October 30, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“ Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.” (Acts 8.9-13)
Imagine a man standing with a ram’s horn on the top of your house. Hear the long blast and then the staccato quick and short blasts. The warning has been sounded and the word has been given. It serves notice to the enemy, we are prepared. It serves notice to the faithful, be strong in the Lord. It defines the time as now and the space as here and the purpose as that of the presence of God’s faithfulness which shall endure to all generations.
Friday, I asked “What does the shofar sound like for you in today’s world?” While many may have actually heard the shofar or perhaps the bugler’s call (thank goodness for western movies, even spaghetti westerns), I propose there are other “shofar” soundings which the Church must use. Such soundings are like the double-edged sword Paul alludes to in his writing to the Hebrew converts pursuing what we might call today Messianic Christianity, or the Way. He wrote in Hebrews 4.12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” We know this from 2 Timothy 3. 16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” Paul has in mind the power of the breath which God has breathed into us from the very beginning of creation. It is the same power which was breathed over the “disciples” in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit as the “speaking of the word of God which transforms death into life.” It would seem that we have been ordained for good works before our life began because that is what God’s word says. (Ephesians 2.10) And what might those good works be? Well, those in the world can come up with a huge list of “good” works. But, as I see “good” as that which God intends and purposes for His glory, my list and understanding of what God has created us for is different. The world’s practice, for me, falls into the same category as the voluminous declaration of the “Law” established by the scribes and pharisees which numbers over 1600 in order to validate the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments which hinged upon the Shema, or the two Great Commandments. In the desire for perfection, the world makes the simple truth complex and even more impossible to achieve. But, that is not the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Jesus Christ focused on the primary function of humankind as God designed, formed and infused with His Holy breath. I call that process biblical creation. And I say “biblical creation” because a creative person can and has, we see the evidences of it everywhere through arts and technology, designed, formed and created things which can mimic life, reflect life and inspire living but cannot provide for the “heart, mind and soul” of God who is the author of all creation. In the Old Testament, it is a “biblical creation” as explained in the first two chapters of Genesis. However, in the New Testament, it is “being born again in Spirt and in truth” (read Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in John, chapter 3) and “the renewal of your mind over and against conforming to the thinking of the world” (read Paul’s word to the Christ followers in Rome in Romans 12.2) that becomes the understanding of “biblical creation” where all things are made new: no sorrow, no crying, no death, no pain (read the affirmation of the King of kings in Revelation 21.8+). So, there is a difference between a “creative spirit” and the “spirt of creation.” One such evidence of that is found in the passage of scripture from the Gospel of the Church: The Acts of the Apostles presented as the text for today’s reflection.
In that story of Simon the Sorcerer, we see him using the spirit of creation to perform magic (illusionary works). It was a great finance generator and resource for supporting his way of life. The people who came to see his magic were amazed and rewarded him with their money, goods and devotion. Some even declared that he was “the Great Power of God.” Hmmm, I think we have heard of something similar with “I AM the Great and Powerful Oz.” Dangerous ground to walk on. It is more like thin ice to me! But, when Philip appeared in Samaria after his conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch along the desert road leading out of Jerusalem to Ethiopia following that powerful Pentecost experience and preached the gospel of Jesus as the Christ- things changed. People were transformed by the renewal of their minds. So powerful was the “double-edged sword” of God’s word, that even Simon himself was convinced, convicted and conscripted to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Philip’s preaching, for me, was another “sounding of the shofar” to alert the enemy of his defeat and the faithful of their victory in Jesus.
