September 22, 2019, Numbers 13; 14:1-10a – Post 3

IX.
Before we move on to the activities of the weekend, let me put one more thought before you.

I have often thought of approaching Scripture with different lens (or templates) that might help us draw out the meanings and implications in a passage. It’s true that we often apply all sorts of lens to Scripture that can impose interpretations on a passage and that is not what I envision. Rather the lens we would bring to the passage would help us look into the passage, the scene(s), the individuals we encounter there and provoke us to ask questions that would take us deeper into the passage and its meaning.

Want to give it a try with our Scripture for this week?

X.
The lens I suggest you bring to this passage is “Community.”

What communities do you see here? What groups of people? How many different and differing communities do you see? Three? Four? You know, a community could be made up of just two people.

How do people act and behave as a member of that community? How do the communities interact with one another? Positively? Negatively?

What interaction does an individual have with a community in which they are a member? Or, a community they stand on the outside of?

XI.
What do you think?

Does this open any insights for you?

Or, have I just confused you with this?

Let’s talk about it …..

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 22, 2019, Numbers 13; 14:1-10a – Post 2

VIII.

Do you think the remarks from Monday on “practice” were too thin or unsatisfying?  I still wonder about that.

Yesterday, on the drive to work, I heard a selection from Oswald Chambers that in my mind connected with what I was trying to get at when I mentioned “practice.”  These paragraphs are from the January 14 reading in “My Utmost for His Highest.” Why not read it over slowly and let me know if you see a connection …..

“Called Of God

“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. — Isaiah 6:8

“God did not address the call to Isaiah; Isaiah overheard God saying — “Who will go for us?” The call of God is not for the special few, it is for everyone. Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition. “Many are called but few are chosen” that is, few prove themselves the chosen ones. The chosen ones are those who have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ whereby their disposition has been altered and their ears unstopped, and they hear the still small voice questioning all the time — “Who will go for us?” It is not a question of God singling out a man and saying, “Now, you go.” God did not lay a strong compulsion on Isaiah; Isaiah was in the presence of God and he overheard the call, and realized that there was nothing else for him but to say, in conscious freedom — “Here am I, send me.”

“Get out of your mind the idea of expecting God to come with compulsions and pleadings. When our Lord called His disciples there was no irresistible compulsion from outside. The quiet passionate insistence of His “Follow Me” was spoken to men with every power wide awake. If we let the Spirit of God bring us face to face with God, we too shall hear something akin to what Isaiah heard, the still small voice of God; and in perfect freedom will say — “Here am I; send me.” “

https://utmost.org/classic/called-of-god-classic/

Did you notice – 

“… Isaiah overheard God saying …”

“… Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears …”

“… what I hear depends on my disposition …”

“… come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ whereby their disposition has been altered and their ears unstopped, and they hear the still small voice questioning all the time …”

When you look over Chambers final paragraph in the reading, what do you notice about disposition and practice?

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 22, 2019, Numbers 13; 14:1-10a

I.

We are going to spend two weeks considering this episode in the Israelites trek to Canaan. This week we will take Numbers 13 and Numbers 14 through the first half of verse 10, and next week we take up with the second half of Numbers 14:10 through verse 20.  

I have often been frustrated by Scripture studies in which a writer or editor leaves out what to me seems important in our seeing the full setting of a passage.  Just ask some of the members of our Sunday School class how I object. And here we are asked to take Numbers 14:10a one week and wait a week to pick up with 10b.

But, I have to admit as I read through these chapters, I do see wisdom in this division.  I find a natural break in verse 10 that justifies this structure for these lessons.

It is also helpful to recall that the chapter and verse division of Scripture did not occur until the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.  While the verse numbering might be helpful in finding specific passages, it can get in the way of letting the Scripture speak for itself without these artificial breaks.

II.

Let’s read about the adventure of the 12 spies in Canaan.

Notice what they saw in the land, what they brought back to the camp of the Israelites, and report what they found.  Then we can turn our attention to the response of the people to the report.

And, please don’t get bogged down in the list of spies and tribes.  It is more important to try to walk with them into Canaan, notice what they saw and experienced, how they processed that and what they all had to say when they got back. 

III.

