Today’s Blessing (4.27)

From a random church page.

Blessed are You, O’LORD our G_D, King of the universe, Creator of all things for being in all things.

Blessed are You, O’LORD our G_d, King of the universe, Creator of all things for being through all things.

Blessed are You, O’LORD our G_d, King of the universe, Creator of all things for dwelling in our midst.

(Thoughts from my wife) This was the meditation from Henri Nouwen for Wednesday, April 27:

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus… Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognizing him… But while he was with them at table he took bread and said the blessing; …and their eyes were opened and the recognized him. …They said to each other ‘did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us…?’. (Luke 24)  
Nouwen’s commentary on this was remembering the resurrection, and how it affects our daily lives; a good reminder.  But my thoughts immediately went to a different place:
How often does Jesus walk up beside us, and we don’t recognize Him?

The best, most honoring way we can remember the resurrection is to look for Jesus all around us.  See Him and seek Him in the faces of the downtrodden, the weak, the poor, the helpless.  Offer love.  Be a blessing.  Usher in His kingdom by treating every stranger walking beside us on the road as the very image of G_d we are searching for.

>Soul Bowling, Hat Hammers & Love Funnels

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In keeping with my theme of “backing talkwards”, I continue to chip away at finding what sin is not (in hopes of narrowing down what it is). Here is #3:

3. Sin is not what we were designed for- “God is love.” (1 John 4:8). If read correctly; this quote is big, profound and intense. I believe we can dwell on those three words for our entire lives and never really understand how many questions they answer, how many problems they solve, how much hope they inspire or how humble we should be. It also defines our purpose too.

Read the beginning of Genesis again. The very first action verb we see is that God “created”. Remember, God is love. It’s a lesson by example. Love is creative. It’s active, progressive and inventive. As designed in his image, I believe we were meant to continue the spread of his love by following his instruction to be the stewards of the earth (Genesis 2:15, Hebrews 2:6-8, Psalm 8).

Stewards are caretakers of someone else’s property.

But, we’ve ignored the example of creativity. For instance; we begrudgingly interpret the 10 commandments as rules to bind us. We should rather see them as restrictions that propel us to focus on being more creative about love (so we don’t “miss the mark”). They’re kinda like bumper bowling for the soul or a love-funnel (for all you hippies out there).

It’s important to know our purpose. Folks whine constantly about seeking the meaning of life. There. You got it in chapter one. We were built to creatively release and expand love (but instead we desired to capture and collect it).

We were deputized to oversee the care of Gods creation. It’s a blessed responsibility. This notion is furthered in Psalm 24:1: “The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it”. We weren’t designed to own it ourselves and see if we could handle it in some weird test. We weren’t designed to improve it. We weren’t made to decide for ourselves what to do with it. No. It’s his. We are to be loving custodians. We were blessed to love our work.

In Leviticus 25, God gives uber-specifics of how to best care for ourselves and the land assigned to us. These instructions (as well as many other scriptures on tithing, farming, sacrificing, etc.) indicate that we were intended to display certain attributes like saving, sharing, rationing, planning, waiting, and faith (These correlate well with the writings that love is patient, kind, non-envious, etc. in 1st Corinthians)

We’re made for one thing, but being used for another. Is it any wonder that a good understanding of sin evades us? We weren’t meant to understand it. Is it any wonder that we over-fear sin? Everyone fears the unknown and sin is most foreign to our core. Is it any wonder that we suffer due to sin? Put leaded gas in a car designed for unleaded, you will see suffering in metaphor.

In returning to 1st Corinthians, we see in the start (Vs 1-3) that even if many great and noble things are achieved, none of them matter at all without having love. Is it any clearer that we were geared for this one thing? Yet we usurped the design for our own wants. It’s like pounding a nail with a hat or carving water with a knife or cleaning windows with a rock. Using something for other than it’s intended only ruins it’s real purpose.

To sum it up; God is Love. That love is perfectly actively creative. We and the earth are one result. We are designed to respond and interact with God. The only response to omnipotent pure love is worship and obedience. We were instructed to be caretakers, savers and sharers. It was a perfect design. We diverted from it. We desired to be consumers, blamers, and takers instead. We suffer. We allow others to suffer. We struggle to understand all this. Obedience would be a proxy for understanding if only we would embrace it. Unfortunately, that’s not our nature anymore. We are sickened with sin.

Genesis 2:7 says “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” If we are to take care of the earth and man is molded from the earth, aren’t we designed to be stewards of each other? Doesn’t this explain the scriptures continued theme of serving, protecting and giving? Doesn’t this explain the mystery we feel as we try to comprehend the meaning of serving any purpose other than our design?

