Bread – Saltiness

April 29, 2013


Readings for Monday, April 29, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Col. 3:18-4:18; Luke 7:36-50; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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I was commenting on something political on television this morning, giving my conservative running commentary on the liberal television press coverage. My wife told me to listen to myself, and I realized upon reflection that I was beginning to sound like those old men who do nothing but complain, who critique but provide no solutions, and who sound like the only thing we care about is making our intellectual points.

In my prayer time, I addressed this issue before God, being reminded by Him that, if we are to be His followers, we must speak in truth and love, well-balanced, with tongues which reflect glory to God and not ourselves.

And then, just to make sure the point is not lost, God gave me the Scripture we have assigned for today from 500+ years ago. In Colossians, Paul tells his readers – “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Col. 4:5-6

Gracious speech, seasoned with salt. Not salt seasoned with gracious speech.

The word “gracious” here is the Greek “charis,” meaning the kind of favor done without expectation of any benefit in return, a love of the person to whom you are speaking without condition.

Gracious speech, seasoned with salt. Loving speech, flavored with the truth.

Gracious speech is therefore the base, and the truth adds to its strength and power and does not subtract from it.

Who reading this has failed to add any salt to a dish, resulting in it being bland and unattractive? Who reading this has added too much salt to the dish, rendering it nasty and rejected?

Too little salt and there is nothing in gracious speech except pap and nonsense. Too much salt and gracious speech is made unacceptable in any form.

Why, then, do we turn from gracious speech seasoned with salt toward angry speech, overwhelmed with salt?

Perhaps it is related to what Jesus says today in Luke – “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Lk. 7:47

Maybe when our speech reaches toxic levels of salinity, we need to ask ourselves a question – have we been forgiven much or little? The man full of himself always thinks “little,” even if with his lips he says “much.” The man who knows himself, who knows that without Christ he is spiritually dead, will realize the foolishness of the question, because every sin is a great sin before God. It is only before man that sins take on proportions (so that my sin is always less than his). Therefore, we have all been forgiven much.

But if we have been forgiven much, where is the gracious speech seasoned with salt?

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© 2013 GBF

*The Book of Common Prayer reading marked by the asterisk today is from Wisdom, which is a book of the Apocrypha. Since not all Christians recognize this collection of books as appropriate Scriptural reading, it is omitted.

Bread – Earthly

April 26, 2013


Readings for Friday, April 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Col. 3:1-11; Luke 7:1-17; Psalms 40,51,54

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We grow up with lots of sayings in our head, some from our parents, others from teachers, some from our friends, many from television, video games, and the Internet. One of these sayings that I am sure every one of my readers has heard at some point in time is that we should be “well grounded.” What this used to mean was that we should be practical, balanced in our living, and attentive to reality. Over time, this concept has been taken to the limit, where today in school being well-educated is not an objective, instead being well-trained for a job is. Why would you take a liberal arts degree when you can take an accounting degree and get a job? After all, taking practical courses is being well-grounded.

Well, “well grounded” in what? Into the ways of man and the world or the ways of God. See, where we plant our feet, our labor, our heart, our mind matters. We need to be well-grounded, but in what soil?

This is a question rarely asked because the reality of today is always before us. Therefore, to be well-grounded means to be earthly, to be able to recognize and react quickly to the stock market, to know our job well, to know how people get promoted and how they get ahead in the world, so we know which soccer teams our children need to be in and which churches we need to go to and which country clubs to belong to. You get the point. Being well-grounded from this perspective is being well-connected to the earth, to the world we live in, to the reality of day-to-day living, being wise to the world.

However, Paul today warns us not to be well-grounded in earth, but to be well-grounded in heaven. What he really says is “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek things that are above…Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth…Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness…anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie…” Col. 3:1-9

Where are we well-grounded, earth or heaven? Paul gives us some tests – how much do we engage in our thoughts and actions in immorality? How often do we tell crude jokes? How often do we engorge ourselves with delicious food, filling our passions? How often do we want what others have? How often do we speak ill of people? How often are we angry at ourselves, at others, at our circumstances, at God?