Numbers 13 (New Revised Standard Version)

The Lord said to Moses,  “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites; from each of their ancestral tribes you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”  So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the Lord, all of them leading men among the Israelites. These were their names: From the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zaccur;  from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori; from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh; from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph; from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun; from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;  from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi; from the tribe of Joseph (that is, from the tribe of Manasseh), Gaddi son of Susi; from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli; from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael; from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi; from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Machi.  These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses changed the name of Hoshea son of Nun to Joshua.

Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up there into the Negeb, and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many,  and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the towns that they live in are unwalled or fortified, and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be bold, and bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now it was the season of the first ripe grapes.

So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath.  They went up into the Negeb, and came to Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the Anakites, were there. (Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)  And they came to the Wadi Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them. They also brought some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Wadi Eshcol,[a] because of the cluster that the Israelites cut down from there.

At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land.  And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.  And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”  Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size.  There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Numbers 14:1-10 

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, “The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” But the whole congregation threatened to stone them.

IV.

So who should the Israelites listen to?

No one seems to doubt the land is good, rich, and a good place for someone to live.

But who?  Is it the place for the Israelites to move to, or is it best for them to leave it alone.

Should they take a vote?  Does majority rule? Many important decisions have been made by the vote of a majority.

Does that guarantee a decision is right? Or, Is the best course for those involved?

Who wins the day?  The vote of the 10 or the vote of the 2?  Do we count the votes of Moses and Aaron?

V.

“Then all the congregation raised a loud voice … and wept … and complained … and said ‘Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.’”

Seems the vote of the 10 spies carried the day.  They are ready to turn around and go back to … slavery in Egypt?  We they don’t say they want to go back to slavery only that they want to got back to Egypt.

But then two raise their voices and tell the Israelites to go on, “… the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

And … “the whole congregation threatened to stone them.”

VI.

What those folks, like Joshua and Caleb, the ability in the face of opposition to say “do not fear … have faith … trust God … go on”?

What did they have that the rest of the folks did not have?

It’s easy to say, “Well, they trusted God.  They had faith.”

Easy to say, but only always easy to do that?

How do you and I leave to trust the call we hear from God?  How do we get beyond the fears we may have? How do we know who to listen to and who to ignore?

I don’t have a quick and easy answer for myself or for you.  

The best I can offer is – Practice.

Practice seeking the way of God?  Practice looking for it? Practice asking for it?  Does practice make perfect. Probably not always. But the more we practice seeking God and seeking the things of God and the way of walking with God, the more likely we are to see it.

VII.

Does that make sense to you?

Is that too easy to say and too vague to be profitable?

Or, should we start practicing today?

Let’s talk later,

charles

{uib caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 15, 2019, Exodus 16:1-8, 13-15 – Post 2

VII.
Did you notice my statement in Monday’s post, “ Hindsight can be a great instructor at times.”

Does that sounds a lot like, “Hindsight is 20/20.”

But, I think we know that is not always true.

The Scripture passage for our reflection this week gives evidence that hindsight can lead us to poor judgement about a current situation.

We do need to be able to review the past and “see” the moments of grace. Perhaps this kind of “seeing” is conditioned by a kind of insight that is birthed by faith and by an openness to grace.

VIII.
What do you think?

What helps you, when you review the past day, past week, or even past years, to open your mind and heart to find the graced moments?

How do you get past current problems, hurts and pains, so you can look back for grace and not be blinded by current stresses?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 15, 2019, Exodus 16:1-8, 13-15

I.

The theme for these several months of lessons (September – November) is “Responding to God’s Grace.”

First, in Genesis 19, we focused on how Lot and his family responded to an offer of escape from life in a place of destruction; then in 1 Samuel 1 we listened to an anguished prayer and saw the tears of one who was bold enough to offer all their pain, hopelessness, and hope to God.  Did we see grace in those accounts? Did we notice how hard it is at times for grace to be seen and even accepted? Let alone, acted upon?  

This week we come to a passage in Exodus 16 and encounter ….  Well, let’s read it and notice the emotions and questions there.

II.

Exodus 16:1-8, 13-15 (New Revised Standard Version)

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.  On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt,  and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

III.

Do you know folks who seem to always find something to complain about?  No matter what is going on, they can offer a complaint about it. I am not suggesting things are always great or that we should never protest or complain.  But what happens after the complaint is offered? And what happens when remedy is offered or pointed out?

