Crumbs and the Kingdom

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.    (Matthew 15: 21-28)

In the Gospel lessons we are given glimpses in the Kingdom of God, that “up-side-down” kingdom in which human values, priorities and sense of justice is turned on its head.  These glimpses into the Kingdom show us that human logic or justice is not the reigning morality in that place where the first are last, and the greatest are the ones who serve not those being served.

Just prior to this Gospel lesson in Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus had been chided by His own disciples for having said things that are offensive to the Pharisees (15:12) regarding their hand washing and food traditions.   So now, Jesus heads to what probably was the furthest north that He traveled in His lifetime to a region that had a non-Jewish population.

Here, strangely enough Jesus is called both Lord and Son of David – titles the Pharisees certainly did not give to Jesus – by a non-Jew. Obviously this woman knows something of the Jewish religion, and has also heard about Jesus. She has no interest in whether Jesus keeps the Pharisaic tradition, but she believes He has the power to heal her daughter.  Like the woman with the flow of blood who wants only to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, this woman too wants only one thing from the Kingdom – that her daughter be freed of demon possession.  She is seeking from Him that power from God which the Pharisees have ignored in their obsession with keeping their tradition.

It is here in this foreign territory that Jesus utters the phrase, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He may have been sent to the lost sheep of Israel, but it is not Israel which has welcomed Him in faith.   However, here a stranger seeks out this itinerant healer and Lord. She is not of the house of Israel and she is not lost, for she has found the very person she was seeking. She has found Him and she will not let Him get away.

The woman not only calls Jesus Lord but gets on her knees before him in an act of reverence – again something that few Jews did in the Gospel.

Though Jesus clearly states His mission is to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, this story shows His being welcomed and professed by those not of the house of Israel. The lost are not seeking to be found, but someone not of Israel’s house and faith is looking for what God is offering to His people.

Jesus responds to the woman using imagery of the heavenly banquet of God’s Kingdom: namely that of food. If indeed this woman knows something of the Messiah and of Jewish beliefs, which she seems to know, then she should also be aware that Jewish food restrictions will not allow her to eat of the same foods as the Jews.

Jesus tosses out to her that He cannot share with her the food that is given to God’s people. He can’t throw the bread from the children’s table to the dogs.

The woman is not deterred or offended by His comment. Like the poor man Lazarus, she longs for the crumbs from the master’s table. Her faith is such that she is willing to accept whatever she can get from Master’s banquet in the Kingdom. She is willing even to be a dog accepting the crumbs that fall from her Master’s table. She is not demanding to sit at the Master’s right and left as some of the disciples did, but her hope is to be allowed to receive what falls from the table on to the floor. Even that will be a blessing from heaven. Being a dog at the Master’s banquet table in heaven is still a blessing. Her faith and priorities are straight.  She has no claims to sitting at the head table, but she values completely the smallest blessing that might fall her way – even if it is discarded from the Master’s table.

Jesus marvels that those not of the house of Israel, those not even being sought by Him, are so eager to benefit from even the crumbs of the Master’s table. The Gentile woman recognizes the value of what Jesus is offering and like Lazarus longs for it, even if only a crumb.   She cares nothing for being recognized as somebody, she cares nothing for show, she understands a crumb from the Kingdom is more important than where she might be sitting when it is given to her.

Indeed the woman’s prayer is heard, all for the sake of a crumb!

Pharisees are obsessing over tradition and rules about washing hands before eating, this woman understands the value of the food being offered. She is not worried about keeping tradition in its minutia, she is willing to receive crumbs from the master’s table no matter how they come her way.  It is not keeping herself clean that is important, it is receiving what is God’s grace that matters.

The Pharisees were majoring on the minors, while this one woman far removed from the faith shaped by Pharisaic obsession with the Law and with being seen by others to be rule abiding, knew the true importance of the tiniest things of God’s grace.

The Canaanite Woman: Diligent Perseverence in Prayer

Women seeking Christ's mercy

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”  But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”  But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”  But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.     (Matthew 15: 21-28)

Orthodox Biblical scholar Fr. Stanley Harakas comments:

What precisely was the Canaanite woman’s inner spiritual virtue that Jesus wanted to reveal so that she would be blessed with the healing of her daughter and so that the disciples (and we) could profit spiritually?  In his explanation, St John Chrysostom uses the word “assiduity” in his translation.  This older English word is a characteristic of a person who is diligent, energetic, industrious, persevering, persistent resolute, and zealous.  No wonder Jesus said to her, O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire”!

