Tag Archives: Exile

The Pursuit of Meaninglessness

Lent
March 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’                                                                                                                                               –Ezekiel 37:1-6

Dry bones equal no hope. I am sure the Hebrews felt like dry bones while living as slaves in Babylon. We seem to be traveling the same path that led Israel and Judah into exile. Greed and selfish motivations are the driving forces ruling our country, perhaps the whole world. Forming alliances with bad neighbors made matters worse also.

In the USA, we want quality education for children but we do not want to pay for it. Women do not need maternity care or at least men should not have to pay for it. Profits are all that matter. The elderly doesn’t need to eat if they are shut-in and unable to purchase or prepare food for themselves. Cancer patients will feel better when they die.

Jesus Christ came some two thousand years ago to show us the better way. He talked of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping the sick, restoring the prisoner, and welcoming the stranger. (Matthew 25). He said it was these things on which we would be finally judged. The Hebrews’ experience tells us that we will face the consequences of our actions far before any final judgment. We weaken ourselves by not seeing the power of loving and caring for one another.

Prayer: Lord forgive us for foolishly chasing after meaninglessness. Guide us back to the way you have already shown us. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Exile

strangers-no-moreLiving in the Spirit
September 28, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 137

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
   above my highest joy. –Psalm 137:4-6

Exile—how can our hearts sing when ripped away from home? Taunted—dependent on strangers for good or for bad, how are we to know the difference? Used—working only to survive for one more day so our children can survive for one more day.

Today, refugees stream across borders around the world escaping from death, searching for life. They leave intolerable, unsustainable situations and enter a vast unknown. The children of Abraham knew the reality of loss and fear when taken into captivity over 2,500 years ago. The children of Abraham today are both the refugees and those called to welcome the stranger. It is our faith heritage.

How do we welcome strangers, share hospitality when we fear them? How do we get past our prejudices and see others as the children of God we are called to love? How do we tell them in word and deed they are strangers no more?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace*.

Prayer: God of Mercy, refocus or actions and attitudes toward your way of seeing all your children. Enable our loving the stranger. Amen.

*Chorus to Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen Howarth Lemmel see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/645

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Injustice

Scales out of balanceChristmas
December 29, 2014

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
   and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
   and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
   and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. — Jeremiah 31:10-11

First the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and later the Southern Kingdom, Judah, were overthrown by mighty empires. These countries were not just overthrown, but their best leaders were taken into slavery. Exile they called it. Almost three thousand years later we now watch on the evening news how people overthrow people, force them into joining their armies, requiring them to denounce their faith, or raping and killing them. We are appalled by such behavior but it is just the worst state of injustice. It does come in smaller doses more palatable to our sensitivities and easier for us to ignore.

Even before King David died the country of Israel was full of intrigue. The King himself took another man’s wife while sending the man to the front lines to meet sure death. After King David was gone the country fell into outright civil war. It finally split into two nations that both got too full of themselves and lost sight of their covenant with God. There was lack of justice in both Israel and Judah before they were seized. It was not a surprise to the prophets that these governments were eventually overthrown.

It seems to me that all oppression gets its start from people who have a need to achieve power and property well beyond what they need. In so doing they knock out of balance the scales of justice and nothing is right when the home, the community, the city, the state, the country, or the whole world is without justice. Doing justice is a choice. It requires a commitment to delve into life and identify what is right and work to sustain it. It is work we as followers of Christ have been called to do.

Prayer: Lord cleanse our hearts and our minds so that we can see your justice. Grant us the courage to work toward it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Sing a New Song

newdoxologyLiving in the Spirit
September 3, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Psalm 149 

Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song,
   his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in its Maker;
   let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing,
   making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
   he adorns the humble with victory. —Psalm 149:1-4

The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 149 was apparently relating the celebration made by the Israelites, after crossing the Jordan in the exodus from Egypt, to the celebration of the Hebrew people on their return to their homeland after being in exile. Even though verse four indicates that God adorns the humble with victory, neither of these outcomes was the result of war. God guided Moses’ leadership and the Israelites themselves by fire and clouds as they departed Egypt. God worked through a non-Hebrew King, Cyrus, to free the Hebrews from exile. What the Psalmist describe as vengeance was actually experienced as justice.

Singing a new song to the Lord, recognizes that there was an old, cherished song. This new song from Psalms 149 resulted from the joy of freedom from exile and the return to the homeland. It harkened back to the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Are we still singing? Are there yet more “new songs” to be written? A new song was sung with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The first verse of a new song was written at Pentecost. Other verses were added as the good news of Jesus Christ spread throughout the world. This “song” is sung in every language in the world and celebrated in the beauty of native dances from the Congo to New York City. I believe, there are other new songs longing to be written about oneness and justice that are waiting to be sung in celebration of God’s great freeing of all people from the chains of oppression and the pain of disharmony. Is God expecting us to add a verse or two?

Prayer: Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God, all creatures here below;
  praise God above the heavenly host;
Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost. A-men.*

 *United Church of Christ Doxology

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.