Friday, June 29, 2012

Blessed Rain

Jesus Lets a Little Girl Die! Do Lives Have Relative Value?

Jesus Lets a Little Girl Die! Do Lives Have Relative Value?


After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, "My dear daughter is at death's door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live." Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.

A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, "If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well." The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, "Who touched my robe?"

His disciples said, "What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you're asking, 'Who touched me?' Dozens have touched you!"

But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

Jesus said to her, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague."

While he was still talking, some people came from the leader's house and told him, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?"

Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, "Don't listen to them; just trust me."

He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader's house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: "Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn't dead; she's sleeping." Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn't know what he was talking about.

But when he had sent them all out, he took the child's father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child's room. He clasped the girl's hand and said, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, get up." At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, "Give her something to eat."

(Mark 5:21-43; The Message)




Meditations:

The daughter of a religious leader dies because Jesus is delayed by a stranger. As religious people, do we resent the strangers among us?

Are we willing to put aside our pride like Jairus and ask others for help, even if our pride is in helping others?

Are we willing to risk rejection like the un-named woman?

After the woman was physically healed, Jesus cared for her mind and soul. After the girl was raised, Jesus looked after her comfort and well being. How much of any ministry is love and presence?




Because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.

For he created all things so that they might exist;

the generative forces of the world are wholesome,

and there is no destructive poison in them,

and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For righteousness is immortal.

For God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his company experience it.

(Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15 and 2:23-24; NRSV)




Illustration from the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Psalmic Poetry - The Song of the Bow


After revenging their deaths, David and the people were able to finally grieve for Saul and Jonathan. David had everyone learn this psalm that he wrote:

Your glory O Israel lies dead;
Slain on your sacred ground!
O how the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in the streets of our enemies,
Lest the daughters of Phillistine rejoice,
Lest our Godless overlords take comfort!

Let there be no rain upon the mountains;
In the mountains our Shield was defiled!
Lord Saul the Shield, anointed no longer.

Not fear of bloody death nor of the foe's might
Stilled the bow of hawk-eyed Prince Jonathan,
Or kept the warrior King's sword in its sheath.

Father and Son, beloved and beautiful!
Bound together in both life and in death.
Swifter than eagles - stronger than lions!

Let the daughters of Israel weep and mourn
For the King that brought them abundance.
O how the mighty have fallen to save us all!

My Prince lies dead on high holy ground.
My brother, your loss stabs at my heart.
You will ever be my greatest truest love.

Sweeter was your enduring love for me;
Beyond the shallow fickle love of women.
O how the mighty have fallen,
And all their weapons of war!

(2 Samuel 1:17-27 as retold by Tiwago)



Image: "The Death of Saul at Gilboa" by William Brassey Hole

Monday, June 25, 2012

Paul's Prayer For Misers

As you succeed in all things "religious", in my love and compassion for you I also want you to excell in mercy and generosity. I don't order you to give, because then it wouldn't be the grace of generosity (but I am comparing how genuine your love is to that of the other congregations I serve). Don't forget how generous our Lord was with us - he gave up the riches of heaven to live in poverty so that those of us who live in poverty may share the riches of his kingdom! All I can do is advise you from my experience - more important than the act itself is the desire to do it. Give according to your means by all means, but give it in eagerness. It is your joy that is the real gift to others and to God! The widow's mite is far mightier than all the Pharissee's plenty! I don't want you giving to make others rich, but it is a question of justice: a fair balance between your present abundance and their current need, their future abundance and your coming need. Scripture tells us about living in the kingdom: "Those who have much don't have too much, and those that have little don't have too little."

(Retelling of 2 Corinthians 8:7-15)

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Lovers' Spat


A love letter from a hurt Paul:

As we move on in our God-work together, I urge you not to take His grace to you and to the world so lightly! He has said: "In My non-linear time I have/will listened to you. On the Day of Salvation, I have/will saved you." Pay attention - God's time is always in the here-and-now! Look around you - your salvation is upon you!

I have placed no additional burdens of Law upon you, no shackles of pre-judgment, no hoops to jump through; your salvation does not depend upon me or the success of my ministry. I have witnessed to you, and served you by showing you how to be His servant. I have endured pains, trials and tribulations for you and for my Savior.

I been beat, jailed, tortured, and starved by the world for daring to follow Jesus and for having the audacity to love and help you. I have spoken to you with pure intent, in wisdom, with patience and kindness, filled with he Spirit and with love towards you. I have spoken to you in open truth, fully armed in righteousness.

I have been there for you when you've respected me and dis-respected me, when you raised my name or when you tried to soil it, when you rejected my words and treated me like an impostor. I have preached on! I have taught as a famous unknown and as the living dead, as a punished survivor and as a happy mourner, as a poor-enricher and as a penniless owner of the world.

I've been as frank as I can with you cold-hearted Corinthians! My heart and arms are wide open to you. I place no limits on my love, but you do. So I must speak to you as little children (naive and self-centered by nature): OPEN YOUR HEARTS TOO!

(A retelling of 2 Corinthians 6:1-13)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Psalmic Poetry - Shalom Salaam


Our shalom is
when we live
as dear family;

Our salaam is
an overflowing
anointing of love;

Our peace is
a heavenly dew
a gift from God.

(Psalm 133 as retold by Tiwago)


Monday, June 18, 2012

David, Jonathan and Saul


And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants.

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.

The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice

Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them.

(1 Samuel 17:57-18-16; Common English Bible)



Meditations:

How does 1 Samuel 16:14-23 relate with this reading?

