Waiting on God

 

An exploration of the peace witness of the first (old) testament

 The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? For me, passages with this word have suggested prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text? What is the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 16-22

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

See below for a list of similar passages*

Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action of God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”.

Is this part of Paul’s source for “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

For further thought:  The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs additional exploration. There is much violence found in the First Testament.   The New Testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

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Be Holy: Don’t eat snails—Help immigrants

Does it matter?

How often do we sing “holy” in a song? If we use the word frequently, shouldn’t we have some sense of word could mean? Are there specific Biblical events or Bible passages that help us to understand the word and concept of “holy”? If Jesus’ teaching helps us understand the First Testament, what did he teach about the “holy”’?

Snails and more

What about not eating snails? The first command to be holy (Leviticus 11) follows a list of creatures not to be eaten, including snails. So, does holiness have to do with what we eat? With how much we eat?  Holiness was first very specific.

Where was God first called “holy”?

The first Biblical reference to God as holy is in the “Song of Miriam” in Exodus celebrating the work of God in defeating the Egyptians at the Red Sea.

1“I will sing to the Lord. 
He is greatly honored. 
He has thrown Pharaoh’s horses and their riders into the Red Sea. . . . 11 “Lord, who among the gods is like you? Who is like you?
You are majestic and holy. Your glory fills me with wonder.
You do wonderful miracles.

Here God was holy because he rescued his people from the Egyptians. The gods of the Egyptians supported the rich and powerful. Israel’s God was different/holy. Israel’s God reached out to the “wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:10-14) and created a people “who were not a people.” Translated into modern terms, God rescued oppressed immigrants from a superpower whose gods approved of the rich having control over key resources and perpetuating control through the exploitation of other people groups.

God’s holiness stretches beyond rescuing the Hebrews. Many passages throughout the scripture expand our understanding of the separateness and otherness of God.

Jesus and holiness

Jesus teaching about being like God does not use the word holy. Jesus command parallel to “Be holy for I am holy” is: “be completely merciful as is your Father in heaven.” (Luke 6:36). Moses’ presence in the Transfiguration, Jesus calling himself a “‘ransom” (Mark 10:45), and words of Jesus at the last supper connect his ministry to the first exodus.   If the first exodus had to do with the rescue of an oppressed minority from a powerful empire, how does that apply to Jesus ministry?

Perhaps it is with Jesus’ reaching out to those on the margins of society and those considered inferior in society. (These include the good Samaritan, Mary (wanting to learn about God/the Law in a culture that denied learning to women), the lepers, the Syrophoenician woman, and the woman at the well. Jesus fulfilled God’s call through Isaiah and other prophets to spread the good news to all people.

Be holy/merciful today

How do we translate this Jesus-style holiness into our lives today? Are there people similar to the Hebrews in Egypt? They would be people who need to be saved (rescued) from an “Egypt” or the evil one?   The US government has aided the “pharaohs” of our time, especially in Central and South America. Military and development aid has enabled upper classes and military in these countries to oppress poor and small landowners. Due to that aid there are “wandering Arameans” among us that we can rescue, following God’s example. Today we have the billionaires and multi-millionaires at the head of government proposing hefty tax cuts for themselves. They have proposed large reductions in disaster aid (before Harvey and Irma), deportation of taxpaying, hardworking young adults who were brought to this country as children and are trying to deny health care assistance to those who cannot afford it. We, as Christians, can prepare for and encourage a new exodus from a hostile United States to a welcoming United States or an exodus to our guests’ economically revitalized homeland. If we do this we are following God’s example of holiness.

Let’s connect God’s holiness with Jesus command to be merciful. How do we respond to the homeless, to the worker who has had his/her hours reduced so that the employer need not provide health care and other benefits, to those in our communities who need to hear the good news of the gospel or to long-time residents who long for the security of citizenship?

God’s holiness is broader than what you have read here. Seeing the holy through the roots of this concept and through Jesus’ teaching gives us a good start in understanding what we mean and should do when we sing “holy”.

Before You Punch a Nazi: A New Anabaptist Response to White Supremacy

Before You Punch a Nazi: A New Anabaptist Response to White Supremacy

gathering the stones

There isn’t much to be surprised by in Charlottesville. There’s much to grieve, but none of it should be a surprise. All the elements of Saturday’s events have been in headlines for months, or years, and they are quintessential to this time: cars swerving into crowds; statues of Confederate warriors being removed; white nationalist rallies; Black Lives Matter; pedestrians injured. As if someone scrambled up bits of headlines until it yielded this.

What do we do now? Grief wants comfort. Comfort is action. We want to do something. We have to do something.

