “uphold” the law.

By faith in Jesus Christ, the law is upheld because God can. Without faith in Jesus Christ, it is not because we cannot.

So, today, our job is to live by faith, and in living by faith uphold the law. Not because we can earn anything by upholding the law, but because in living by faith we acknowledge that we are not god and He is, and because by His power we want to for His glory. Not because we have to but because we can.

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Bread–Disabled

June 22, 2012


Readings for Friday, June 22 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 13:1-3, 21-30; Rom. 2:25-3:8; Matt. 18:21-35; Psalms 88, 91, 92

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I am shorter than many men and, at least in a football game, this can be a major disability. Apparently, Israel suffered from the same disability. In Numbers today we read “However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large … ‘We are not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we are…The land through which we have gone to spy it out is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height…we seemed to ourselves as grasshoppers…’” Num. 13:28, 31-33 (emphasis added).

Moses had sent twelve men, all chiefs of their tribes, into the promised land to spy it out before Israel entered it. These spies were sent out to find out if there were reasons for Israel to be worried and they came back, saying essentially “yes, there are things to be worried about.” One of the big issues these spies pointed out were that Israel suffered from a disability, being short, compared to the people in the promised land.

And, of course, if you have a disability then there are some things you can’t do. Like enter the promised land. Like enjoying the fruits of the blessings which God gives us. Right?

God told Israel that he was giving them a land. They are right on the edge of possessing it. God tells Moses to send out spies into the land but does not say what the purpose of the spies is to be. Perhaps God intended that the spies do nothing but check out the length, breadth, and height of the blessings which God has in mind for them. However, Moses does not instruct the spies to do just that. No, in the spirit of man and the world he asks the spies to also check out what problems there might be.

We are promised things by God all the time. We are promised joy, peace, rest, love. We go check it out. And we come back with a report to ourselves, not about the blessings but about the problems, the difficulties, the hurdles, the costs, the burdens, the impossibility. We look at our disabilities, at our shortness, and we say we cannot possess the land, we cannot take the blessings, we cannot participate fully in the gift.

Well folks, we all have disabilities, we are all disabled. Perhaps some can point to an obvious disability, such as a medical or psychological difficulty, economic circumstances, lack of education, etc. But we are all short of the mark, we all fall short, we are all sinful. Isn’t our sin, self-centered nature, our desire to be a god the real disability?

Yes, the people “over there,” outside our circumstances, are stronger, faster, smarter, better, taller, wealthier, and better off than we are. But we make a bad comparison when we compare ourselves to them.

The reason it is a bad comparison is that our God, Jesus Christ, does battle for us. It is He who has won the victory, not us. We just get to share in it.

See, the comparison is not us versus them, it is them versus God. And who wins that fight?

In spite of the negative report, Caleb, one of the spies, said to Israel “Let us go up at once and occupy it [the promised land], for we are well able to overcome it.” Num. 13:30.

God has set before us today the riches of His kingdom to possess – these are not riches of gold but riches of life. Are we going to sit and nurse our disabilities, or are we going to “go up” and get out and possess the good land which God has given to us?

Christ died for us so that our disability would be transformed through His ability into eternal life. Because of what He has done and, through the Holy Spirit, will do as we abide in Him, we are indeed “well able.” Seize the day.

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Bread – Craving

June 20, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, June 20 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 11:24-35; Rom. 1:28-2:11; Matt. 18:1-9; Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120

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From our reading today in Numbers (with some paraphrasing by me): “…brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey {on each side of the camp) and about (a foot and a half deep). And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day and gathered … (at least 60 bushels of quail apiece). And they spread them out for themselves … the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving.” Num. 11:31-34

The entire reason for quoting this passage is to get to the place called “Kibroth-hattaavah,” which means “graves of craving.”

The Lord provides richly and the people, well the people just had to have it all for themselves. And God despised their gluttony, their selfishness, their craving and He killed them as a result.

The “house of craving.” The “place of craving.” The “graves of craving.”

Does this sound like a place which we know about? Does this sound like America, like Texas, like Plano, like my house? We have so much which has been given to us as a country, state, city, and home, all by the magnificent blessings of God, all by the richness of His mercy…and we crave it all, we eat it all, and we crave more, more, more, more, and more.

How can we be content when there are 60 bushels of quail to eat? Got to eat it fast, or it might spoil, or somebody else might get it, or we might see someone who needs it more and feel guilty for not giving it to them, or we might not have any tomorrow. Got to eat it all. Got that craving for it, for all, for more.

