Shaping Us Toward Sunday

Pastor Todd posted a new podcast on a couple of the Scriptures for the upcoming week as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday.

You may listen here.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

Pastor Todd offers some thoughts on the Mark 10 passage for this coming Sunday. Join him by reading and reflecting on how this week's text may be understood when set against last week's story of James and John.

You may listen here.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

Pastor Todd offers some thoughts on our Scriptures for Sunday. You may listen here.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

Engaging the Scriptures together is important. Take note of the Scriptures for this coming Sunday in the right sidebar. Read them. Reflect on them. Comment here on them. Ask questions of them.

You can listen to an audio of Pastor Todd's early reflections on these texts here.

We will celebrate the Lord's Supper together this Sunday. We will look for you in fellowship and worship. Don't forget small group Bible Study/Sunday School. This is a great way to share the Scriptures in an informal and conversational way.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

Last Sunday, Nathan read a piece he had found related to the Scriptures for last Sunday. The writer noted a sociological shift in our culture. In a bygone day the culture tended to carry the faith. You remember when little leagues sports did not have games on "church days." Maybe you recall when the school calendar also deferred to events going on in the life of the church – summer camps, sporting events, etc. This is what the writer of the piece Nathan read meant by "carry the faith."

We have all witnessed the changes for the last couple of decades. Increasingly the encroachment caused us to question not why do we have these events, but why go to a church building with any regularity. No one questions the sports teams when they contend young athletes need time together, practicing, working on their game. Everyone questions why we need to meet with any regularity at church. After all we already have our ticket punched.

The matter may lay in what Dallas Willard regularly contends. Simply saying we "have it" does not indeed mean we have it. What we "have" is born out in what we do not what we say. Carrying the way of Jesus into a world necessitates thinking through just what that looks like and how we may do that in loving ways together. We find a small verse nestled in the rich text of Hebrews. The writer understood the needs of a faith community living in a culture where the culture did not carry the faith.

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Shaping Us Toward Sunday

I recently added a podcast with some thoughts about the Scriptures for the upcoming Sunday worship. You can listen here.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)(/em)

Creede_2007_027 If you grew up as a child going to church you may have regularly heard a verse from Psalm 122, "I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." (v.1) What you may not have been told is that this song is considered one of the Songs of Ascent. These songs emphasize journey. Not just any journey. They stirred the imagination to hope in meeting with God.

We get in our automobiles and drive down fair roads. We often make that trek not in anticipation or hope but often out of obligation and habit. Reading the Songs of Ascent should remind us of what we have been through to "get there." Annual, or regular, journeys to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover or one of the other major Feasts meant loading up and heading out. The terrain was often rocky and uneven. Fatigue could easily set in. Distractions lurked. These songs drew attention to what might be experienced as the people of God would gather. They stirred hope.

Rather than see this song as a means to prescribe church attendance, it may be better to underscore the hope of meeting with God – a hope the Season of Advent stirs.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Weary

One of the most common expressions heard today is, "I am tired." When we consider our schedules it seems no matter where we carve out space something rushes in to fill it. Maybe you stay up later. Could be you get up earlier. Could be you even "throw in the towel" and resist doing anything. The consequences for this last response to busyness can be catastrophic. Sometimes we fall prey to running so hard we run others.

The Epistle text from the Lectionary for this Sunday (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13) draws attention to idleness. We may get the idea someone is sitting around doing nothing. The better picture is someone who jumped tracks. Once heading in the way of Jesus following the life illustration of the band of missionaries, these folks decided it better to be more concerned about how others are living, or likely not living, in the way of Jesus. 

Running others includes running them down as well as running them ragged with a neo-legalism based on preferences rather than on the way of Jesus. Our reputations as Christians has been called into question by a recent book titled, unChristian. Barna Research Group notes those looking in from the outside see lives anything but characteristic of Christ and most often bent on running down or running ragged those not falling in line with a given set of preferences. Often we on the inside dismiss this but we can no longer. Our ethics must line up squarely with the life of Jesus. When they don’t, Jesus’ life must take ours apart and put something new in its place.

This new thing, new creation, points to the One who remakes, re-fashions us in His image. We do well to hear Paul’s words, "Do not grow weary in doing good." Going about doing good for others means less time running them down and running them ragged.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Footpathtrackautumnforestwoodroad_2Lyrics often rise from experience. The late Johnnie Cash’s rendition of "Hurt" along with the video seemed to connect with his personal experience. You may have a favorite song that connects with a particular experience. Hearing that song tends to provoke something of a sing-a-long that inspires, encourages and moves you in special ways.

