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May 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 16, 2021

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.”
And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles . . . . Exodus 4:10-16; Numbers 12:6-8

Intro: Some of you will remember when Jake Caldwell who spoke at Reflexion awhile back

Jake has written a book, Tending the Body, which provides training to keep the body supple
“. . . who doesn’t want to be supple? Who doesn’t want to be able to move with grace and ease? Who doesn’t want to be free of tension and restrictions?” “Pain is a picture that the body paints in order to say something to us. . . . all pains can be read for their messages.” “What is the body saying when it limits our suppleness? . . . Whatever else the body wants, it certainly wants our attention.”
– this is what we have been doing in these Sunday talks
• giving attention to our bodies – but not just for suppleness
• we are discovering the spiritual experience of life in a body
Thomas Ryan, in Reclaiming the Body In Christian Spirituality, “There are many ways in our culture in which we do honor our embodied nature–from skin creams to fitness centers. But rarely do we pay attention to our bodies with the intent of opening ourselves to God through the experience we are having in our bodies.” “When we pay attention to what we are living in our bodies and how that opens us to the flow of grace in new ways, the result is renewal.”
– we began with the crown of the head, and now we descend to the nose and mouth

The word nose does not appear often in the Scriptures

When it does, most often someone is putting a ring in it (Ge. 24:47)
I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears . . . . (Eze. 16:11)
– if not a ring, then a hook or rope, to drag and control a person (2 Ki. 19:28)
• more often in scripture, we read of the nostrils
◦ this is the point at which we first received the breath of life
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creatures (Gen. 2:7)
• Helmut Thielicke said we are constantly being told that humans are animals
◦ which, he says, is true biologically, but we are more than biology
◦ the human person is one-part soil and one-part divine
◦ the divine breath this is what it is to be “alive and kicking”
as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils
(Job 27:3)
– nostrils, especially God’s, could propel a blast of air–as with a sneeze (Ex. 15:8)
• flared nostrils indicate anger
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, In the Old Testament “we read of an enflamed nose. This metaphor is based on the idea of angry snorting. . . . Of course the English Bible translations have ‘became angry’ or ‘was angry’ instead of a literal translation of the ‘enflamed nose’ expression, but in the process, as so frequently happens, the metaphorical and anthropological features of the saying are lost.”
• as sensitive receptors, the nostrils can become irritated easily
God says that people who say,
“Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all the day (Isa. 65:5)
– there are frequent references to what the nose does; i.e., “smells” (Lev. 1:9)
• it is not surprising to find the nose and mouth in same passage
◦ they give us a combined sense of smell and taste
How beautiful is your love, my sister my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
Your lips drip nectar, my bride;
honey and milk are under your tongue;
the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon (Song 4:10-11)
• in the sacred art of icon paintings, what seems like weird features, tell a story
Ouspensky and Lossky, regarding the way saints are depicted in icons: “An excessively thin nose, small mouth and large eyes—all these are a conventional method of transmitting the state of a saint whose senses have been ‘refined’ as they used to call it in the old times.”

The mouth is far more complex in scripture and recurs many times

Not only is the mouth mentioned many times, but also the articulators of speech
– how we form sound of words with the tongue, teeth, lips, and palate
• the mouth is a gift – an instrument with spiritual significance
mouth to mouth is the most direct encounter
◦ two vocal partners in speech – a conversation
◦ this is really where Moses walk with God began
◦ a statement, then a question; an answer, then an objection; the objection overruled, and so on
– kissing signified respect, reverence, even worship
• it was always an act of devotion that expressed intimacy
◦ so with greetings and good-byes (Ex. 18:7; Ruth 1:9)
◦ and so with the most intimate relationship
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine
(Song 1:2)

The tongue could be a study project in itself
(it appears more than fifty times in just Job, Psalms, and Proverbs)
– it is used literally: to drink (Jdg.7:5), stuck to the roof of the mouth (Ps. 22:15),
and parched with thirst (Isa. 41:17)
• tasting food and drink is literal, but also sometimes metaphorical
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! (Ps. 34:8)
◦ we also taste the future (Heb. 6:4-5) and taste death (experience it, Heb. 2:9)
• frequently the tongue can be weaponized
They make their tongue sharp as serpent’s teeth
and under their lips is the venom of asps (Ps. 140:3)
◦ having, as it were, a life of its own, the tongue can plot destruction and become a sharp razor (Ps. 52:2)
◦ a “tongue lashing” is a verbal whipping (Job 5:21)
◦ James 3 contains a poetic essay on the destructive power of the tongue
– but we also see the ambivalence of the tongue
A gentle tongue is a tree of life (Pr. 15:4)
The tongue of the wise brings healing (Pr. 12:18)
• in fact, the tongue can be “inspired”
The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue (2 Sam. 23:2)
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready [writer] (Ps. 45:1)
• “tongue” can also mean a native language
◦ as the one human language was divided at the tower of Babel
◦ but in the New Testament the breach is repaired by “speaking in tongues” (a spiritual gift)
– I’ll have to stop myself here, because there’s just too much more to see
• but when you are reading your Bible, notice any references to the tongue
◦ and remind yourself of the importance of the words it produces