Chrysostom explains:  “Never mind,” he says, “that you are unworthy.  Become worthy by your assiduity.  For it is possible both that the unworthy should become worthy from his assiduity, and that God assents more when called on by ourselves than by others.”      (Harakas, Stanley Samuel, Archbishop Iakovos, Of Life and Salvation:  Reflections on Living the Christian Life, pg 124)

Jesus Fulfills Torah

This is the 8th Blog in this series which began with Reading Scripture: the Old Testament, the Torah and Prophecy.   The immediate preceding blog is Reading Torah and Keeping God’s Word.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”   (John 1:17)

Christ and Moses

A purely literal reading of John 1:17 might cause one to conclude that the Evangelist John was claiming that there is no truth in Moses, only law, and thus no truth in the Torah, our Old Testament.  Of course that is not the contrast John the Theologian is making.  He is not rejecting the Moses and the entire Old Testament as being void of truth, for it is the entire Old Testament which points to and makes Jesus Christ known to us all.  Later in his Gospel, John writes: “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life”  (John 5:39-40).  John obviously doesn’t think the Torah is devoid of truth for it bears witness to Christ and thus is true.  Jesus in fact fulfils Torah.

As the Fifth Century bishop Theodoret of Cyrus wrote:  “It was the Law, after all, that guided us to Christ; so the one who believes in Christ the Lord fulfills the purpose of the Law.”  (Theodoret of Cyrus, COMMENTARY ON THE LETTERS OF PAUL  V 1, p 107)

Generally the New Testament writers understood that with the coming of the Christ, the Old Covenant (=Testament) had been fulfilled.  Its purpose accomplished and thus the new Covenant which God had promised has been ushered in (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  They describe the Law as being but a shadow of the reality to come or a custodian – a temporary condition until the time had come for God to reveal His perfect salvation.

“So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian;  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:24-26).

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near”  (Hebrews 10:1).

“The early identification of Jesus as, in the words of the Psalm, ‘a priest for ever’ and as ‘the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ – therefore simultaneously and uniquely both the sacrificial victim and the sacrificing priest—became part of an elaborate scheme of interpretation by which the liturgy prescribed in the Torah, especially Exodus and Leviticus, was seen as having become obsolete now that the One it pictured had finally come into human history in the person of Jesus Christ.  What had been ‘foreshadowed’ in the Torah had now been ‘overshadowed’ in him as the fulfillment.”   (Jaroslav Pelikan,  WHOSE BIBLE IS IT?, p 96)

The Torah foreshadowed Christ, but alas, also represents a stumbling block (Romans 9:30-33) because people can begin to trust in their own righteousness achieved through their own efforts rather than seeing that even the Law was a gift to those who believe the God of Love is working for their salvation.  When we trust in our own efforts to keep the Law, we don’t even need God for our salvation!  We can keep twisting our interpretation of the Law to make it more possible for us (and us alone!) to keep Torah.   The downside? If we believe we save ourselves through our own effort to keep every detail of the Law, we will find ourselves condemned if we fail in any one detail of the Law.

“If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ said also, ‘Do not kill.’ If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:8-13).

What happens to those who rely on their own ability to keep the Law is they forget the purpose of Torah was not to simply develop fanatical adherence to the details of the Law, but it was rather a way to help us remain faithful to God and to help us love God with all our heart, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, the great “Shema Israel”), and to love neighbor as oneself (Leviticus 19:18).   St. Paul recognized that demanding strict adherence to Torah meant God had no intention of saving the world, whereas he had come to recognize that it was faith in God which in fact was what God wanted from all His human creatures as witnessed in the life of Abraham who was the father of many nations.