[Edit: The original draft of this post faced valid criticism for a why-can’t-we-all-get-along, syrup-y vision of white-Anabaptist heroism. A revised post, with this feedback in mind, is forthcoming in the Mennonite World Review. White Anabaptists have their own history of racism. Critiques of anti-oppression work are meaningless if they are veiled excuses for our own racism…

View original post 1,137 more words

Tax yourself: July 2017 Post

Discover the Voluntary Tax Fund

Hey, there’s $1.95 gas at Pilot (or Sheetz, etc.)! your spouse or friend tells you. Or, do you use Gas Buddy to locate the best price? Frugality, of course is recommended and not the issue of interest here.

Recently, my nephew’s wife missed a family gathering to go to Venezuela to help her mother get medical help for a heart condition. Finding the medicine she needed was difficult due to rapid inflation. That was a result, in part from corruption, but also due to the dropping price of oil.

A friend has been in South Sudan doing trauma relief with refugees from the religious/ethnic war with (North) Sudan. Much of the funds for the relief funds for food and housing come from government revenue from oil income. Gas buyers in Europe pay$5.00 or more for gas. Money going to the military, in effect, subsidizes the artificially low cost of automobile gas.

What can we do? Tax ourselves! Use the funds for energy saving projects. My favorites were solar panels for Gift & Thrift and Bicycles for Refugees. Here’s additional information from the website:

Gas Tax Club – Home

www.voluntarygastax.org

Totally voluntary! Or a tax that you can decide to … The Voluntary Gas Tax is a campaign that was initiated in November of 2000 by a group of concerned citizens in Harrisonburg, VA.

“Here’s where our tax has gone so far:

  • $50 to buy bicycle lights for the guys in a local half-way house
  • $368 for an 8 foot bike trailer for a local university to use as a recycle vehicle
  • $450 for earthquake victims in Pakistan
  • $500 to Blacks Run Greenway Partnership, a local group planning and promoting a bike path/walking trail as a linear park along a stream through our town.”

For another example:

Voluntary Tax Dollars shade Goshen Streets

http://www.mennocreationcare.org/voluntary-gas-tax-dollars…

This project does not solve the basic problem. Participation in the voluntary gas tax action reminds us we must still deal with our use/overuse of irreplaceable resources.

 

Peter and Peace

John 13:36-14:4

Sometimes we see a scripture passage in a new way. That happened to me not long ago. (Remember, the gospel writer John did not put in chapter divisions.) Read these verses together.

John 13 36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”  And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”  38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.  14:1“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” [New Living Translation].

Connection Peter’s words & Jesus’

What connection does Jesus expect the disciples to see between Peter’s “die for you” announcement and Jesus’ assurance that they could trust God, trust Jesus and remember the welcome to be found in the Father’s House?  How do his activities in the Garden help us understand what he means here? (Jn. 18:11, Mt. 26:52) What kind of misunderstanding of Jesus way does Peter show earlier leading Jesus to call him “satan”? (Mt. 16:23)

What did Peter mean to do while “dying” for Jesus?  Didn’t Peter intend to do more than die? His likely heroes are the Maccabees* who liberated Judah from the Syrian Seleucid oppression some 150 years earlier. They used similar language to support their military activity, believing that they achieved some kind of redemption through death defending the land and people of God.   They did defeat the Syrians, freeing Jerusalem and re-establishing pure worship.

On the other hand, opposing the violence of the Maccabees, the editor/writer of the Daniel stories and visions focused on activities that upheld the covenant, encouraged repentance and continued faithful worship, but showed a willingness to defy oppressive rulers. Daniel and friends were willing face death (Dan. 3:17-18) as did the Maccabees, but did not turn to violence. As Daniel 12:3 puts it:

“Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.”

The “wisdom teacher” who wrote of Daniel and friends would have understood the connection between “trusting God” and “more than enough room in my Father’s home”. The way of peace could lead to death. Those “rooms” were especially for disciples who were willing to follow Jesus’s command. Reading first Peter confirms that Peter had moved away from the Maccabean idea that one could gain redemption through death against the enemies of God. He understood the words of Jesus:

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Mt. 5:43-47 (New Living Translation)

*The Maccabees became active around 163 BC. The Seleucids, an empire headquartered in Syria for some years tortured, killed, sold Jews into slavery and burned of copies of the Torah. In response, a family of five sons, later called the Maccabees, led a rebellion against them. After several years of war and with an alliance with the Roman Empire, the Maccabees (later known as the Hasmonians, their family name) overthrew the Syrians and set up a free Hebrew state. The last of the Hasmonians was a wife of Herod the Great of New Testament times.