The teeth, like the tongue, can be used as weapons
My soul is in the midst of lions . . .
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords (Ps. 57:4)
Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth! (Ps. 124:6)
– there’s an instance of people grinding their teeth in rage (Acts 7:54)
• and the famous gnashing of teeth in frustration and regret (Mt. 8:12)

The lips have the same capacity for harm as the tongue and teeth
– they can contain venom (Ps. 140:3) or nectar (Song 4:11)
unclean lips refers to everyday speech
◦ the lips require purification to be of use to God
strange lips refers to a foreign language
• and lying lips are an abomination to the LORD (Pr. 12:22)
The mouth and articulators are mostly about their function; that is, speech

The Book of Proverbs has plenty to say about speech
Staubli and Schroer, Countless sayings in the book of Proverbs are devoted to the beauty and balance of speech, the art of proper and timely speech and silence, and especially just and unjust speech. . . . Again and again they admonish to honest speech, warn against glibness, lying, and the use of too many words or hasty speech.”

In the Proverbs we learn:
timing:
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven . . .
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecc. 3:1, 7)
appropriateness:
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Pr. 25:11)
These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heartstrings of a friend.
The ill-timed truth we might have kept–
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say–
Who knows how grandly it had rung?
(from “The Fool’s Prayer,” by Edward Sill)

the cheapness and danger of flattery and “many words”
“Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts (Pr. 20:14)
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Pr. 10:19)
A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet (Pr. 29:5)
the value and blessing of right speech
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body
(Pr. 16:24)

The mouth and hand work together
– the hand moves things around in physical space
the mouth moves things around in mental space
. . . you have kept with your servant David . . . what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth and with your hand have fulfilled it this day (1 Ki. 8:24)
– more important is the connection of the mouth and heart
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Mt. 12:34, 36; see also Mt. 15:17-19)
• Jesus is reiterating the Beatitude, Blessed are the pure in heart
• our truest words do not come from the mind, but from the heart

I haven’t mentioned yet, the mouth of the LORD

What was remembered as coming from mouth of the LORD, was authentic and binding (Jos 17:4)
– like Jesus, our survival depends on what God speaks
man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (De. 8:3)

At Reflexion, we’ve been concerned to train our ears to be more sensitive
– because God often speaks to us, not with thunder clap or roaring tornado,
• but in his still small voice – no more than a gentle whisper

I also haven’t said anything about the mouth of babies

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength (Ps. 8:2)
Jesus quoted this verse, but from the Greek translation of the Old Testament
Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise (Mt. 21:16)
– their exuberance, heart-felt intonation, honest and innocent observation
– this brings us to the most important use of speech
• prayer – communication and fellowship with our God
• praise and giving thanks
◦ our bodies are receptors for God’s love, mercy, and grace
◦ but our mouths are for broadcasting his love,
for sharing his mercy and grace with others
I will bless the LORD at all times
his praise shall continually be in my mouth. . . .
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together (Ps. 34: 1 and 3)

Conclusion: One final thought

And it has to do with what the Scriptures say about “the full mouth”
– for instance, the mouth can be filled with laughter (Ps. 126:2)
– what I have in mind for you and I:
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it (Ps. 81:10)
• this is one of the most beautiful promises I know
◦ God does not simply say, “Open your mouth,” but, “Open your mouth wide

God is not stingy or miserly
He is generous with his children
If we hunger for more of his love and mercy
If we’re starving for more of his grace and goodness
If we cannot get enough of his presence
He tells us to open wide our mouths,
to stretch out our arms with open hands
so he can pour into us all that we are capable of receiving
If [we then], who are evil, know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk. 11:13)

May 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 9, 2021

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Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37

Intro: If you’re familiar the with gospels, what you see here instantly,

This is a strange healing miracle
– more attention is given to Jesus’ “method” than any prior healing
• and, he has never before this instance included spitting
◦ we’re going to have to revisit these things in a moment
• for now we are only interested in the fact, this man deaf
◦ and that most likely explains speech impediment (my friends)
– we are examining parts of this human body that is “fearfully and wonderfully”
• today we’re going to see what the Scriptures say about our ears

As we’ve seen, the Bible begins with the literal organ or limb

In the Law of Moses, there are two graphic regulations in which the ear is used literally
– in a ritual of purification for the priest and for a leper who was healed
• a sacrifice was offered, and some of its blood was dabbed on the right ear of the priest or leper
– the other regulation applies to an indentured slave that had served his time
• given the choice to leave or stay with his master, if he chose to stay,
then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave for life (Ex. 21:6)
• this became a physical sign that he was a permanent slave by choice
– several times in Old Testament we find earrings:
• Aaron (Ex. 32:2); Gideon (Jdg. 8:24); (Eze. 16:12)
• typically they were simply accessories (“ornaments,” Ex. 33:4-6) to adorn the body
◦ but they could also be cultic – a charm, talisman, or amulet (Gen. 35:4)
– in the New Testament:
• Jesus healing deaf ears
• and Peter cut off the right ear of a guard who came to arrest Jesus