IV.

As the Israelites saw their situation in the wilderness, they found a reason to be discouraged and to complain to Moses and Aaron.  They were hungry. They looked back on the days in Egypt and it seems their memory did not take them back to what it was to be slaves but they remembered not being hungry, “… ate our fill of bread.”  It does not matter if that memory was not fully accurate, if some days they did not have the bread they wanted. For the moment only the memory of having bread to eat in Egypt and now, in the wilderness, not having the bread they craved.

V.

“I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.”

They are promised “bread from heaven.”  They are promised enough for each day.

And it happens.

And what do they say – “What is it?”

“Manna” is the Hebrew word.  We even still might speak of “manna from heaven.”

But to speak of “manna from heaven” without the recognition that “manna” is a way of saying “What is it?” is to miss something important.

We complain, we pray, we even “see” the response, the answer, right in front of us and still we ask, “What is it?”

Was it only the Israelites who might ask “What is it?” while looking at, even holding in their hands,  the bread for the evening meal.

How easy is it to miss the bread, the grace, in front of us?  Are we so expecting the “answer” to come in the form we want, expect, demand, that when it is offered in any other way we don’t see it?  We keep complaining at times even when we might be holding the bread in our hands?

VI.

Pause for a moment.

Take a deep breath.

Look back over times in your life when you might have been looking for an “answer” to some issue and it was only later, maybe much later, that you realized you completely missed the “answer” when it came.  Hindsight can be a great instructor at times.

What can you and I learn from those experiences that equips us to more readily recognize grace when it crosses our paths.

What do you see?

We’ll talk later,

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 8, 2019, 1 Samuel 1:9-20 – Post 2

VIII.

Last week one of the mailings I received was from the Red Letter Christians’ email list “Red Letter Wake Up”, and there Rev. Katey Zeh remarked on this same passage.  She wrote, 

“Hannah’s display of raw grief while praying in the temple is alarming to Eli, the priest on call who wrongly accuses her of drunkenness. But Hannah does not cower in the face of this accusation, nor does she apologize for her weeping. Instead she claims her rightful place in the temple and the appropriateness of her vulnerability before God in prayer….   Tears are sacred. Embrace that which causes you grief, and remember that God can hold it all.”

There is little doubt Hannah brought her grief and pain fully to God.

What griefs, pains, passions, joys do you need to honestly and fully put before God? Do you believe “God can hold it all”?

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 8, 2019, 1 Samuel 1:9-20

I.

As you read commentary on these Scriptures in various places you will see them titled differently.  One title I read for this Sunday’s text was “God Answers Prayer.”

Well … That certainly got my attention!

I can’t speak for you but if I think I am about to read how God has (and maybe will) answer prayers, my interest is perked.  It probably is not too much to say “I am all ears!”

Getting your prayers answered is an interest to many of us.  How to pray to get your prayers answered can most likely get a group of people paying attention.  Maybe for what tips they can get about praying or for the more skeptic in the group to see what is offered or instructed this group already “knows” can’t be right.

But, maybe, if we give our attention to what we can or must do to “get” a prayer answered we are already starting down the wrong path.  Does that make some sense to you?

II.

In our reading for this week we meet Hannan, Eli and Elkanah.  Let’s pay attention to each.

Notice where they are and what they are doing?  Notice their spirits (as much as that is possible).  How expressive they are? Yes, and what they express.  The emotion their words carry. And what their words and attitude convey about the one they address.  How intense their words/emotions are. How we see changes and different aspects of their personalities, even in so few sentences about them.

With that in mind, pause for a moment, take a deep breath, open yourself to fully hearing, even standing beside these people as you listen in on their conversations.

III.

1 Samuel 1:9-20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.  She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk.  So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.  Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her.  In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

IV.

Is prayer a want list? A wish list? Do we itemize to God what we want?

Is that what Hannah is about here?

If I set out to read about and learn about prayer so I “get” my prayers answered maybe that is what I think of the process.

Is prayer monologue?  I am just talking to myself about what is on my mind and heart?  Am I trying to convince myself of something?

Is prayer conversation?  Between?

At this moment, what are your thoughts about what prayer is for you.  Please be honest with yourself.