“In other words, the law poses a religious problem for the apostle to the Gentiles.  On what basis does a Gentile become a member of the community of Christ?  Is it through circumcision and adherence to the law of Moses?  Or is it on some other basis?  In this regard, the apostle is clear.  Obedience to the law of Moses is not an entrance requirement into the community of Christ for the Gentiles.  Indeed, the law of Moses is not a universal requirement for the people of God in Christ.  … In effect, Paul has transformed Judaism from a national religion into a universal religion through the incorporation of Gentiles into the community of Christ. Paul did not perceive this to be a negation of Judaism but a completion of Judaism and its task of being a blessing to the nations.”   (James Aageson, WRITTEN ALSO FOR OUR SAKE: PAUL AND THE ART OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, p 27)

Next:  A Christian View of Prophecy

God’s Longsuffering Love for Sinners

Sermon notes from  5 February 1989   The Canaanite Woman

Scripture Lessons:  1 Timothy 1:15-17,   Matthew 15:21-28

Christ saving the first among sinners: Adam & Eve

The Gospel Lesson of the Canaanite Woman is a story of hope for sinners, outcasts, non-believers and rejects. Even though we sometimes get stuck on the fact that Jesus behaves down right rudely to this woman, calling her “a dog!”, if we look closely at the story we can see wherein is the Good News.

The Jew expected the Messiah to save Jews and thus to reject the Canaanite women as Jesus appears to do. The Canaanites (Gentiles) expect the Jewish God not to help them and Jesus appears to fulfill this expectation. But Jesus breaks through the expectations, prejudices, limitations and beliefs of both Jew and Gentile, and shows His Power stretches to all, His salvation is for all, His Authority is over all. Therefore no one on earth should believe that God cannot or will not help/save them. There is hope even for the sinner and the unbeliever.

John 3:17  –  “For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

St. Paul told us in his letter to Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” Despite the fact the Paul sees himself as the foremost of sinners, he knows he has been both saved by the Lord Jesus Christ and called to preach the Gospel of salvation to the nations. He knows acceptance by the Church, forgiveness, healing, support, patience, encouragement and love from the Church.   It was the members of the church who Paul so violently persecuted, but it was through the same church membership that Paul was healed, baptized, evangelized, forgiven, supported and encouraged.

St. Paul did not try to hide the fact that he violently sinned against God. He publicly acknowledged it, and he did find acceptance by the Church. Brothers and Sisters, the same should be true for each of us today. Thousands of people, including thousands of Christian people, turn to Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and such groups to help themselves acknowledge and confess their sins. But as God’s chosen people, as a group of sinners who have been accepted by Christ, it is our duty to help, support, encourage, love and accept each other, even with our sinful faults. We all face temptations, all struggle against the flesh, against evil desires, and here is one place we should be able to safely admit our faults and receive the healing and strengthening forgiveness of God’s community.

As your priest, I am in the sermons to exhort you, to challenge you, to encourage you, to strengthen you, to comfort you and to lead you. But, I am not set above you because of my personal holiness. Like St. Paul, I am a sinner. Like St. Paul, in my youth I opposed the Church and tried to get people to leave the Church. I wasted much of my younger days in drunken parties. So I know the enticement of sin. I am not here to be your judge, even though my message may make you feel God’s judgement. But I have a position in the Church to fulfill, as one whom Christ has come to save.

I too need your prayers and support, so that I can continue in my own struggle against temptation, selfishness, sinfulness, and the enticement of this world. I too need your support, encouragement and forgiveness so that I can teach you, guide you, preach to you, and be spiritual father to you. You are my family, my consolation, my strength and my joy.

The Parish Community

Therefore, I ask you to encourage one another in the fight against sin. Ask for each others prayers and pray for one another. Acknowledge your faults, trusting that the community will support you and accept you. Call each other during the week to offer a word of prayer, encouragement, love and hope, and also to seek the prayers of your Church community, to seek counsel, comfort and strength. Break the bonds of isolation and loneliness, call someone from the parish this week and see if you can meet a need of theirs or if they can meet a need that you have. Each of us should be able to find within this little community all of the support, love, healing, patience, acceptance, encouragement, strength and nourishment that we need to continue our life as Christians.

Patience as An Active Love for Others

Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples,

if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:35)

Our having love for others is the behavior by which all people should readily be able to identify any of us as a Christian.  While loving others might be practiced by anyone on earth, Christians are supposed to be recognizable through this love.  Loving others is not an option for us. 