There is nothing like the feeling of being overwhelmed. Our experiences could be brought on by our decisions or those of others and we still feel the weight of any consequences just the same. How do we walk from that point forward? What trail do we follow?

The songwriter of Psalm 17 (one of the Lectionary passages for this coming Sunday) offers a forward look into the ways of God. Referenced as Law, the ways of God may find expression by the Apostle Paul when he sums up the law in Galatians 5 as, "love your neighbor as yourself." Enduring the circumstances of life requires us to consider the way of love as the "perfect law." When faced with our enemies, the law of love prompts us to "pray for those who persecute you." When we are confronted with those who seem to view the world from an opposite perspective rather than vilify we hear the challenge to love.

In the way of Jesus, the first move is, "yes." Take for instance the gospel passage from last week in Luke 19. Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home long before Zacchaeus re-oriented his life around the way of Jesus making restitution for his cheating ways and giving away half of what he had to the poor. The way of Jesus, the perfect law of love, moves us to think about people that runs counter to our cultural practices.

The lyrics of Psalm 17 may give expression to our own journey when we consider just how we will walk, "as wise and not unwise."

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Sycamore_tree If you love stories then you may find yourself lost in the plot of what you read. Wandering minds consider what life would be like in a different place. Imaginations come alive thinking through the emotions and experiences of the lead characters. On deeper levels we may make personal connections with stories. How would you feel were you in the story? What would you think? Would you make the same decision?

Reading the Scriptures brings us to the point of wondering many of the same things. We bring who we are to the story. We then find ourselves confronted with similar patterns of thought and behavior. Some confirm. Some confront.

The gospel reading for this week presents us with a familiar story. If you grew up in church you may have learned the song that begins, "Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see." These little songs, or ditty’s, give us an opportunity to recall the major points of the story Sure there are some important details like the reaction of the religious leaders. But for the point of this thought toward Sunday we focus on the basics of this little song.

Zacchaeus wanted to see. Jesus called him down. They had dinner. How would you be stretched to see Jesus? What lengths would you go to just to see Jesus? In what ways could we view the efforts of Zacchaeus to overcome a lack of vision to our need to be honest about the ways in which our perceptions of Jesus  keep us from seeing? How have our limitations on the ways we expect God to act keep us from seeing God when he does move in our world?

Jesus noticed Zacchaeus. He called to him. Listening is a lost art? Even when singing along with a song, we often sing right by the meaning of the lyrics. So familiar are we the words often only serve to carry the tune. The busyness of our lives make listening a strange habit. Were Jesus calling in the ordinariness of life, we may just miss him as he would have to take a number. What spiritual practices would be beneficial to cultivate an ear for hearing Jesus? Would you think silence profitable? What about solitude, being alone? We live in what Henri Nouwen referred to as a "wordy world." Too much talk gives little time to listen. Combine silence and solitude and you just may hear the still small voice.

They shared a meal. It may be important to note how important meals are in the Scriptures. If we limit ourselves to the New Testament, we are struck by the feedings of the crowds, 4000, 5000 not to mention these likely swelled as only the men were counted in the crowd. We  take special note of the meal Jesus shared with the disciples during his death and resurrection. Lives are changed in table fellowship with Jesus. As we represent Jesus to the world, meals may well be a good place to share life and what it means to follow in the way of Jesus.

For such a simple song, there are quite a few things to consider. Get caught up in the plot of the Jesus story and follow him.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Resurrection Forgetfulness may be dangerous. Have you ever attempted to work on a wall  plug or a light switch and forgot to trip the breaker supplying the electricity? The voltage may not kill you, but you will not likely forget to check it the next time. Have you  ever checked the oil in your lawn mower/tractor and forgot to replace the oil cap? You  may have remembered but it was likely after you received a shower of oil. Have you ever placed a pair of glasses on the roof of your car while unloading your "stuff" only to forget them and drive off? You may be able to replace them but wearing those run over by cars that followed would be unlikely. Remembering would make life easier at times.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy he should remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Forgetting the resurrection leaves us bound. Paul may indeed have been bound in prison but he is far from bound. The resurrection liberates. A song may have been well-traveled and included by Paul,

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful –
for he cannot deny himself.