Look at Hannah.  “[She] presented herself before the Lord … she was deeply distressed and prayed … and wept bitterly.”

What do you think?  We sometimes speak of folks “being ALL in.”  Does that describe Hannah?

As you reflect on this scene, spend time with Hannah.  Notice what she says, how she expresses it, what she promises.

V.

Turn you attention to Eli, “the priest.”  The first judgement he makes of Hannah does not speak well of the impression she made on him.  WIth us already having some insight into her distress, the first judgement we probably make of Eli is not too sympathetic either.  He is quick to jump to conclusions based on too quick an observation of a person’s behavior. Should we give Eli a break? Can we hold out hope for him to show us his “better side”?

VI.

It seems we are not offered much about Elkanah here.  If you go to 1 Samuel 1:1-8 you get a fuller picture of Elkanah’s relationship to Hannah, his affection for her and his sense of religious obligations.

All of which for me fits with the picture offered of him in our focus passage.  How do you see it?

VII.

What stands out to your in this passage?  What is your take-away?

God answered Hannah’s prayer(s)?

Even a rude, inconsiderate priest might get some things right some time?

Crying when you pray gets quicker results?

Or is prayer even about results?

It is … but it is more also.

I see a person willing to put everything before God even if it means she might look silly, stupid, simple, or drunk.

How much do you trust being “all-in” in your prayers?  How much are you willing to not hold back? How honest am I when I “present myself before the Lord.”  How did Hannah present herself?

What in this scene captured you?  What value is that to you? How can your put your insight into your daily life?

We’ll talk more later.

Grace and Peace to you.

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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September 1, 2019, Genesis 19:1, 15-26, 29 – Post 2

VIII.

Did I mention circumstances the other day?  I hoped for the past couple of days to add a few more thoughts to our considerations on this passage, but “circumstances” just got in my way.

IX.

A few days ago as Linda and I were talking about this passage and I mentioned how I basically ignored “Lot’s wife” in my initial post both of us started thinking about her and out of that discussion I want to share a couple of thoughts.

X.

We read, “… Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

On Monday I asked what might have held Lot so much to Sodom that he bargained with the messengers who were determined to get him out of town and away from the coming devastation?

Family ties?  Other family members’ ties to Sodom?

What did Lot’s wife look back to see?  Did she hear something? Or, did she think she needed one last look at the life she was being pulled away from?  Did she want one last memory of Sodom in her mind she could hold on to?

And did Lot know how much his wife (and daughters maybe?) wanted to stay at their home in Sodom.  Was Lot bargaining because of his love for and attachment to his family. I know you understand I am not saying love for family is wrong.  It is not wrong; it is demanded in our very nature. But might there be a call strong enough that we are asked to make a change in family dynamics, family residence?   There was for Lot. And he struggled with it. Give him credit for listening to the call. And give us credit to know how hard sometimes life can be, especially “family life.”

XI.

As Linda and I talked about Lot’s wife looking back, Linda mentioned it made her think of how sometimes at churches folks can talk about “how it use to be.”

Have you heard those conversations?  Maybe you have taken part in them on one side or the other?  For instance, “we use have pews full … when so-and-so was pastor … when we had two services every Sunday … when we had a monthly fellowship meal … when we didn’t have the distraction of so many businesses being open on Sunday ….”  


What can you add to the list?

Or we look back to how we see society has changed and long for the time before the changes.

I guess we need to acknowledge there is a good way to look back and a bad way to look back.  If we look back to learn from the past or to rejoice in the good times and good memories that seems productive.  But we look back to be held in place by our ties to the past, or to be so tied to it we can not look forward and move forward to a new day, then that is not so good.

What do you think?  Where is the line crossed from the past being a path to the future and a means of holding us in place so we cannot move to our futures?

XII.

I closed on Monday with the question of how might you and I respond the next time God’s grace comes; God’s call is put before us.

Let me put that differently – What do we do now, every day, to prepare ourselves to notice God’s grace in each day?  What do you do each day to make sure your eyes are so open, they do not miss God’s grace, God’s call as it comes before you?  How do you pay attention?

What do you see, hear, feel, know today?

Let me know how it goes with you.

See you next week.

