Bread – Exodus

August 9, 2017


Psalm 77

You [God] led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  Ps. 77:20

I normally start at the beginning of a Psalm and work forward, but this time I am starting at the end.  This Psalm begins in depression, works through memory, and then recalls who God really is.  The ending (the quoted) verse is a recollection of the exodus.

Wherever we are, whether it be in valley of despair or the mountaintop of joy, we need to remember that we have been brought out of slavery into freedom by the mighty hand of God.  We have been brought from death to life.  We are being brought into glory.  Our chains are gone in Christ and we have been set free.

It is God who led us out from slavery through the wilderness of testing into the promised land.  He may operate through men (in this case, historically, Moses and Aaron), but it not them who led but God.  It is God who created the circumstances of the exodus and God who brought it to conclusion.

That was the exodus of the Old Testament, but we can testify to our own exodus in the modern era from death unto life.  Yes, men and women were involved, agents of God, but it was God who decided and God who did.

I say all this because we too often are so wrapped up in our issue of the day that we often forget where we have been and where we are today by the grace, mercy, and power of God.

In fairy tales, the desolate maiden is locked into a high castle by a dark lord, only to be rescued by a glamorous knight in shining armor.  Who does not see that picture?  And we identify with either the damsel in distress or the knight come to save.  We recognize the dark lord for who he is and we celebrate that good has triumphed over evil.

But in this picture of human intervention to save us from human misery, what have we forgotten?

The knight in our fairy tale reports to someone.  That person is the king of the realm.  Who sent the knight?  Who empowered the knight?  Who stands behind and superintends the rescue?

We know who the king is in the fairy tale, although we may not see him and the story may not talk about him.

But do we know who the king is in our tale, our story, our exodus?

If we do, we need to remember Him, honor Him, worship Him … for He is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  He is Jesus the Christ.  He, with the Father and Holy Spirit, is (are) the author of our exodus.

Now that we remember our exodus and its Author, we are prepared to deal with both the lows of life and the highs as well.

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

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Bread – Recall

December 5, 2016


Psalm 44

O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds You performed in their days … You with You own hand drove out the nations, but them You planted…”  Ps. 44:1-2

This will be an interesting week because this Psalm begins one way and quickly turns to another.  A calamity has fallen on the people of Israel and they lament to God why?  But before the Psalmist writes about the calamity, he writes about God’s exercise of His power in the past to help Israel and its people.

There is a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  However, when it comes to God, those who forget history forget who God is.

Recall of God’s blessings upon our nation, our families, and each of us personally is critical to anchoring us in knowing God, in knowing His faithfulness through all generations.  It is not enough in our tumultuous lives that our anchor to God be set in emotions, in the high of the moment, or in mountaintops, but in the deep past, in the valleys of despair, in the memory of rescue, of salvation, of gifts, of blessings, of hope, and of love.

In order for our ship to be stable on the stormy waters of life, our anchor must be placed firmly in God.  And even though God is here today and will be here tomorrow, it is in the past where His glory, power, and authority has been exercised over and over again for our benefit, laid in stone of history, there for the viewing if we but recall.

We celebrate Christmas this year, recalling the advent of the Christ-child in history.  We will celebrate Easter this year, recalling Christ’s death on the cross in history.  The Psalmist recalls God’s great deeds, the blessing of Sarah with children, the exodus from Egypt, the burning bush, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and many more large and small, written down in the past.

So, as we begin this week, let us recall our history as God’s people, both the ups and the downs, the weaknesses and the strengths, the times of obedience and disobedience, the power and the grace and the blessings and, yes, the flood and forgiveness and the cross and the resurrection, and, yes, the birth of hope for the world in the birth of Jesus.  Let us recall not only the great history God’s people but our own history as God’s son or daughter.

Let us place these recollections firmly in our memory and anchor ourselves in them.

Why, because we will need these recollections to anchor us in the coming storm, to remind us that, when God seems absent and uncaring, He is neither.  And to remind us that, even in defeat, in Christ there is victory.

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© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Hope

May 30, 2016


Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…” Ps. 22:1-4

How often have we felt like this?  Out in the middle of our trials and tribulations, surrounded by events not of our (apparent) doing and surrounded by people we would rather not be associated with, we feel really, really alone.  Where are our friends?  Where is our family?  Where is God?

Perhaps the closest we can come from feeling like we have been totally abandoned is if we are a small child and both parents are killed or disappear, or we have some terrible disease fall upon us which is horribly contagious, and all of our friends and family melt away.  But even then, the small child may be helped by some people who come alongside of him.  The contagious disease-ridden person, may see the nurses and doctors surrounding them and they may even see their loved ones outside the windows, aching to get in.

But what if we have fallen to the bottom of the well and the voices of the searchers have wandered away to be replaced by the sounds of the night and by the predators who wander it?

Or we find ourselves alone in a desert, accompanied only by scorpions and drenching heat?

But even in those circumstances we may have memories to attach to, to fill our longing for companionship.

The fact is that, even when we feel like we have been forsaken, there is a part of us which knows that we have not.  The Psalmist joins us in this knowledge, reflecting that, even In the worst of times, we know that God has been faithful to those who believe in Him – “In You our fathers trusted.”

