Today is Wednesday, the 18th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always.
I’m due in at the library at 9:15, this morning, so I won’t dally.
Update on that: I seem to have come down with a bit of a chest cold. I don’t feel terrible, but don’t feel great. After a text conversation with my manager, it was advised that I stay home and take care of myself. I don’t work tomorrow, anyway, so I feel confident that, by Friday, I will be better. I’m negative for Covid, so it’s not that. I feel like it’s related to weather and/or air quality, i.e. Mountain Cedar and so on.
Yet another thing I love about my library job. I have worked way too many places where the response would have been, “We really need you here, today,” rather than, “You stay home and take care of yourself.” ❤
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. (Psalms 119:94 NRSV)
Lord our God, be with us. Touch us with your Spirit so that our hearts may receive something from you. Let us find joy even in a life of struggle and temptation. Let us find joy in every need we face, even in the agony of death. Protect us through your Word, and let it always be a light to us so that we can follow you and do your will. Be with us on all our ways. Guide everything with your hand until the goal for all humankind is reached and we may rejoice over all the trials and testing because in the end the glorious prize can be won. Amen.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, . . . Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2, 12 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- that joy can be found in even the most unpleasant circumstances
- for the hope of the crown of life, promised to those who love the Lord
- that we are chosen by God, in Christ, appointed to bear fruit
- for mercy
- for love; may we truly understand and obey the commands of Jesus
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
(Exodus 40:34-35 NRSV)
You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
(John 15:16 NRSV)
We're watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy. (Psalms 123:2 MSG)
Not as Scripture to work from, this morning, which gives me more of a challenge. I’ve got some good verses, but do they fit together at all?
The Lord has chosen us. Jesus said as much, speaking to His disciples. There was a period of my life when I was a strict, five-point Calvinist. I’m not quite so firm in that, any more. I shifted back a little; the pendulum swung back toward the center. Earlier in my life, I was more Armenian (but didn’t really have a clue what that meant). I was introduced to “Calvinism” in seminary, and it fascinated me. Certainly there is plenty of Scripture to support the theology. May not all five points, but at least some of them.
But there is also Scripture to support the theology of “free will.” And what happens when we try to put God in a box is that, well, you just can’t. That’s what happens. You cannot put God in a box. He is greater than any box you could try to fit Him into. And His ways are not our ways. As soon as you try to fit Him into one particular theology, you’re going to find Him busting out of it with His ways, not yours.
I still believe that I am chosen by God. There’s not doubt in my mind about that. And I also believe that I will walk on this earth until He is finished with me. Maybe not, necessarily, “walk,” you know, but at least be alive. I have this somewhat fatalistic belief that I cannot die until God is finished with me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to test that theory by standing in the middle of Loop 820 during morning traffic.
God’s purposes cannot and will not be thwarted by humans. We are chosen by Him to bear fruit. “Fruit” can mean a lot of different things, though, not just other believers. There is a very narrow interpretation of that, in evangelical circles, that believes that that only refers to getting more people to pray that “sinner’s prayer” (which is nowhere in the Bible, mind you, and neither is any notion of “inviting Jesus into your heart,” but that’s a topic for another day).
If you read around the verse from John 15, up there, it brings more understanding. Verse 17, for example:
I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
(John 15:17 NRSV)
Also, check out verses 12-14:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
(John 15:12-14 NRSV)
Why has it taken us so long to figure this out? I mean, down through the ages, there have been individuals who got a glimpse of this truth. We celebrated one of them a couple days ago. MLK, Jr. had the right idea.
So we killed him.
Makes sense . . . we killed Jesus, too, and we would probably do it again, today.
Think that’s harsh? Then you’re not paying attention. There is still enough bigotry in this world, that if Jesus showed up today, preaching what He preached in the Gospels, certain groups of humanity would crucify Him all over again.
But here’s the challenge. We are supposed to love those people, too. One of the things that I have said, in recent years, is that if you hate the haters, you’re just another hater. What makes us different from the world is not the things we don’t do. That’s a common notion, that we are supposed to illustrate our difference from the “world” by abstaining from things.
The problem is, there is no consistent list of what things we are supposed to be abstaining from. One group thinks it’s alcohol and R-rated (or worse) movies. Another group thinks it’s dancing and cards (but dominoes are okay). More groups pick on homosexuality or abortion. Everyone has their “pet sins.” Oh, I almost forgot about divorce. That’s a big one, too.
In my opinion, Jesus was very clear about the main thing that should separate us from the world.
Love your enemies. You believe in God? Good for you, so do the demons. No doubt, some would point out that that passage also teaches that “faith without works is dead.” Yes, it does. And the “works” that we do are born out of love. When we feed the hungry, we do it because of love. When we clothe the naked, we do it because of love. When we visit the prisoners and sick, we do it because of love. When we take care of widows, orphans, and refugees, we do it because of love.
It’s all about love. God loves us so much that He sent Jesus. Jesus loves us to the point of death, giving up His life for us. Jesus commands us to love one another in the same way, and He tells us that all (ALL) of the Law and Prophets are summed up in two commands . . . love God and love people.
Lord, have mercy on us. We have lost our way. We read Your commands to love one another, and, instead, we focus on the Law, the things we should not be doing.
Have mercy on us. Teach us Your ways, that we might walk in Your truth, and realize the importance of love in this world. There is way too much anger and hatred running through Your Church, today. I know that there are people who are following Your commands and doing the right things. Unfortunately, they don’t make as much noise. May Your favor rest on all who are quietly going about the business of following the commands of Jesus.
Help me, Father, because I struggle to love the people who won’t show love, themselves. I have no desire to have any hatred in my heart toward anyone. Anyone. I have no human “enemies,” and refuse to consider any human being my enemy. Help us to come together, Father, to be unified in our love for Christ, for You, and for one another.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Lord, have mercy on us Christ, have mercy on us Lord, have mercy on us
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant us Your peace. (Agnus Dei)
Grace and peace, friends.