Being earthly is, to summarize Paul, not good. If we are to grow in Christ, in our Christian walk, we must become well-grounded in Christ, who is in heaven.

How do you become well-grounded in a person? There are at least three ways. One is to talk to Him. We call that “prayer.” Another is to think about Him. We call that “reflection and meditation.” A third is to study Him in His writing to us, Scripture. We call that, well, “study.”

But there are other ways as well. One of the most important is to ask Him. When we confess our sin, turn to Him in repentance from them, believe in Him, and ask Him to make us well-grounded in Him, He acts to replant us from an earthly hothouse (which we call Hell) to a heavenly greenhouse (which we call Heaven). We call that replanting process “salvation.” It is not something we can do for ourselves, just like the plant cannot jump on its own from bad soil across town to good soil, but is something which Christ does for us.

The question is not whether we are well-grounded (although that question may in fact be relevant to many people), it is what soil are we well-planted in? The people who are well-planted in the earth do well in this time. The people who are well-planted in heaven do well for eternity.

There is another place where people who are well-planted in heaven do well. That is on earth. Think about it, when you are earthly, planted in the earth, you are stuck where you are, with your feet buried in the dirt. When you are well-planted in heaven, you have freedom to move among the earth, with your feet planted in Him who made the earth.

Earth or heaven. Earthly or heavenly. You can be well-planted in either, but saved and free in only one. You guess which one.

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© 2013 GBF

*The Book of Common Prayer reading marked by the asterisk today is from Wisdom, which is a book of the Apocrypha. Since not all Christians recognize this collection of books as appropriate Scriptural reading, it is omitted.

Bread – First

April 23, 2013


Readings for Tuesday, April 23, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Col. 1:15-23; Luke 6:12-26; Psalms 45,47,48

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We love to be first. When we play games, we play to win (or at least I do). When we run the race, there is pleasure in having run at all, but there is great satisfaction in being first and winning the big trophy or the blue ribbon. When we make something for entry into a contest (quilts come to mind), our product, our creation is judged against others, and we have a celebratory feast (or a toast to ourselves) when we compare well. Someone has summarized the love of first this way – “Being first is not all there is, but being second is nothing.” (I remember this being attributed to Vince Lombardi, but a quick Internet search shows that the exact quote is from Bill Shankly: “First is everything. Second is nothing.”)

So we understand naturally when Paul says in Colossians about Jesus that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” Col. 1:15-18

In other words, He is first. Since Jesus is first, we must be second. Since Jesus is everything, we must be nothing….?

There is something missing about this logic, isn’t there? Does it seem right that we are nothing? We know we are something, right? I mean, look around, we have our houses or apartments and our cars and our food and our clothes – and we made all those things, right? Therefore we must be something.

And if we are something, then maybe, just maybe, we are first. Right?

This brain freeze lends to three outcomes. One outcome is that we reject Jesus as holding first place. One way to do this is to say that Jesus doesn’t exist at all or that He is a figment of our imagination, created because we need Him. Another way to do this is to say that Jesus is just one of many gods, many ways to heaven (there are many firsts among the gods).

Another outcome is to say that Jesus and we share first place (this is the modern way of thinking, that says that my thoughts are equal in quality and importance to Jesus’ thoughts). This position exists when we “wake up” to our importance.

A third outcome is that we accept that, because of our sin, our defects, we in fact are dead spiritually and are nothing.

This third outcome is of course the correct conclusion, because Jesus is first and we are not, He is holy and we are not, He is sinless and we are not, He is alive and we are dead.

But we need only hold this conclusion, this realization for a brief nano-second, because there is a greater realization, and a greater truth.

That truth is that Jesus Christ, first and pre-eminent above all things and all people, stepped out of His rightful place and came to earth as man to take upon Himself our sins so that through faith in Him we might be declared righteous before God. Jesus Christ stepped down from first and became an object of ridicule, suffering death on an instrument of torture, so that we might be elevated from our position of nothing to a position of something. Even in our state of death, God so loved us that He came to us, lowering Himself to our place, so that He could take us to His place.