It is within Christian community – family, parish, monastery, prayer group or wherever 2 or 3 gather in the name of Jesus – that we have opportunity to practice this love.  St. John Cassian who is often credited with having brought the ideals of monastic community to the Christian West, wrote a great deal about what it takes for Christians to survive in community and for the communities to thrive.

“Therefore God, the Creator of all things, knowing better than anyone else how to right his handiwork and that the roots and causes of our offenses lie not in others but in ourselves, commanded that the company of the brothers should not be forsaken and that those persons should not be avoided who have been hurt by us or by whom we think that we have been offended.  Instead, he orders that they be won over, for he knows that perfection of heart is attained not by separation from human beings but by the virtue of patience.  When this is firmly possessed it can keep us at peace even with those who hate peace.”   (John Cassian, The Institutes, pg 212)

We learn to love and we practice our Christian love by dealing with other people.  We cannot learn patience with others by living alone or avoiding others.  It would be self-deception to go and live a solitary life and then imagine you have learned patience with others.  We learn patience, love, compassion, empathy, sympathy, charity as Christians by dealing with all kinds of people, including those we have offended, those who we don’t particularly like, and those who have offended us.  Our love will not grow by avoiding those we have offended or who have offended us, though it might grow cold!

St. Basil the Great once questioned solitary monks, “Whose feet will you wash?”   He was of course referring to the foot washing Gospel lesson in John 13:1-17 in which Jesus tells us to imitate his humility, his servant leadership, his love for others.  If there is no one around us whose feet we are to wash, then we cannot imitate Jesus.

Dealing with others requires patience, and patience is not a passive ideal, but rather an active form of love.

What Use is Prayer to God?

The Star stood over the place where the Christ child was.

“With prayer I cleanse the vision of my faith, lest it lose sight of you in the mist, O Most Radiant Star.

“What use will your prayer be to God?” asks the swarthy workers of the earth.

You speak rightly, sons of earth.  What use is the mariner’s telescope to the North Star, when it sees the mariner even without a telescope?  But do not ask me, since you already know, what use a telescope is to a mariner.

Prayer is necessary for me, lest I lose sight of the salvation-bearing Star, but the Star does not need it to keep from losing me.”     (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers by the Lake, pg 70)

Prayer puts us into a proper relationship with God.  It gives orientation and direction to our lives.  It reminds us that He is Lord, and we are His servants.  We don’t pray to order God to do our will, but to submit ourselves and all our cares to His.

The Sanctity of Human Life (2011)

Holy Innocents

“We respect embryos from the moment we perceive or even suspect that they possess human identity, not because they are something great that we adequately know, but because they conceal a mystery, which will always remain unknown.”  (Metropolitan Nikolaos, Chairman of the Bioethics Committee of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece)

St. John Chrysostom once commented on the pagan practice of sacrificing children to appease a god.   He attributed such a practice to the “gods” these people worshipped, which he says are nothing more than demons.  Demons who convince people they are gods, are nothing but deceptive liars, and thus create false religion.  People who come to believe these demons demand the sacrifice of children have thus rejected the life-giving God.  He says such people and such religion bring destruction upon society itself.

“They persuaded people who should have mourned the slaughter of these victims to act as sponsorsof the deplorable carnage.  Lest human statutes only be transgressed, they also utterly uprooted the very laws of nature; which they frenzied against herself by introducing into human life the most atrocious murder of all.  Henceforth everyone feared their parents more than any enemy.  Instead of placing special confidence in them, they suspected to the spectacle of this universe through their parents.  These destructive spirits sought to deprive them of this gift by making parents who had fostered their life the cause of their death, as if wishing to show that they have profited not at all from the goodness of God: they will not require other executioners than their parents.”  (St. John Chrysostom, APOLOGIST, p 78)

Christ blessing children

The deliberate act of a parent to kill their own child destroys not just a life, but society itself.  Parents willing to be the executioners of their own children is a sign that something is wrong in a nation: that life is not valued, and that killing is an unacceptable way to eliminate those who are unwanted, unloved, or inconvenient including any that have done nothing deserving of execution.

Reading Torah and Keeping God’s Word

This is the 7th Blog in this series which began with Reading Scripture: the Old Testament, the Torah and Prophecy.   The immediate preceding blog is Reading the Old Testament in Consonance with the Saints.

