GOOD NEWS BROADCAST
July 7, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Paul said, ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when He said through Isaiah the prophet: Go to this people and say, ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’ For this people’s heart has become calloused, they hardly hear with their ears and they had closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn so that I would heal them.’‘” (Acts 28.25b-27)
Are we a people who are satisfied with partial truths and less than whole grace? Yesterday, I commented in closing that we should be. the Church, the body and its members, who will commit themselves to speaking the truth in love and pursuing the truth at all costs. We should be a model of discipleship who demonstrate both gladness for that which we have received and boldness for pursuing the more that is promised. I wonder if we are truly willing to “pursue the truth” at all costs?
That first cost is “love.” Jesus taught, “They will know that you are my disciples if you do this: love one another.” Somehow that command which Jesus said was a “new command” has been adopted as the eradicator of the “Great Commands” and thereby the “Lesser Command.” Untrue! If you have followed and shared in my reflections on God’s Word, you will be familiar with the priority of our “command to love: God, neighbor, self, enemies and one another who are within the community of faith.” Just as we hear Jesus declare, as recorded by John in his gospel, “I have not come to condemn (or some translations will say put aside) the Law, I have come to fulfill it,” we must extend the same consciousness to how Jesus saw the command to “love one another.” It neither precludes or excludes the other love commands. Instead, it extends around the command as the others extend upward to God and outward to self, neighbor and enemies. If I could make an argument, though linguistically I could not, I would say that loving our enemies may well be a corollary to loving ourselves. I say this, as I have said before, we can be our own worst enemies as we have been an enemy of God because of our sinfulness. It was the command, however, to “love one another within the community of faith” that Jesus chose as the benchmark for our discipleship. For Jesus, it seems this command epitomizes what it means to be truly Christian. Our pursuit of, as Paul calls it, “building up the body of Christ attaining to its fullest measure and stature which is Christ” is the template for “love one another.” Our existence in the kingdom of God on earth is bounded by our purpose to honor God and His first command to “love each other.” Where did this get said? In the relationship God created between Adam and Eve as helpmates to each other in accomplishing the good which God had called them to do.
That leads me to the second cost which is to “serve.” As the word is used in scripture, the call “to serve” invokes the practical environment of “to worship.” In many places, it is easy to see how serve and worship are interchangeable. In many translations, it actually happens. Some communities of faith participate each Sunday in what they would call “a service of worship” or a “worship service.” The call to “sabbath” is a bold challenge to humble one’s self before God and focus on Yahweh Elohim only. Is it little wonder that in the story of humankind, the “eighth day” experience is a contrast to the “seventh day”? While it probably does not happen on the “eighth day,” and I don’t hold to the literal day descriptor as some would when reading and interpreting the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, The Book of Beginnings, it is the next step in humanity’s “becoming.” When they are created, they are imbued with the high calling of serving as masters of the earth and to care for the “life economy” of all living things. We see the cultivation of a garden, the naming of the animals (which indicates an ownership of commitment) and the building of the first community which is between a man and a woman as the rubric for such service. But, none of that supercedes the call to serve and worship God. The creation of the Sabbath day is, in my understanding, the Old Testament equivalent of “love one another.” It establishes that among all other human relationships the one which honors the Sabbath and keeps it holy defines who we are as believers and followers, pursuers, of God. The story of Genesis is, in fact, the story of the becoming of Israel, God’s people. It is a part of our story as well. Jesus makes it “His-story,” too. He does so by “serving and worshipping” God first, foremost and only. He takes on the form of a servant, human flesh, and then takes on the role of a servant, lays down His life for the sake of others. I propose that our truest expression and understanding of service is “doing for others what they cannot do for themselves.” In truth, it may be a work they “could do,” but the way in which “we do it” speaks of a higher level of calling, being and becoming. Paul declares that higher level of calling is “love;” the lead trinitarian expression of the gifts of God which are: faith, hope and love. Does it not stand to reason then, mighty ones of God and followers of Christ, that putting the “triangles” alongside each other we can see easily and hear easily the parallel of “God is Love”? (We might then make an argument that “Christ is Faith” because we must have faith in Christ for our salvation and that “the Holy Spirit is Hope” because it reminds us of the blessed hope which is given to those who have been saved.)