“Love…always protects.” Paul, 1 Corinthians. We should get more creative as mandated.

If sin is not what we were designed to understand then the logical reaction is to obey the one who does understand all things. Like children, we should always be curious to learn, yet never rely on knowing everything prior to submitting to our higher loving authority.

>Mountains, Moonshiners and Malignancy

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From the hills of Kentucky and across the Big Sandy River into the most isolated portions of West Virgina, a complex relationship was born long ago and still continues today. The ‘shiners noticed a growth in demand whenever the local preachers gave hard sermons on drinking. The hollers were small so no one wanted to be seen buying it; instead they purchased the backwoods goods. However, the more they drank, the guiltier they felt and therefore they attended church more regularly for “Heaven-pass” assurances of forgiveness and “fire and brimstone” pep-guilt talks. 

The Moonshiners promoted the unreasonable expectations of the church as it drove folks to drink in secret more. The church was dependent on drunken regrets to increase attendance and sin-offerings. Both publicly blamed each other for the town-folks unhappiness, yet they were necessary for each others benefit and existence. This beneficiary relationship between rivals has been termed a “Baptists and bootleggers” scenario.

In continuing with my theme of identifying what sin is not, I present to you my second “Not”:

2. Sin is not benign (neither are we)- I was raised modern evangelical, I guess. In hindsight, my mentors seemed to minimize the importance of the Old Testament (presenting as “past tense”), and magnify the New Testament as a replacement to make the original writings more of an obsolete back story. I kinda even worry that we will now overcompensate for the next generation before we rally to view it as “The Testament” and let it flow as equal in relevance in every way. My point is this though; it had once steered me to view sin as old news that I need not attend to.

But sin is active and interactive. It’s insatiable and hungry to separate us from God’s law (1 John 3:4). It’s never satisfied (Romans 7:5). It does not stagnate or plateau. It can grow, compound and fester (James 1:15 ). It can be inspired or inflamed by spiritual influences beyond our capacity of understanding (1 John 3: 8-10). Sin is an aggressor on the offense (Romans 7:23 ).

Let’s not get too comfortable being the victims though. We’re not passive in this. It’s a sickness by invitation only. With knowledge comes choice. The “tree of knowing” quite possibly was our moment of owning responsibility. Sin, to me, appears symbiotic. Chickens and eggs, you know? Sin is nothing to us without our behaviors, nature and flesh as a vessel. Our unholy tendencies are nothing without the vulture-like persistence of sin.

I think we choose mutuality with sin. It is ever-consuming and we are ever-drawn to it (John 8:44 , Romans 7:15). You may notice that the Ten Commandments do not read as unfortunate victimizations. Imagine; “Thou shalt not be forced to kill”, “Thou shalt not be tricked into coveting” or “Though shalt not be manipulated into stealing”. No they read as directives to people who have investment of choice and behavior. Sin is prowling but we own our consummation with it.

I think we have a Baptists and bootleggers relationship with sin. We often blame it as an outside party rather than claim it as a partnership. This discounts our requirement to mind our ways. We devalue our debt simply because we’ve heard that it’s already been paid for. Conversely, sin benefits from “blaming” us by omission. The sick relationship is empowered when we over-fear it (though we have been redeemed) because helplessness induces laziness and hopelessness inspires carelessness.

I don’t mean to present sin as a conscience being (that sounds like a whole ‘nother topic) but as a fuel that means little without a willing vessel. It sits in our tank, yet we must admit to turning the key.

As a non-stationary state that just exists; it’s vague yet complex. Sin’s not dependent on being deliberate, known, inspired, an action or even known of. It can be all of those things though. It’s sometimes just the thought of an action or even an inaction (Matthew 5:21-30). 

In the flesh, we all see the effects of sickness in this world, but we wouldn’t even need a word for it if everyones body was perfectly healthy at all times. It’s defined only in contrast to health. It has many forms and degrees of consequence. But, it “is” only because of what it’s “not”.

Does sickness actually exist other than being “non-health”? Illness is nothing without a body to corrupt. It’s certainly still assertive though, aint it? Similarly, is sin not just any state of being non-Godly? Does sin “be” outside of corrupting our connection to God’s love? I don’t know, but am curious as to other thoughts. 

Either way, it is malignant and should be treated as such. So even though sin is not easy to define (see my “Not” #1), it is still defin-able, worth trying and worth allowing the definition to evolve further.