These lyrics may well have helped keep the resurrection fresh on the minds of Christ-followers pressing them to live resurrected lives.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Lament_2thumb Travel the country and you likely will pass through a small town that once bustled with people. Rather than a grocery store, a post office and a gas station, you might ask around and find someone who remembers 120 businesses including banks, dry goods stores, multiple grocery stores and gas stations. Rather school consolidation "old timers" remember the day when school boards were looking for ways to handle the growing numbers of students.

Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s latest work, The Road, opens with a devastating post-apocalyptic picture. The opening verse of Lamentations seems to cast a similar pall,

How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. (1:1-3, ESV)

In an essay written by William Willimon for the Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible notes the necessity of lament. He writes, "Israel loved God enough, felt close enough to God, to be able, in times of tragedy, to clench its fists and cry out to God, to complain, to accuse, to weep. … knowing God was with them. (p.1159-1160)

The picture painted by the writer of Lamentations paints a picture of the tragic consequences of wrong decisions; decisions made without reference to God. Once human pride runs its course its end is self-destructive, a Divine wiring of human life. Once the consequential judgment comes we often try to spin it well when it would be better to grieve over our willful loss of direction.

In the same way we grieve the loss of a friend, family, or job, we must grieve our own failures with the hopeful understanding of the presence of God. Willimon makes a strong statement when he writes,

Perpetually joyful believers who never need Lamentations are self-centered, self-consumed believers who feel none of the pain of the rest of the world. The psalms of lament provide good Jewish balance to our sometimes superficial and just a bit too cheerful Christian piety.(p.1160)

Over what do you need to lament?

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Shaping Us Toward Sunday, is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Deconstruction20040416_001b Just down the highway from the church sits a building. Well, it used to be a building. Not many months ago a rental equipment business offered scissor lifts, back hoes, bobcats among other items for rent. I just noticed it resembled this picture. The red iron and metal studs once covered by sheet rock and brick now rest exposed. The building is in a state of deconstruction. Of course, we are hopeful a new owner will decide to build a new building for a new business. What was once a hopeful venture proved a tough sell.

In this instance, deconstruction came by virtue of experience. Despite the best business plan and model this independent business owner may have found it difficult to compete with other more established businesses in a very narrow market. The decision to take the building apart was likely not an easy one. Necessary? Evidently.

The songwriter (Psalm 146) seemed to write from the experience of misplaced trust. The history of the people of God is dotted with experiences of misplaced trust. Faulty kings. Unhealthy alliances. In the end these relationships built on trust disappointed. This could lead to a natural distrust of anyone or anything. Certainly we could understand anyone who thought, "I’ll go it alone. I can only trust myself." Such a place may expose a deconstruction of trust. Is it necessary? Must I trust another to get on in life?

Likely history or personal experience or both comes to the mind of the lyricist. "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish." When have you put your trust in another only to be disappointed? Could have been those in high places with great authority. Could have been a person with great skills of strategy. Could have been those in whom a great deal of ingenuity apparent.

No matter the reason for the trust, it was undoubtedly exercised. In the end, the song writer acknowledges the limitations of trust when the object of our trust is other than God. Expressions of the activity of God must come through the work of his Spirit and people. Thoughts of relief from oppression, food for the hungry, freedom from slavery, sight to the blind, the lifting of the bedraggled, and support for the widow and the orphan come as a result of the watchful eye of God expressed in Kingdom people.

The songwriter points our trust Godward. He points us to participate in the way of the Kingdom. He describes the very life and ministry of Jesus found in Luke 4. We must understand the salvation of the Lord to which the songwriter referred was indeed "whole" or "complete." It was certainly a heart’s trust. In our way of describing it, expresses confidence and finds forgiveness. Yet, it also manifests itself in real time in the real world with and on behalf of all people who suffer from powers that oppress, economies that foster poverty, institutions that enslave, structures that blind to truth, social contexts that kick people to the curb and socio-economic decisions revealing the wasteland created by neglect. Our eyes must be watching for these very things and be the bringers of the Good News and sing with the songwriter, "Praise the Lord."

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

("Shaping Us Toward Sunday," is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

What causes you to shed a tear? Have you ever been in a emotional place that could be described as "weepy?" You know, nearly anything could provoke you to cry.

TearsOne of the readings for this Sunday found in Jeremiah 8 may well be one of the places garnering the prophet the title, "Weeping Prophet." Many times we associate something akin to an emotional disorder when referring to someone who is "weepy" or in this case, "weeping." For Jeremiah the designation may have more to do with living into the frustration that comes with seeing an errant child fall into trouble despite all you can do to help avoid the difficulty.