Christ calling St. Paul to become an Apostle

For the Jews, Torah is God’s gift to His people.   Torah is more than just God’s rules as it is God’s instruction to His people on how to live on earth –  It is God’s eternal Wisdom offered in a manner accessible to humans.  Torah is for the Jews what Jesus the Incarnate Word of God is for Orthodox Christians.  St. Paul upon encountering the Risen Lord Jesus received a calling to proclaim a new agreement between God and His people and the world.  St. Paul came to understand that Torah could not cure what was ailing humanity since the fall of Adam in committing the ancestral sin.  Torah, for St. Paul, is God’s Wisdom and instruction, but St. Paul came to believe its role was intended to be temporary serving to prepare the Jews and the world for the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ.   The Torah could not make us righteous or holy, but it did point out our rebellious sinfulness quite well.  With the coming of Christ, the Torah has been fulilled and God’s new covenant inaugurated.

“It was probably during the exile in Babylon (my note:  circa 597-538BC) that the so-called Five Books of Moses, also known as the Torah, were edited into their final form, highlighting the ancient story of slavery and freedom, of exile and homecoming, of oppression and Passover—but also setting out the pattern of life for the people who had thus been rescued.  When God frees you from slavery, said the Torah, this is how you must behave, not to earn his favor (as though you could put God in your moral debt), but to express your gratitude, your loyalty, and your determination to live by the covenant because of which God rescued you in the first place.  That is the logic underlying the increasingly focused study and practice of the Torah from the Babylonian exile to the time of Jesus and beyond.

The Torah was never intended as a charter for individuals, as though anyone, anywhere, might decide to try to keep its precepts and see what would happen.  It was given to a people, edited by and for that people, and applied (in the postexilic period at least) to that people; and at is heart it was about how that people would live together, under God and in harmony—that is, justice—with one another.”   (N.T. Wright, SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, p 82) 

Moses: the human author of the Torah

The Torah was never meant to be the Jewish book of magical incantations and spells, which any individual anywhere could pick up and learn how to use for his/her own benefit or to manipulate God.   Torah was meant to inform, form, transform and prepare a people who would then accomplish God’s will on earth to be a light to the nations and bring all to salvation.  The Torah was meant to be read and lived within the community of believers.  For St. Paul, that community – the Jews – lost sight of what the Torah was meant to be to them and what they as the chosen people were meant to be to the world.  In effect, the people of God, meant to be the ark of salvation as Noah’s ark was to him and his family, had failed in their mission to be a light to the nations.  Instead they came to revel in being God’s chosen people who alone received God’s favor. 

“The covenant may have been rock-solid on God’s part, but as Genesis tells the story, it was anything but solid on Abraham’s part.  Right from the beginning we run into the problem that will haunt the narrative throughout: What happens when the lifeboat which sets off to rescue the wrecked ship is itself trapped between the rocks and the waves, itself in need of rescue?  What happens when the people through whom God wants to mount his rescue operation, the people through whom he intends to set the world to rights, themselves need rescuing, themselves need putting to rights?  What happen when Israel becomes part of the problem, not just the bearer of the solution?  As cheerful old Rabbi Lionel Blue once said on the radio, ‘Jews are just like everyone else, only more so.’  The Old Testament underlines that on page after page.

But if the God who made the world out of free, boundless, energetic love now sees his world in rebellion, and his rescue operation flawed because of the people chosen to carry it out, what is he to do?”  (N.T. Wright, SIMPLY CHRISTIAN, p 75)

The answer, so Christians believe, is that God sent His own Son into the world to save the world.  Jesus Himself became what Israel was meant to be; for Jesus made incarnate in the world God’s revelation, wisdom and Word.  Jesus did what Torah could not do – reunited God to humanity and healed all of the brokenness and divisions caused by sin.

Next:    Jesus Fulfills Torah

A Sunny Day is a Sunny Day

It was -2 Degrees Fahrenheit  (-19 Celsius) when I took the picture of the rising sun below at Sugarcreek Metropark in wintry Montgomery County, Ohio, January of 2011.  The ground was white with snow; for me it was a three sweat shirt day.