Even the gospel lesson today is about craving, but instead of gluttony for food it talks about gluttony for power. The question of the disciples in Matthew is “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matt. 18:1. The real question is “Why do they care?” Well, we know the answer to that second question, because they are people like us and we care too. We crave the position of power, of authority, of name, of position, of rank. She’s greater in the kingdom of XYZ corporation because she has her own parking place. He’s greater in the kingdom of government because he has his name on the door. And on and on and on.

We crave the stuff but not a relationship with the source of the stuff. We crave the position and power without craving for a relationship with the only One with true power.

There is a message in Numbers today. The craving of stuff, of the things of the world, which make us more us – fatter, stronger, wealthier, more powerful – ends up in the “graves of craving.” And from there, judgment (see our reading from Romans today). The craving of relationship with Christ, of knowledge of the ways and mind of God, which make us more Him, results in eternal life.

What do you crave?

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Bread – Strengthen

June 18, 2012


Readings for Monday, June 18 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 9:15-23, 10:29-36; Rom. 1:1-15; Matt. 17:14-21; Psalms 77, 79, 80

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In Romans today, we read “…Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name,…” Rom. 1:5. In Matthew, we read “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them. ‘Because of your little faith…” Matt. 17:19-20a.

This Bread is called “Strengthen” because everyone one of us has many times throughout our lives (and, in fact, many times throughout an average day) where our faith becomes loose and flabby, where we develop doubts, where we are more properly labeled “skeptic” than “believer.” Part of this has to do with what the world throws at us all the time, how it attacks our intelligence, our motives, our integrity, our consistency, our foundations. Part of this has to do with our own love of self, putting our “good” works ahead of God’s sovereign grace. Part of this has to do with our having tasted through Adam of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and our desire to be like God. Part of it has to do with the fact that we have a reasoning ability which often leads us off the reservation.

In any event, regardless of the reason, we doubt and in our doubting weaken our faith. So we need exercises to strengthen our faith. It seems today in Scripture that we have some clues about how to go about strengthening our faith.

The first strengthening exercise is the “obedience of faith.” Out of context, this might appear to say that, if we have faith, then we have the strength to be obedient. However, this would then be accurately called “obedience from faith.” In other words, we would have faith and then be able to obey. However, here Paul seems to be talking about a special kind of obedience, one which is “of” faith. In other words, having faith is an act of obedience and having obedience is an act of faith. They are two sides of the same coin. Strengthen one and you strengthen the other.

The strengthening of faith-obedience, however, when read in the context of the sentence in which it is found, comes about when we exercise the “grace and apostleship” we have received, because the purpose of these gifts to us (mercy and purpose) is to “bring about” the obedience of faith (“… we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith…”). When we accept the mercy of God (grace) and step into the role which God has given us (apostleship), we are strengthening (bringing about) the “obedience of faith.” We do not do this in our own strength (“Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received …”) or for our own purpose (“…for the sake of His name…”), but by doing it we strengthen both obedience and faith.

The know the effect of failing to exercise our faith-muscles because Jesus speaks of it directly in Matthew today. The disciples could not expel the demon because their faith was “little.” Matt. 17:20

So, do you want to strengthen your obedience-faith or faith-obedience today? If you do, then recognize the grace you have received and the job which God has given you to do. Take those two things and work on knowing, understanding, and doing them. From that recognition, from that labor, from that effort, the obedience of faith will be brought about and strengthened.

You say,” Lord, increase my faith; I am disobedient, help me become more obedient.” God in his wisdom, power, and love has chosen you, has forgiven you, and has given you a job to do. What more do you need? Act on these things and your obedience in faith and your faith in obedience will be strengthened, all for the sake of Jesus Christ and for His glory. And then go move mountains in His power.

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Bread – Real

June 15, 2012


Readings for Friday, June 15 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Eccles. 11:9-12:14; Gal. 5:25-6:10; Matt. 16:21-28; Psalms 69, 73

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I have about decided that we (the world) strive for the false goal of perfection while God wants us to strive to be real, even with our imperfections, relying upon Him to take care of our shortfalls.