We may not grasp the intensity of Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 without placing the text in its proper location. Scholars debate just who we are hearing from in 8:3-9:3. Is it Jeremiah? Is it God, YHWY? Is it the metaphorical voice of the people of Judah? Could it be a combination?

One thing we may well understand reading these words, the situation is grave. Lives are affected. Expectations go unmet. It seems there is no source for healing.

How do you interpret your surroundings? Circumstances? The story of the people of God comes with lapses in faithfulness. The consequence of greed and its accompanying lack of generosity leaves the people looking at the lack form harvest. Ends no longer meet. Rather than give themselves to following YHWH they have fallen into the snare of excesses created by following after their own whims, often expressed in chasing after other gods.

Hard times come. These circumstances and un-easy surroundings force the people back to their story – the people of God. Once they exchanged their underlying narrative – story – YHWH was not central to their identity as a people. Only when they find themselves threatened do they question their story. Only then do they hear the charge of the prophet who weeps in both disbelief and despair that the people of God would forget their story.

Relying on their own ingenuity and successes they quickly learn their own limitations. Life is lost. Hope is dashed. Trouble mounts. They are only left to reconsider how they have strayed from the covenant. But do they look? Do they learn? Do they listen? Do they recall their story? Do they repent? Do they experience renewal? Do they express a sense of reviving – re-living? Only if they return to living into the story of YHWH and his work of grace, mercy and redemption toward all.

Whose story do you live in? Whose story controls the story of your life?

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

Fool4Evangelistic Atheists regularly make headlines in our culture. From recent titles like, The God Delusion to god is not good, it seems somewhat in vogue to ridicule people of faith. Quickly on the defensive we mock those who mock God. We look for rational means to combat critical claims. On other occasions we rely on our "leap of faith" as defense. Some evidentialists continue to make the case for faith.

The lyrics found in Psalm 14 may hold a bit of a key to the means of addressing a culture that increasingly doubts the claims of Christians, "There is a God." A reference to the climate of the day, "there is none who does good," may well unlock one means to engage a culture of disbelief.

Dallas Willard suggests we really believe what we behave. In other words we may say one thing and do another to reveal what we really believe. For example, if we assert we recycle paper for the good of creation but do not carry our paper to be recycled we betray an interest in the good of creation. Our behavior demonstrates what we really believe.

Could it be the songwriter challenged us lyrically to behave as though we believe there is a God? To continue to make decisions fulfilling the whims of our own kingdoms would portray to the world we do not believe in God. If in the Hebrew understanding there is not separation between belief and behavior then you can be sure the suggestion a "Fool says in his heart there is no God," may well be calling the community to live out the faith they profess.

If those who do evil against those who  claim Christ do so as a result of a lack of evidence in those who claim Christ, it is only right the songwriter signals hope comes from the LORD who will restore life as it should be. We must assume that means he will work in the lives of those who really follow him to show the hostile critics there is a God and set the world to right being the refuge of the poor.

Let’s live out our faith so we both do not live as their is no God and that we point those who wonder to a relationship with the God who restores relationships with himself, with ourselves, with others and with creation.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

("Shaping Us Toward Sunday," is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Compulsion Motivation. Parenting creates the need for people to learn the art of motivation. You may recall being motivated by threat, "If you do … then I will …." Maybe you were motivated by fear, "Just wait until Dad/Mom/Father/Mother gets home!"

Too often we translate these instances into motivating factors for following Jesus. It is interesting the Apostle Paul claims the right to tell Philemon to forgive Onesimus for running away and even more to return to serve Paul while in chains. We would look at his "apostolic" authority and suggest it enough.

We do the same in our relationship with God. He is the potter, we are the clay. Certainly by right of Creator he should well say to us what we must/should do. How do we work in the relational equation? Paul may help us when he writes to Philemon, "but, I prefer to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will." (v.14) Laying out the relational dynamics inherent in Philemon and Paul’s relationship meant it better to appeal to the significance of the relationship rather than the position. The result would be a love not given under compulsion but of volition.

Our ongoing relationship with God may well contain both realities. We may rest in the the understanding that God is God and so by divine right may say or do what he will. We may also take heart in the relational dynamic mediated by the Spirit through the life, death, resurrection of the Son and respond in our relationship with God.