And Jesus tells us as His followers, as His saved ones, as His disciples, to do likewise, to willingly abandon our position as head of the pack to be servant of others, to willingly become less so that others may become more.

So here is the miracle of Christianity and one of its deepest truths. In order for us to be first, we must recognize that we are second, but once we realize that we are nothing, we are dead in our sins, God snatches us from our position of second and makes us first. And once we are first in Jesus Christ, we now have the power of choice to leave first and go back to second, so that we can help a dying world to live. Once we know we are poor, God comes and makes us rich so that then we can choose in His name and with His power to become poor.

And in first recognizing our need, having then that need satisfied, and then receiving the power to recognize the need of the world, of others, we are able to read our reading from Luke today and understand it:

“[and Jesus said] Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and whey exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man.” Lk. 6:20b-22

Blessed are you when you know you are not first, because the One who is first shall lift you up to where He is.

Do you want to be first? Recognize that you aren’t, but He is.

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© 2013 GBF

*The Book of Common Prayer reading marked by the asterisk today is from Wisdom, which is a book of the Apocrypha. Since not all Christians recognize this collection of books as appropriate Scriptural reading, it is omitted.

Bread – Love

April 16, 2013


Readings for Tuesday, April 16, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 4:28-37; 1 John 4:7-21; Luke 4:31-37; Psalms 26,28,36,39

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There is something in many people’s minds about Christianity which is something like a “do loop.” What is a “do loop?” A “do loop” is a computer term meaning that the program goes around and around in a circle, with no beginning and no ending. Sort of like a dog chasing its tail in a circle. The only way to break a “do loop” is to intercept it somewhere in its circular path so that it has to stop and do something different.

What has this to do with today’s topic of “love?”

It is because many Christians believe that we accept Jesus as Lord, who then sends His Holy Spirit to empower us to love, we then can love our fellow neighbor, which then sets us right with God on judgment day, which then … The “do loop” is we believe, we receive, we love. The operative word in this loop is “we.” And as long as “we” is the centerpiece, we will continue to circle around the word “we.” We love others only to the extent that our self-image is improved. We only worship to the extent that we feel loved ourselves. This picture, held by many people whether they admit it or not, is summarized in the phrase “to love others we must first love ourselves.”

How is this “do loop,” which rotates our lives around ourselves, be broken? Our readings today answer that question.

In Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is filled with pride as he looks upon the kingdom that “he” has made. God reaches down and says: “The kingdom has departed from you … until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men…” Dan. 4:31b,32b When Nebuchadnezzar finally realizes that nothing is from him and everything is from God, his “reason returned to me [him].” Key to Nebuchadnezzar’s new understanding is “…and none…can say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” Dan. 35b In other words, God is sovereign over us, what we have comes from Him and Him alone, and it is not until we realize that that we become able to accept and enjoy the riches of the kingdom of God. So, one way the “do loop” of self is intercepted is for God to so act in our lives that we realize that He is God and we are not, that we fall short and He does not, that what we have is from Him, and that we need His mercy and grace to rise above ourselves, to escape the “do loop” of our selves.

In 1 John, the apostle John says simply “We love because He [God] first loved us.” 1 Jn. 4:19 We do not love because we want to love, because we can love, or because we are love. We love because God first loved us and thereby empowers us to love. This is another way that the “do loop” of self is broken, for us to realize that any real love which we have is because – based upon, predicated upon, realized through, made manifest by – He first loved us. Any power we have to love anyone except ourselves is predicated upon this mercy, this outreach by God to infuse in us His power to love.

In Luke, Christ commands a demon to leave a man. This is another way that the “do loop” of self is broken – for us to realize that our incapacity is so immense that it takes God’s power to remove the obstacles, replace sin with forgiveness, transpose despair into hope, make wrong things right. The “do loop” of self is broken when we realize we need Jesus to restore us to good health.