Many times the word ear refers to its function

To speak in the ears of someone means to be heard (this occurs many times)
Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears (Gen. 44:18)
– also, the ears can be used to signify receiving a message or hearing something said
For you bring some strange things to our ears (Acts 17:20)
– three times God announced that he would deliver a message
at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle (1 Sam. 3:11; 2 Ki. 21:12; Jer. 19:3)
– then, to give ear or incline one’s ears meant to listen or pay attention (Acts 2:14)
– then, the ears discern truth — they examine or test things
Does not the ear test words
as the palate tastes food? (Job 12:11)
– if with the eye we perceive, it is with our ears we understand
Behold my eye has seen all this,
my ear has heard and understood it (Job 13:1)
– ears can be “opened” (Job 36:10, 15; 1 Pe. 3:12)
• or “heavy” (Isa. 6:10), or “stopped,” “shut,” or “closed” (Ps. 58:4; Acts 7:57)
• also, ears can be open but still not hear (Isa. 42:20)
◦ in fact, having eyes and ears are no guarantee of sight or hearing (De. 29:4; Isa. 43:8; Jer. 5:21)
◦ so Jesus says, He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Mt. 11:15)
• God is more interested in ears being open than sacrifice (Ps. 40:6)
– in the Book of Proverbs, ears can be trained to be attentive to wisdom
• the ear is an especially useful organ for gaining wisdom
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise (Pr. 15:31)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Their knowledge was recorded in easily understood sayings that could be readily remembered in an oral culture dependent on hearing. The texts had to be right for hearing; otherwise they would quickly be forgotten. The tight form, the doubled character of almost all sayings [parallelism], and many other rhetorical tricks served as ‘ear openers.’”

The function of ears is to hear, and purpose for hearing is to obey
– Hebrew kawhab can be translated hear or obey (1 Sam. 15:22)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (Jas. 1:22)
Staubli and Schroer, “Hearing and doing: this is perhaps the most important axis of the New Testament’s theology of the ears. Right hearing is proved in doing.” “Thus in the biblical tradition the art of listening, much like that of seeing, leads to genuine understanding, and understanding to action.”
– the great call of the Old Testament:
Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart (De. 6:4-6)
• perhaps it is helpful for us that in English we add only one letter to hear to get heart

The Scriptures have something to about God’s ears

And these passages frequently couple the ears with the eyes
. . . let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant (Ne. 1:6)
– God will incline his ear to his people’s cry for justice (Ps. 10:17-18)
• and he is asked to incline his ear to hear their prayer (Ps. 31:2)
• he not only sees the suffering of his people, but he hears their cry (Ex. 3:7)
– God speaks in the ears of his people and especially his prophets
Staubli and Schroer, “Ultimately it is God who opens and closes ears. The prophets are especially graced in this way. More than others, they are open to the power of God working among us; they are able to recognize God’s signs, hear and interpret God’s words.”
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens me;
he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear (Is. 50:4-5)

What I have to say next is going to be more intense

After last week’s talk, I felt disappointed
– it was too broad and general; it seemed to me that I had missed something
• Monday morning it came to me clearly, and that is what I want to share with you
◦ the Bible feeds us visual images and auditory sounds
◦ it does not give us mere data
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you (1 Jn. 1:3)
• visualizing and hearing the truth creates for us a fuller experience
◦ and experiencing the truth is what this is about
– the Bible does this for us, because there is more to see and hear
• but not with the physical organs of seeing and hearing
[one of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians was] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened . . . (Ep. 1:17-18)
◦ this is because there are realities that
no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined
yet these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
• Jesus told Nicodemus that
unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3)
◦ Nicodemus wrestled with this; he could not comprehend it; he could not see it
◦ John’s gospel is about teaching us to see and hear!
All four gospels are about teaching us to see and hear!
All of scripture is about teaching us to see and hear!
Staubli and Schroer, “Jesus sought not only with miracles, but especially by telling parables, to open people’s ears for the message about the reign of God.”
◦ what made it so difficult was that people, like Nicodemus were blinded by their culture
◦ and that has happened to us too
Arthur Deikman, “The religious framework that formerly defined meaning has been replaced by a scientific world view in which meaning does not exist. . . . According to this view, human beings are complex biochemical phenomena, of considerable scientific interest but not essentially different from anything else that science examines.” “ . . . it is possible that the conclusions of scientific materialism are wrong. From time to time we sense a larger reality than the one science provides, a subtle perception pointing to a better, meaningful existence.”
“Western psychotherapy, in basing itself almost exclusively on the world view of scientific materialism, has impoverished its model of human consciousness and lost the meaning and significance of human life. . . . our intimations of a larger existence ordinarily find no support from the scientific culture but, instead, opposition.”