And, yet, as we read this and apply it to ourselves, perhaps there is a “gong” going off in the back of our mind, that we have read or heard those same words before.

And, the answer is, “yes, you have.”  You have heard these words before because they are the same words spoken by Jesus on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  Matt. 27:46

This Psalm is known as the “Psalm of the Cross” by some people because it is a prophecy, written by David at a time when crucifixion was unknown, of a crucifixion, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In order for God the Father to forgive our sins, there had to be a perfect atonement.  Because Jesus took on our sins, the sins of the world, and because sin is abhorrent to God, an affront to His holiness, God left Jesus and Jesus was truly forsaken.   For a moment in time, all connection, all love, all relationship, between Jesus and the Father was broken.

And in the moment of that separation, in the agony of being abandoned by the Father, what did Jesus remember?  Did He, as the Psalmist suggests, remember that God was faithful historically and, by extension, would be faithful to Him?  We were not there and we do not know, but why not?  He of all people knew the character of God the Father – the very character that had to separate from Jesus because of sin was also the same character which had shown Himself time and time again would not forever abandon His people.  The connection between God the Father and God the Son had to be broken because of wrath, because of sin, and the connection would be restored because of love.

In the moment of His greatest desperation, when Jesus was separated from the Father, because He knew His Father’s character, Jesus also had the greatest hope.

We may and probably will feel abandoned by many around us.  We may also feel so abandoned that we cry forth “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And in that moment, instead of despair, perhaps in this we will find hope – the God who rescued Israel is the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who has saved us from death eternal to life everlasting.    For those who trust Jesus, we may feel abandoned but we are not, we may feel forsaken but we are not, we may feel unforgiven but we are not.

We have hope in spite of ourselves, in spite of circumstances … because we remember.

_________

© 2016 GBF  All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Blessings

January 7, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 7, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 52:7-10; Rev. 2:1-7; John 2:1-11; Psalms 103,114,115

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“Count your blessings.” Everyone has heard that statement. How do you do it? Well, you could do this – one, I’m alive; two, I have shelter; three, I have food … That is one way to count your blessings. Another way might be to look at quantity and not “head count.” So, using volume, we might have a bag of blessings or a kilo of love or something like that. Maybe the counting isn’t so much a number as it is just a recognition that, indeed, we have many blessings, not all of which are tangible or measurable. How do I quantify the blessing of a caring spouse? How do I quantify the blessing of my assurance of eternity because of the cross of Christ and His resurrection? How do I measure the new day, the sun, the stars, the cold and the hot, the opportunity? Maybe “count your blessings” is merely the simple prayer of “Give me today, Lord, my daily bread,” recognizing that everything we have, whether we may perceive it as good or bad, is a gift of God, a blessing of God, capable of being transformed in the power of the Holy Spirit, through us, into something which glorifies God.

Today’s readings remind us of three blessings we have in our lives from God.

The first blessing is good news. There is a lot of bad news, but what about the good news? In Isaiah today, we read “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Isa. 52:7 Many people like me would consider being on a mountain-top to be blessing enough, but what a double blessing that, while you are in a state of wonder about God’s creation, good news is brought to you by a friend, a pastor, a radio station, a book, Scripture? It is the good news of peace, of happiness, of salvation. So God, through His Word in Scripture and made flesh in Jesus Christ, through His disciples, delivers us good news. This is a blessing from God.

The second blessing is good works which proceed from love for Christ. In Revelation, Jesus warns the church in Ephesus that, although they have many good works, these works have migrated from a basis of love for God to a basis in something else, maybe observance of tradition. Jesus says “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Rev. 2:4 There are three blessings wrapped up in this message. The first is that we are blessed that, in the power of God, we have the ability to love at all and that, as a result, we have loved Him and others. The second blessing is that we are able to do good things arising from and founded upon that love. The third blessing is even more important though, and that is that we have the blessing of remembrance. In this passage, God calls the Ephesian church to recall their love for Christ and each other, and in the recalling, strengthen the power of their good works. We have no opportunity to recall and turn back if we are blinded to our circumstances or blinded to the truth. The blessing of God in these circumstances is to open our eyes and unstop our ears, bring to our mind who we are and whose we are, and empower us in that remembrance to return in power to Him.

And then we have the blessing of Jesus Himself. In John, we read about the wedding feast where Jesus turns water into wine so that the joy of the wedding is not brought up short. In this short passage Jesus reminds us that He is the creator of our blessings. And He indirectly reminds us that “His time” has not yet occurred, when He will sacrifice Himself for us so that we may share in life ever after. Our blessing is that Jesus often gives us what we think we need (something to help the wedding) (when, as sovereign King, He deems it appropriate) and gives us what He knows we need, but we do not (dealing with our sinful state).

Count your blessings. Impossible! But remember your blessings, recall your blessings – and be that messenger to yourself, the messenger who brings good news. Because in the blessing of recollection, in the blessing of repentance, in the blessing of love, and in the blessing of peace and salvation, we have many blessings indeed.

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© 2015 GBF

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