GNB 2.7

January 8, 2023

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:

“For I desire loyalty rather than sacrifice as well as the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6.6)

“Now go and learn what this means: I desire compassion rather than sacrifice. I came to call the sinners [into God’s presence] and not the righteous.” (Matthew 9.13)

TODAY’S REFLECTION:

When does a sacrifice on our part not feel like a sacrifice? When what we are doing is out of loyalty to God and out of compassion for one another! I know you have noticed in your own life that when you are doing something you love, time passes so quickly you don’t notice it until you are done. You may feel the expenditure of energy and the challenge of effort but the true goal of accomplishment overcomes it all. Small wonder Jesus would tell His disciples, “In this world there will be trouble!” Don’t we know it! But, Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on to say, “Fear not, for I AM the overcomer of the world.” (John 16.33) And we must hold these truths to become self-evident. The intention of that phrase leads us to understand both the inevitability of our awareness of the truth and the continued practice of the truth until it is our “second nature.” In actuality, such truth is not our “second nature” but our first. Trouble comes into the world and into our lives because we parenthetically “put the cart before the horse.” We make our “second nature,” which is of the flesh, the lead for our lives. In so doing, we make our “first nature,” which is of the spirit, the load we are attempting to bear or the wagon we are trying to fill with a bountiful payload. You can certainly see that if the bounty we seek are things of this world, as God has provided, then depending on ourselves to harvest it amounts to “serving ourselves for dinner.” I mean, you have heard the phrase of “being eaten up by [fill in the blank].” But, when we put the spirit nature first then what is needed and sometimes what is desired [as it aligns with God’s will which is always for us and never against us] is provided. Not only that, but by the spirit we are able to carry the load and benefit from it with effort that rises up beyond our means. This is “the way, the truth and the life” of the spirit nature.

Bear this in mind as you read again with me the words of Jesus which frame this reflection: “Now go and learn what this means: I desire compassion rather than sacrifice. I came to call the sinners [into God’s presence] and not the righteous.” Perhaps you can see, as I did today with the Holy Spirit’s whispering into my wondering mind and heart, that He is speaking not of the resource by which we serve others but by the intention. Churches spend lots of time, energy and finances on “serving others” with the intention of making lives better for others. It also helps the faith community see beyond themselves and their own needs. But, what is the focus of our “true intention“? Jesus declares it is “calling the sinner into the very presence of God’s mercy” and not the righteous. In His day, the “righteous,” the religious and political leaders and their disciples who honored the ways of the Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes as their own, sought to preserve their own theology, ideology and welfare with a religion of “self-service.” Their religion smacked of what today would be called “a party spirit,” “a partisan alliance” or most recognizably “a social club.” If you paid the dues and said the right words, your membership in “the community of US” is confirmed. Jesus argued against them often only because they made it their life’s work to argue against Him for the sake of arguing for themselves. Jesus was willing to allow them to do so. They were blessed with freewill, so why not. If they wanted to ignore the truth of authentic righteousness that would be the sad reality of their intention. Jesus, on the other hand, had more fish to catch. He flung His net of loyalty to God and compassion for His people (which included that misguided leadership) wide across the waters of life. Just as the disciples hauled in a net bursting with a great catch, so Jesus desired to bring all people into the very presence of God. He was more concerned with the 80% of those who were “without membership” than the 20% who believed they were in. I fear the numbers would be more like the 99 and 1. If they were “in,” then nothing else would matter to them. But, that was not the intention of God for Israel and especially for Jesus.

“We” mattered. “Others” mattered. What matters most to God is that the “people of His pasture [the earth]” and the “sheep of His hand [created living beings regardless of their conception]” know they are loved, cared for compassionately, welcomed into His presence and invited to put their lives straight toward Him. He so believes in that matter of intention that He has resourced it in Spirit (the Word of God) and in Truth (the Son of God.) All His effort is spent on doing what He loves the most: loving His children into authentic living not bound by the world but exemplified by the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. And what joy there is in knowing both His strength and salvation can be ours! It is the lens through which we are expected to see ourselves and see ourselves in the world. This is what matters, truly matters. We are called to have the “mind of Christ.” Makes sense then, doesn’t it, “If we don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter.” So let us show what matters most by being the “mind of Christ” and minding the flock, the people, the purpose, the intention and the resources made available to us which speak of God’s great love, compassion, mercy and grace!

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Father, we are bounded by so great a love we can barely imagine it for ourselves. It is far easier to see the depth of our despair than the height of Your joy. But, it is the joy we long for. And we know it is “the joy of the Lord which is our strength and salvation.” We pray for our spirits, hearts and mind to be willing to allow such joy to enter into our lives so that we may be overflowing and thus benefit the world around us in Spirit and in Truth which is Jesus our Lord in whose name we live, love and pray. AMEN.

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