In our text, there are fifteen definitive statements
– I am going set them side-by-side with fifteen statements in the next chapter of Mark (8:22-26):
they / some people
brought / brought
a man with a disability (deaf) / a man with a disability (blind)
they begged him / they begged him
to lay his hand on the man / to touch him
taking him aside from the crowd privately / he took the blind man out of the village
Jesus put his fingers into his ears / after he had spit
after spitting / on his eyes
Jesus touched his tongue / he laid his hands on him
looking up to heaven / he asked him, “Do you see anything?”
he sighed / “I see people like trees”
Jesus said “Be opened” laid his hands on him again
his ears were opened, his tongue was released he opened his eyes
he spoke plainly he saw all things clearly
Jesus charged them to tell no one Do not even enter the village

• notice that three statements in each story have no parallel in the other story
◦ otherwise, we have the same story, but with two different disabilities
◦ and some of these features are not found anywhere in the Synoptic Gospels
• why did Mark tell these two almost identical stories,
◦ only that one has to do with ears and the other with eyes?
◦ because they were meant to be seen as bookends
– what is sandwiched in between them?

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21

• in Mark 6, Jesus fed crowd a crowd of five thousand
◦ the disciples were there, but they did not benefit from what they had witnessed
◦ after that, Jesus calmed a storm
And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:52)
◦ and that is exactly the problem! Our hearts are hardened too
• there was something about the feeding of the crowd that the disciples should have seen and learned
◦ now they are given a second chance when Jesus warns them of the leaven
• did you notice that in chapter 8, verses 17-21, every sentence Jesus spoke was a question?
◦ it was like he gave them a pop quiz
◦ by it, he exposed what they had not learned or discerned
◦ they looked, but did not see; listened, but did not hear

Then there is this healing of the blind man that came in stages
(again, this was unique to this story)
– the disciples, still blind and deaf, could have feared it was a chronic condition
• but the One who points out their disability is One who does all things well
• it may perhaps be frustrating for the teacher and the students,
◦ but spiritual sight and hearing comes in stages
– Jesus asked the blind man if he saw anything
• this is also unique in all the healing stories
◦ it also echoes the questions he asked his disciples
◦ in fact, Jesus has another question for them
Who do people say that I am? (Mk. 8:27)
• this time, they get it right
◦ then he told them plainly what would happen to him
◦ but Peter’s response proves, they’re no more prepared to receive this message than the warning about the leaven
◦ Peter’s eyes needed a second touch
his heart was still hardened
his mind was culturally controlled (by what he thought he knew about the Messiah)
For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mk. 8:33)
– our “mind set” has a lot to do with what we’re prepared to see and hear
Arthur Deikman, “According to mystics, the fundamental reality underlying appearances is not accessible to the senses. It cannot be described in terms derived from the ordinary world, but is accessible to mystical intuition. The perception of that underlying reality gives meaning to existence . . . .”
“Although it is helpful to understand that meaning and direction exist and that a larger self and world can eventually be perceived, intellectual understanding is no substitute for the actual experience of reality. It is the task of mystical science to bring people to that experience.”
And, it is the task of the gospels!

In the Synoptic gospels Jesus used parables,
In John’s gospel Jesus used “hard sayings” (Jn. 6:60)
– he did this to create for his disciples a new consciousness
• an opening of the eyes of their minds and ears of hearts
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it (Mt. 13:16-17)

Conclusion: I realize that a few of you that I know well, see more than I see and hear more than I hear

I’m grateful for the times you have shared with me
what you have seen and heard
Do not be discouraged for the times you do not see clearly
or hear plainly
We are disciples, we are still learning
Just know that there is MORE
more that Jesus wants to show you
more that Jesus wants to tell you
And the better we focus and pay attention
the sooner we will see with our eyes and hear with our ears
and understand with our hearts

Postscript
That the blind man did not see clearly at first is not difficult to understand. Oliver Sacks tells a story of a man who was blind from birth as a result of thick cataracts that covered his eye lenses. As a child, Virgil’s doctor believed that he had another eye impairment that prevented him from seeing. But later on, other doctors thought it might just be cataracts and that he would be able to see if they were removed.
Oliver Sacks explains that when the bandage was removed from Virgil’s eyes, he did not jump for joy. “Virgil told me later that in this first moment he had no idea what he was seeing. There was light, there was movement, there was color, all mixed up, all meaningless, a blur. Then out of the blur came a voice that said, ‘Well?’ Then, and only then, he said, did he finally realize that this chaos of light and shadow was a face—and, indeed, the face of his surgeon.
The rest of us, born sighted, can scarcely imagine such confusion. For we, born with a full complement of senses, and correlating these, one with the other, create a sight world from the start, a world of visual objects and concepts and meanings.”
We we do not remember, but we had to learn how to make sense of what we see in the first months of our lives. Sacks wrote, “It constitutes a huge learning task, but is achieved so smoothly, so unconsciously, that its enormous complexity is scarcely realized (though it is an achievement that even the largest supercomputers cannot begin to match).”
So it was that Jesus’ second touch was also a second miracle, that enabled the formerly blind man to comprehend what he saw clearly.

