Saturday, September 10, 2016

10 September 2016
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7 (NRSV)
“Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:24-29 (NRSV)
“So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.” John 11:47-53 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Imagine for a moment being present, with the heavenly host, for the beginning moments of creation. Try to get a sense of the awe and wonder and hilarious joy as God spoke and things popped up. Let there be light. “Whoa, look at that; what is that?” Let the waters be gathered together. “Look-what do you think He’ll do with that?” Let the earth put forth vegetation. “Ohhh, look at all that stuff. How cool is that!” Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures. “Look at that thing. What do you think its doing?” “It looks like it’s playing”. “Shhh, listen. Do you hear that?” “Yes, it sounds like He’s laughing!” “He is. He’s watching that silly creature, and He’s laughing!”
            God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them…from the dust of the earth, and breathed the breath of life into him, and the man became a living being. “What’s He doing now?” “Shhh, be quiet! I can’t see!”. “It looks like He’s playing in the dirt”. “No, He’s making something”. “He’s hovering over it…oooh, what is that?” “It’s alive, it’s just like us”. “No, it isn’t like us. It’s different. I think everything He made is for it”. “Why would He do that?” “Because He loves it”. “What about us?” “I think He has something very special planned for us, now.”
            Our lectionary reading for today has come to the place where Job, after challenging God to find fault with him, finally receives his answer. Up to this point the Job’s friends, claiming to have understanding in these matters, have been encouraging him to come clean and confess whatever sin he has been covering up. Job for his part continually asserts his innocence. Yesterday he challenged God; today God speaks. Although many important themes are interwoven throughout Job, what speaks most clearly to me, what I think about every time I post a blog or teach a Sunday School class or discuss the Bible, is the danger of misrepresenting God to others.
            Misrepresenting God is what Job’s friends have been doing. Misrepresenting God ultimately led to the letter Paul and Barnabus took to Antioch in order to clear up those misrepresentations. And although Caiaphas prophesied, John made it clear he really didn’t know what he was saying. My point is this-many people are claiming to speak for God today. From scholars and pastors with extensive theological training and a lifetime of experience to everyday folks like me who just want to share some practical insight or two, between TV, radio, internet, social media and good old fashioned print, the possibilities are endless, and there is a lot of good, helpful stuff out there.
            My concern is with those who, having a particular point of view, will pick and choose ‘proof texts’ to support their beliefs and use their positions to influence our thinking in order to produce specific behavior outcomes; those who ‘darken counsel by words without knowledge’. We must be very careful whom we follow. God reveals Himself to humanity-I think He delights in revealing Himself to humanity-but we must allow ourselves to be open to and aware of His presence. This is where our leaders should be leading us. This is knowing God, rather than knowing about God, and it is why we are here. I believe God greatly desires to live in and work through us today, but we must learn how to be open to His presence; we must learn the unconditional love and trust He requires; we must learn how to engage Him in our day to day lives. This is character transformation and it is not designed to produce specific behavior (although it certainly will) but to enable us to be who He created us to be. It doesn’t come naturally, we must work at it.
             The little meditation at the beginning of this blog was inspired by Job 38:7-the morning stars singing for joy. Try it for yourself. Imagine being present at creation. Think of Genesis 1 and 2 as a narrative filled with awe and wonder and unlimited power and a love we will never understand but must simply trust rather than some sterile account of the beginning. This love has a name and it is Jesus, the Christ and He is for everyone who will come. So come. See for yourself. Determine to spend some time with Him every day; remembering He is God and we are not. See where that leads you. And, of course, don’t forget to worship with your brothers and sisters tomorrow.   
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. Revelation 22:17; 20-21


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