Friday, July 29, 2016

Yet another shock to modern interpreters.

Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD or show forth all His praise? Psalm 106:2

O God, the protector of all who trust in You, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon all Your faithful people Your mercy; that, with You as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Last week we explored Jesus' familiar exhortation, most often translated as "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." A much better translation might be "be merciful." Only God is perfect. But we can participate in God's perfect mercy, God's all-inclusive and impartial love.  -Richard Rohr

Since this mercy thing is what I am seeking from God so that I may be holy, with clear undistracted vision as to what is temporal (this world’s systems) and what is eternal (faith, hope and charity), I went back to the Scriptures looking for context for Jesus’ familiar exhortation.

Short Answer: In context "you are to be perfect" means "you are to love as God loves: without partiality"


First, consider the immediate context:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48

Here Jesus is clarifying that (despite popular opinion) the intent of God's commandment was for His people to love everyone -- even their enemies. He then goes on to provide evidence that God exhibits this kind of impartial love (by citing His care for the wicked), thereby establishing the basis for His clarification of God's commandment. Jesus then clarifies that the attitude that you will "love those who love you" is nothing special; even the wicked do this. He then concludes with the following:
"Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

In other words, having just explained how the Father is "perfect," and instructing God's people to behave similarly, He is now concluding with a summary statement.
So the flow of the paragraph could be summarized as follows:
You have heard "love with partiality" but I say to you "love impartially" so you can be sons of the Father; for the Father loves impartially. If you love with partiality, you are nothing special... even the wicked do that. Therefore, you are to love perfectly as the Father loves perfectly.


Answering the critics

Summarizing "perfection" as "love" may be a shock to modern interpreters, but it would not have been to the Apostles. For example, Paul wrote:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:14
James likewise contrasted partiality with fulfilling the "royal law":
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. -James 2:8-9
Jesus Himself clarified that the sign of a true disciple was his love for others:
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:35
(The list goes on, but that should suffice for now.)
So it is not hard to see from Scripture that "perfection" (or "completeness" / "maturity"), "fulfilling the Law," and "loving others" are synonymous.
And this morning, as I kicked back and forth across Hillenbrand Pool, there was the most glorious pink and orange and gold billowing sunrise imaginable. Really. After the dark and stormy and crazy crashy storm last night.

And Annissa takes amazing sunset pictures, which aren’t the same thing, but they are still breathtaking.


Who could have cast this light?

Which is the point.

And that is one way that God speaks to us, by writing what is true in creation, so that none are with excuse. It is only through walking in darkness that we truly can celebrate the light. Those who have sinned most, love most. The dawn is brightest after the darkest night.

And as I kicked, my heart sang His praise. And I sang the “Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” song from the Audrey Assad cd in my car. And I delighted in Him without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, nothing is perfect.

And I am still praying every day, that He, the Most Highest and Glorious God give me perfect charity. Perfect. As He is perfect and complete. That I may be complete.

May it be so, O God, as I walk into the day, bombarded from every side by partiality, that I live in Your mercy. Complete in your love.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Be anxious for nothing

My mouth shall recount Your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; though I cannot know the number of them. Psalm 71:15

Letting your naked self be known by God is always to recognize your need for mercy and your own utter inadequacy and littleness. You realize that even the best things you've done have often been for mixed and selfish motives, not really for love. The saints often weep in the middle of prayer because they recognize how tiny they are in the presence of such Infinity. Your need for mercy draws you close to God. It's a wonderful and humiliating experience. Within contemplation, you stand under an immense waterfall of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. –Richard Rohr

So this morning, Frederic sent me this YouTube link:
The fullness of Your grace is here with me
The richness of Your beauty’s all I see
The brightness of Your glory has arrived
In Your presence God, I’m completely satisfied

For You I sing I dance
Rejoice in this divine romance
Lift my heart and my hands
To show my love, to show my love

A deep deep flood, an ocean flows from You
Yeah, a deep deep love is filling up this room
Your innocent blood has washed my guilty life
In Your presence Lord, I’m completely satisfied

And Fred and I had a full year that year, wading through what is this deep, deep love. Until we couldn’t touch the bottom anymore, And we were lifted up by Him, and to Him and surrounded by Him. Sort of like floating in the Aegean Sea. And Pauline posted a picture of it this morning, lest I forget. 

And I can pay heed to the ceaseless crashing of fear and anger and anxiety through the airwaves as man desperately tries to save himself. Or seek another to save him.

Or I can stare into the darkness of my heart and weep with hopelessness and shame.

Or I can take that big leap into His deep, deep love. And into His peace, His peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand, recounting what I have seen of His mighty acts and saving deeds. Of His unceasing love and faithfulness.

And I cannot know even the smallest number of them, and He reaches down in love and faithfulness all over the crazily spinning planet.

But I can speak to what He has done for me. And the beloved ones that I hold in my heart. And much like the man who had been freed from Legion, I can obey the Master, who said to him, “Go home to your friends and family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”  And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

May it be so, says the one who has just returned from a pilgrimage through the fullness of His grace and the richness of His beauty. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

When you see a good man, follow him; when you see a bad man, check your heart. –Chinese proverb

So Frank Ross opened Jack’s teaching yesterday by singing a soulful “You’ve Got a Friend.”
And Jack closed with the reminder, “Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call, and He’ll be there, yeah, yeah. You have a friend.”

