Archive | January, 2016

Tell Them, Tell Everyone from the Mountaintop

6 Jan

IMG_0327Happy Epiphany!  This is a mountaintop near Sedona, AZ.  I was there in 2009 and took this picture.  The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired chapel is a favorite place.

Now on to the last half of Romans 10; where Paul is telling his reader to “tell them, tell everyone.”

11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

14-17 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!

But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

18-21 But haven’t there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what’s going on? Plenty, I’d say.

Preachers’ voices have gone ’round the world,
Their message to earth’s seven seas.

So the big question is, Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,

When you see God reach out to those
    you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
    you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people
    you think are religiously stupid,
    you’ll throw temper tantrums.

Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:

People found and welcomed me
    who never so much as looked for me.
And I found and welcomed people
    who had never even asked about me.

Then he capped it with a damning indictment:

Day after day after day,
    I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
    but cold shoulders and icy stares.

This passage encouragement to ‘tell everyone’ that when they trust in God and call on God to save our lives is also a frustrated rand that the people of Israel did not tell others of God’s saving grace.  And not only did Israel not tell about God, but got upset when the ‘unworthy’ were invited into a saving relationship with God.  And, Paul accuses them of not faithfully living out their relationship with God.

I always think it is important to remember that the Jewish community that Paul is addressing is not the same Jewish community of today.   In Paul’s life the group he had grown up with – Jewish leaders – were people followed their rules, instead of opening their lives to a relationship with God that Jesus pointed the way towards.  For him,the indictment by the prophet Isaiah was true:

Day after day after day,
    I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
    but cold shoulders and icy stares.

This is Paul’s reality and our past.  Now in the present moment God is calling to us.  Will our future be ‘telling about God from our own mountain top?’.  When I think of ‘telling good news’, I always seem to think of St. Francis quote, “Preach good news at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Peace and Joy

 

Knowing Our Part

5 Jan

I am continuing in Romans for the new year.  I am up to Chapter 10 and I am always amazed as I read through the text again, especially when I read it in the Message.  The words of Paul strike me again and again that we get it wrong when we think we can “make our religion,” rather than surrendering to God.    Instead, as Paul says, we do it exactly backwards (my mom has another way of saying that!)

10 1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.

4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?

The word that saves is right here,
    as near as the tongue in your mouth,
    as close as the heart in your chest.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

Trusting God to guide each day, each moment; and trusting God over and over again each day . . . that’s salvation.   John Wesley saw it as a process.  It is no wonder it understood it as a daily, eternal revealing of our lives after he read Paul.

I think we have a hard time surrendering to God.  It would be better if we were like the boy on his knees, knowing our part is to mess things up and it is God’s part to forgiving, again, and again, and again and set us on a good path again.

Surrendering to God means knowing that we are NOT God.  That we are not capable of anything on our own, but with God all things are possible.   It is a wonderful sense of humility and release that comes in letting go of all of the details and plans and pride; to know God sees us as we are, forgives us what we have done, and lets us begin again – healed – new – open to the possibilities that the day came bring to let God’s light (not our light) shine through us.

It’s a great way to being 2016.

Peace