Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God's surprises

Reading through the Old Testament is spirit-changing. Many of our assumptions are shattered as we study humanity from its origins through the interaction of God among us. 


So often Christians read the stories of Jesus and the writings of Paul, John, Peter and other apostles as though the New Testament sprang up without a precedent. However, in the OT, human nature parades all its ambitions, vanities, and pretensions. We have situational ethics at their best and worst... and it seems like not much has changed from then until now. Technology advances. Human nature remains unchanged.


Take for instance the story in 2 Kings 11-12 of Joash, one of the kings of Judah who served God and transformed his culture. When he was little, his mom went crazy and killed all her sons. Joash's nurse kidnapped him and hid him until he was seven years old and crowned king of Judah. Joash came under the mentorship of a priest named Jehoiada, who taught him the ancient paths and reminded him of God's laws. "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him." (2 K.12:2)


When his adviser died, Joash went off the rails and sold off the treasures from God's house as a bribe to an invading king. His son provoked a war with Israel that killed many of his own people. Judah still sacrificed on the high places, though God's warnings in the Law were clear. In secret, sacrifice to idols and violence to appease gods of other nations continued, with resulting lawlessness and corruption.


The BBC reports today that 40 children and 74 lamas have been excavated at a temple in Peru, where human sacrifices similar to Aztec rituals were discovered. The children's hearts had been cut out, and supposedly the lamas, buried on top of the youngsters' bodies, helped transport them to the afterlife. My heart broke to think of the mothers crying for their children, the family beds lying empty after the kids were killed. And such a heinously high cost brought no peace or satisfaction to the people.


Our hearts are ever wandering, says the hymnist. And so it is. In every civilization, humanity seeks our own way to fulfillment and justification from sin. The more sophisticated the society, the more brutal its payment required to appease the gods it worships, whether spirits or self. We can't pretend we are exempt in the West: those of us who serve Capitalism often suffer ill health, ulcers, and estranged relationships as we serve our master Mamon (money and power) with overtime, uber-competitiveness, disregard for the environment, and our fierce determination to succeed at any price.


The NT, which many of us know better than the old, affirms our the need for redemption and freedom from sin (the condition of broken relationships with God and others,) and sins (acts of punishment resulting from our broken relationships).


My meditation today was on the God who constantly seeks wholeness and fully-realized humanity, in relationship with himself. I felt like weeping, considering my own penchant to leave the God I love. Inside we are ruined, undone, turning our backs on the joy and friendship God offers, seeking it in desperate futility elsewhere.


In contrast to God's beautiful and righteous paths, we keep trying to figure out life so we don't have to obey and follow God's ways. The exercise instructor kept telling us this morning, "How good you are, to do this exercise for yourselves. Just think, you are taking time to heal your own bodies," etc. Yeah, yeah, fine. Good for us for stretching and working out. But what profit is there to bodily exercise, if we are deluding ourselves into thinking any finite efforts can buy us grace and peace?


Even in the most trying circumstances, God introduces hope and glorious freedom into our frailty and bondage. Touches of genius remind us that our own efforts are not all there is. Another BBC video spotlighted a blind, autistic young man (32) who can play anything on the piano that he hears once. Art, life, and songs of praise erupting... perhaps because Derek is broken enough that he cannot help but worship with his body through the songs God has implanted in him.


As leaves turn color and we enjoy again the splendors of autumn, let us remember that dying produces great beauty for all to enjoy. Leaving self behind to live for God brings love and harmony into our relationships, releasing us from self-consciousness and self-aggrandizement, and setting us free to be fully human.


I thought this morning how surprising and MARVELOUS it would be to live even one day in full alignment with God's purposes for me. Oh Lord, let it be so... today. Amen.


Read more:
*"The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it." Proverbs 10:22 NLT

* Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.


But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing ithe will be blessed in what he does. James 1:21-25 NIV

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