Here’s a shot from the retreat I did last weekend about meditation and the Law. Taking Psalm 119 as our guide, we began listing words related to meditating upon the testimonies (10 Commandments) of God.
I think the 10 Commandments reveal God’s wisdom for living in the land. Jesus fulfills the 10 words and then through the cross makes a way for the 10 words to be written in our hearts by the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am thinking that we can look through these commands and begin to see God’s wisdom at work on multiple levels. For example, We can look through two commands at once to find interesting implications about how the blessed life looks.
We are commanded to take Sabbath, 6 days of work, 1 day of rest and remembrance. Rest is rooted in the 6 day creation and 7th day of rest (enjoyment). Remembrance is the discipline to remember God’s provision for delivering His people from Egypt (slavery through wilderness to Promised Land). So we have two rhythms: 6 days of work, 1 day of celebration; and Egypt-Wilderness-Promised Land (or Death-Burial-Resurrection).
Now think of Sabbath in relation to the command, “Do not commit adultery.” This is the blessing of covenantal relationship. The slave mindset moves from relation to relation without the capacity to enter into permanent relationship. The free man can enter into covenant with another free woman for covenantal love.
Sabbath can shine light on fulfilling the covenant. 6 days to create and then celebrate. God creates and then enjoys the creation. In particular, He creates a world for His special love: Adam (and Eve) created in the image of God. So he works for 6 days to prepare the relationship and then takes a 7th day to celebrate.
We work to form and maintain the relationship, but we also must pause regularly to rest/enjoy/celebrate the gift of relation. This might be a meal, a day, a weekend. Time set aside to rest and enjoy. But also to remember. Sometimes the relationship goes through testing (wilderness). During the wilderness, we rest and remember the gift of covenant.
This rhythm of work and rest/remember is in contrast with adultery, which is work with no rest. It goes from one romance (working to create) to another romance (working to create) to another romance. Some people confuse romance for enjoyment, but romance is actually a precursor, a developmental stage for the long-term enjoyment (sabbath) of covenantal relationship. Those who move from romance to romance to romance will never know the fruit of covenantal love that blossoms after years of slow growth.
Jesus comes as the Messiah, the true King of Israel who serves with his life. He brings us into the land and fulfills the Law. Listen to a description from Deuteronomy 17 of the good king:
14 “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
I am thinking it would be interesting to work through each aspect of the king’s responsibility in relation to the law and find Jesus fulfillment in the NT. Some jump out immediately. Then how does this relate to the land (world) today as we serve the good King?
I preparing for a retreat on the Law (and the Ten Commandments in particular). I am looking at law through a variety of lenses. While many of these overlap, there are nuances worth exploring that makes it helpful to create distinctions. Here are the lenses I am thinking of right now. If anyone has other lenses that might helpful to consider, I’d love to hear them:
I am slow. No wonder my middle school principal suggested that “college was probably not right for me.” It takes me a while to get it. So when I started exploring Leopard last fall, I didn’t the benefits of the “spaces.” I move through applications like the old pc guy that I am (apple-tab). But when I have ten applications running, accidentally clicking off the edge of window throws me from document window (where I’m writing a reflection on hope, love, peace, and all that stuff) to my flock window (where some guy is playing the star wars theme with hand farts).
Spaces gives bounadaries to these disparate worlds that may or may not should overlap. After watching a sales presentation yesterday where the speaker was jumping through spaces like an Olympic web surfer, I came up and started associating apps with spaces.
Now I’ve got plenty of space to roam with the wily Leopard.
Just because a gift comes with “no strings attached” does not mean that it is a better gift than one “with strings attached.” A gift can come as an expression of invitation to a deeper relationship. By deeper relationship, I am indicating some greater level of exchange in shared intimacy. The gift of an engagement ring is an invitation to a deeper relationship with greater levels of intimacy.
If the invitation is a welcome one, the person receiving the gift delights in the “strings attached.” This is a way for me to being thinking through the idea of covenantal gifts.