To love our fellow man means setting aside ourselves as the most important person in the equation. We cannot do that in our own power, although we often try. To do that, we must set aside the “we.” We cannot do that until we realize that we are totally dependent upon God and that, but for His grace and mercy and power, we would be going nowhere but to the pit. Once we realize that we were dead in our sin until brought alive by the sovereign action of Jesus Christ and that we have no power but for that power given to us by God, then we are ready to be filled with God’s love for us, empowered to love our neighbors without fear.

“We love because He first loved us.” Not because we can and not because we will, but because He has and He does.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Images

April 12, 2013


Readings for Friday, April 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 3:1-18; 1 John 3:1-10; Luke 3:15-22; Psalms 16,17,134,135

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Images are powerful things. Particularly powerful is not the image in front of us, but the image captured in the imagination, in our mind. Our minds, our imaginations, conjure up images and it is those images, not the image of reality, which we use to interpret the world. One might say that the “rose colored glasses” we wear to filter reality are there because the real image is filtered through the imagined image to enter our mind. Why can’t we see what is in front of our eyes. In part it is because our internal images distort the real image so that the real image appears to be us what we imagine it to be.

Our readings today present us several different images of God. Whichever image is locked into our mind is the filter through which our service to others is affected, our strength in our walk with Christ is affected, our ability to love our neighbor is affected, our worship style is affected, our view of God’s Word is affected, everything is affected.

Our first image of God in our readings today is that He is who we make Him to be, nothing more and nothing less. Nebuchadnezzar has set up a huge gold statue and told everyone to worship and bow down to that when they hear music being played. The gold statue is what Christians might call an idol, but it is really just one person’s invention of God, the fashioning of a gold statue which the person (in this case Nebuchadnezzar) creates and imagines in his mind has great powers. This God is a creation of man, pure and simple. We might call this image the ultimate triumph of man over God, where man is God. When we judge the truth of Scripture, we are acting through an invented image of God that says that God is who we make Him to be. When we subject Scripture to our opinion, we are saying that we have set up our own gold statute and want everyone, including God, to bow down to that creation of the imagination.

Our second image of God in our readings today also comes from Nebuchadnezzar. This image is captured in this statement: “But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Dan. 3:15b This statement actually contains several different images. One again is that God is who I make him to be, and since I am in control, what god “will deliver you out of my hands?” A second image is that there is a “God,” but He is just one out of many, more or less equal, gods. If we have this image of God, our worship of Him is merely a motion, acknowledging that we might as well worship someone somewhere (so maybe we can get free cookies and coffee at the reception between services, or maybe we can meet someone nice), something that we do because we have always done it. With this image of God as one among many, more or less equal in whatever powers they have, there is merely outward demonstration of allegiance. The final image inherent in this statement comes from the other two – God is relative, not permanent. If God is who we say He is or God is just one of many more or less equal gods, then God can be reinvented on the fly to adjust to our relativistic view of the present. We need a god who saves, poof, we have a god who saves. We need a god of peace, poof, we have a peaceful god. We need a god of war, poof, we have an angry god with lots of chariots and stuff. How this translates into the present is easy to see. We need a job or we need some more money from the lottery, poof, we have a god of prosperity. See how easy that was?

Our third image of God in our readings today comes from the people who are going to be burned up. When confronted with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered: “If this [the furnace] be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Dan. 3:17-18 .

This last image of God which these three people hold in their mind is that they worship a God who is personal (“our God”), who is powerful above all other gods and man (“able to deliver”), and who is sovereign above all things and not subject to our commands or images (“but if not” – if He does not rescue us). A God to whom we are subject, whether we want to be or not and whether we believe in Him or not.

When you show up in church or wherever, which image of God does your imagination produce? Is it the delusional one where God and everything else is of our creation? Is the rational one where He is but one of many possible gods? Or is the faithful one where He is in fact God, pre-existent, all powerful, all present, all wise, all loving, all creative, all personal and yet all holy?

If our image of God is the last one, why wouldn’t we bow down and humble ourselves before our Lord, grateful that He has exercised His sovereign power to rescue us from the fiery furnace? If our image of our god is one of the first two, why bother?

