Weekly Word Blog - Bill's comments on the coming weekend's scriptures posted each Tuesday

The Lord said to Moses, "I have let you see the Promise Land with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there."

From Mount Pisgah’s Lofty Height

Many of us will have tasks where we do the work, but don't get to enjoy the victory.  Moses' story is like that. He did everything God asked him to do, but he didn't get to go into the Promised Land.

Pentecost 21
The vehicle that gets us across the desert is deserted at Mt Pisgah
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's... - Jesus

Religion and Politics

How do we separate religion and politics? I think Jesus would tell us to do our duty in each sphere. On the religious side of the coin, we worship and study the scriptures so that we might know God’s will for our lives. On the political side of the coin, we vote, become involved in social concerns, etc.

Pentecost 20
Unfortunately, too many people think the US is for Christians only
Matthew 22:15-22
The people [of God] sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. - Exodus 32:6

Love the One You’re With — NOT!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I call, primary relationships. Our relationship with God is one. Other primary relationships include our parents, spouse, siblings, and those we enter into a covenantal relationship with. These are the cables that anchor our lives. 

Pentecost 23
Steven Stills sings, "Love the one you're with."
Exodus 32:1-14
You shall have no other gods before me.

The Secular Part of the 10 Commandments

Before we go hanging Moses' Ten Commandments in our courthouses, we best understand them. God did not tell Moses to go back to Egypt and make the worshipers of Osiris and Nut to obey these new rules. It would be like asking the average American to learn the rules of cricket. The people of the Exodus were the target audience for these laws because they had been baptized into faith at the Red Sea.

Pentecost 18
The goal is to practice all 10 ourselves, and share #6 through #10
Exodus 20:1-17
"By what authority are you doing these things," the religious leaders asked Jesus

Question Authority?

When the coronavirus arrived, the authority of the medical experts, such as those working at the CDC and at the WHO, came into direct confrontation with the authority of the President of the United States. Who had higher status as an authority?

Pentecost 17
Christ was arrested for refusing to bow to certain authorities
Matthew 21:23-32
Everyone complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness - Exodus 16:2

Wilderness Lessons

Most of us are detail-oriented. Yet, most soul growth is "big picture" in nature. We need a real awakening to switch lenses, to go from macro to wide-angle.

Pentecost 16
The grasshopper's compound eyes enable him to see all around him
Exodus 16:2-15
Luke 10:25-37

Lift Every Voice

Lift ev'ry voice and sing
'Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea...

The struggle goes on
Exodus 14:19-31
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" - Jesus

Church vs Cult

In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about the nature of community. Communities are built on mutual trust and respect. It’s okay to question the leader. Group discussion is encouraged. There is total transparency. Your family, your social club, your workplace, and especially your church, should never become a cult.

Pentecost 14
Labor Day
You know your place by the sash you've earned, reverend
Matthew 18
“I will go over and see this strange sight..." - Moses

Awareness

Moses at the burning bush became aware. Awareness is never optional. The pedestrian who is so glued to their iPhone that they step into traffic will one day be hit. God places these wake-up moments into our lives.

Pentecost 13
Would any of us turn aside if a bush burned beside us
Exodus 3:1-15
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.

How Slavery Begins

But then a fool became Pharaoh. The ethical standards that Joseph taught were abandoned. The nation began to betray its allies. Economic systems were put in place that gave wealth to a few elites and impoverished the common citizen. Hebrews became slaves.

Pentecost 12
It's exhausting to be on top. It's wrong to be put down.
Exodus 1:8-2:10
Genesis 41:46-47
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

Looking for Unity

What have I learned in fifty years? There can be no unity without Justice — that is the free and fair access to housing, jobs, and equal protection under the law. There can be no unity without integration — we need to learn to live and worship with people who are different from us. There can be no unity without awareness.

Pentecostt 11
Peaceful protest April 7, 1968
Psalm 133
When some Midianite traders passed by, the brothers drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him for twenty pieces of silver.

Joseph and the Next Generation

I have come to believe that God is the God of change, history, and progressively expanding ethics. God nudges us forward. The moral code of one generation is meant to be superseded by the next.

Pentecost 10
Imagine if Wallmart had offered to buy your brother
Genesis 37
Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Jacob learns about faith the tough way. He gets into one scrape after another. Some of them are his own fault. God sees him through. But I think God also wants Jacob to learn to how to live compassionately.

Pentecost 9
Being part of a group shouldn't cause us to lose our common sense
Genesis 32:22-31
When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me?

Do Morals Change?

When Jesus says that all the commandments hang upon loving God and our neighbor, I am reminded that both male and female were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that my closest neighbors are women. The story of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 29:15-28) demonstrates the inhumanity of blindly following the two ancient principles listed above while rejecting Jesus’ call to compassion.

Pentecost 8
You wouldn't live in a tent - why live with ancient morals?
Genesis 29:15-28
Surely the LORD is in this place--and I did not know it! - Jacob

Jacob Moments

No place is God-forsaken. When we feel far from any spiritual support for our new adventure, God is there. Angels descending around us, we just don’t see them.

Pentecost 7
The great depression put many Americans in a God-forsaken place
Genesis 28:10-19
Listen! A sower went out to sow... - Jesus

Funny Kind of Farming

We are now in the midst of summer and a pandemic. The very atmosphere seems to be saying, “take your time. Breathe slowly. Wear a mask. Stay at home. Read a book.” This should be good for our souls. But, it's not.

Pentecost 6
Flowers and insects are far more beautiful than they need to be
Matthew 13:1-9
We played the flute for you, and you did not dance... - Jesus

Work and Play

As we adapt to our personal misfortunes, we ought to gain wisdom to respond to the misfortunes of others. Our first response to a crisis may be to say, “why is this happening to me?” Religion offers another response: What can I learn?

Pentecost 5
How do we adapt? Will some changes become permanent?
Matthew 11:16-19

What I've Learned about Religion

I once had a church member tell me that it was the preacher’s job to make her feel guilty. Is that what motivates your sacrifice today? Guilt? Religion can either be about putting things of greater and greater value upon the altar, or it can be about living with compassion, curiosity, and a willingness to go where the spirit leads us. 

Pentecost 8
The binding of Isaac - Caravaggio
Genesis 22:1-14
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul - Jesus

Why was Jesus Hated

Much like the serenity prayer, Jesus encourages us to change the political systems that we can change, to remain nonviolent, reluctantly accepting the limitations of human sin and political failure, and to pray for the wisdom to know the difference. If we do this well, we will be persecuted.

Pentecost 3
Accepting what is wrong may short-change your soul
Matthew 10:24-39
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them

Jesus with the Crowds

When the law and order police state headed by Pontius Pilate put Jesus on the cross, his disciples knew that they would share his fate if they walked with those who protested. Because, in a system of systemic racism and inequity, those in high places have an investment in keeping the system just the way it is. If you tell them that the system is unjust, they will crucify you. 

Pentecost 2
Black Lives Matter
American Democracy depends upon the corrective of public Protest
Matthew 9:35-10:23
Matthew 5:3-12

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