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflection for September 1, 2019 – Genesis 19:1, 15-26, 29

I.
Over the next weeks I will be offering some thoughts for reflection on the Scriptures that follow the International Sunday School Lesson Cycle for 2019-2020.

I will not be concerned with offering historical background for the Scripture passage, though at times such background may help provoke my reflections and yours.  Neither will I aim to offer commentary on the passage, though certainly any attempt to reflect on the passages will lead to my “comments” and to yours.

Reflection – my hope is for us to read these passages, rest in them, and spend time with them so they soak into our spirits and we come to a place where we are not simply reading words on a page but listening for what the Spirit would have us hear.

I plan to put before us each Monday the Scripture passage for the next Sunday’s lesson and to offer a few beginning thoughts for consideration.

During the week you and I may add to those initial reflections and share with one another what we are hearing.

Does that sound like a project that interests you?

Let’s start.

II.
The editors for the lesson cycle offer as the theme first quarter’s lessons (September – November, 2019) “Responding to God’s Grace.”  The first lesson is taken from Genesis 19 and puts before us Lot and the end of his residency in Sodom. Given the number of times this account has been told and retold many of us probably already presume we know the account from beginning to end.  But before we fall back on our recollections about Lot, Lot’s wife, and Sodom, take a moment to let yourself enter the passage with the question in mind, “How does this account inform our understanding of how we respond or do not respond to God’s Grace?”

III.
Genesis 19:1, 15-26, 29  (New Revised Standard Version)

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground.

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken.  Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.  But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.

IV.

First question – did the verses selected here skip or leave out parts of the account you are very familiar with and expected to see repeated?  Does that bother you or are you comfortable with this presentation? If you are uncomfortable with the verses selected here, why do you think that is? 

And second, did this presentation of account bring out to you more clearly other aspects of the passage?  What are you noticing with this reading you have not noticed before?

V.

Let’s spend a few minutes with Lot and notice some of his reactions to and interactions with the two angelic visitors.

How does Lot respond when they first come to him?

What does his rising and his bowing “with the face to the ground”  suggest to you?  

“ … But he lingered … “  

Lot is told to get up and – as they say at home – “get a move on it!”  It seems to me that Lot has already showed respect for and deference to his visitors but now he shows them what?  Does he not believe what they tell him? Does he think there must be other ways of dealing with the situation he is in?  Or, is he so attached to his life in Sodom that he cannot leave the city?

What do you think?

Do we see grace here?  What do we make of Lot’s response to this offer of … life, grace … how do you name it?

VI.

When you cannot leave a place under your own power, sometimes others help you get up and get going.  That seems to be the case here.

He is told again to “Flee for your life … “ 

And what does Lot do?  “ … but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I will die.”

Is he responding to “grace” with fear?  How is that possible? For him or for us?

And next he proposes an alternate plan – “Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there … and my life will be saved!”

So we have Lot bargaining with his protectors.  I wonder if we looked through Scripture for a while, who else might we find that bargains with God or with his messengers to get the outcome they want?

Then we hear that the angel will “grant you this favor too …”  And if that is not enough of a surprise, the angel says, “ … for I can do nothing until your arrive there.”

How is the angel hampered by Lot’s reactions, requests, and reluctance to “obey”?  At one point in the account the angel “seized” Lot and took him out of the city and yet at another the angel cannot act until Lot acts.  Who’s in charge here?  

VII.

So, is the story about “responding to God’s grace”?  

Does Lot respond whole-heartedly? Half-heartedly? Quickly?  Reluctantly? Fearfully?

Or is it about how Lot does not respond to God’s grace?

What holds back Lot from responding immediately?

And let’s not keep our eyes solely on Lot?  How about us?

When we are offered a grace-filled moment or opportunity do we immediately see what to do and do it?  What thoughts, commitments, pressures mute or delay our response.

From your perspective today, can you think of time in the past you should have responded differently to a graced moment?  Can you identify what got in the way of your accepting grace?

How might you respond next time?

Charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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Easter – Evening Prayer

Psalm 113

1 Hallelujah!
Give praise, you servants of the LORD;*
praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,*
from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down*
let the Name of the LORD be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,*
and his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,*
but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

6 He takes up the weak out of the dust*
and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,*
with the princes of his people.

8 He makes the woman of a childless house*
to be a joyful mother of children.

 

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