September 2, 2012

In the Middle East, through the centuries to this day, there are two fundamental metaphors for God’s relationship with God’s people—“parent-child” and “lover-beloved.” The first is the metaphor we find in the New Testament. God is our Parent. We are God’s children. The Gospel message expands this metaphor: God’s generosity is that of a loving parent; we are heirs to God’s Kingdom; we are brothers and sisters one with another. The “lover-beloved” metaphor is popular in Islam, particularly in the poetry of Rumi. This metaphor appears in our Bible, in the Song of Solomon from which comes our text for Sunday (Song of Solomon 2:8-13). The lover (God) addresses the beloved (God’s people) saying: “winter has past; the storm is over; the fields are laced with flowers; turtledoves call in the morning. Arise, and come away.” The scripture speaks as we feel the desire to be alone with God and bask in the balance of creation. The New Testament lesson (James 1:17-27) addresses us as “My Beloved.” We hear these instructions within the context of a lover-beloved relationship, a “marriage-like” covenant in which we are so committed to the integrity of the relationship that we heed the words. We heed them not as some law or rule to follow. The love of the relationship is the mainspring of our motivation. And the instruction, the truth that will protect any close relationship, divine or human: “My beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

August 26, 2012

King Solomon built the First Jewish Temple. It was later destroyed by the Babylonians and rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah. In 70 C.E., the Romans destroyed it again, and the Jews scattered in the diaspora. Somewhere during this time, the Ark of the Covenant was lost … which gives us the background for a good “Indiana Jones” mystery. In the text for Sunday (1 Kings 8:1,6,10-11,22-25), King Solomon brings the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple. This passage is a dedication service. It represents the culmination of the long journey of the ark from its conception in the wilderness, its life in the tabernacle, its crossing the Jordon into the Promised Land, its captivity and return from the Philistines, and its trip into Jerusalem to be placed in the Temple’s Holy of Holies. What the Ark symbolizes is “Covenant.” This term, also called “Testament,” refers to the founding principle of both Judaism and Christianity. A “covenant” is a fundamental understanding or relationship people can have with God and each other. It’s like a spiritual contract. The party of the first part (Jews/Christians) agrees to certain things, while the party of the second part (God) agrees to other things. In Deuteronomy, Moses established the Hebrew Covenant (Old Testament). Essentially, people keep the commandments (righteousness) and God assure that they “prosper and live long in the land.” Jesus established the New “Testament,” or New “Covenant.” With it, the “Law” or “Logos” is written on the human heart. People accept God’s Grace (unconditional acceptance), love one another, and thus live amidst God’s shalom, or “salvation.”

August 19, 2012

There are three texts we’ll examine this Sunday. The first is 1 Kings 3:5-14. Here, King Solomon prays for Wisdom. In the Jewish tradition, Solomon was the wisest person in all history. In a way, this passage introduces the Wisdom literature of the Bible; many of the proverbs and wisdom writings are attributed to Solomon. The second text is Proverbs 9:1,4-6. The book of Proverbs is a collection of short paragraphs about Wisdom and single verse proverbs (mini-sermons). In my opinion, Proverbs is one of the most underrated books of the Bible. In 9:1,4-6, the writer uses a rhetorical device to “personify” Wisdom. Interesting side note: in Hebrew, the word for “Wisdom,” “Chokmah,” is a feminine noun, as is “Sophia” in Greek. The New Testament lesson is John 1:1-5, 14a, and 6:51. Here, John associates the Greek philosophical term “Logos” with the Hebrew concept of “Wisdom.” In verse 14, John says that the “Word” became flesh and dwelt among us (Jesus). John speaks of Jesus as the personification of “Logos,” and in 6:51, we sacramentally take this bread and wine (flesh and blood) into ourselves so that it circulates in our veins. When we grasp (not only with our minds but also with our hearts) the awe and mystery of it all, worship becomes natural. In each moment, our very breath, our very existence, depends of this “Wisdom/Logos.” We can no longer take life for granted. The special witness of Christianity is that with prayer and communion, we can develop a personal relationship with the very “Wisdom/Logos” that orchestrates the universe.

August 12, 2012

An older woman shared about her marriage of over 60 years with joy and told stories of happy times. In answer to the typical question “What was the secret of your long and happy life together?” without hesitation, she said, “We agreed when we were first married to never let the sun go down on our anger.” That impressive piece of advice comes from Ephesians 4:26. In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul (assuming his authorship) talks about the inner experience (actually, illumination) of Christian unity. In the latter three chapters, Paul illustrates the idea. He shows us what it looks like in various relationships. In the text for Sunday, he talks about ridding our hearts of falsehood and bitterness. He DOES NOT mean that we should never feel anger. He says, “Be angry, but sin not.” And, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” In other words, don’t store it; deal with it. Any anger carried over to the next day is soul-poison.

August 5, 2012

“Spirituality” is “faith formation.” It is the deeper experience of religion flowing out of our “belief development.” The formation of faith (or “spirituality”) is a slow and experiential integration of the things we learn from the Bible, Christianity, and life. Faith forms as we pray, meditate, contemplate, take our walk in the woods, worship, commune, give, and forgive. For faith to form, we need spiritual food. This Sunday, we will revisit the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day, our daily (epiousia) bread.” “Epiousia” means “Transubstantial,” or “beyond substance.” The sermon title is “Tasting Spiritual Food.” The texts will be Psalm 51:6-12, “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” and John 6:30-35, “Bread from Heaven.”