Bread – Night

July 19, 2017


Psalm 74

“You [God] split open springs and brooks; You dried up ever-flowing streams.  Yours is the day, Yours also the night;…”  Ps. 74:15-16

In every book I have ever read and every television show I have ever watched, it is the night when bad things typically happen.  The bats, the secretive people, the trolls, and such ilk always show up at night.  We even have the idea of vampires, where the slightest touch of the sun causes them to melt away.  Night dwellers, night crawlers – when we add the word “night” in front of a word, it automatically casts a sinister shadow.

Our general operating philosophy is that God rules the day and Satan (or evil) rules the night.  We think like that and we act like that.  We are wrong.

In this Psalm, God is missing but He is remembered.  Asaph, the acknowledged Psalmist, acknowledges that God is Creator and that He owns and controls both the day and the night, having invented them both.

It may very well be the hardest reality to swallow as a Christian – that God is God over everything, good and bad, day and night.  It is hard for us to swallow because we want to offer an escape hatch for God, feeling like He needs to be defended by us.  If the night belongs to Satan, then we can understand why God has not stopped evil at night.  But if the night belongs to God, we are left with the question “why is God [apparently] missing?”  It is hard for us to swallow because we know that God is good, but we see what we perceive to be bad things happening and are then left with the question, “if God is good, then why ….?”

Whether we are trying to find an escape hatch for God or attempting to assess God’s purpose according to our own standards, we are engaged in the same sport.  We are either acting as God’s judge (“You, Sir, are doing wrong.  Straighten up!”) or as His partner and coach (“Hey, God, this is not what we agreed to,” or “Hey God, if You did it this way, we would be better off.”)  In both instances, we have either elevated ourselves to be equal to God (His partner, friend, coach) or above Him (His judge).

The end of logic is this – if God is sovereign over all, then He is sovereign over both day and night, good and bad, ups and downs.

But this is also the end of faith – If God is sovereign over all, and I do not understand why He has or has not acted the way He has, then I must stand down and trust in Him.  He is God and I am not.

We may very well be in the night of our lives, where nothing is clear and everything is a threat.  God is in control.  We know this logically because He is sovereign king over all, which includes the night, and we know this by faith because we trust in Him.

When we are in the night and we acknowledge the presence of God, worshiping Him in all circumstances, it would not surprise me for someone to ask the question – who turned on the light?

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Wisdom

August 28, 2015


Readings for Thursday, August 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 3:16-28; Acts 27:27-44; Mark 14:12-26; Psalm 18

—————————————-

What is wisdom? I am sure there is a Biblical definition, but let me give you mine – Wisdom is knowing what to do in spite of the observable facts.

We make decisions all the time “on the ground,” based upon the facts we observe and are told about. But we know in our hearts that those decisions may in fact be wrong. Those decisions may be based on apparent evidence which is not real; those decisions may make assumptions about how things work when they aren’t working that way; those decisions may not take into account all of the consequences of action; those decisions may be more an expression of my sin than my factual observations. We know that sometimes the best decision is no decision at all – but the fear of making a decision can paralyze us into disaster.

We actually have a couple of good examples of wisdom in our readings today from Scripture.

In the first, Solomon is confronted with the decision over which mother is the real mother of the live baby. This is a part if history which I think everyone knows, whether or not they are a Christian. Solomon is confronted with two claiming mothers and one baby and is asked to decide who it belongs to. Rather than decide the case by the facts in front of him, which could have included comparing the features of the baby to each of the mothers, which would have been a “logical” decision-making process, Solomon upsets the table by declaring he will cut the baby in two, thereby treating each woman equally. By doing so, he exposes the underlying human behavior of a real mother, who would rather see her child lost to another woman than to see her baby killed. Seeing how the women react to the decree, he now knows who the true mother is and decides rightly. This is wisdom. In spite of the facts on the ground and in spite of the normal way the world would deal with the problem (by comparing the baby to the mothers or by conducting a DNA test), Solomon acts to reveal the human hearts involved and in so doing reveals the truth. No one who loves life would divide the baby and yet Solomon, in his wisdom, knew that that was the right action to take. How did he know? “The wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” 1 Kings 3:28

In Acts, we have Paul and somewhere around 76 to 276 people in a boat in the Adriatic Sea, ready to founder. The facts on the ground are that the boat is being driven by the wind into a bad place, the sailors know it, and the sailors are ready to run to the lifeboat. The soldiers cut away the lifeboat because Paul tells them that they will not be saved unless the sailors stay on the boat. Later, the boat is shipwrecked. Normally, the decision would be made to lighten the boat by throwing everything overboard but keep the food because it might a long time on a deserted island. Because there were a lot of prisoners, who were at the bottom of the food chain, the weight thrown overboard might have included the prisoners. However, Paul knew what to do in spite of the facts and in spite of common sense. He instructs everyone to eat up, even though rations were short, and then throw the wheat overboard. Everyone ends up surviving the shipwreck. How did Paul get the wisdom to stay on board, eat the food and throw the rest away, and not kill anyone? Although our reading never says explicitly, there is a passage which suggests the answer – “And when he [Paul] had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” Acts 27:35 Paul knew where all things come, including his wisdom, and he gave thanks.

