Bread – Away

April 24, 2017


Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint.”  Ps. 61:1-2a

Perhaps I should have called this Bread “Far Away,” but that would have violated my one word summary rule.  However, the “away” in the title today is meant to convey that sense of distance, far distance, from wherever you want to be or whomever you want to be with.  Our Psalmist uses the phrases “from the end of the earth.”

Wrapped up in this image of being “away” are, of course, our ideas of geographic distance.  If I live in Texas but am presently visiting China, then I am indeed “far away.”  But also wrapped up in this image is emotional distance.  I can be “far away” from my spouse sitting in a chair next to him or her.  I can be far away from my studies by daydreaming.  So there is physical distance, emotional distance, mental distance, and, as we know from our tumultuous relationship with God, spiritual distance.

We may not even be aware that we are “away.”  I remember that when I first went to college, the sights and sounds of Boston and the university were so exciting that I forgot I was away from home … until I became homesick a couple of months later.  We may be so wrapped up in our daydream that we aren’t even aware that we have wandered away mentally.  We may get so caught up in the routine of life that we become emotionally detached or “away” from our significant others and not even realize it.  We may become so self-dependent, powerful, rich, respected, educated, that we lose track of how far away we are from God.  We become so lost in the ways of the world that we drift away from the laws of the Kingdom of God.

The fact that we become unaware of how far away we are is reflected, actually, in the quoted verse from our Psalm today.  David did not call upon God because he was far away; he called upon God because his “heart is faint.”  When his heart became faint and he became aware it was time to pray to God, he was at the “end of the earth.”  In his self-focus, he had gone away from God, but it took an event to make him realize it.

In college, that event of homesickness may come upon us when we realize that we haven’t eaten a particular food in a while, when we walk into our dormitory room and find that it is empty, when we call home and no one answers, or when we recall some fond memory of good times.  In studying, we may realize that we have wandered away in our daydream when our head hits the desk because we just fell asleep.  In our relationships with each other, it may in fact be a heart moment when we realize how far we are away emotionally from our loved ones.

Sometimes we go away to a far place on purpose, but most of the time it is because we drift on open waters with no direction in mind, permitting our boat to be carried on the random winds and waves of the seas.   The prodigal son deliberately left his father and went to a far place where he ate with the pigs, but we tend to end up far away due to inattention, negligence, slothfulness, and aimless wandering.

In such times, we may be inclined to say to ourselves “How did we get here?”  But that is the wrong question, because “here,” “away” you are.  The right question is “How do we get back to where we should be?”

In a very natural way, David the Psalmist tells us.  The way back from being away is to come near.  When we are far away from God, the way back is to talk to Him, to pray to Him, and to let Him help you back.  If I wake up in China but belong in Texas, what do I do?  I get on the next airplane.  Well God has given us a transport mechanism to get back to Him from the end of the earth, and that is prayer.

Are you away from God today?  Have you gone to a faraway place from Him?  The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step.  That first step is prayer.  Start now!

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Aware

October 21, 2013


Readings for Monday, October 21, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 44:1-14; 1 Cor. 15:30-41; Matt. 11:16-24; Psalms 9,15,25

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My wife is a nurse and, as such, has been trained in observation. She is what one might call “aware of her surroundings.” This means that she sees in the present, hears in the present, evaluates in the present, and acts in the present in response to what she sees, hears, and understands. When a person has a need, she sees it because she is aware. When a person is broken or hurt, she sees it because she is aware. And, since you need to know something exists before you can react and do something about it, awareness is a necessary precursor to action. How can we love our neighbor, as Christ calls us to do, when we are not even aware of our neighbor, when we do not see or hear him or her in the present.

The fact is that people who are aware in the moment are rare. To be aware is rare. It is not our natural state. Our natural state is to self-absorbed, seeing and listening to ourselves, our plans, our objectives, our hurts, our desires. We have to be trained to be observant; we have to be trained to be aware.

Our lack of awareness, our lack of observation and attentiveness, really helps Satan do his job. While we are self-absorbed, we are not God-absorbed. While we are self-absorbed, we are not neighbor-absorbed. While our eyes and ears are focused on ourselves, they cannot be focused on anything else.

In an odd kind of way, all of our readings today are about the bad things that happen when we are not aware. In Jeremiah, God tells the Jews in Egypt that He is going to destroy them too because they did not learn anything from His destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews did not listen to God because they were busy listening to themselves. The Jews did not see God because they were busy observing Egypt’s rules. In chasing after gods made with their hands, their focus was on themselves and not on the Creator. They were not aware of God’s Word, of His character, of their role as God’s people, of the sin of idolatry, of the need of repentance, of God’s cleansing action in Judah, and of their own future. And the end result of this lack of awareness was destruction.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul basically points out that you are who you are associated with (“Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Cor. 15:33). How does one fall in with bad company? By failing to be aware of one’s own sinfulness, the fallen nature of man, the need for God, and the need to be surrounded by people who are trying to please God, instead of pleasing themselves. We do not need to be around people who are trying to be like ourselves; we need to be around people who are trying to be like Jesus. We need to be aware of the company we keep, just like we need to be aware of the food we eat, the music we listen to, the books we read, and the television and movies we watch. To discern good from bad we need to be aware of what is actually going on.

Finally, in our reading today from Matthew, Jesus expressed His frustration with the lack of awareness of the people in front of whom He has done miracles. “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades,. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” Matt. 11:23 Jesus is doing a bunch of miracles which are not only fulfilling Bible prophecy, but also demonstrating in power that the kingdom of God is among them. And, yet, the people of Capernaum are not aware of the significance of these things. They are locked into their routines, believe that they are naturally OK, and therefore pay no attention to the reality of their condition or the miracle in their midst.

To see our and others real needs, we need to be aware and be observant. To do this well, we need to be trained out of ourselves and into moment, into others. One might say that we need to have a mind-transformation, and soul readjustment, Christ’s boot camp.

To obtain this training we need to be aware that we need the training and subject ourselves to the Master’s guidance. If we have no awareness to begin with (except awareness of ourselves, and then only partial), by what art will we gain this awareness?

If we are starting from zero and all of our efforts result in zero (any number times zero is itself zero), how can we ever become aware enough that we can see our sin, our need for a savior, the identity of our Savior, our need for repentance, and our neighbors? God. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He makes us aware, He reveals to us our true self, He takes us from death to life.

So as we begin this week, it is appropriate that we ask God to provide us, not just wisdom, but awareness. Lord, make us aware of our surroundings, make us aware of our neighbor, make us aware of our need for you, make us aware of You. And, then, Lord, with your Holy Spirit guide, guard, and empower us to act on that awareness to be Your people in the world, to proclaim Your Name, to do Your works, to love others as You have loved us. Help us to see clearly, to love mightily, and to act boldly, all in Your Name and in Your power. In Jesus name we ask these things. Amen.

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© 2013 GBF

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