Look at Peter in today’s readings from Matthew. Christ has just told the disciples that He will be going to Jerusalem to be killed and raised in three days. Now this is a prophetic statement, uttered by God (Jesus), worthy of respect. Peter’s response to this is to “rebuke” Jesus and tell Him, essentially, “no you won’t.” Christ then delivers His own rebuke of Peter, stating essentially that Peter’s statements and actions are aligned with Satan. Matt. 16:21-23.

Forgetting for a moment how truly funny (and common) it is for us to tell God what God will (or even should) do, isn’t Peter being real at that moment. Peter had just had the gift of the Holy Spirit to recognize Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Matt. 16:17 Next he is telling Christ what to do.

Don’t we do the same thing? We are introduced to Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives we acknowledge our sins, turn with true repentance away from our sins, and accept that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and then turn around in our prayers and tell God what to do for us, according to our agenda.

Notice, however, that although God (Jesus) Himself rebuked Peter, He did not throw him out of the group of disciples or out of fellowship with Him. Peter was real in the moment and Jesus took the action appropriate to the reality – He rebuked Peter for being selfish and stupid. But Peter remained in fellowship and, in fact, became closer bound to Jesus as a result.

The same is true of David in the Psalms. Psalm 69 is David being real – he is sinking in the mire, his life is miserable because he is a follower of God, his fasting is not uplifting but instead is something which people make fun of, he is asking God for redemption from the mess, knowing that God’s lifting him from the mire of life will occur in God’s time and not his, but complaining just the same. David is real — and he is a man after God’s own heart (see 1 Sam. 13:14). The Psalms are full of David being imperfect, of being real before God.

The fact is that being real in Christ means us taking positions opposite to God, telling Him what He should do in our lives. It means often living in the mire, complaining to God about our poor circumstances. It means being sick. It means being tired. It means being sorrowful. It means being imperfect.

But being real in Christ also means that we know we have a great King above all Kings, Creator of all, all-loving and all-powerful, who we can go to with our burdens. It also means that we have freedom to fail in life on earth (according to worldly thinking) knowing that our King has conquered death and that for those whose faith is in Christ there is victory in eternity. It also means that we have hope. It also means that we have joy. It also means that we have real treasure. Being real in Christ means we can live in the sun instead of hiding in the dark. It means we can love others and ourselves too.

Being imperfect and yet being perfected in Christ. Being a follower of Christ who wanders off the trail from time to time, and yet being brought back to the trail by the guiding hand and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Being a sinner and yet being so loved by God that He redeems us anyway, restoring us into fellowship with Him for all time.

A great mystery while being the truth, while being reality.

How much more real can it get?

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Bread – Yokes

June 13, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, June 13 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Eccles. 9:11-18; Gal. 5:1-15; Matt. 16:1-12; Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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A “yoke” is something which burdens us, which limits our action, which symbolizes our bondage and servitude.

Today’s reading from Galatians begins with “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1

We understand the “yoke of slavery” or at least we can pretty much imagine it. If we are bitter, we are slaves to bitterness and in bondage to it. If we are in jail, we are limited in our movement and activities, in bondage – yoked by the jailhouse doors. If we live like fools, we are yoked to foolish things, slaves to the lusts of the heart or the false hope of society. If we are “well educated,” we may be yoked to a particular philosophy or system of thought, which we may not even be aware of, slaves then to that thinking. If we earning our way into heaven, we are slaves to man-made rules and regulations and the prisons of our own minds and reason.

In reading this passage simply, one might be drawn to a conclusion that we are either slave or free, yoked or unyoked. One might be inclined to conclude that being yoked is slavery and, therefore, being unyoked is freedom.

However, Christ said elsewhere “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:29-30.

So, how do we reconcile these passages? I think it is by realizing that we are always yoked. We are always bound, we are always burdened, we are always servants of something or someone. Our choice is whether we are yoked to slavery or we are yoked to freedom. And true freedom is found in Christ (“For freedom Christ has set us free”). Therefore, the choice is whether we are yoked to slavery (bondage to the mind, to ourselves, to the world, to Satan) or we are yoked to God (bondage to Christ, to love, to hope, to joy).

Oxen are yoked for tasks; we are yoked for tasks. The question is whether we are yoked to the task of death (yoked to slavery to our sin, our world, our own desires) or yoked to the task of life (abiding in Christ, salvation, love to our neighbors). The question is whether we are yoked to the task of bringing darkness and death into the world or whether we are yoked to the task of bringing light and life into the world. The question is whether we are yoked to the task of bringing lies into the world or the task of bringing truth into the world. The question is whether we are yoked to man or to God.