The transformation of the will by the work of the Spirit exposes our willingness to be a consequence of love.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

("Shaping Us Toward Sunday," is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Out back of a small cabin sits a cistern. Galvanized guttering catches the rain sending it on a journey to fill the cistern. Lifting the lid to the cistern does everything but entice a person to drink. Stagnant water offers little refreshment.

Less than 20 feet away signs of a fresh drilled well serve notice to any passerby work has been done. Equipped with pump and plumbing water from deep in the ground is carried to those in the cabin. Water fit to drink brings sure refreshment on any day.

Would a person really trade a well for a cistern? Jeremiah paints a picture of poor decisions-making. The people of God forgot the activity of God. Rather than recall the refreshing presence of God, fountain of living waters, the people hewed out cisterns for themselves. Trading fresh water for stagnant water makes little sense.

The consequence is shock. Search teams are sent out to see if it really so – from the coasts of Cyprus to Kedar. Is it really so those who were God’s people exchanged the relationship for no gods at all? Sad but true. Cisterns that, worse than holding stagnant water, hold no water at all for they are broken. Not even gathering rain to feed crops or cattle.

May we take care to recall and live into the activity of God lest we too be found trading fresh water for no water at all.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

("Shaping Us Toward Sunday," is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Youth_2
Searching for the proverbial fountain of youth finds expression in a variety of cultures. Our culture is rife with cosmetic approaches to keep people looking young, if not feeling young. Yet most would acknowledge youth need to mature in order to be taken seriously.

Jeremiah contested the call of God by pointing to his youth as a reason to set aside the  plan for him to speak for God. God affirmed his intent to use Jeremiah in spite of his age. Paul charged Timothy to stand firm despite his youthfulness. Excuses abound whether it is we who speak or we who listen.

The great danger lies in the development of well-intentioned rules obscuring the value of people and elevating preferences. Unfortunately the history of Christianity provides frequent illustrations of just this danger. Jesus faced just such an instance when on the Sabbath he dared to heal. Elevating a day above the needs of others made those who represented God look calloused.

Our goal should be how may we carry on the mission of God in the world; a mission intended to draw people into loving relationship with their Creator. Any time we prefer a rule to the needs of a person we should take great care to explore the rule. In the instance of the Sabbath observance it would seem to dishonor the person and work of Jesus the Christ to turn away from those in need.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

("Shaping Us Toward Sunday," is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Telescope1_2
"Sure wish you lived closer," they said. Proximity facilitates a nearness which cannot be replaced by land lines, cell phones or e-mail. When we find a friendship renewed as someone returns for a visit we may develop a longing for an ongoing nearness.

"Hey, my folks will be out of town, want to come over," the young person announces to a group of friends. Many a party gone wrong took place while parents were away. Distance does not necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Distance expressed by the adage, "Out of sight, out of mind," exposes our real penchant to be who we are when no one is around – often different when the folks are home!

One of the Scripture passages for Sunday’s readings comes from Jeremiah 23. The ESV has it, "Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD." (v.23-25) We long for the nearness of God, His presence. We also makes life choices as though God is out of town.

Behavior is tricky. Our givenness is to help change the way people will think so their actions may follow. So, if Jesus commands we love our neighbor we work to help people understand both how to express love and to break down the barriers between neighbors. Some times these ways of thinking die hard. We want to love our neighbors but some of our neighbors look wildly different than we and may have habits we find difficult to acknowledge. If we wait until our way of thinking is aligned with the Good News, we may make decisions that belie our convictions to follow Jesus. In other words, we may not look at all like Jesus.

Addict recovery programs like AA help those recovering to both think their way into healthy, positive behavior as well as behave their way into right thinking. It is interesting when we look at exhortations to leave behind the old and put on the new (for example Col. 3) we read a list of behaviors we need to dismiss from our way of life. At the same time, we are challenged to put on – behave in a brand new way. The reason: we have died and our live is hidden with Christ in God.(Col.3:3)

Following Jesus then becomes both a way of the mind (repentance) and a way of the body (behavior). Operating from these two points we find that whether we "sense" God is near or far our following the way of Jesus constantly rests on the reality God fills the heaven and earth. This experience with God exposes us to his word that burns to reveal righteousness and hammers the rocky places of our souls exposing us to the "dream of God for us."