May 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 2, 2021

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Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. . . . The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. [the entire text fort his talk is Acts 9:1-18]

Intro: Paul will tell his story of this encounter two other times in the book of Acts

And he will share a condensed version of it again with the Galatians
• in 1 Corinthians he will argue,
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? (1 Cor. 9:1)
• that was the day Jesus stopped Paul in his tracks and turned him around
– but if not for his eyes, there would be no story
• if you look for visual clues in the story, words and sentences pop out
a light shone; others were hearing the voice but seeing no one;
getting up although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing;
he was without sight; Ananias was given a vision in which he was told him to look for Saul;
Jesus told Ananias, behold, Saul too had seen a vision;
Ananias went to so he could regain his sight;
Jesus was going to show Saul how much he would suffer;
Jesus had appeared to Saul—and so on
(notice also the similarity of Saul’s experience and what happened on his first mission (Acts 13:11)

We are discovering how biblical spirituality is centered in the body
– our body part last week was the face – today it’s the eyes
• today my talk is easy, because the spiritual potential of the eyes is obvious
• what concerns me is I’m afraid that I’ll overlook something
◦ eyes are mentioned 866 times in OT alone
◦ the root word for seeing occurs 1300 times 🙁

In the Bible, eyes sometimes refers to the literal organs of sight

For instance, in our story today, Paul’s eyes were literally blinded
– Moses reminded Israel of what they had seen with their own eyes (Deut. 3:21; 4:3, 9, etc.)
• sculptors who make idols carve eyes, that cannot see (Ps. 115:5)
• and typically eyes grow dim with age (Ge. 27:1; De. 34:7)
– with our eyes we read other people eyes
And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him (Lk. 4:20)
• they were not only listening to Jesus’ words, they were studying the person
• we also speak with our eyes – communicate joy and sorrow
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and body also (Ps. 31:9)
Pat Ogden, “Children are very sensitive to the quality of eye contact with their attachment figures. A sudden tightening or narrowing of the eyes can convey pain, aversion, disagreement, surprise or shock. Other ways of communicating with the eyes (i.e., glancing . . . blinking eyes, , , , eyes angled downward or upward, frequency, length and intensity of eye contact) all convey implicit messages. . . .
◦ those messages can affect us for a lifetime
Ogden, When small children try to get close to a parent (hug or be held) and the parent ignores or pushes them away “the child may learn to avoid making eye contact, reaching out, and stop seeking closeness. . . . If eye contact is not satisfying in infancy and childhood, we may have difficulty with eye contact in adulthood. Even as adults, we may expect to see similar criticism, disappointment, withdrawal, or rejection if that was what we perceived in the eyes of the people close to us growing up. We may also be anxious about making eye contact if we fear being seen ourselves, if we have beliefs like ‘I’m bad,’ or ‘If people see who I am, they will not like me’ . . . ”

In prayer, we typically close our eyes – an act of reverence
– the lowered gaze or sometimes bowing or bending all the way with the face to the ground (2 Chr. 7:3)
• sometimes a people bowed the head because they felt unworthy
for instance, the tax collector who would not even lift up his eyes to heaven (Lk. 18:13)
– Jesus, however, did lift his eyes to heaven (in his public prayers; Jn. 17:1)
• posture in prayer is not most the important part, but it is significant
◦ posture and gestures are ways to bring the whole self to God or to pray with whole self
◦ postures and gestures are meant to express what is in the heart

The eyes serve as a doorway to the inner person
– so the psalmist determined to be careful with where he looked
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless (Ps. 101:3)
• and he prayed
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (Ps. 119:37)
– whatever enters the eyes, enters the mind and heart

Frequently, when the Bible speaks of the eyes it refers to their function

Staubli and Schroer, “Seeing . . . in the view of the First Testament is never merely a sense apprehension, an event without personal involvement or consequences. One sees something and acts accordingly.” “[when it speaks] of the eyes of God, what is in the foreground is never the form or physical function of the eye, but always the quality and dynamism of the gaze.”
– so to lift up your eyes can be both literal and figurative
• “lift up you on high” can mean, to focus attention on God (Isa. 40:26)
• the Hebrew word for eyes can also be translated:
◦ “sparkle” like wine (Pr. 23:31) or “polished” like bronze (Eze. 1:7)
– the eyes can also indicate vitality
• Jonathan ate honey and his eyes brightened: shine, like sun (1 Sam. 14:27-29)
◦ he was invigorated

The eyes usually stand for sight, and at deeper mental level, perception
God told King Jehu, you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes (2 Ki. 10:30)
– that is to say, Jehu’s actions were right according to God’s perception
– seeing is also coupled to knowing
• sometimes to know something we have to see it (Isa. 41:20)
• other times, we have to know something, then see it (Jer. 2:19)