We are yoked in any event. Freedom carries with it a burden. The burden is light, but it still exists.

Actually, the burden of freedom is not so light, because with great freedom goes great responsibility to use that freedom wisely. The difference is that we bear the burden of slavery alone. In Christ, He has done the heavy lifting on the cross. In the freedom which comes from Christ, our abilities to do the tasks we are bound to as Christ-followers are enabled by the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

The yoke of slavery or the yoke of freedom. Which one do you put on today? If you are Christ’s disciple, you know what the answer should be. If you are not, the yoke of slavery is your only real option.

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Bread – Countenance

June 11, 2012


Readings for Monday, June 11 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Eccles. 7:1-14; Gal. 4:12-20; Matt. 15:21-28; Psalms 56, 57, 64, 65

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Much is made of appearance. In fact, much of our time in the morning is spent in preparing ourselves for the day – washing ourselves in water, anointing our bodies with oils and lotions, taking on pleasant smells, doctoring our face to increase our attractiveness, selecting clothes which are appropriate for the tasks of the day.

As part of our appearance, we become practiced at what I will call “the smile,” the facial expressions which convey that all is right in the world and in our lives, that we are confident and ready, that we are smart, and that we are happy. “The smile” is something which we can put on at will, but is it truly reflective of our heart? Does “the smile” reflect our true condition, or is merely a type of wallpaper over a damaged wall?

There is a peculiar reading in Ecclesiastes today which caused me to stop and think. It is “…for by sadness of face the heart is made glad…the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Eccles. 7:3b, 4b This is the exact opposite of what we believe. We believe that putting on “the smile” helps us both feel and be better. Ecclesiastes says that the path to gladness in our innermost being, our heart, is “sadness of face.”

Although not in our reading today, what this recalls to me is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:3-4.

It then struck me that what Solomon is saying in Ecclesiastes is simply that the work of man is putting on “The smile” in the hope and expectation that his heart will be happy, whereas the work of God is to cause us to recognize our sin, cause us to recognize that the creation, our relationships with each other, our relationship with God, and even ourselves are broken. When we realize our true state, we put on the countenance (face) of sadness. But in so doing, the work of God is to give us Jesus Christ and in Him, then, gladness of heart.

Once this occurs, once we surrender our attempts to put on “The smile,” once we leave the “house of mirth” and come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, as we abide in Him and grow and mature in our Christian faith, an amazing thing happens. Our gladness of heart, our joy in living and being, our freedom in Christ becomes reflected in our countenance, in our face. We take on, not “The smile,” but instead the wholeness of countenance which glows, which is reflective of our heart.

We know this. We know this immediately when we are talking to the “used car salesman,” who has “The smile” but no gladness. We know this immediately when we see the person with lines of struggle in their face, demonstrating the hardship life has dished out to them, but who have the heart of joy reflected in the countenance of an angel.

We can see through the phony, but we do it anyway. We think that living in the “house of mirth (laughter)” is the solution, while the real solution is recognizing that we are lost, lonely, poor, and sad, letting that reality be reflected in our countenance and in our admission of guilt, and then letting God work His will in our lives, beginning with our acceptance of His gift to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Then we will abandon “The smile” for a face reflecting our joy. Then we can throw out “The smile” forever.

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Bread – Retreat

June 7, 2012


Readings for Thursday, June 7 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Eccles. 3:16-4:3; Gal. 3:1-14; Matt. 14:13-21; Psalms 8, 50, 84

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In our reading from Matthew today, we are confronted with Jesus feeding the 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves and two fish. There is no one who probably does not know this story and there are many sermons preached from it. However, there is always something new from Scripture every time you read it, as the Holy Spirit takes God’s revelation and enlightens and transforms our minds and hearts, and something today “popped out” to me as I re-read the familiar lines.

The disciples said “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over, send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Matt. 14:15.

We are in a special place where we hear a great lesson taught by a great teacher. Perhaps that special place is our own bedroom as we read the Bible or some powerful commentary. Perhaps the special place is church or some other location as we hear great preaching. Perhaps we are witnesses to miracles in this special place. At the end of that event, though, we retreat into the world, there to use our money to buy our food at our stores, to eat it for our sustenance. After the mountaintop there is the retreat to the valley, to reality as some might say.

Isn’t this the way we really think about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It is great to engage them in the special places, but hey, we know that to get what we “really” need to live we have to go someplace else – home, the store, the dry cleaners, school, work, … We engage God and then we retreat.

