June 24, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows..” (Psalms 23.5)
In the past two days I was lead to reflect on “sitting at table with my enemies to come face to face with the mercy of God and be at peace,” where I mentioned the story of Jesus at table with Simon the Pharisee or Simon the Leper. I suggested we, as mighty ones of God and Christ followers, adopt His paradigm of living righteously. In Jesus’ understanding, teaching and modeling, living righteously followed the course of the “Great Commandments.”
- Love God with your whole self.
- Love your neighbor as if you are the neighbor.
- Love your enemies.
- Love one another who abide with you in the community of faith.
I have written on this before in this forum and on http://www.mightymenihs.org . I continue to keep this paradigm in front of me and therefore in front of those who happen to read my posts because there is no other way in which we can live that will accomplish the goal which David proposed in his “Shepherd Psalm.” The goal is clearly stated “I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever.” Whether it was a Tabernacle in Shechem, the Temple in Jerusalem, the Garden in Gethsemane, the Upper Room, the desert road to Ethiopia or Damascus or to Spain and beyond, the New Jerusalem being crafted by hands not of this world or in our prayer closets and private sanctuaries, the true “House of the Lord” is where we dwell in the midst of His Presence. Jesus declared, “Tear down this house and it will be rebuilt in three days.” How easy it would be to simply designate this saying as a prophetic utterance to the resurrection of His body. If all Jesus was speaking to was His resurrection, then it would be too easy to assume Jesus was all about Jesus. Nothing is further from the truth than that. While there is no doubt that Jesus was anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise to raise Him from the dead there should be no doubt that Jesus was addressing the community of faith that sought to dwell in the presence of God. It was a signal of covenant transition. It was a move from an old choice of understanding righteousness covered with human trappings. Those “trappings” were found wrapped neatly at the head and foot of the stone shelf where the body of Jesus of Nazareth had been laid. Death could no longer hold down, back or in fear the person of authentic faith. If it was a move from an old choice, then it must have been a move to a new choice. Without doubt, the new choice was to follow Jesus, the true Shepherd of God’s people through the valley of the shadow of death to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I propose David’s “Shepherd Psalm” was a messianic prophecy itself. By such faith as David had in the movement of God in his life, death was no longer a threat to his existence. It was but a shade of its former self. The “former self” was the separation and alienation from the mercy and grace of God- eternal death. “Eternal death” is the domain and dwelling place of Satan and his followers. It is the place where those who have surrendered their souls for a supposed worldly prosperity and the legacy of a kingdom built by human hands find themselves in. It is happening even as we read these words. We are surrounded by “the walking dead.” I am not speaking of zombies and spirits with an “unfinished agenda.” I am speaking of those who hunger and thirst for life and refuse to be satisfied by humbling themselves before God and dwell in His favor and will. They are, dwelling in valleys of the “shadow of life.” The resurrection of Jesus was not a shadow of life. It was no mere appearance of life as is a vapor or mirage. When Jesus was raised by faith, He was restored into the fullness of life which defies the confines of worldly living. What Jesus was able to do by the power of resurrection perhaps no person will be able to do this side of Heaven but we dare not say that for sure. The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch would be one such example. Paul shaking off the bite of a venomous snake whose reputation was instant pain, agony and death would be another. And there are others. By faith, they walked in the house of the Lord forever by going through the valley of the shadow of death. They were not “shadows of life.” They were “living righteously.”
In this “age of the Church” in which Jesus has established for us to dwell in and promised to be “with us” until its close, we are called to live by faith and not by sight. Furthermore, we are called to teach others how to do the same as disciples of Jesus of Nazareth who is also the Christ of God, our Messiah. Pastor Andy Stanley, in a recent interview concerning his new book which I have not yet read, proposes with boldness that “the Church has lost its understanding of what it means to be Christian.” Without having read his book yet, only excerpts, I cannot disagree with the premise of his book as stated above. It has been a process long in the making whose fruits are now being made known. I agree they are bitter fruits. I do not believe that the Church is a bitter fruit. The old saying “a rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch” certainly applies to us and to all congregations. There is a reason why Matthew records the rubric of “community of faith pruning” proposed by Jesus in chapter 18 of his gospel. We would rather, it seems, take the Old Covenant means of handling “sin and sinners” which is the scapegoat. Driven out into the wilderness, the scapegoat bore the sins of the nation while the paschal lamb was sacrificed for the righteousness of the nation to be restored. Never did work. There ended up being a whole herd of scapegoats in the wildnerness who found a shepherd of their own. It has been a dualistic/duelistic reality ever since and one is losing by attrition according to the most recent polls in America. Fewer, especially the younger and more liberal generation, believe in God and the Church as the manifestation of God’s righteousness and godly living. This is not what Jesus meant when He said “…it will be rebuilt in three days.” It is time to become what Jesus meant, intended and died for so that the truth be known undoubtedly.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, thank You for abiding in us but also calling us into accountability by Your Word of faith through Jesus our Christ in whose name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.