The most important function eyes perform is spiritual

In fact, it may be that the eyes are the most spiritually sensitive organ of the body
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness (Mt. 6:22)
– so we have to take its role with extreme seriousness
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (Mt. 2:29)
• a theme of seeing and believing runs all way through John’s Gospel
◦ but it comes to a startling climax in chapter 20
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29)
• Jesus said this for our sake; we who have not seen him in the flesh
◦ and it becomes the essential condition of our spiritual life
. . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)
– there is a spiritual sight that looks beyond appearance
• it allows us to see the things of the world for what they are
For all that is of the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn. 2:16-17)
• there is also is also a spiritual sight that looks through things
◦ what is invisible to our physical eyes appears to the eyes of our hearts
that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you (Ep. 1:17-18)
◦ Elisha’s prayer for his servant
O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see (2 Ki. 6:17)
(you really need to read this whole story in 2 Kings 6!)

The ongoing problem with God’s people

Let’s take Samson as a parable – his name means “shine like sun” (cf. Jdg. 5:31)
But he did not know that the LORD had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes (Jdg. 16:20-21)
– his physical blindness was the result of already becoming spiritually blind
• at some point he stopped looking to the Lord,
◦ and did so until he could no longer discern God’s presence or realize that it left him
• the faculty of spiritual sight is like a muscle — if it is not used, it can atrophy
◦ what we fail to use, eventually becomes useless
◦ to God, Israel had become
a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not (Eze. 12:2)
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Staubli and Shroer, “Seeing something always has consequences.”
◦ Eve saw the fruit was delight to the eyes
◦ Moses looked this way and that, then killed the Egyptian
◦ Achan saw and took what was not his (Jos. 7:20-210; and so did David (2 Sam. 11:2-4)
– I don’t want to be so engrossed in my worldly life, that I go blind to the presence of God
• there is a spiritual intuition that enters an open heart
• I know there is more to be seen in the every day scenes of my life,
◦ because others have seen it and written about it
◦ and being inspired by their insights, I want to gain such insights on my own

Conclusion: God’s first words to Moses were, I have seen, I know, and I have come (Ex. 3:7-8)

Sometimes men and women in the Scriptures were surprised to learn that God saw them
– for instance, Hagar in Genesis 16:13-14
He who formed the eye, does he not see? (Ps. 94:9)

Henri Nouwen, reflecting on the story of when Nathanael was brought to Jesus and discovered that Jesus had seen him when he was off sitting by himself, wrote:
“The story speaks deeply to me since it raises the questions ‘Do I want to be seen by Jesus? Do I want to be known by him?’ If I do, then a faith can grow which proclaims Jesus as the Son of God. Only such a faith can open my eyes and reveal an open heaven.”
“Thus, I will see when I am willing to be seen. I will receive new eyes that can see the mysteries of God’s own life when I allow God to see me, all of me, even those parts I myself do not want to see.”
God has not forgotten or overlooked you
he sees you, knows your circumstances and what you feel,
he knows what hurts or oppresses you,
and he has come to your rescue

O Lord, please open our eyes that we may see!

Apr 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 25, 2021

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Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as e did before. But the God of my father has been with me. Genesis 31:1-5

Intro: Years ago there was a billboard on PCH in Newport Beach

On it, was printed a giant photo of an Orangutan’s face
– the caption read, “Face it, you belong in the San Diego Zoo”
• someone had climbed up there and with a spray can written between Face it– and–you belong
◦ a girl’s name–so it read, “Face it, Judy, you belong in the San Diego Zoo”
• this is one of the ways we use face as a figure of speech
– other figures include, when we:
• “face the music” — we have to take responsibility for our actions
• take something “at face value” — we accept it as it appears
• “lose face” — we have lost the respect of others, so we then try to “save face”
• do an “about face” — we make a quick 180 degree turn
• we use the word “surface,” – the visible outer layer of a thing
◦ frequently the Bible uses face for a surface:
◦ “the face of the deep,” “face of all the earth,” “the face of the ground”
Hans Wolff tells us “[The face] is always called panim, in the plural, thus reminding us of the manifold different ways in which a man can give his attention,” and that events “are reflected in the features of the face” so that a “partner can be already addressed through the play of expression.”
Rabbi, Abraham Heschel, “A face is a message, a face speaks, often unbeknown to the person.”
• we even look at the “face” of clock so it can speak and “tell” us the time
◦ Heschel adds a lovely and intriguing thought:
“Is it not a strange marvel that among so many hundreds of millions of faces, no two faces are alike? And that not one face remains quite the same for more than one instant?”

