Bread – Eyes

February 19, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 31:25-50; 1 Jn. 2:12-17; John 10:1-18; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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What do you have eyes for? Not, why do you have eyes but what do you like to look at? What do you have eyes for?

This question arose when I read today’s lesson from 1 John, as follows: “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16

Although we have various senses (hearing, smell, taste, feel, sight), if you think about it, the eyes are the primary intake vehicle for what the world has to offer. “The desires of the flesh” begin with the seeing of something which we know will make us feel good. The “desires of the eyes” are obviously related to the eyes, because we see clearly the worldly idols which attract us – food, drink, sex, power, position, jewelry, gold and silver, bank account statements, etc. Even the final one, “pride of possessions,” exists because of our eyes – when we walk into our garage, we are prideful of our car; when we walk around our house, we are prideful of our artwork, our furniture, our backyard, our front yard, our flowers, our square footage, our street, our community, and our city. When we go to the bank to look inside our safe deposit box, our eyes are what look at our papers and things evidencing our possession. When we open our treasure chests, whether it be a gun safe or a jewelry box, we use our eyes to contemplate their value to us.

So our view into the world is through our eyes, and our eyes contemplate what the world has to offer and we are glad indeed.

Until we realize that our eyes have fooled us. Who has not watched very carefully the machinations of the magician who, with sleight of hand, produces the amazing card trick? We saw it but we did not see it. We are fascinated because we know we have been tricked but we don’t know how.

What the writer of 1 John is telling us bluntly is that Satan is that magician. We look and see, and covet what we see, and through the desires of the flesh, the desires of our eyes, and the pride of possession we are sucked into the mirage which is what the world has to offer. Because what we see is what we want as sinful people, we buy into the magician’s trick, believing that what we see is what there is. We may sense we have been tricked, we may know we have been tricked, but we don’t care that we have been tricked. Why don’t we care? Because the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and our pride of possessions has been satisfied.

This is a side effect of being dead in our sins. When we are dead in our sins, we cannot see anything of truth and we cannot see anything really of love. All we can see is the mirage.

This is why we need God to sovereignly reach out to us in mercy and open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. This is why we need God to save us and why we cannot save ourselves. If our eyes are to see anything other than what the world has to offer, it is because God has given us a special set of glasses to see Satan through. We cannot buy these glasses and we cannot earn these glasses. God shows up when He is ready and when He wants to and gives them to us and, because we have no capacity in ourselves, puts them on us. Actually, He does more than that because He really gives us a new set of eyes, ones which can see spiritually, ones which can discern, ones which can see clearly, ones who look first to Him and then, through Him, to the world.

Which eyes do you want – the ones which see the real and the eternal, or the ones which see the fake and the temporal? Which lens do we want to peer through – the lens of ourselves or the lens of Jesus Christ?

Which lens are you seeing through today? How are you using your eyes? What do you have eyes for?

________________

© 2014 GBF

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Bread – Leaven

August 5, 2013


Readings for Monday, August 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 7:1-17; Acts 18:1-11; Mark 8:11-21; Psalms 77,79,80

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In our reading today from Mark, Jesus tells the disciples “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Mk. 8:14 What is he talking about?

Leaven is that ingredient which causes bread to change chemically so that it rises. But, as far as we are concerned, it also makes bread tasty. Unleavened bread is bland.

One of the articles in this weekend’s newspaper was on the state of the baguette in France. Basically, the French have started using older, slower techniques of preparing their bread for baking so that it will taste better. Although they did not use the word “leaven” in the article, it was obvious that they were talking about a process of leavening, over a period of time, where a small amount of leaven would have the opportunity to change the big batch of dough so that it would make a proper tasty baguette.

Now, this writing is called “Bread” and we have just been discussing baguettes, so one might be inclined to think this “Bread” is about food. When Jesus talked about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod to the disciples, the disciples thought He was talking about food too. Jesus responds with a “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” Mk. 8:18. So, obviously Jesus is not talking about food. But He is talking about things that change one’s life.

What is the leaven of the Pharisees? The Pharisees were the keepers of the law in the synagogue, in church. Follow their (God’s) rules and you would go to a good place when you die; fail to follow their rules and you would go to a bad place. The remarkable thing was they really believed that we, as humans, could follow God’s law in all things, in our hearts, minds, thoughts, behaviors, speech, action, and attitude. Really? Name me one perfect person (other than Jesus) and naming yourself does not count! And yet, the leaven of the Pharisees requires one to have good works if one is to achieve their right place with God. Less you think this attitude is gone from the modern church, why do you go to Bible studies, attend worship, read the Bible, fast, meditate on the Word, read Bread, or do anything religious? Is it because you believe your works will help save you, or is out of gratitude for the work done by Jesus for you on the cross? In the first one, you are building your tower of Babel to the heavens. In the second, you are living in the presence of God’s kingdom on earth.