O LORD, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Psalm 88:14

And since I seem to be turning into a church-hopping junkie, I listened to Mike address anxious thoughts that can so easily imprison us, while Jesus holds out the key to freedom for the taking.

We have a friend.

And Jack explained what true intimate friendship looks like. A friend loves at all times; a friend is born for adversity; iron sharpens iron; wounds from a friend can be trusted–painful and plain words for restoration. A friend can love you so much that he has the courage to tell you the truth.

And the word from My Friend this morning, echoed the reminder from Jack about first dealing for the beam in our own eye before we start pointing out the specks in the eye of the other and addresses the anxious thoughts that come from trying to manage one’s own life alone, on one’s own strength, wisdom and self-justifying versus Him-justified accusations.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14

Thérèse of Lisieux surrendered herself to God's mercy, as did the publican, with confidence that 'What pleases God is that He sees me loving my littleness and my [inner] poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy.'" We are all saved by pure grace, no exceptions. We must never live in such a way that grace is not needed hour by hour. –Richard Rohr

And somehow this all ties together in my heart.

Cameron and Alan led us through the Audrey Assad song that has been on “repeat” in my little black car all week long, and which was waiting for me this morning as well.

You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos
From the chains of a lesser law You set me free
You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos
From the chains of a lesser law You set me free

In the silence of the heart You speak
In the silence of the heart You speak
and it is there that I will know You 
and You will know me
in the silence of the heart
You speak, You speak.

You satisfy me till I am quiet and confident
in the work of the Spirit I cannot see.
You satisfy me till I am quiet and confident
in the work of the Spirit I cannot see.

In the silence of the heart You speak. 

 My Friend speaks truth.
Which leads to humble confession.
And freedom.
Be anxious for nothing.
Hour by hour.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your servant who calls upon you, and grant that I may know and understand what things I ought to do, and that I also may have the grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

And whenever Everette is feeling sad she prays to Jesus to make her happy. It is all about seeing life with His mercy.

Help me, O LORD my God; save me for Your mercy’s sake. Psalm 109:25

In effect, Francis said through his lifestyle, "I will delight in powerlessness, humility, poverty, simplicity, and failure." He lived so close to the bottom of things that there was no place to fall. Even when insulted, he did not take offence. Now that is freedom, or what he called "perfect joy"! Lady Julian put it best of all: "First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!" –Richard Rohr

Let us give thanks to the LORD for His mercy and the wonders He does for His children. For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8–9



Well, there is no end to the good things, especially at Trader Joe’s. Everyone was coming over to see the photos from The Grand Tour. So Mary Anne and I decided to try and capture the complete overwhelmingness of deliciousness of Turkey and Greece and Italy. So we served salami cacciatore and prosciutto and capocollo and four kinds of olives and grape leaves wrapped around rice and spinach and feta pita bakes and lemon chicken and tzatziki sauce and orzo pasta and a Greek salad and a Caprese salad with marinated mozzarella balls and basil out of the garden and a big basket of pitas and blood orange juice and red and white table wine and of course the blue bottles of water.

And Alan set up the overhead projector and we watched the past six-and-a-half weeks of life, starting with the arrival of Miss Simone Rose pass before our eyes. Inadequately captured, even by panoramic iPhone shots of the sun setting down around Santorini, or fisheye GoPro shots of The Blue Mosque or even short video clips with sounds of happy singing and dancing Franciscan friars and nuns leading six hundred young adults into happy singing and dancing.

Then after Daniel cleared away the dishes, Mary Anne brought out fresh-from-Jenny’s-garden rhubarb pie with big scoops of Costco vanilla ice cream on it.

And it wasn’t even about the crammed full table or the folders of iPhotos, but the people crowded on the picnic benches. And Everette was a little tired because Mimi didn’t get her down for a nap even after watching Daniel Tiger and reading Angelina and the Princess four times, but Dustin was ever-so-patient as he carried her outside for her three-minute time out and then rocked her through The Wheels on the Bus, even after a long day of replacing coolers on trailer roofs in 108 degree temperatures. And Brandon was pretty tired too, but he had a few stories about job shadowing in an ambulance before he drifted off, curled up in the orange chair. And Scott was quiet and listening while Jack asked good questions. And Simone snuggled and snacked neatly wrapped around her momma, and Adam and Dre are both learning new jobs that are hard and humbling but a little hopeful in the long run. And Mary Anne told about the Turkish scrubbing bubble bath and deniz’s joy of sharing her city Istanbul’s beauty and of the deep blue of the Aegean Sea and of the focused affection of the Italian guy singing and hugging refugee children and the chin-wiggling love of the Borrelli family and of sweet conversations in Lugo and long walks along white sand beaches and the deep, deep peace and Presence which permeates Assisi.

Let us give thanks for His mercy.

And Mile High Vineyard was finishing up their annual summer series, Reel Faith, with clips from the life of Gandhi. And we watched a man humbly follow the teaching of Christ more closely than the so-called Christ-followers. And he walked through humiliation and danger and questions of integrity with quiet strength and courage, that which Richard Rohr would call “freedom” and what Francis called “perfect joy,” because that is what Paul called it, to count it pure joy when we encounter various trials and tribulations.

And sometimes His mercy doesn’t look like heaped-up plates of deliciousness. But mercy it is, for His glory’s sake. And the preacher ended his Gandhi sermon with this question, Jesus, is there anywhere in my life where I can humble myself and repent first?

Because blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for His name’s sake.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

 Let us give thanks to the LORD for His mercy and the wonders He does for His children.