But Jesus says “They need not go away…” Matt. 14:16. In this case, the children of God were fed by the miracle of God.

But we know that the people did not stay in that desolate place. Once they had their fill of the miracle, they retreated back to buying their food at the local market. This was a onetime event.

Or was it?

“They need not go away…” How can we reconcile Jesus’ statement that we need not go away with our knowledge that, indeed, we do go other places – home, work, school, etc.?

This is the danger of places. If Jesus is in church and we go home, then we have left Jesus in the place where He lives so that we can go live our lives where we have to live them, in the “real” world, using our money to buy our food from our stores in our cities. Retreat is necessary by that thinking.

But according to Jesus, you “need not” leave, you “need not” retreat, you “need not” depart from Him in order to live.

And indeed we “need not.” We can go to the store with Jesus, we can drive our car with Jesus, we can sit in our boardrooms with Jesus, we can listen in our classrooms with Jesus, we can lead, speak, act, and do with Jesus. Or … we can act as if the special event is over, it is time to go home, retreat and leave.

And the amazing thing is that we can be with Jesus without the necessity of the talisman. We don’t need the “bobble-head” Jesus doll in our car to be with Jesus in our car; we don’t need the cross on chain around our neck to carry Jesus with us in our work.

We do this by faith. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Gal. 3:11b (our reading today). We “need not go away” to live our lives. We can abide in the Vine.

Having met Jesus this morning, are we inclined to retreat to the world to buy our food? We “need not.” Instead, we can go into the world on purpose abiding in the Vine, in faith, carrying the place where Jesus is with us and eating of the true bread and the true drink which He offers. We will go into the world in either event. The difference is whether we go into the world on our own or with the power of God. The difference is whether we go into the world in retreat because we have to in order to eat or because we want to as ambassadors of Christ. The difference is whether we go into the world in defeat or in victory.

Jesus says you “need not” leave Him in order to live. How choose you?

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Bread – Mysteries

June 4, 2012


Readings for Monday, June 4 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Eccles. 2:1-15; Gal. 1:1-17; Matt. 13:44-52; Psalms 41. 44. 52

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There are mysteries we can solve and mysteries we cannot. We love the mysteries we can solve and admire the people who can solve mysteries for us. We run away from mysteries we cannot solve because it reminds us that we are not the kings of the universe and can neither know nor do everything.

Today’s readings present us a whole slew of mysteries.

Solomon starts us off with his recitation in Ecclesiastes where he describes his achievements and then acknowledges that they are all will-o-the-wisp, that they are all vanity. Listen to his recitation and ask yourself, “Isn’t this what the world promises us as the good life?” – (1) He enjoyed himself with drink (Eccles. 2:3); (2) he built houses and businesses (vineyards; Eccles. 2:4), (3) he beautified his life with pleasant surroundings (waters, gardens, and parks; Eccles. 2:5), (4) he acquired a lot of stuff (Eccles. 2:7), (5) he banked a lot of money to live on and for retirement (Eccles. 2:8), (6) he became highly educated (Eccles. 2:9), and (6) he was a patron of the arts (singers, Eccles. 2:8). We work hard and we acquire and we are happy. That is the world’s formula. Even Solomon says “…my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this [the list previously in this paragraph] was my reward for all my toil.” Eccles. 2:10. However, he realized that “all was vanity and striving after wind.” Eccles. 2:11. There was a great mystery in the world’s way – it doesn’t work. This mystery is solved by taking what God gives us thankfully (see Eccles. 3:9-15).

Paul continues in our reading today from Galatians complaining that the Galatians were listening to false teachers, changing the gift of salvation through Christ by the grace of God into a salvation earned by man, what many have called a salvation of works. Paul is very clear that a salvation achieved by earning it (man’s way) is not God’s way, saying “the gospel that was preached by me [Paul] is not man’s gospel.” Gal. 1:11. Man would create a mystery out of religion, creating obligations for us to perform which may never be good enough, smart enough, fast enough, or effective enough. This mystery is solved when God gives us the power through His grace to have faith, to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ have a relationship with the entirety of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Mysteries. None of the big ones are solvable by man, because we are not God. All of the big ones have been solved by God, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Come Holy Spirit. Today, tear the veil from our eyes and remove the ear plugs, that we may fully live out the world’s mysteries in God’s truth, power, and love. Amen.

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