As Christians in America, we will be required to stand in oncoming evil day. The facts on the ground may suggest that we give in, give up, or maybe even counter-attack. These would be logicial decisions to make based upon the obvious facts of imprisonment, death, ridicule, and loss of position, wealth, and power. We may be in the midst of a storm such as we have never experienced, soaked to the bone with the prejudice of a world which hates Christ. At this time, we do not need to make decisions based upon logic or what we think may exist, we need to ground our decisions, our thoughts, and our speech (actions) on wisdom, on the knowledge of what to say and do in spite of the obvious facts.

And where will we get this wisdom? From the only One who has it in the first place. At that time, we will need to say “Come, Holy Spirit and fill our minds with Your wisdom,” we will need to act on the wisdom which God gives us at the time, and we will then need to follow in Paul’s and Jesus’ footsteps, break bread in remembrance of Him, and be thankful.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Smarts

December 29, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, December 29, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 12:1-6; Rev. 1:1-8; John 7:37-52; Psalm 18

————————————————

In today’s reading from John, Jesus says “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 7:37b-38. In juxtaposition, the Pharisees, the learned ones among Israel, said “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him [Jesus]? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law – there is a curse on them.” John 7:48-49

The people with the smarts (with the education, the learning, the training, the brains, the degrees, the certifications) think that Jesus is nuts or worse, an emissary of Satan to again cause God’s people to depart from the law. The “mob,” the people with heart but (according to the Pharisees) with no brains are the ones who listen to Jesus, learn from Him, believe Jesus, believe in Him. The “mob” is paying attention; the Pharisees are not because they know better.

You know the problem with logic, reason, the mind, and smarts? The problem is that bad assumptions will always result in bad conclusions. If the foundation is poor, you can build the most beautiful, elegant, rational, well-designed, “smart” house and that house will still be rotten because the assumption it is built on (the foundation of the argument, so to speak) is rotten.

The Pharisees’ assumptions upon which they base their rejection of Jesus were wrong; therefore their “logical,” smart rejection of Jesus was wrong. First, the Pharisees believed that the law was all there was. There is a reason that the Torah is the law. The Prophets are useful for bringing us back to the Law and reminding us of our necessity for it, but they are not the law. The law given by God is the law given by God. The Pharisees began with an assumption that God was finished with His declarations, with His creation, with His history and concluded that Jesus was therefore not from God, much less God Himself. If God’s law given through Moses is all there is, it is easy to see how the Pharisees applied their smarts to conclude that Jesus was therefore an aberration. If I know all there is to know, how can I know any more? When you present me with more to know, you must be wrong because how can there be something else when I know all there is.

The second assumption the Pharisees made was that their learning, their schooling, their education, their training, was the only way to obtain true knowledge. We see this today in the hubris of our universities, particularly those which call themselves “elite.” The idea that one could obtain anything of value through experience, through relationship, through the heart is anathema to those who start off with the assumption that their way of knowledge is the only way of knowledge. Since Jesus was not a Pharisee and since the people who listened to Him were the “mob,” anything He had to say must be of no value – right?

If anything could be labeled “funny” about the Pharisees, however, is that they base their entire logical argument on an entirely false factual assumption. They think that Jesus was born in Galilee rather than Bethlehem – “’How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem…?’ …They replied [to Nicodemus], ‘Are you from Galilee too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” John 7:41b, 52

How on earth can you get it right, if you are going to use your smarts, when you start off with the wrong facts, with the wrong assumptions? If you are a logical person, you can’t.

As we prepare for the New Year, it is useful to begin by using our smarts to look carefully at our assumptions we walk around with all the time and to challenge those assumptions to test whether they are true. To get you started, I have some ideas:

– If you have concluded that someone is not worth your time, what assumptions have you made about yourself? Are these assumptions based on truth or wishful thinking? What assumptions have you made about them? Are those assumptions true?

– If you have concluded that the Bible should be reinterpreted in light of modern circumstances, what assumptions have you made about yourself? Have you assumed that you are in a position of judgment? Have you assumed that you can dialogue with God as equals? Have you assumed that you are God? Are these assumptions based on truth?

– If you have concluded that miracles have ceased, what assumptions have you made about God? Have you assumed that God is powerless or lacks desire or is disinterested?

– If you have concluded that life is all there is, that there is nothing after death, what assumptions have you made about history? Have you assumed that historical facts are non-existent or useless? Have you assumed that Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection are fairy tales?

Heavy stuff, granted. But the Pharisees made a terrible logical error based upon a false assumption. We must be ever-diligent to not fall into the same trap.

We must use our smarts – enhanced by discernment and wisdom given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit.

—————————————————–

%d bloggers like this: