Bread – Seasons

June 30, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, June 30, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 11:1-15; Acts 8:1-13; Luke 22:63-71; Psalms 120-127

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I hesitated to write Bread today because (a) I did not know what Scriptures the Lord would provide today through the Book of Common Prayer and (b) I was afraid that I might have to write about the events of the last week, where five members of the United States Supreme Court elevated themselves over God to redefine what the word “marriage” means for society. Although they did not say (yet) that this definition applies to people of faith, it probably will because, although we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, we live in Rome.

The three readings today illustrate three responses to the actions of the world. Which one is right for today?

In the first reading, a group of Israelites is overrun by pagans and wants to give up, but when they hear the terms of surrender (gouge out their right eye), they ask for help from the rest of Israel. “And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled…Then the dread of the Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one man…And the next day … they [Saul and the Israelites] came into the midst of the camp [of the Ammorites, the pagans] … and struck down the Ammorites …” 1 Sam. 11:6-11. Here, the men of God were called to war against evil by the Spirit of God. There is a time and place historically for war with the weapons of war, but we need to remember that this is Old Testament teaching and Christ has advised us to forgive first and, when struck, to turn the other cheek. So holy war is probably not the appropriate response unless and until we as Christians hear the clarion call of the Holy Spirit. When (and if) that happens, it will not be subject to debate because “the dread of the Lord” will fall upon “the people” and it will be obvious.

In the second reading from Acts, Saul (another one, later to be renamed Paul), has authorized the killing of Stephen, a Christian. “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered … But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” Acts 8:1-4. Here we see that, notwithstanding exile and other bad consequences, Christians continued to live as Christians, “preaching the Word” where they ended up. Stephen’s death did not affect them, exile did not affect them, imprisonment did not affect them – their belief was solid and continued through adversity, and by their lives and proclamation of the Word they did not flinch from letting it be known who and whose they were. This is Christian living, citizens of the Kingdom of God living in Rome. It is unapologetic and unrelenting. During this time, while under direct and consistent attack, the Christian community gets stronger, not weaker, and the proclamation of Christ becomes bolder, not softer. Elsewhere in Scripture, this form of living is called “standing” (“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Eph. 6:10-13).

The third reading is from Luke, where Jesus has been taken, held, ridiculed, set for trial and, as we know, destined for death on the cross. Lk. 22:63-71. As followers of Christ, should we expect better?

In the seasons of our life as a Christian, we may be called to fight, to stand, and/or to die. Which one will it be in this season of the exaltation of man’s thought over God’s Word?

I don’t know, but I do know this. In season or out of season, God is sovereign, His Word is the touchstone for how I and His people should live their lives, and Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that there are no other ways to eternal life but with, in and through Him. And that is true whether we are in the season of war, of standing, or of imprisonment and death. And that is true whether Caesar, the Supreme Court, or the majority of the people agree or not.

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© 2015 GBF

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Bread – Seasons

November 24, 2014


Readings for Monday, November 24, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 10:1-12; Gal. 6:1-10; Luke 18:15-30; Psalm 106

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Although it is just before Thanksgiving, many people are acting as if it is just before Christmas. But the truth is that, for Christians, there are many opportunities throughout the entire year to give thanks for what God has done and is doing for us, so in that sense there are no seasons. However, we recognize the various seasons of the year, expressed in quarters (spring, summer, etc.) and expressed in holidays (for Christians – Christmas, Easter, Pentecost; for others – others).

Our readings today talk about seasons. In Zechariah, our reading today begins with “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, …” Zech. 10:1. We know the effect of rain – it is necessary to life, to help plants and people grow and thrive. In a sense this verse is saying “Ask for growth in the season of growth.” To many people, this seems strange, because why would you ask for something you are getting anyway because it is the season for it. After all, the season for rain has rain in it; we wouldn’t call it the season for rain unless it rained pretty often during that time. For these people, we ask for what we don’t have when we don’t have it, not when we do have it. What is the use of asking for a job when we have a job; for asking for happiness when we are happy; for asking for health when we are healthy; for asking for wisdom when we already know what to do? The problem with this attitude is that it is an attitude of self – I will not reach toward God in prayer (“ask rain from the Lord”) unless I need something. However, when we are God-focused we realize that all things come from Him. The job we have today is a gift from God. The health we have today is gift of God. Any wisdom we might have today is a gift of God. Knowing that, it is actually more important to ask for rain in the season of rain because it is an acknowledgement that, in good times or bad, all things come from the Lord and on Him are we radically dependent.

We need to ask God for rain in the season of rain because we need to constantly remind ourselves that everything we have and everything we are is by the grace, power, and love of God. We need to ask God for rain in the season of rain because we need Him, all the time, not just in the time of need but also in the time of plenty.

In Galatians, we read this about seasons – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9 Season are not only now, they are in the future. But some seasons are dependent upon other seasons. Jesus Christ does not die (season of Easter) unless He is first born (season of Christmas). A season of reaping of a harvest does not occur unless there is first a season of sowing, of planting of the seed which will blossom later. While we are in one season of life, by our actions we are helping to determine what our future seasons will look like. Financial advisors will tell you this. If you are 17 today and save $100 a month in a reasonable investment, you can retire on a substantial income in your season of retirement. But it is hard for us to realize that, to realize that by the season of study in Scripture today we are laying the foundation of a season of effective Christian love tomorrow.

There is a richness to each season, but only if we have taken the time and the energy in the season before to plant the seed for the next season.

It is the season of rain, of thanksgiving for what we have been given. Let is therefore ask the Lord for thanksgiving, a spirit of gratefulness for Him and His. During this time, in the hustle and bustle of life, let us “not grow weary of doing good.” What we have abundantly from the Lord let us share in love with our neighbors, the stranger and the friend.

In one week the season of Advent begins. This is a season of doing good, to others and to yourself. What good can you do yourself? Read God’s Word. Think about Him and his coming to earth shortly as a defenseless human, to take on our low estate so that we may be brought up to His high estate. Communicate with Him through prayer. Be still before the Lord and listen to Him. Do not become weary of doing good for in due season we will reap.

What is this “due season?” It is Christmas. If we continue today to do good to others and ourselves (by strengthening our walk with the Lord and our obedience to His will) , in “due season,” at Christmas, we will indeed celebrate with joy, love, fellowship, and hope.

Otherwise, we will be tired and miss the season entirely.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Seasons

June 20, 2011


Readings for Monday, June 20, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 1:1-18; 1 Tim. 1:18-2:8; Luke 13:1-9; Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 7

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In Psalm 1 in the appointed readings for today we read “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season …” Ps. 1:1-3

In today’s economy, where fresh fruit can be obtained from all over the world all the time, our stores are always full of fruit and vegetables. As a result, we have become less aware of the seasons of the year – a time for planting, a time for growing, a time for harvesting, and a time for rest. But the seasons are there nonetheless, and if we lived according to our what our local farmers can produce, there would be many times during the year when particular fresh fruits and vegetables would be impossible to come by.

There is always much discussion around Christians about whether we are producing good fruit – whether we are telling people the Good News, whether we are taming our tongues and behaviors to be more Christ-like, whether we are becoming excellent for the Kingdom, whether we are praying more, loving more, doing more, caring more, studying more, worshiping more, etc. And those of us who tend to be self-critical will focus on this daily – what good fruit did I produce today?

We forget that fruit is born in season and the seasons, the times, are ordained by God. We forget that there is a season of winter, of barrenness, where little if any fruit is forthcoming. We forget that, prior to the fruit appearing, there is a quickening throughout the entire tree as it awakes from its slumber and begins to draw deeply from the water and nutrients contained in its roots, in the good ground. It is when the seasons of preparation have passed that there appears the season of good fruit.

Are you beating yourself up today because your life, your marriage, your occupation, your church, your private prayer life, your friendships, your community works are not showing good fruit? Maybe it is because you are not in the season of fruit. Maybe it is because God has guided you into a time of barrenness, where all hope appears lost, so that you might be trained for the race toward eternity. Maybe it is because God has placed you in the season of growth and is feeding you with His Spirit, His righteousness, His wisdom, His strength, His love. Maybe it is because God has led you to green pastures, where you might find rest from your labors. Notice the ratio of the Psalm and the seasons, three-quarters of preparation yields one quarter of fruit to last the year.

While preparing for today, I ran across a short prayer I wrote almost ten years ago. Here it is – “There is fruit, but in season. Lord, help me to abide in Your arms, minute by minute, so that my fruit will be plentiful and good in the season You have appointed.”

Amen.

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All Bible citations are to the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted.

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This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog: https://1bread.wordpress.com

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