June Notes

Peace prayer for June/July

Pray for the peaceful reunification of North & South Korea. Pray that the food aid the Mennonite Central Committee provides North Korea may show the love of Jesus for all people. — Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2

Showing compassion is one way to promote reunification.  The Mennonite Central Committee has sent food to North Korea for nearly 20 years.  MCC has provided medical supplies and supported orphanages, also.

The above was taken from the Washington Memo Vol. XLIX, No. 2.  For more information, check out:

washington.mcc.org  or read the blog at washingtonmemo.org

 

Waiting for God

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think of or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text?

For the subjects of the Psalm, what would be the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

Psalm 33:  16-22

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

(See below for a list of similar passages*)

In Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action by God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way (v. 34) refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In Isaiah 40, the setting is a bit different. While in these Psalms there is the implication that God will overpower the enemy or the evil Hebrews, that is not as clear in Isa.40:28-31. Is the vindication of the “suffering servant” what one is to wait for?  (See my blog on Isa. 40, “Exodus to Exile”)

Waiting and then what?

Are these “wait” passages behind Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:19 and following? “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? The normal response to violence is vengeance.  Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. While there is much violence found in the first testament, the new testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

 

*Similar passages are:  Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

 

 

April Notes

Creation Sunday

Creation Sunday or Creation Care Sunday is celebrated today. It is generally observed the Sunday nearest Earth Day (April 22).

The Psalmist tell us: “The heavens declare the glory of God

The skies (firmament) show His handiwork”

Other passages tell us of the glory of mountains, trees and streams. We probably want to add Valleys to that list.

If we destroy mountain tops (and in the process eliminate peoples’ homes and fields), turn clear streams into rusty, stinking waterways polluted with runoff from mines . . . .

If we fill the skies with haze so that Harrisonburg can no longer be seen from Skyline Drive (Oldtimers assured me that you could 30 or more years ago) . . . .

Are we limiting creation’s praise of God? Have we treated creation in such a way the God is not praised by it as He intended?

Do we believe God created the non-human world of plants, water, rocks, soil and air as well as the human world to praise Him?

How can we work with the rest of God’s Creation to praise God?

Pray with me for better understanding of these questions and better care of God’s world.

Peace Prayer

Peace lamp prayer suggestion (April 23, 2017):

Father help us to be at peace with your creation.  Forgive us for obscuring creation’s praise of you by our pollution of your water, air and land.  Teach us to live so the creation may better praise you as “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above shows His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

 

  

Waiting On God

An exploration of the peace witness of the first (old) testament

 

The Psalmist counsels us “wait on the Lord”! What do you think or imagine yourself doing in response to this counsel? In what situations have you recalled passages from the Bible that include this phrase? In the passages below, what is the context of the word “wait” or “waiting”? In the past I have thought of “waiting” as suggesting prayer and meditation. Is this made explicit in the text? What is the alternative to “waiting”? What more than prayer in suggested by “waiting”? How often does the “waiting” command come in the context of violence? What is the significance of this?

16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 16-22

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:(5-9) 14-15, 32-34

See below for a list of similar passages*

Psalm 33 use of the word “wait” is preceded by description of violence against the people of God. (“Whether the king is to use his great army or not is not clarified.) Action of God’s people is not needed. Waiting leads to affirmation of God’s presence and control of the situation. Note the words “help”, “trust”, “hope” as helper words for “wait”.

In Psalm 37 the situation is bleak. Not just the people of God are the target of the forces of evil, but specifically “the poor and needy”. Violence is what evil people do. The people of God “wait” and “keep his way”. Keeping God’s way refers to covenant/Torah behavior. In the end “the wicked [will be] cut off”.

Is this part of Paul’s source for “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 with Deut. 32:35)? How is Paul’s reminder related to the need to wait? Note surrounding the “vengeance” command we are encouraged to “love”, “seek peace”, and “feed” [your] enemy”. Here we have some of the things from the life and teachings of Jesus that are to the focus the people of God while waiting for God to act.

The “First” Testament basis for the peace understanding of Anabaptists needs further exploration. There is much violence found in the First Testament.   The New Testament affirms the contrasting thread lifted out here that calls for us to wait on God. From God comes protection and vengeance/justice.

*Similar passages are:

Psalm 25:1-5, Psalm 27: 11-14, Psalm 62:1-7 (See also, Psalm 40:1-3—no suggestion of violence in this passage), Psalm 130:1-6, Proverbs 20:22, Lamentations 3:13-26, Isaiah 30:15-18 (the word “rest” is used in this passage), Micah 7:2-3, 7; Isaiah 40:28-31 (God has just “rescued” Israel from Babylon), Isa. 64:1-4, Zephaniah 3:8

Related concept:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).