17 March 2017

Today's Readings and Stuff -- Friday, 17 March 2017

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:
“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.
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 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

Deuteronomy 29
1 These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. 2 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; 3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: 4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. 5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. 6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God. 7 And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them: 8 And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh. 9 Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. 10 Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, 11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: 12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: 13 That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; 15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day: 16 (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by; 17 And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) 18 Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; 19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: 20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven. 21 And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law: 22 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; 23 And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: 24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? 25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: 26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: 27 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: 28 And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day. 29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Deuteronomy 30
1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7 And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. 8 And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. 9 And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: 10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. 11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. 15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20 That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.


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"!!

Mark 16
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. 14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

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