Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-9
1 Surely vain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster;
2 But deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world.
3 With whose beauty if they being delighted took them to be gods; let them know how much better the Lord of them is: for the first author of beauty hath created them.
4 But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them understand by them, how much mightier he is that made them.
5 For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the maker of them is seen.
6 But yet for this they are the less to be blamed: for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find him.
7 For being conversant in his works they search him diligently, and believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen.
8 Howbeit neither are they to be pardoned.
9 For if they were able to know so much, that they could aim at the world; how did they not sooner find out the Lord thereof?
I love nature. I love a good book. I love it when my photography turns out exactly how I envisioned it to. All of these things are great things to think on, but to go back one step (or several) is to go back to the original Artist and Creator.
I am always so impressed by the colors of a sunset, or the intricacies of a leaf or of a bug (did you know that a grasshopper has striped antennas?) The first time I ever went to the zoo, I had the thought that God has quite a sense of humor and is very creative; how else would He come up with the giraffe?!
There is a part on "Shenandoah" where Jimmy Stewart's character, Charlie Anderson, says a blessing on the food. It goes like this:
We cleared this land;
We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it.
We cooked the harvest.
It wouldn't be here—we wouldn't be eating it—if we hadn't done it all ourselves.
We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel
But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat.
I think it is easy to see the humanness in that prayer. It appears that we do it all ourselves, but when we get sick, what is the first thing we do? We pray for our health to be restored so that we can work and take care of ourselves and our families. It always goes back to God, doesn't it?
8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
As I have been intensely studying the life of Christ and his words through the Gospels, I am discovering that "it" is all about love, service, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. He wasn't harsh with anyone except the Pharisees. With the ones called sinners, he instructed, forgave, cast out their devils, and took away their infirmities (and the list really could go on and on). Most of all, he just teach love, he was love.
Grace is a controversial subject. Without fanning the flames of that controversy, I will just say that once a person feels that God truly loves them, it changes them from the inside out.
If you want to preach the Gospel, focus on the fact that God loves all of His children. Really loves them. Everything about them. He doesn't love them in spite of their weaknesses, casting aside a part of us, He loves the whole of us. He doesn't love us anyway, He loves us. Period.
One thing that attracts me so much to the Episcopal Church is these five core affirmations:
* We are committed to worship that expresses the depth of God's love for us and the transcendence of God's grace for us.
* We are accepting of others, by honoring differences of opinion, and by accepting one another regardless of who we are or where we come from.
* We are a sanctuary for those who are searching, grieving, hurting, lonely, or in recovery, and a place where people can heal and be equipped to live as God intended, in peace and love.
* We care about the communities in which we live, and we seek, as individuals and as a congregation, to reach out to others carrying with us the good news of Jesus' love for us.
* We are rooted in historical Christianity, particularly as it is expressed in the Anglican tradition of scripture, tradition, and reason.
I was in the Adult Study Group on a Sunday morning recently and a homeless person walked in and sat down. The response from the group to him was to "see Christ in all persons" - He was listened to and responded to as if he was an invited guest. That spoke volumes to me about the doctrine taught. There is a saying that goes, " “What you do speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you are saying.” I love it when actions and teachings are synonymous.
I wholeheartedly believe in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
22 Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”
And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”
I know that often I feel like I am perishing in a great windstorm. Life has a way of doing that sometimes. I need to always remember that nothing is too great for God.
There is a children's song that I often think of that says, "Nothing's too hard for the Lord, for the Lord. Nothing's too hard for the Lord. If we have a job that He wants us to do. It's not hard for me and the Lord."
Things might get too hard for me. But with the Lord's help, and with His guidance and understanding, I can do it and He won't let me perish. (Which is an easy thing to remember when the sun is shining, and a lot harder to remember when my boat is being pushed around the sea by fierce winds.)
From Forward Day By Day: Romans 13:10 Love is the fulfilling of the law.
A famous story concerns the founders of two academies for students of the Torah (Jewish law). Both schools began in Jerusalem just before the birth of Christ. A would-be convert asked both Shammai and Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Insulted, Shammai drove the man away with a cane. But Hillel converted the man by saying, “What you hate, do not do to your neighbor. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”
Hillel’s gentle approach won him many friends and became the norm for later rabbinic Judaism. Jesus’ moral teaching often echoes that of his older contemporary.
Hillel was the leader of the Pharisees, who sought holiness of life. Why, then, did Jesus have so many run-ins with the Pharisees? Perhaps it was because some of Hillel’s disciples forgot what their great teacher had stood for and redefined faithfulness as obedience to the letter of the law.
Christians often do the same. When we seek to enforce strict uniformity, in either belief or behavior, we follow neither Hillel nor Jesus, and we end up worshiping ourselves and our opinions. The word for that is pharisaical.
I am a mother. I have six children, if you don't count the ones adopted in through marriage and a few more when you do. I can understand the frustration that Shammai felt. Sometimes I feel like my kids don't take things that I value seriously enough. At those moments I find that I get frustrated with them and metaphorically drive them away with a cane. When I take the time teach them the way that they need to be taught, rather than expecting them to just do it my way, I have greater success - I need to always remember that.
From Forward Day By Day: Romans 12:18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Sometimes it’s not possible. You can’t live peaceably with someone who prefers war. So do what you can, anyway. When someone spread false rumors about my moral character some years ago, defending myself would have gained me nothing. So I resigned myself to behaving courteously toward that person.
We can do more to live peaceably with all. For example:
Listen. Particularly when controversial questions arise, it’s tempting to talk louder and longer and to try to get the last word. Try instead to listen for something in the other person that you can honor and affirm.
Apologize. Nobody is right about everything. Acknowledge when you have erred.
Laugh. Nothing defuses anger more quickly than laughter—but not just any laughter. Don’t laugh sneeringly at others. Sarcasm can be very funny, but it doesn’t make for peace. Rather, laugh at yourself. It’s hard to remain angry at someone who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.
And this is something else I need to learn. I can't solve all of the world's problems. I can't create peace in the world or the nations. But I can create peace in my heart, which will affect my relationships and most especially my inner peace. And who can't use more inner peace?