The ten commandments come not as a weight but as gifts of life (invitations to relation) with expectations of responsibility. This covenantal picture in the commandments is sometimes pictured as a marriage between Israel and YHWH. Thus the imagery in Isaiah and other places of the marraige with God’s people (and in the New Testament as the bride of Christ).
As I read Psalm 119 in relation Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 1, I meditation expanding from a reflection or prayerful study upon the Word of God to a life immersed (sitting, walking, lying, rising) in the Word of God (and in particular the 10 commandments). Meditation happens not simply in the mind/emotions but in the hands, the eyes, and the feet.
The Word moves toward incarnation. The pattern is all through Scripture. God speaks and His Word creates a world. “All things were made through Him (Logos/Word), and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). Meditation soaks, speaks, walk, acts and even sleeps the Word. The Ten Commandments (or Ten Words) are not ideas but that takes shapes from our thoughts into our bodies. Jesus, the Word made Flesh, reveals the Law, the Commands, the Word sitting, walking, lying and rising.
One of His big complaints against the Pharisees is that they only talk about the Word, they don’t do it. “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3).
Meditation seems much deeper than simply reflecting, studying, praying through the Word. It seems to point to enfleshing the Word.
Today all things have become new. The old world has passed away. The old powers have fallen aside. The old ways have come to an end.
The heavens and the earth came crashing down as Jesus of Nazareth hung upon the cross. The darkness crushed the light and thought it had won. The darkness crushed the light and evil triumphed over good. The darkness consumed the light like a lion devours its prey. By consuming the light, the darkness is itself consumed.
Jesus enters into the heart of darkness but it cannot hold Him. Light conquers darkness. Life conquers death. Jesus conquers evil and the old world passes away.
Behold in Jesus Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, full of love and glory. Today is a day for rejoicing. Just as Adam and Eve play in the Garden of Eden, let us rejoice in the garden of this new creation. Let us play and dance and sing and joy—for evil has lost.
Even now it is passing. It is passing. It is passing away. Don’t cling to the world that passes. But dance in the new creation. Rejoice in the love made manifest. Sing before Jesus our Savoir.
Blessings to you all my dear friends! This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Every year I love to revisit this Resurrection Day sermon from St. John Chrysostom (c.349-407), one of the greatest preachers of all time; his name, in fact, means “Golden Mouth.”
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
Lucinda captures a certain grief in the fading of old relationships with her song “Out of Touch.”
Once in awhile we might pass on the street
We nod we smile and we shuffle our feet
Making small talk standing face to face
Hands in our pockets cause we feel so out of place
This simple song reveals the uncomfortable feelings of relationships that have lost the reciprocity of life. No more shared stories, no more share love, no more shared pain. There is a fading past but no hope of a shared future. Lucinda describes minor details of a meeting between two people who once knew each other to magnify the sense of loss.
Our paths may cross again in some crowded bar
We feel a little lost cause we’ve drifted away so far
Hoping to find the right words to say
We joke a little and then go on our way
The uncomfortable laughter covers our loss. Without the living memories of shared life there simply isn’t much to say. And so,
We speak in past tense and talk about the weather
Half broken sentences we try to piece together
Even the pain of physical death and suicide becomes simply information submerged beneath this cry out into the emptiness of lost love.
I ask about an old friend that we both used to know
You said you heard he took his life about five years ago
As she utters the final lines, I feel the ache of loss inside. I am made aware of friends that I once dreamed beside who have become simply another person in another car going to another place.
We may pass each other on the interstate
We honk and cross over to the other lane
Everybody’s going somewhere everybody’s inside
Hundreds of cars hundreds of private lives
We are so out of touch yeah
And as I grieve the lost relationships from yesterday, I ache for restoration and world where love never fades.
After I started writing these posts, I didn’t really like the title and wanted to change it, but I’ve already started. I see God’s blessing pouring out from large and small churches, from Reformed and Pentecostal not to mention Liturgical churches. His Sovereign love and redemptive power cannot be limited by our frail and failing attempts to “solve” His church problem.