Shaping Us Toward Sunday …

("Shaping Us Toward Sunday," is designed to be a weekly feature here on the Snow Hill website.
The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which
is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on
one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an
occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped
this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for
they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Participation
Very few children want to stand on the sidelines. You may recall those days when "team captains" selected his or her team. Even though a few children knew they may be the last picked they still wanted to be chosen. We all want to participate on some level with others.

Sometimes we forget we have been invited, if not exhorted, to participate in the mission of God. We spend a great deal of time "nailing down" what we believe. Our exercises often become little more than mental calisthenics. We may be able to set out our beliefs with precision but our actions may we late in arriving, if at all.

Isaiah seems to have something of this in mind in chapter 1. We do well to know when to sacrifice and what to sacrifice. We know what days to worship and for the most part we are convinced how that should look. But, this has done nothing but produce arrogance and the suspicion of anyone who does these things differently. In fact, if worship and sacrifice are different we assume something is wrong – not different.

Enter the prophet. Calling attention to the evil that is bound up in a purely individualistic pattern of worship. A kind of worship only concerned with right sacrifice on the right days misses what Scot McKnight suggests is one of the expressions of the Gospel – others. Setting people right through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not just about being right with God. It includes being right with others. The expression of this working for what is right in our relationships means we must put off evil. In this context that certainly may be selfishness – a practice that virtually negates the other except for use to get what we want.

Isaiah urges those who would hear that God charges those who would follow in His way to ". . . learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s  cause." These actions require our participation. We must work intentionally. Most often we work in largely a reactive mode. Here we are invited to participate in the expression of the character of God for the blessing of the world – and to radiate his glory for all to see.

Setting aside evil opens us up to the goodness of God – a goodness that shapes us, conforming us into the image of Jesus.

Shaping Us Toward Sunday

(Dr. Will Willimon, former Dean of the Chapel at Duke University) often writes  a piece entitled, "Blogging Toward Sunday." Using the same idea, a weekly piece titled, "Shaping Us Toward Sunday," will be found on the Snow Hill website. The Spirit of God shapes us in a variety of ways not the least of which is through the Scriptures as the people of God gather. Short notes on one or more of the readings for the coming Sunday will offer an occasion to meditate on how God may be shaping us together. It is hoped this particular piece will prompt us to spend more time preparing for they ways God speaks to us as a gathered faith community.)

Lincolnoxyoke2 Take a prostitute for a wife? Buy her back after she offers herself around town? Real story. Analogy. Metaphor. For as long as people have read the story of Hosea debate has raged. Often overlooked in the arguments – God exposes his heart in ways we may both understand and fail to understand.

We like to think we may draw direct comparisons between our own emotions and those of God. Certainly the language of Scripture compels us to attempt to grasp how God "feels." In the Hosea passage for this coming Sunday (11:1-11) we read the loving way in which God cared for his people – note the endearing, "my son." Parents may readily identify with the waywardness described in the early verses, "The more they were called, the more they went away." Still more how many have held steadfast in their love through such rebellion? Quickly we feel overwhelmed that God would love us still too.

Quickly it is noted there will not be a return to Egypt but rather a new oppressor will come – Assyria. Depictions of what is to come certainly strike fear, "The sword shall rage against their cities." Constant rebellion reaps the whirlwind. Or does it?

We often struggle with just how to grapple with the justice of God – setting things right. We enjoy the mercy and fear the judgment. Our own experience calls us to consider, "What would you do in these circumstances?" What if the consequences were inherent in the rebellion? What if turning away was met with absence? It is at this point we may find the comparisons between the human and the Divine more difficult.

In fact, it may be at this point we are struck by the intensity of the love of God in the face of the people who are "bent on turning away." We quickly look for God to come in judgment. But, we read, "and I will not come in wrath." If Assyria comes, will that not be construed as God’s wrath? That is certainly how we would connect the dots. So what to do with the reality Assyria indeed did come. The Northern Kingdom did fall. The text notes God will not execute his burning anger, his wrath will not come. Haw can we we not see how our penchant to walk away means we walk away from the "easy yoke?" How can we not understand we stretch the chords of kindness and bands of love but they do not break.

Maybe it is ours cords and bands often do break. Maybe we cannot see how judgment should be withheld.

How would we be shaped as the people of God to grasp the intense expression of the love of God? A love expressed in the holiness – otherness of God. If we have ever asked how someone else showed mercy then surely we may grasp the difficulty getting our minds around the amazing way God loves us. What would this mean for our love to others?

Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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