10 August 2017

Today's Readings and Stuff -- Thursday, 10 August 2017

Thursday now.  The "big event" of the day here will be hearing the garbage trucks go by.  Trucks, plural, because in this neighborhood, there are several different trash collection.  So, different days, different colored trash cans, different logos.  So they'll be going through, doing their thing.  These are, often, staffed by one person. That one person drives down the street, exits, dumps the stuff into the big hopper which then dumps into the truck, and then repeats.  (I note that the municipal trash operations that I've observed ALWAYS had two:  one to drive, one to do the lifting.  Unions.)  Interesting.  Hardly the stuff to inspire an opera.  But diligent workers, and that attitude is worth something: I've often had to deal with its absence.

I mentioned yesterday the futility  of looking at everything from a simply human perspective, and mentioned the poem title "Ozymandias".  It's been around for quite a while, the author, Shelley, died in 1822 at the age of 30.  The interested can find the whole thing here.  Or just look below:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Makes us think of the stone heads on Easter Island.  But also the great monuments, the ziggurats, the statues of pharaohs,  Chinese emperors, etc. from Assyria, Babylon, Persia, England, France, .... well, many places.  And similar ones in America.  And that's not counting the ones in smaller areas within the US.  The near-by state university has buildings named after some of the nation's most notorious thieves and knaves. The city hosting it has buildings, streets, whole neighborhoods named after liars, promoters of all manner of bad behaviors, but also ones whose contributions to the Kingdom were invisible at best.  Look at some of the larger and most ornate monuments in the cemetery of your choice.  All intended to be a testimony to "I was somebody!"
I am reminded of the account in chapter 11 of the  Genesis, the story of the tower of Babel.  They, too, thought to create something so impressive that it would outlast them but be a monument to themselves.  Didn't work out well, did it?  Never does.  Now, some scholars believe that the location of Babel was later known as Babylon, an empire, a civilization, that troubled the world for a long time. And an attitude that plagues us to this day.  There is a reason that the word Babylon is to be found in the Revelation.

This is what happens when we erect altars in our own hearts, there to worship ourselves.
Some things haven't changed since the Fall.

Yes, we are called to, among other things, leave the world a better place than we found it.  Most of us, me included, fail that standard.  And, yes, the prospect of, as was once said, "joining the majority", then to be quickly forgotten like the dead bugs on your windshield, is terrifying.  Understandable, if all you see is the physical world around you, and denying the very existence of the spirit.
So we focus our attention on things that, frankly, don't matter.  Do we really need examples?  I have former school classmates who are, even now, very proud of the record of the high school football team, nearly half a century ago, and who still have in their closets the letterman's jacket or cheerleader regalia from that time.  Is that any better than the image of Ozymandias,  half -buried under the shifting sands of time?
And, lest we forget, it is in the institutional church as well.  I was in one, quite a few years back.  The pews had little brass nameplates on them, displaying the name of the family that had paid for that pew.   And, 30 -40 years later, NO ONE but that family dare sit in that pew.  Pretensions of immortality, is what I call it.  So we buy a pew, but never tell our neighbor about Jesus.  This is a legacy?

Far better would be to leave in the hearts of others the memory of someone who pointed others to the Lord.  I love this expression of that.  Yes, "Find Us Faithful".

Our reading in the Old Testament is Psalms 88 and 89.  Looking to the Lord.

Psalm 88
1 O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: 2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; 3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. 4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: 5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. 6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. 7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. 8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. 9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee. 10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. 11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? 12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13 But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. 14 LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? 15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. 16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. 17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. 18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.

Psalm 89
1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. 2 For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. 3 I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, 4 Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah. 5 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. 6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? 7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. 8 O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee? 9 Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them. 10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm. 11 The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. 12 The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name. 13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand. 14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face. 15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance. 16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. 17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. 18 For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king. 19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. 20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: 21 With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. 22 The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. 23 And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. 24 But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. 25 I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. 26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. 27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. 28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. 29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. 30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; 31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; 32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. 35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. 36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. 37 It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah. 38 But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed. 39 Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground. 40 Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin. 41 All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours. 42 Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice. 43 Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle. 44 Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground. 45 The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah. 46 How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire? 47 Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? 48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah. 49 Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth? 50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people; 51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed. 52 Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.


Our New Testament reading is chapter 10 in the Epistle to the Romans.
Salvation by faith was a concept that upset the world then.  Still does.  And, in more than a few Christian churches and groups.  Been there.
For those in despair and in hopelessness, yes, it is beautiful 
As here as well

Romans 10
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.  
5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 
6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)  
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;  
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.  
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.  
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.  
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

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