And it would stand to reason, I propose, that Satan- the fallen Lucifer is another example except in the opposite direction. Lucifer was created by God with the awesome power of worship and praise through music and song. At one time all Heaven was led to honor and glorify God by the gift of leadership granted to Lucifer. As we know “God can work all things together for good.” However, we may well declare that Satan- the cast out Lucifer “desires to work all things for evil.” Paul writes in Romans 4.17 ” God speaks of things that are not as though they are.” It speaks of the promise of God made to Abraham due to his faithfulness to God that he will become a “father of nations.” It was no magic spell, incantation nor manipulation of reality (as that which Sarah did with Hagar in order to present Abraham with a son and thus “soothe” her conscience and thereby “fulfill” God’s promise.) God’s promise was not an act of “smoke and mirrors” made only to Abraham. God’s promise of fulfillment was intended to include Sarah as well. But what then of Satan? It could easily be said of him and his “work” that the contradiction to God’s word is his description. Satan speaks of “things that are as if they are not.” He did it in the Garden of Eden convincing Eve and thereby Adam that death would not come to her, and by extension- them, if she denied the word of God and ate the only fruit forbidden to them. He did it again many times, I am sure, after that but we see it poignantly in the temptations of Jesus following His baptism by John and His blessing by God at the Jordan River. Satan offered Jesus three different levels of power as if Jesus did not possess such power already: the power of creating sustenance, the power to control God and the power of world dominion and domination. Jesus refuted each declaration with one of His own by quoting scripture and thus wielding the double-edged sword of God’s word or sounding the shofar. He showed Himself as One who “took to the wall and filled the gap.” He resisted the Devil and the devil fled. It is the same promise made real for us when we follow Jesus’ lead as we hear in James 4.7.
It is time for us, mighty ones of God, to do exactly that. It is no simple thing to dabble in the world of fantasy and the fantasized world. As I have said “bad decisions result in dire consequences.” We are led to believe that a little magic is not a danger. We promote witches, goblins, monsters, unsatisfied ghosts (the remnant of the unhappy dead with unfinished life agendas), zombies, etc. as harmless play and simply being “creative.” We embrace an entire pagan holiday and then pervert its meaning in order to create an entire financial windfall for some which this year will total over 5 billion dollars. I can only imagine how that amount of money could be used for good instead of promoting evil. And it is evil. The shofar is sounded. We practice the hope of magic, the manipulation of persons and things to create the illusion of supernatural power. We fantasize about being something we are not instead of embracing who and what we are in the eyes of God. We have fostered the development of an entire culture and climate which idolizes violence as a righteous passion and work of the Lord. Is there little wonder why the crime rate is skyrocketing? Is there little wonder why the attempts to eliminate the next generation are on the rise? Is there little wonder why the desire to convince others that there is no God or heaven or hell (this is the offspring of the failed God is dead movement) is so prevalent? But, we in the Church act so casual about it and even fall into the trap of “well, everyone is entitled to their opinion” while the Church basically is keeping its opinion to itself. Is this not “speaking of something that is as if it is not”? That type of thinking does not lead to the prosperity of future generations being blessed by a gracious, loving and determined God who shows mercy and reconciliation and a holy desire to make all things new. It leads to the end of all generations and the recruiting of the lost into the realm of eternal death.
Tomorrow is here, mighty ones of God. Satan is alive and sin-fecting. We must not only resist but promote the resistance. We dare not fall into the byword of the Empire which declares “Resistance is futile.” Resistance is our God-given duty for which we have been created. Two things God has made for us to do: resist the devil and his evil temptations to love self before, over and instead of God; and to shepherd, steward and care for God’s creation by building up one another with our gifts, talents and abilities until we reach the full measure and stature of Jesus the Christ in whose image we have been created. Preach the word, speak the truth, love one another, sound the shofar, wield the double-edged sword, put on the full armor of God and live as the world can never hope to live! Shalom.
You are the One True God and there is no greater than You. You have made us in Your divine image and blessed us with Your Holy Spirit and saved us by Your Only Begotten Son. We owe our lives to You. We commit ourselves to be the shofar speaking into the world the truth in love, faith and hope. We will resist the urge to conform to the world and instead be transformed by renewal of our minds with the training of the gospel and the practice of fulfilling the greatest commands in all the world. We do this in Jesus’ name. AMEN and AMEN.