By way of reminder, we are surveying the Bible’s messages regarding body parts
– we want to discover in what ways our bodies are spiritual
• they’re not merely a “shell” for the spirit
◦ and certainly not a prison we hope to escape
• we began last week from the top down with the head and hair
◦ this week we move to the face

Face is the hidden word in our English translation

Verse 2, literally reads:
And Jacob saw the face of Laban, and indeed it was not toward him as before
– I know that not everyone agrees with how I read this story
• I see two characters who are both tricksters,
• each trying to get the better deal from the other
◦ Laban wanted to marry off his oldest daughter
◦ and Jacob wanted to use Laban’s resources to build his own nest egg
– Laban had used a classic “bait and switch” scam
• when he was supposed to give Rachel to Jacob for the dowry he worked to earn,
◦ he brought Leah to his tent their wedding night
And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! (Ge. 29:25)
• meanwhile, Jacob used selective breeding to make the best of Laban’s flock his own
– eventually, when Jacob looked at Laban’s face, he saw it all
• he had become a persona non grata

Even before we say a word, our faces speak to others
– facial “expressions” refer to what our faces communicate
For instance:
• frustration, anger, disappointment
So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? (Ge. 4:5-6)
• shame
All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face (Ps. 44:15)
• dejection, despondency, depression
And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen . . . . And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food (1 Ki. 21:4)
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD (2 Ki. 20:2)
• a person’s rejection of someone
I will set my face against that person (Lev. 17:10)
• sadness
And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart” (Neh. 2:2)
• an emotional change of facial expression
Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad

This isn’t a rabbit trail–I promise
With apologies, I cannot help but add something that came to mind in preparing this talk, but I did not have enough time to address when I delivered it. In the verse from Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes connected his cupbearer’s facial expression to the sadness in his heart. Recently, this connection has been demonstrated through the neuroscience research of Stephen Porges and his team.
Porges had pioneered what he refers to as the Polyvagal Theory. At the risk of oversimplifying his work, he has closely observed the many connections and functions of the vagus nerve (number ten of the twelve cranial nerves). This busy nerve plays a major role in making adjustments in both the central nervous system (the brain and brainstem) and the peripheral nervous system (the body and its skin, muscles, organs, and bones). The vagus nerve activates three different responses to stimuli: the well-known fight or flight response (sympathetic system), the dial-down restful response state (parasympathetic system), and a freeze response that has not received as much attention as the first two systems. The freeze response, which can be triggered by sudden and extreme danger, is typical of reptiles but rare for humans. It occurs when the parasympathetic system drops into such a low state of rest, that the body is unable to move. The possible resulting behavior may be to freeze in one’s tracks, fake death, or faint.
Two of Porges’ findings include the Social Engagement System (the way the brain and body work together to optimize interactions between people) and the Heart-Brain Connection (how what we feel is transmitted from the heart and other organs to the brain and then distributed through the body). It turns out that the vagus nerve provides a direct link from the heart to the muscles that control facial expressions.
Porges explains, “In mammals, the brainstem regulation of some of the vagal pathways became integrated with the regulation of the face. This resulted in features of our physiological state being expressed in our face and voice. The adaptive function of this modification is obvious; as a mammal, we don’t want to engage another mammal if that mammal is in a physiological state of rage. . . . We want to receive the signal that it’s okay to come close. Mammals convey this information through facial expression and through prosodic features of vocalization.” “This linkage between the vagal regulation of the heart and the regulation of the muscles of the face and head enables us to see [indications] of physiological state in faces and hear physiological state in voices.”
For me, the value of this information is a better understanding of how we have been created to be able to connect and interact with others, that what we feel is how we appear, and we are also able to read how others feel. This increased awareness can help guide us to safety, and especially to the refuge that is available in the God who made us.

Another use of face in our present story comes later in this chapter
[Jacob] fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead (Gen. 31:21)
– to set the face is to make a determination to move in specific direction or perform a specific action
• so Jacob left Laban’s unhappy face behind
• he has jumped from the frying pan–but where will he land?

Jacob had unfinished business back home
Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim [two camps].
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.”
And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Genesis 32:1-6

Jacob had fled parent’s home because older brother planned to kill him whenever their dad died
– so that now Esau is coming, and small army is with him, is not good news
• Jacob attempted a strategy to appease his brother
• he sent three generous gifts, but separately and in sequence
◦ it’s easy to see the psychological effect he hoped this would have on his brother

Jumping to verse 20,
For he thought, “I ma appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”

Now this verse is simply too interesting to not take a close look
– in the Hebrew text, “face” is used four times, but translated into English only once
appease him is literally cover or atone his face
ahead of me is literally the face of me
(the face is the body part that goes first and the direction we’re moving, so it can refer to whatever is before or ahead of us)
see his face – so that in it, he can try to read his expression
accept me is literally lift up my face
– it is clear that the face plays a crucial role in this encounter
• everything Jacob does, turns on this one moment
• and in it he’ll learn his fate, which will happen the moment he sees Esau’s face

