Today is celebrated as St. Patrick's Day. Hurrah, I guess. I'm not Irish or Italian or Roman Catholic, so these "saints days" don't really mean much to me, except as a warning to stay off the roads tonight because there WILL be a whole lot of drunk drivers out there "celebrating" the occasion. Happens every year. Wife used to be a cop AND an EMT, so she's seen the all-too-frequent results of this. I've had to "pick up pieces of people" also, though not nearly to that extent (bad timing on my part) so we don't think it's funny.
And she just informed me that today is also St. Gertrude's Day. That's one I never heard of, to be honest. And I was informed that Gertrude is the patron saint of cats. Wife loves cats, so I guess it makes sense that she would know. Whatever.
I went out earlier and picked up a few more foodstuffs that we'll need. There is one of those bakery outlets along the route I went, less expensive "day old" breads. So I stopped in and picked up a loaf of rye bread. I'd picked up a package of corned beef yesterday that the local market had on sale, she's had it in the crock pot all day, and we'll have corned beef and sauerkraut on rye bread for dinner. Sounds good, and rye bread at around $1 a loaf is a good deal. Some of the corned beef will get made into a BIG pot of corned beef hash, which tastes good even thinking about it. I'm not Irish, but most of my heritage is German or Dutch, and corned beef hash works well for those inherited taste buds.
Some time ago (around 1997) and several states ago (Tennessee) I was asked to begin teaching a class at our church for new believers. This was a growing congregation, and we were having a number of people who came to faith, but really had no grounding in the faith, had not grown up in the church, and really didn't know what comes next, what "working out your faith" meant. It's an issue. We somewhat expect that in far-away places where Buddhism, or Islam, or Shinto, or Islam hold sway. Or some of the animistic beliefs hold, which is often the case in parts of Mexico, some of the central and South American regions, swaths of Africa and southeast Asia, and others. But we haven't generally expected to find it in America. And, by the way, as I said, this was in east Tennessee, an area we don't expect that. But it's there. And that's not counting some of the imports. Our time in west Arkansas had us to encounter some of the people who came from Viet Nam and Cambodia. On the southern edge of Fort Smith, Arkansas is a small church house with a sign out front identifying it as a Vietnamese Baptist Church. I've seen similar in many places.
So, how do you deal with this? You give them a Bible, of course, and preferably in a language they can read. But they will have questions, and all of us have had and do have questions.
Some of those questions get into context. What did Jesus mean when He spoke of "going the second mile"? Context matters. The same which many other things. Understanding the context is important. So that was to be my charge.
One of the teaching tools that was being "suggested" to me by the senior pastor was the video series that Ray Vanderlaan was putting out, the "That The World May Know" series which was the extent of that at the time.
Since then, the concept of placing the words of the Bible in the context of the area, the time, and the culture, has caught on. Now, yes, the commands of the Lord, the teachings of Jesus and the doctrine laid down by the Apostles are, yes, universal for all people in all times and all places. The Holy Spirit spoke through these Apostles and guided those who put together the canon and guided -- and still does -- the translators. I believe that. But I also understand that there is a richness that can be gained by understanding the context and culture.
So, I was reading some articles put out by some of those who have taken a page from Vanderlaan's work and built upon it, and still do.
One that I was reading today is entitled, "What Is The Shema?". It matters. It matters a lot. The article is worth reading and pondering, then reading again. If I may (under "fair use) quote a few lines from it:
This is in contrast to people who reject the way of Jesus. They have given their allegiance to other powers that are bent on destroying them (depicted as “beasts” in Revelation 13). John the visionary also drew upon the Shema to depict a human life on the path of destruction:And it directly addresses an issue that was common at the time of the Exodus, ever since, and very much so even today, even within the Church. Syncretism is one word for it, the attempts to merge, say, Christianity with Buddhism. Or with Islam. Or others. I've heard accusations hurled against those who don't go along with the trend, one of the most common of those accusations being of "discrimination". Well, guilty as charged. The Lord did and does discriminate. Those who are His, and those who are not. No, Universalism is nothing but a fast track to Perdition.
“The Beast also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads.” -Rev. 13:16
For John, the choice is a stark one. You either give your allegiance to Jesus and allow it influence how you see and act, or your allegiance will belong to destructive powers that will also govern how you see and what you do in life. One path leads to life, the other to death. All of these ideas and images come from Moses’ words in Deuteronomy, specifically from the Shema.
The other that I was reading today is entitled, "Which Type Are You?"
Again, this is not one of those funny quiz things so common on social media. This is an investigation of Jesus' use of parables in the way that the rabbis and teachers of that era did. In this case, it is based upon Jesus teaching in Luke 8:4-11, the parable of the sower. The parable describes the four types of soil onto which the seeds fall, and the results of the interaction of seed and soil. It is an important teaching, but the point also is that this use of four options was very much along the lines that would have been familiar to His listeners, and also to those who heard the account from them or from the written text.
Context. It matters.
Our reading for the day from the Old Testament is chapters 29 and 30 of Deuteronomy
Our reading in the New Testament is chapter 16 from the Gospel of Mark, completing Mark.
Yesterday, Jesus died and was buried. Today, "the rest of the story"!!