Good morning. Today is Monday, the seventeenth of January, 2022, in the second week of Ordinary Time.
May the peace of Christ be with you, today!
Six days until Hamilton!
We had a nice gathering, yesterday, for our house church. There were six of us in person, and two on Zoom. We only managed to get through one Psalm (52), but had some good discussion, and great fellowship. I really feel that we are closer to what the first century church did at their gatherings, anyway. We talk about our lives, read some Scripture, and pray together. Occasionally, we also break bread together. One thing I’m missing, though . . . we haven’t taken the supper in a while. I need to bring that up.
C is working from home, this week. She still doesn’t feel great, but feels better than yesterday. We feel like that terrible wind on Saturday blew in some junk or stirred it up in the air. Not even a hint of fever, for any of us, though. I’m sneezing and sniffling a bit, this morning, but have felt pretty much fine for a few days.
There is nothing much on today’s agenda. Tomorrow, I have an appointment to pick up my new CPAP machine, at 11:00 AM. Once I get that and get it set up, I may be looking at changing doctors. C’s doctor has moved from the clinic he was at, along with a couple other associates. I may be switching over to them. I haven’t decided, yet. It’s a lot easier for me to find time to visit a doctor’s office, these days, so they don’t have to be real close. Their new office is on South Main in Fort Worth, close to the “hospital district,” about twelve miles from my house. That’s not too bad, and is about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the time of day.
All the wrong teams won, yesterday. The Buccaneers blew out the Eagles, the 49ers beat the ‘boys, and the Chiefs beat the Steelers. I’ll probably be rooting for the Bills from this point on. It feels like rooting for the end of the world, though, so I don’t know. The Cardinals and Rams play tonight, and I literally could not possibly care less who wins that game.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins." (Mark 2:18-22 ESV)
In this passage, Jesus and His disciples are being criticized for not doing “religious things,” such as fasting. They are being compared to two different groups, neither of which had much in common. It is worth noting that Jesus, in His response, refers to Himself as “the bridegroom,” and seems to indicate that his “taking away” will be of a violent nature.
As I read this, I consider the idea of “religious things,” and how I feel about them. There is certainly nothing wrong with ritual. I’m somewhat a fan of it, actually. I am drawn toward church settings that employ ritual and liturgy, even though the current setting that I attend does not. I have not, however, ever been able to get a firm grip on the ritual of fasting. I have fasted before, but not on a regular basis.
But when ritualistic things are done “religiously,” without focus on the object (i.e., the “bridegroom”), they are meaningless. Ritual for the sake of ritual is worthless.
I will confess that I have never quite understood the examples of the cloth and the wineskins. I get the technical descriptions and understand the truth that, if you patch and old garment with a piece of new material, and then wash it, the new material will shrink, and destroy the work that was done. And I understand that fermenting wine swells, which would burst a wineskin that had already been stretched out.
What I’m not sure of is how this applies to people and their relationship to Jesus and the Father. I’m looking at some commentary at the moment, in particular by Alexander MacLaren, and it says that, “The attempt was made to keep Christianity within the limits of Judaism; it failed, but not before much harm had been done to Christianity. Over and over again the effort has been made in the Church, and it has always ended disastrously,-and it always will.” This makes sense, and I can see, as the New Testament progresses, that similar disagreements arose, especially concerning things like circumcision.
I would welcome any other thoughts or suggestions regarding this. And as we, as the opening song suggests, turn our eyes upon Jesus, may the things of the earth truly grow strangely dim.
(From Pray As You Go)
I find it interesting that, in Symphony of Salvation, Eugene H. Peterson takes four chapters to go through the book of Job. Today, I’m in the third of the four, which deals with Job’s “friends” who come try to “fix” him, during his suffering.
And who among us has not experienced something similar to Job? The moment something “bad” happens to us, “people start showing up telling us exactly what is wrong with us and what we must do to get better. Sufferers attract fixers the way roadkill attracts vultures.” I actually love that last sentence!
And, you might notice, these people are usually full of “advice” from God’s Word! They tend to play “fast and loose” with biblical quotations. The question is, though, “Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they’ve said their piece?”
Many of the things that Job’s “friends” said were “technically true.” But it is that “technical” part that spoils them. “They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job’s ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle.” And here is how Job defended himself:
Then Job defended himself: "I've had all I can take of your talk. What a bunch of miserable comforters! Is there no end to your windbag speeches? What's your problem that you go on and on like this? If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. But I'd never do that. I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse! (Job 16:1-5 MSG)
“The book of Job does not reject answers as such. There is content to biblical religion. It is the secularization of answers that is rejected – answers severed from their Source, the living God, the Word that both batters us and heals us. We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.”
And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. (Acts 2:44-45 MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples— when they see the love you have for each other." (John 13:34-35 MSG)
And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12 MSG)
Father, as I turn my eyes toward Jesus, this morning, I pray that my focus may stay sharp. By this point in my life, I am surely an “old wineskin,” but have I been fully stretched to my maximum capacity? I think not. I believe there is still room for me to be stretched, and You continue to do so, as each year goes by. I pray to You, constantly, that You would teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. And just when I think I’ve got Your way figured out, You take me a little deeper and show me something that, while it may not be “new,” it is new to me. I pray that I will continue to be receptive to that wisdom and knowledge, as it comes.
I also pray that I would never fall prey to the temptation to be like Job’s friends. We all think we’ve got all the answers, and it is very easy to sit around and instruct someone who is suffering, to tell them why they’re suffering, and what they did wrong to get there. When, truthfully, we have no idea whatsoever. I pray that, when I encounter suffering in others, I would have the wisdom to know what to say and how to say it. I also pray that I might have the wisdom to not “say” at all, but to merely sit and listen, or simply be with the person, sitting in silent support. May we not be guilty of citing chapter and verse without having Your mind and heart on the matter.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Father, I pray for continued work in the area of racial reconciliation. We seem to have moved tremendously backward in recent years, and, sadly, driven largely by people claiming to be followers of Christ! May it never be, Lord! Help us, Your people, to be compassionate people who fight for the equality of all men, especially considering how we have been graciously given the salvation that began with Israel! Were it not for Your compassion and Your equal treatment of all people, we “Gentiles” would be permanently lost! Oh, how we seem to have forgotten this. God have mercy on us and help us!
Finally, in the spirit of yesterday’s readings, I invited Jesus to intervene and intercede in our world today. Jesus, please bring forth healing. We beg You to eradicate this plague from our world, and I pray that Your people would demonstrate more willingness to stop thinking selfishly and make sacrifices for the greater good.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Today I am grateful:
1. for the salvation that has been granted us and made available to people from every race, tribe, tongue, and nation 2. for people who know the mind and heart of God and can truly be helpful and compassionate to those who are suffering, without trying to "fix" them 3. for a mind and heart that desires to see equal rights and treatment for all people 4. that God continues to stretch me with new understanding of biblical concepts 5. for the mind and heart to be more devoted to God than to religious things
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating— to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. YES. (Jude 1:24-25 MSG)
Grace and peace, friends.