What is the leaven of Herod? Herod represents the world in all of its power and pseudo-glory. In another sense, he also represents education and reason. In another sense, he represents the perversions of the world, the lusts of the flesh, etc. Herod represents our reason, our base desires, our old man. He actually is us without Christ.

A little leaven goes a long way toward ruining the dough (if you consider the dough to be OK as is). Of course, a little leaven also makes life “tasty,” or so Satan would have us think.

Isn’t this last point why we deliberately let leaven into our lives or deliberately add it. We dabble in corruption, lying, lust, almost pornographic movies, books on evil (zombies) or sex, which appeal to our inner desire for things tasty – adventure, danger, power, money, fancy houses and cars, the most advanced electronics, stuff. We think we do it just enough to get a taste out of life, but Jesus reminds us that a little leaven affects the entire loaf, and that little taste leads to severe loss of who we can be in Christ.

The leaven of the Pharisees and Herod affects the quality of the victorious life we can have in Christ. Jesus’ question strikes home at this place, this time, these circumstances we are in – when we reach for the leaven of the world, He asks – “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?”

And the short answer to this question is “No, we do not.” Most of the time we do not use our eyes to clearly see Christ; most of the time we do not use our ears to clearly hear Christ.

To do that, we need the help of the Holy Spirit minute-by-minute, day by day. It is not enough to say – “Don’t touch that hot stove, don’t touch that leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.” Instead, we must say “Come Holy Spirit” and then use, really us, our eyes to see and our ears to hear.

“God, protect me from leaven, because I cannot protect myself.” A short prayer, but a necessary one. And He will because, by His sovereign will in our lives and through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, He already has.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Ingratitude

March 2, 2012


Readings for Friday, March 2, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 40:1-23; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Mark 2:13-22; Psalms 40, 51, 54, 95

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In our reading from Genesis today, we have the familiar history lesson of the king’s cupbearer and baker thrown into prison by an irritated king, only to meet Joseph who is assigned to their care and who interprets their dreams for them. He interprets the cupbearer’s dream to mean that in the three days the cupbearer will be free; therefore, Joseph asks the cupbearer, when he is free, to speak kindly of Joseph to the king so that the king will remember Joseph and let him, Joseph, out of jail too. Our reading concludes “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Gen. 40:23

There are at least three instances of ingratitude in this lesson. The first is that the king was ungrateful for the service his cupbearer and baker had given him. We don’t know why, but somehow they “offended their master” and were whisked off to prison for the offense. The second is that both the cupbearer and the baker were ungrateful to Joseph for the care they were going to receive from him. Sort of lost in the shuffle of the story is this line – “The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.” Gen. 40:4. Joseph acted as their servant in prison, taking care of them. Nowhere in the rendition is there a “thank you” for this service. It may have just been left out, but given the history of these people, chances are it never occurred so there was nothing to report. The third instance, of course, is that the cupbearer ignored Joseph once the cupbearer had achieved his freedom.

The only person who appears to not be ungrateful (or, to state it more positively, the only person who appears to be grateful) is Joseph, and he was on the bottom of the stack. He was neither the king nor the king’s officers (the cupbearer and the baker) nor the jailer, but from the bottom of life, from the role of the imprisoned servant, he served them all. And yet he was grateful, and everyone else (except maybe the jailer, we don’t know anything about him from this reading today) is ungrateful. Just from this observation alone, it would appear that gratitude is associated with imprisonment and poverty and ingratitude is associated with wealth and power.

This observation actually lines up with our own. We who are among the wealthiest and most powerful in the world are the most ungrateful and demanding. Anyone who has been anywhere there is abject poverty experiences unvarnished gratitude for the littlest things. In a moment I will never forget, I saw a Peruvian eight year old child take a single cookie given to him by the bishop and break it up into pieces to share with four other children and me, before he ate anything. You and I both know that the average American child of the same age would swallow the cookie whole and then ask where the other ones were.

Folks, we are in the season of preparation for the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Some of us call that season “Lent.” We need every day of that season to even begin to strip away our shell of superiority, of self-reliance, of selfishness, of pride, of ingratitude. We have been given the greatest gift of all, the give of life forever, and we are ungrateful.

We are all the cupbearer in this story. We have had our ups and downs. Sometimes we have been the king’s officer and sometimes we have been banished. Sometimes we have been in the prison of bad health, bad economics, bad thinking, or bad something else and we have found our way out of that prison back to health, back to wealth, back to power, back to life as we want it. Wherever we are, do we forget what got us there, do we forget what service or grace was given us by those who have helped us, by those who have saved us? Are we ungrateful?

So where do we begin? How do we learn to give thanks for what we have been given?

Well, in today’s other lesson from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we may have a starting point. The first sentence of that reading is “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16

Are we grateful for the body God has given us, which His Spirit now occupies? How do we show it in what we take through our eyes, our ears, and our mouth? By the radio station I listen to, am I showing gratitude to God or not? By the books I read, am I showing gratitude to God or not? By the quality of food that I eat, am I showing gratitude or not?

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