We cannot domesticate the divine through our structure, rationality or emotional encounters. Rather, we can only lift up hands and hearts of thanksgiving for His unflinching faithful love to the faithless, stumbling saints who walk toward glory.
And yet, I don’t think it wrong to question and challenge and seek to be a people and a church that is always reforming by the continuing light that shines out from His Word. I believe we live in a time between times. The world has not seen such drastic challenges since waning of the Middles Ages. As the Crusades and the Black plague and the shifting patterns in Western Europe shook the whole framework of medieval life and thought, God worked in and through His people to bring change. A new articulation of the future came through Martin Luther. His song echoed and developed in the growing chorus of other saints who stretched forward to the future God was creating.
God worked in mighty ways through the modern world that was to emerge. But time came for His judgment upon the excesses and arrogance of the modern world. And the 20th century experienced the devastating blows of war and destruction as the modern world crumbled before the face of modern engineers who finally figured out a way to create paradise without God.
I believe we are living in time between times as we weight (and wait) for a new articulation that leads God’s people (and the world) forward as a reforming people rooted in the every living Word. What some call post-modernism is more like remains of modern failure. The new time we are being stretched toward will continue the movement of God’s Spirit that transforms and blesses creation through the frail people of God.
Continuity in Time (and space)
With those thoughts, I would suggest that one of the great challenges for the church (large or small) is to find continuity in time (and space). We’ve grown up as heirs of Descartes (and others) who decided we don’t need anyone before us. There is a difference between subjecting tradition to the judgment of God’s Word and rejecting tradition altogether. Many of us grew up in churches that lost their memory and functioned as atemporal islands.
Today some have started looking backwards, grasping at various rituals from the past and hoping to resurrect some ancient experience of God that is older than this morning’s cup of Starbucks. This is good but is a bit chaotic and can sometimes create a mix-mash of rituals that may be another way we try to domesticate God.
I think the church is challenged with watching and listening to the developing story in Scripture of God’s people. When YHWH appears to Moses, He is the God of the Fathers. In others words, He appears as the faithful keeper of the covenant. As Israel emerges from the dust of Egypt, she consistently is challenged to remember the story. By the time Jesus comes, He is coming to a story of redemption that is deep in the memory of God’s people (recounted and re-enacted through feasts and festivals, sacrifices and Sabbaths).
Jesus breaks the bread and pours the wine and tells the disciples to do this in “Remembrance of Me.” The temporal continuity continues. They are called to be God’s blessing to the world and as they go out into all the world, they are called to continually remember who they are.
We must listen to the Scripture and learn ways to remember. First and foremost by the breaking of the Word and Sacrament. We are part of a people who God has called out to bless the whole world. We are not isolated islands. Somehow, we must relearn to remember who we are and who went before us. Somehow we must learn to retell Biblical history as well as Church history. We are connected with God’s people across time and space.
Our struggles at church are not about figuring out how to fix what all the other folks ruined, but to consider one another above ourselves. If I just decide to leave church and start meeting at a coffee shop, I may be simply exchanging one form of subjective interiority for another. But if I humble myself before God’s people throughout time and throughout space, I may learn to love and serve those with whom I disagree. I may be changed, humiliated. I may even learn to suffer for my enemies and love through death and beyond.
Before I actively tried to do home church, I was so certain that I knew the problems of church and knew exactly how to would correct them. Now I realize what an absolute failure I really am. By God’s grace, I continue to serve and to try to follow this call, and to trust that in spite of my arrogance that has been humiliated again and again, God is transforming me into love.
In some small way, I believe seeking merely to break open the Word and listen to God’s command, and to break the bread and drink the wine, God is at work. Changing me. Reintegrating me, the disconnected modern, into a body that has known suffering in the wilderness, that has been crushed in again and again, that has walked through the midst of a warring world, bearing the Name of Jesus, the Word of Love to the forsaken and forgotten.
And even as I am learning to remember, I trust my Father above is and does remember His people in the bread and wine, and will not forsake His people, but will create a marvel greater than anything our world has yet to fathom.