Jonathan bares himself before David; what was the nature of the life-bond between David and Jonathan?

Normal human nature goes far towards explaining Saul and David's relationship. Why did the author say that Saul's behavior was the result of God sending an "harmful spirit"?

Does God send us evil?

Do we have a love/hate relationship with what we hold in "fearful awe" because it both overwhelms us in wonder and makes us feel small and vulnerable?

Are aspects of the Saul/David dynamics common to father/son relationships?



Image: David and Jonathan at the Stone Ezel by Edward Hicks

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Being Seedy


Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”

Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.


(Mark 4:26-34; New Living Translation)



Meditations:

When planting churches or seeds of faith, why do we put so much stress on ourselves to succeed?

Who produces the crop?

Do we judge the plant by the seed?

We often call the mustard seed "faith", but what if we are the mustard seeds?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sam Goes Shopping


Sam and Saul split up, but Sam was greatly grieved by the loss of Saul. Even God regretted that He had made Saul King! The Lord spoke: "How much longer are you going to mourn Sam? It's time to move on. I've rejected Saul as King and have withdrawn My Spirit from him. Fill up your horn with oil and go see Jesse the Bethlehemite - among his sons you will find the new King."

"But my Lord! If Saul finds out what I'm doing he'll kill me!" God directed him to take a cow with him, no one would stop him from performing his priestly duty of sacrifice! Sam would invite Jesse to join him. God would fill in the blanks.

Jesse and the other elders of the village came out to fearfully meet Sam: "Do you come in peace?" He answered: "Yes. Purify yourselves and your sons. Join me as I make sacrifice to God."

He offered to sanctify Jesse and his sons, and had them come to him one by one. The first-born was tall and strong - surely this stud was the Lord's chosen! "Do not judge by appearances Sam! I have not chosen him. I do not see as people see. I see deeply and truly; I am not blinded by sight!

One by one, all of Jesse's strapping sons were passed over. In despair, Sam asked Jesse: "Is this all there is? Have you no other sons?" "Just the runt of the litter," Jesse joked. "He's out tending my sheep." Sam was getting testy: "Well get him! I will not sit and accept your hospitality until he is here before me!"

Finally, red-faced and sweaty from the run, a ginger-haired lad with large dark eyes stood panting before the Judge. Sam heard God say: "THIS is the one you brought the oil for."

In front of his big brothers, this new Joseph was anointed. The Breath of the Lord entered him, and David was strong in the Spirit from then on.

Sam rose and went home to take a nap. God had worn him out...

(a retelling of 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Psalmic Poetry - The Twentieth


May He answer you in troubled times.
May His powerful names protect you.
May He send you help from on high.
May He remember your sacrifices.
May He give you rich abundance.
May He guide and help your plans.
May we shout in joy for His victories.
May He hear and answer your prayers.

I testify that God helps His children.
I've witnessed his aid and comfort.
Some take pride in their fancy cars.
Some take pride in their fancy houses.
But our pride is to share in His name.
But our pride is to be called Christians.
The Penny-proud will eventually fall.
The penniless will rise and be seen.

God, help our leaders.
God, help your people.

Amen

(Psalm 20 as retold by Tiwago)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It's All About You!



We're not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, "I believed it, so I said it," we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God's glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.

There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration.

Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less.

(2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1; The Message)

Meditations:

Do I speak what I believe?

Do I act as though grace is a non-renewable resource?

Does the world look like it's falling apart?

Remember the Tent in the Wilderness?
Where do I see glimpses of heaven?




Monday, June 4, 2012

Sam's Rant

Photo from  The Brick Bible


 
Representatives of the people gathered together in rare accord and went to Judge Samuel. "You are frail, your sons are thugs, and we fear for our future; anoint a king for us like other people have!"

"Like other people" made Old Sam very mad, so he prayed on it.
 
God spoke to him: "Listen to the voice of the people. Don't get so upset - they aren't rejecting you, but me! Just as they have all along. Listen to them, but give them the facts first.
 
So Sam spoke to the people: "Kings or Queens will draft your children to fight their wars. A King will take your land. A Queen will tax you. Even though you chose them, you will constantly complain against them. God will not listen to you whining about your choice!"
 
They answered: "Regardless, we will have our King! We don't want to be different any more. We don't want to make hard decisions any more. We want a professional army to fight our battles and die for us!"
 
"Come then" Sam said. "Let's create a dynasty for you."
 
Sam anointed Saul as their King, and there was much partying.
 
(Retelling of 1 Samuel 8:4-20 and 11:14-15)

Friday, June 1, 2012

For God So Loved...


Hokusai Katsushika


For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we could condemn others in His Name?


There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, "Rabbi, we all know you're a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren't in on it."

Jesus said, "You're absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to—to God's kingdom."

"How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?"

Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the 'wind-hovering-over-the-water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it's not possible to enter God's kingdom. When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

"So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God."

Nicodemus asked, "What do you mean by this? How does this happen?"

Jesus said, "You're a respected teacher of Israel and you don't know these basics? Listen carefully. I'm speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don't believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can't see, the things of God?

"No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.


(John 3:1-17; The Message)




Meditations:
  • Is rebirth a second birth as something else, or birth again as what we were before we got all messed up?
  • If Jesus didn't see fit to condemn, by what authority do we condemn in his name?
  • How do we help?
  • How do we put things right?
  • Do we trust in the end results but not in the process?
  • Do we introduce people to Jesus by letting them see him in us? Or do we verbally explain what an elephant looks like and then get mad when they don't get it?