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Archive for February, 2012

According to the Orthodox churches of the East, the Lenten Gospel reading for the first Wednesday in Lent, i.e. after Ash Wednesday, focuses attention on the theme, “today.” The Gospel reading is from Matthew 6: 19-34. The focus of attention is on the Messiah’s teaching that his followers must not focus on tomorrow. Their focus should be to dwell in the presence of God “today.” Yeshua urges his followers to develop a sense of urgency to do his mission “today.” The Messiah says, “Do not worry about tomorrow.”

The reading from the Torah is Genesis 1:14-18, where the worshipper is reminded of the fact that the comic system is created by God to remind humanity regarding “the day.”  Every element of the cosmic system is an existential reminder of messianic signs (Heb. `Otot) and messianic times of encounter (Heb. Moadim). In this season of Lent, the worshipper is urged to focus God’s creation, which reminds them of the Messianic times, “today.”

A modern Christian, especially in the West, is taught to worry too much about tomorrow, and plan for tomorrow . . . The early follower of the Messiah, quite in contrast to this way of thinking, focused attention on the question, “How is my being and doing furthering the Kingdom of God, the Missio Dei today?”

 

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Feb 27, 2012, is regarded as Clean Monday in the Orthodox Churches of the East. The text of the theme is derived from the prophet Isaiah: “Wash yourselves; cleanse yourselves; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil learn to do good: seek justice, rescue the oppressed, plead the widow’s cause.” “Come let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like the color scarlet, you shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, you shall become white like wool.” (Isaiah 1:16-18).

It is clear that the cleansing which is desired in this text is not that of an individualistic piety, as is stressed in so much of the western church. Rather, it is a spiritual, social, economic, racial . . . cleansing. It is a phenomenological cleansing. This is indeed Yeshua the Messiah kind of cleansing.

May this be my/our deep desire and prayer during this season of Lent!

 

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“Abraham went in to lament for Sarah and to weep for her.” (Genesis 23:2)

These are very moving words use of a man who is generally portrayed as a rather stoic person-one who makes decisions, and moves on without consideration for others.

Abraham was married to Sarah for a long time. They had seen a lot together. They had moved from one house to another, one town to another. He had seen her suffer the consequences of being childless for so many years, in a society where pregnancy meant everything. Finally, in Genesis 22, she waited, and waited, to see what would come of her man’s faith, that God will not let Isaac, her beloved, only son die. Now after 127 years of an amazing life, she died.

Knowing this, Abraham lamented, and lamented and lamented, and wept and wept and wept.

What an example of a life well lived! What an example to young couples today!

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“You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, to be mine.” (Lev. 20:26)

The heart of the Missio Dei is found in this nucleus text in the Torah. The people redeemed by God from severe injustices and slavery were supposed to be a model example- a Missio Dei to the rest of humanity. Global society around them practiced spiritual, social, economic, racial . . . injustices. The redeemed people of God, in contrast, were supposed to be phenomenologically and completely distinct from these societies, so that the latter would be drawn to the God of the Mission.

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Jesus said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30).

These last words of Jesus bring to climax God’s work of creation and salvation. It began in Genesis 1, where God “finished” the creation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:1);  It continued into the end of Genesis, when Jacob “finished” giving his last words (Gen 49:33); and into the end of Deuteronomy, when Moses finished his last words (Deut. 32:45); and, at other crucial moments of encounter in the Hebrew Bible. In the New Testament, five times Matthew records, “Jesus finished” at crucial moments of his life (Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). Finally, John records, Jesus utters the final words on the cross, “It is finished.”

Amazing, amazing, amazing climax to Missio Dei!

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Great things happened in the Bible and in history, when human beings, just like Abraham, meaningfully said, “Here I am” (Hebrew, Hineni) to the call of the Everlasting I AM (Genesis 22:1).

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The mission of the early church flowed organically from object of the encounter, which the people around them had. It was not an encounter with them. It was an encounter with Jesus. The people around them “knew that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13).

Sadly, in modernity the emphasis is more on charismatic human individuals, rather than the person of Jesus the Messiah!

Every individual Christian must ask the question, “When people encounter me, do they encounter me or Jesus?”

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Genesis 21:1, 2, “The LORD visited (Heb. paqad) Sarah as he had said. The LORD did to Sarah according to his word  . . . at the appointed time (Heb. mo’ed) that God had told him.”

The Bible is the story of God’s “visitations” of humanity at the “appointed times.”  Many times these times are not commensurate with human times.  Christians today would do well to seek out, and fall in line with God’s “appointed times,” in order to experience God’s great “visitations.”

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Genesis 20:2 is one of the saddest verses in the Bible, “Abraham said regarding Sarah, his woman, `She is my sister.” And Abimelech, King of Gerar, sent for her and took Sarah.”

It is clear in human history, that “common, decent” people have succumbed to the pressures of their time, and done just the wrong and horrible thing- just like Abraham. Many times, it happens when there is a personal or societal stake. It has resulted in much pain in human history.

Thankfully, this verse is followed by, “But God came . . .”

Thanks to God’s sovereignty and care, the vulnerable and persecuted are eventually saved from utter horror, pain and extinction.

Unfortunately, the problem lies in the distance between Genesis 20:2 and Genesis 20:3. Problems and horror created by us human beings can last a long, long time!

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The  Mission of God is based on his intense devotion to his creation- the whole universe and his people.  This is seen throughout the Bible. Following are a few examples:

“Among all the peoples, you shall be my treasured possession, for all the earth is mine.” (Exod. 19:5); “You shall be holy to me . . . you are mine.” (Lev. 20:26); “The whole earth is mine, you are foreigners and residents with me” (Lev. 25:23); “Thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are mine.” (Isa. 43:1) . . .  Intense words of the covenant faithfulness of God to his creation, go on and on in the Bible.

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