I like seeing the sun through the trees.  The sunshine is welcomed by me.  The shadows created by the sunshine give depth to the scene which is why I stopped to enjoy it.  Photography as art is dependent on the contrasts between light and shadows to capture beauty.

The picture below was on the island of Maui in September, 2010.  The temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius).  Shorts and tee shirt were all that was needed. The white underfoot was sand.  And you know what?  The sun sets in Maui too – that’s what the photo shows.  It’s not always sunny there.  I enjoy a beautiful sunset wherever I am.

Hawaii.  Always warm, right?  Well, not quite.  Hawaii boasts a variety of climates.  Above is sunset at the beach, sea level.   In the picture below, still on Maui, we climbed to the top of the volcano, Haleakala, 10,000 feet above sea level.  Still Hawaii, sun was shining brightly.  The temperature?  A cold 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius)!    I had 2 short sleeve shirts on – as much as I packed for Hawaii.  The park ranger said I would freeze – but, hey, the temperature was above freezing.  I was on vacation in Hawaii in September – some had winter coats on – yes in Hawaii, but they don’t usually show you those photos in travel brochures.  We were way above the tree line, so no trees for the sun to shine through.  We were above the cloud line too, so we are looking down on the clouds below.   The photo goes to show that even on a cloudy day, that sun is still shining above.   Even at this height, just like everywhere else on earth, nightfall came.  The earth turned and the sun was lost from sight.

One more back in Dayton, Ohio.  Temperature was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).  One sweatshirt was enough for me.   It was November, 2010.  One doesn’t even have to leave home to see true beauty in creation.  The sun shines brightly across the earth for all to enjoy.

The pictures above were taken at different times of the year in very different locations on our planet.   But the simple truth remains, the temperature on the sun’s surface was not at all changed by my location.  Beauty was there to see, and even to capture in a photograph.   And the sun shone brightly despite the change in latitude and longitude.  God generously and freely distributes that sunshine across His creation for all to enjoy.  Thanks be to God.  Even on the foggiest of days, that distant sun remains unchanged by our weather – it is we who cannot see that truth.  It doesn’t even have to be warm for us to see and enjoy the light of the sun.  Below the sun is there, though the fog tempers our experience of it.  This was in March of 2009.  The scene now exists only in photographs and memories – construction (progress?) tore all the trees down in 2010.

I saw some great sunrises in Charleston, South Carolina as well.  As the earth turned on its axis, the sun appeared to rise up right out of and over the Atlantic Ocean.  It was another wonderful sunny scene.  but the temperatures that December day in 2009 were about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 degrees Celsius).  And whether (or weather) they like to admit it or not those sunny southern locals wore winter coats and furry hats as they walked along the beach.  I had my hooded sweatshirt on.  The temperature may be an objective fact, how we experience it is completely subjective. 

 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun.  (Ecclesiastes 11:7)

Giving Hope to Someone Who has Lost It

Jesus healing a blindman

Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging.  And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant.  So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.  (Luke 18:35-43)

Sometimes to imitate Jesus requires us to stop and listen to a cry for help that otherwise is lost in teh bustle of the crowd and noise of every day life.   It is in our power to imitate Jesus.   To imitate our Lord is to stop and listen to one who is in need.  To imitate Jesus is to give hope to someone that their voice is heard, that someone cares about them.  We don’t have to give sight to the blind, we can give them hope.   We may not be able to cure what ails each person, but we can let them know that  we care.  We can listen for the cries of the needy and to their pleas to assure them that they are in fact beloved of God.  We can wipe away tears from the eyes of the suffering, even if we cannot take away their pain.  We can notice them and affirm their importance by taking time from our busy lives – from all that is important to us – and making their existence important to our lives.  We affirm the sanctity of human life when we treat the humans we encounter in life as important to our own well being.   As Metropolitan Anthony Bloom said:

” …And I think that if we became even small light – if we became nothing but a small handful of salt that prevents corruption – if we could bring a little hope to the hearts of people who have lost all hope, a little faith in the sense of trust and faithfulness and knowledge of God, a little love, we would be fulfilling our vocation.  This is what we should bring, each of us perhaps a crumb, all of us all we possess, and express this in the readiness to give without asking any return.”   (Crow, Gillian, This Holy Man:  Impressions of Metropolitan Anthony, pg 159)