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Exile

April 8, 2013


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What does it mean to be exiled, to be banned? We tend to associate exile with places or geography. But exile as well may be a departure from what is important to us, or at least what we claim in important. For example, in the first instance, if I am locked out of my apartment because I have not paid my rent, I am exiled to the street. If, on the other hand, I have been temporarily excluded from family affairs because of bad behavior, I am in a form of exile, of expulsion from particular relationships until I am restored.

So, when Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, they were exiled in two different ways. First, they were ejected from the Garden. Second, they lost their dependent relationship upon God.

We have both examples today in our readings. In Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar defeats Jerusalem and takes certain children away from Jerusalem and put them in his own home. Daniel was one of these children. Clearly, these children were exiled from Jerusalem, their home, and taken by force to a place not of their choosing. This was not just a different place geographically, but a different place religiously, economically, politically, and socially. This was complete physical exile.

In 1 John, John describes that, when we walk in the light of God, we have fellowship with one another. When we are exiled from the light into the darkness, that relationship disappears. Here the place of exile is not a physical location but the place of the soul. When we exile ourselves from God’s grace and his light, we exile ourselves from each other.

Using these ideas, it seems apparent that we often are in exile, either through our actions or the actions of others. We are often deprived of the benefits of hope, joy, security, effectiveness, love, safety, and home, sometimes by what others do but often by what we do to ourselves.

When this happens, what are we to do? All of Scripture today addresses this question. In Daniel, when Daniel and his friends are offered the king’s food, they decline and ask for vegetables so that they might not be “defiled.” What this teaches is that when we are in exile, we can still remember what God has told us and taught us, that He loves us, that His plan for us is perfect, that His ways are true, that His laws deserve obedience, that His way is the way. While we are in exile, we may do the best we can and yet still honor God, treasure His Word, rest in His grace and protection, and rely on His power. In 1 John, when we find ourselves walking in darkness after having exiled ourselves from the light, we can confess our sins, and when we do “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 Jn. 1:9 By implication, we are then restored to the light. In the gospel account of John, we are reminded that, though we may be in exile, it is temporary because those whom God has given to Jesus Christ are not lost by Him – “I [Jesus] have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Jn. 17:12b

Are you feeling in exile today, either physically or emotionally? Are you separated from home, family, friends? Do you feel separated from Christ? Do you feel that you have wandered off the path in a form of self-exile? No matter. Recall who you are and whose you are. Bloom wherever you are planted, so that the grace and love of God may appear in you to others. Confess your sin, so that you may be restored to the light. Walk in the ways of holiness, in the ways of God and not of man. Remember that Christ died so that you might live in whatever circumstances and that He is praying a prayer before the Father something like this – “I [Jesus] am praying for them [you]. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” Jn. 17:9 If you have been saved by grace, by the sovereign will and act of God, then it does not matter where you are or what state you are in, because you are His.

And what that means is simply that, though we be separate in distance or feeling, we are never separate in fact. When we are Christ’s we are never in exile.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Jail

April 5, 2013


Readings for Friday, April 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 12:1-4,13; Acts 4:1-12; John 16:1-15; Psalms 118,136

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Jail time is facing Christians. “What?,” the average Christian responds, how can this be. We are comfortable in our churches, in our routines, in our Bible studies, in our position as favored (since Constantine) in Western civilization. Of course we read about Christians being attacked by Muslims and other religious groups around the country, as well as the scientific establishment which adheres to its own religion, but what has that to do with us in the United States, in Texas, in Dallas, or wherever we are reading this?

Jail time is facing Christians because that is what Scripture warns us about and Scripture is either true or it is not.

In today’s Old Testament reading from Daniel, we read: “At that time …there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.” Dan. 12:1b

In today’s New Testament reading from Acts, we read: “As they [Peter and the disciples] were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day…” Acts 4:1-3

In today’s Gospel reading from John, we read: [and Jesus said] “…They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” Jn. 16:2-4

So the temporal destiny of Christians is expulsion from the “PC (politically correct) church,” jail, persecution and for some, death.

This would be awful but for the hope that we have in Christ. And what is that hope? Well, the same passages which I have just quoted go on to describe it:

In today’s Old Testament reading from Daniel, we further read: “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book…But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.” Dan. 1c,13.

