Reading Ramblings – August 19, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date:Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 19, 2018

Texts: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18; Psalm 34:12-22; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69

Context: Holding fast to God’s wisdom may put us at odds with prevailing opinions, ideas, and concepts of truth. The verses for this week call God’s people to be wise in what and who they place their trust and faith in. There is only one source of truth, and whatever contradicts this truth cannot, logically, be true. It’s nice to think that this truth will always be self-evident in our world and culture, but that is not always the case. In those times we are called upon to rely upon our faith in God rather than side with the fashions or ideas of the day that contradict him.

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 – The world offers us choices in where to place our faith and trust. There is no shortage of idols and vanities vying for our affections, attention, and faith. Inasmuch as these various options all contradict one another, it can’t possibly be right or healthy to presume that all of them could be true dependent on one’s subjective point of view. They might all be wrong, or one of them might be correct, but to pretend that all are equally valid is unreasonable and foolish, particularly if we are trusting our lives and futures by placing our faith in something or someone. The Israelites also were presented with myriad choices for who to worship and trust. Would they trust the Egyptian gods they once had worshiped? The gods of the peoples they were now in the midst of? Or would they cling to the God who had saved them from slavery and genocide and sustained them through decades of difficult life in the wilderness? Who we trust with our lives is based not simply on the circumstances of the moment, but how we understand and interpret our past, and the Israelites recognize this.

Psalm 34:12-22 – We recognize the truth in these words. Isn’t life better and simpler when we are honest and truthful? When we are guided by the precepts God didn’t simply create at Mt. Sinai but wove into the very fabric of creation and human nature? This is not to say that good people don’t suffer or that bad people don’t prosper. But in general, truthfulness and living life according to God’s design offers more peace and joy than alternatives. This is even more true as we consider the way we live now as shaping us at a fundamental level, preparing us either for eternal life with God or for a deep-seated rebellion against him that we will never let go of. Our behavior cannot be fully separated from our beliefs, and to claim we believe one thing while consistently and pervasively acting to the contrary demonstrates a rift in our being, a rift that we will either end up on one side of or the other. Our long term hope and faith and therefore words and actions and thoughts can only find joy, peace and security in God and his Word.

Ephesians 5:6-21 – We can be deceived. Who we trust is of critical importance, and on what basis we trust them is worthy of constant attention and examination. If we insist on rejecting God’s truth in favor of empty words with no substance or basis, we place ourselves under the wrath of God. So we must carefully guard who we trust. In Christ we are new creations, and we are not capable of simply continuing in the patterns of thoughts, words, and deeds that defined us before Christ – not because God cannot or will not forgive us, but because we can’t long remain between opposites. We will eventually move to one or the other. Rather, we should see to understand and ground ourselves in who we know God has designed us to be. This requires wisdom and vigilance because we are surrounded by thoughts and ideas that are empty and deadly. We ought to focus our attentions on building ourselves and one another up in actions that are pleasing to God rather than actions that tear down ourselves and others. We must constantly seek to see ourselves and those around us as creations of God who are owned by him, and who ought to be obedient to what He calls us to. Refusal to do this is always destructive, and there is no arena in which this is not true. Paul will begin to apply these ideas in practical ways in the following sections of Ephesians, providing practical guidance to various relationships in terms of how we seek God’s way rather than our own way or the way our culture calls us to.

John 6:51-69 – It can’t seem more illogical and downright offensive. Jesus insists that only by partaking of his body can people have eternal life. How often we fail to hear this today! But how strange it will sound to anyone unfamiliar with the Bible or the Church! How offensive, how ridiculous, how stupid. How can eternal life come from eating the flesh of another human being? And moreover, how can we expect 2000 years later to be eating that same body and drinking that same blood after Jesus’ bodily ascension? It makes no sense. After all, as materialists we understand that Jesus couldn’t possibly have enough flesh and blood for the billions of followers who join in Holy Communion. And of course a quick look under a microscope would prove that there is no human flesh in the bread or blood in the wine. A simple enough matter to prove that Jesus wasn’t serious. Couldn’t have been serious.

But we are called by faith to take Jesus’ words seriously. What may not seem possible or even likely, we are called in faith to trust as true. Jesus doesn’t mince words, seemingly intent on thinning out the crowds pursuing him, and testing even his disciples’ faith. His words remain just as stark and unblinking today. Our salvation must lie totally and completely in him, and only in him. Not in our good behavior. Not in our good efforts. Not in anything in us, but only in him. And not in some esoteric or theoretical way, but only by receiving him fully and completely as He promises to be present in the bread and wine. If we are offended by his words, if they disgust us, if they offend our sense of rationality and logic, we are free to choose our rationality and logic over Jesus’ words, but we must consider whether we are making a god out of our logic and rationality. Not being able to fully comprehend something doesn’t make it true or right. Does a microscope make Jesus a liar? Does it overrule eyewitness reports of the crucified man who claimed to be the Son of God appearing alive again to hundreds of witnesses? Do you trust that his words can’t be true, or do you trust that they are, even if they don’t seem to make sense? What wisdom will you make your own, and what wisdom will you use to guide your life?

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