The third cost, then, is “sacrifice.” Following the extension of Jesus’ teaching on “love and discipleship,” He says, “No greater love is there than this but that a person would lay down their life for another.” Jesus did exactly that for us: “while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.” (Romans 5.8) He showed us how great God’s love for us was in order that we be redeemed from our sin and reconciled with Him in a right relationship. lt wasn’t the first attempt to do so but it was the greatest attempt. The first sacrifice for “our” redemption came in the Garden of Eden itself. When Adam and Eve shared in succumbing to temptation invoked by the Serpent Satan, the Fallen Lucifer- the orchestrator of the service of worship in Heaven, they hid themselves because they found shame in their being naked literally, figuratively and spiritually. It was a “visual expression of an inward transformation.” In God’s desire to restore them, God provided covering “doing for them what they could not do for themselves.” What did God do? He sacrificed animals and made clothing for them that was far superior to the “fig leaf” approach to conceal themselves from the “eyes and ears” of God. Animal sacrifice was a common expression, then, in God’s humanity to symbolize worship, adoration, the petition for forgiveness as well as the thanksgiving for His mercy. It was an external approach to living righteously with one another and with God. (I propose it was lambskin which God provided and thus the spilling of the “blood of the Lamb.” It does fit the theme of our understanding of Christ, does it not, and the story of redemption throughout the Judeo-Christian history.) The second sacrifice was that of “The Law and the Prophets.” Whereas the first was an external, the second became or was intended to become an internal. Animal sacrifice lacked power if it was not understood in its proper context. We see this confusion at the onset in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain did not understand the context of Abel’s “acceptable to God” offering. In a jealous rage driven by that lack of understanding (let those with eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand, i.e. the scripture reference as Paul referred to it with his “dying breath”), Cain killed Abel. His life was spared by “a mark” which God put on him. I can’t help but believe that it was the mark of the cross made in the blood of the Lamb; but that is my telling of the story. The story of Passover demonstrates the institution of the “Law of Sacrificial Deliverance.” It became a command of love and service to God demonstrating obedience and an understanding of what God has done, will do and will establish as “done for all time.” The Law was meant to be kept in their hearts to remind them always of what God did for them in bringing them out of bondage, through the wilderness of “sin,” and into the Promised Land. It was the call to personal obedience to the will and way of God for their salvation. Sadly, the mighty ones of God did not grasp the external and internal testimony of “sacrifice” as well as they ought. There, then, had to be a third. God had gone to great lengths to serve His people to bring them to wholeness and holiness. He was, because of His great love for them, committed to provide for them all that was needed to keep the relationship real and the hope alive for their and our reconciliation. It wasn’t enough, sadly, for us because the power of sin is invasive, pervasive and persuasive. It is like an infestation of the body, mind and soul. But, it can be overcome. God commanded “I no longer desire your sacrifices.” Why? Because they had become rituals with lost meaning and purpose. They had become “religious check boxes” that only provided an “appearance” of righteousness. Even the covenant of the Law was being rendered ineffective as the people were determined to validate it by external means of property, prosperity and popularity. Toting and quoting the “word of God” became a reasonable substitute and produced a sense of entitlement to “living a godly life.” It was all window dressing which hid the true nature and character of a faithless and misunderstanding people. So, God made the eternal sacrifice and surrendered His only begotten Son on the cross in order to empty the claim of sin over us. Both the external, the Cross, and the internal, the Tomb, were emptied of their effect and affect over those who would believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God and Savior of the world. It is the transformation of the heart and mind with eyes to see and ears to hear that bring about eternal life. When Jesus died and was raised from the dead, sin was forever overcome in the believer. Yes, it would still be up to “us” to believe and put our faith in Him, but in so doing we receive the gift of life eternal and abundant as defined by kingdom living. It is there for those who are committed to “pursuing all righteousness” and who have considered the “costs” worth paying knowing the price had already been paid for our salvation. We, as people, can only offer partial truths and grace but in Christ we can have the whole truth and the fullness of God. Nothing else can satisfy this longing in our lives!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, thank You for abiding in us but also calling us into accountability by Your Word of faith. May our eyes, ears, hearts, mind, spirit and soul be wide open to the leading of Your Spirit in these troubled time. May Your freedom ring in and through us so that the good news can be broadcast into all the world for their salvation. We ask this through Jesus our Christ in whose name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.