In today’s New Testament readings Acts, we further read: [and Peter said] “…let it be known to all of you and to the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12

In today’s Gospel reading from John, we further read: [Jesus said] “I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away…But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember all that I told them to you….When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth,..” Jn. 16:1,4,13

We have hope because we know the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. We have hope because temporal jail time was predicted, because we know as followers of Christ our eternal destiny is that we shall be delivered because our name is written in the book by Jesus Christ, the only name by which one may be saved from eternal jail, and because the Holy Spirit guides and supports us.

God help us that, when we have our “Peter” time, when we are confronted by people who hate the Word and are arrested and put our trial for our faith in our King, we will do like Peter, look the rulers in the eye, and say – “Jail, Schmail – We know Jesus, do you want to know Him too?”

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© 2013 GBF

Bread –Law

April 3, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, April 3, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Micah 7:7-15; Acts 3:1-10; John 15:1-11; Psalms 97,99,115

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What is interesting about this set of readings is what is missing from them. You may have noticed that every Wednesday there is a reading from Psalm 119.  I call this the great “Law Psalm,” because it is all about the wonder, beauty, and rightness of the law. Psalm 119 begins “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” Ps. 119:1 (emphasis added).

Psalm 119 is a wonderful Psalm, but it is missing from this Wednesday’s readings.

Why? I daresay it is because we just celebrated Easter, the day of resurrection of Jesus, following His death on the cross for our sins. He fulfilled the requirements of the law so that the righteous judgment of God upon our sinfulness might be stayed in His Name, for those who are called by and to His Name.

Now, from this there are a group of people who conclude that the Law is gone, superseded in its entirety by the New Testament. I do not so conclude, but it is important to note that Psalm 119, giving praise to the Law, has now been replaced by another focus of attention. The question has now shifted after Easter from “what can I do” to “what has Jesus done.” The question is now no longer “what can I do to comply with a bunch of regulations so that I can make myself righteous before God and be saved,” but instead is “how can I enjoy a relationship with Christ, so that His righteousness stands in my stead before God and I am saved by Him.”

In other words, the focus has shifted compliance to relationship, from compliance to the Law to relationship with God the Father through Christ the Son. The Law is not destroyed, but we now have a new weapon in our arsenal to deal with it – we have Jesus Christ. Not only that, but we now have salvation throughout eternity, not by our acts, but by the sovereign action and mercy of Christ.

This change in focus after Easter is apparent from every one of our readings today.

From Psalm 97, “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice…” Ps. 97:1

From Psalm 99, “The Lord reigns, let the people tremble…” Ps. 99:1

From Psalm 115, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give glory for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!” Ps. 115:1

From the Prophet Micah: “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; ….” Mic. 7:7

From the book of Acts: “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!…and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong….And they [the people] were filled with wonder and amazement…” Acts 3:6-7,10b

From Christ’s words reported in John: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jn. 15: 4,9b-11

What is the new focus? Not the Law but the Lord. “The Lord,” “the Lord,” “O Lord,” “look to the Lord,” “In the name of Jesus,” and “Abide in Me.”

And when we look to the Lord, when we confess our sins, when we fall at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to take over our lives, when we receive the Holy Spirit, when we have a relationship, we can then grow in our keeping of the Law and producing good fruit, not in our own strength but in God’s strength, not by our own power but by God’s power, not by our own abilities but by God’s grace.

So, today what are the plans? To obey the Law or to further our relationship with Christ? Which comes first to us?

There is a mystery here, because who obeys the Law? We do (or at least try). Therefore, a focus on the Law is really a focus on us, what we do, who we are. But when Jesus Christ came, there was a different focus. The focus is now on Him, not on us. We do nothing to earn our salvation; He does and has done it all. It is no longer about the Almighty “I” but about the Almighty “Him.”

So let me ask the question differently. So, today, what are the plans? To focus on yourself or to focus on Christ?

“Abide in Me…[so that] My joy may be in you…” Words to remember.

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© 2013 GBF

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