We were born with a capacity for facial communication
– even infants can read faces and express themselves through their faces
• researchers have shown this with various tests
Colwyn Trevarthen described research in which “a mother who was in the process of enjoying a protoconversation with a 2-month old [was required] to stop being expressive and to hold her face immobile, with a neutral expression, in front of the baby for a minute. This ‘blank face’ or ‘still face’ procedure provoked an immediate response from the baby. First, the baby became attentive and sometimes made attempts by smiles, vocalizations, or gestures to appeal to or stimulate a response from the mother, then the baby became withdrawn, avoiding the mother’s gaze, with signs of distress and confusion. The baby looked depressed.”
– paying attention to faces is a way to learn wisdom of the body
Pat Ogden, “Core emotions are supported by corresponding physical actions.” “Postures, facial expressions, and gestures outwardly express internal emotional states, communicating these to others.” “Research shows that basic emotions have reliable, distinctive facial expressions across cultures.” “Take a moment to think about the last time something embarrassing happened to you. You may have noticed a tight feeling in your chest or felt a warm rush of blood to your face that told you that you were embarrassed. Such signals are the body’s way of communicating our emotions.”
• among other motions we use facial expressions to set boundaries
Ogden, “Communicating a boundary is first and foremost a nonverbal capacity. Before we have learned to speak as infants, we could communicate our boundaries through vocalizations, facial expressions, and actions of turning away, shaking the head, or pushing away. Only later do we learn to say ‘no’ with words.”
• so much more I’d like to say (I’ll include in my notes)

From Laban’s face, to Esau’s–now fact to face with God
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered Genesis 32:30

In Scripture, God’s face:
– can refer to his presence (Gen. 4:14 and 16)
– is watchful — he says that what his people do is done, “before my face” (Hos. 7:2)
– is hidden (Ps. 13:1) – but the poets pray that he won’t hide his face (Ps. 27:9)
– is to be sought by us (Ps. 27:8)
– shines!

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his face upon you and give you peace
(Nu. 6:24-26)
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
(Ps. 4:6)
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them
(Ps. 44:3)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun . . . (Mt. 17:1-2)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)

Conclusion: I’m going to suggest another exercise

Looking in a mirror, make following facial expressions:
joy
sadness
pride
shame
confused
amused
relaxed
tensed
pleasure
disgust
bored
surprised
anger
forgiveness
guilt
innocence
– if you’re unsure of what face to make, think of something that makes you feel these emotions
• like for disgust, remember or imagine something that turned your stomach
– if feelings come up, do not judge them
• for instance, if with a guilty expression you feel unhappy or worthless,
do not sink into the feeling, but respond to it with curiosity
• explore why it comes up with that particular facial expression

Jacob’s journey brings us to the heart of our journey
– look into, and read the faces of others – and respond appropriately
– listen to what your face is telling you
• focus your attention on its automatic expressions that normally go unnoticed

We were created to encounter God face to face
That encounter is given to us in the person of Jesus Christ
If we keep looking to him, we will learn what makes him smile

Apr 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 18, 2021

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Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Intro: What I’m about to say may seem obvious, but consider it

Our lives would be radically different if we could see through God’s eyes!
– nothing in the world would worry or frighten us
• not one particle of beauty would escape our attention
• every single human person on the planet would be beautiful
◦ and you would see that nothing in the universe is more valuable than yourself
– this is what Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand
• he was sending them on their first solo mission
◦ his instructions included preparing them for rejection
and if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that . . . town (v. 14)
Behold, I am sending your out as sheep in the midst of wolves (v. 16)
and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake (v. 22)
A disciples is not above his teacher . . . . If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household (vv. 24-25)
• it was possible that they would not consider themselves worth very much
◦ Jesus revealed to them their value to God through two illustrations
1. a sparrow could not die without God’s attention and concern
and disciples were of more value than many sparrows
2. the hairs of their head were tallied; every one of them

What is the significance of this illustration?
– God’s interest in Jesus’ disciples included minute details,
• things they would have never guessed God cared about
• this is where we will begin our survey of the human body
◦ from the top down
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, in Body Symbolism in the Bible, wrote “The human head has always been regarded as the top of the hierarchy of body parts, and therefore represents . . . the whole person.”
– Paul also saw a ranking of body parts (1 Cor. 12:23-24)
• stronger/weaker
• honorable/less honorable;
• presentable/unpresentable
Saubli and Schroer, “The crown and ornament of the head is the hair.”

The Bible shows more interest in hair than we might assume

It takes note of the twin babies, Esau and Jacob
– and the first to be born was hairy
• that fact plays into their stories later on
– both Daniel and John, visions of heaven, white hair
• perhaps to signify purity
– people expressed grief by shaving head or pulling hair out
• priests, however, were prohibited from doing this
– gray hair was a crown of glory (Pr. 16:31)

The law of Moses had specific laws regarding hair
– in Leviticus, a hair could be used in diagnosing a skin disease
• it was also used in offerings : a purification ritual and the Nazirite vow
• men, and especially priests, were not to trim their hair or beards
– in the Book of Numbers, there was the case of a wife suspected of adultery (ch. 5)
And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and unbind the hair of the woman’s head . . . (Nu. 5:18)
• the significance of this act was culturally defined, and had to do with modesty and intimacy
Mary Douglas gives as an example, “what criteria women use to decide when it is and is not permissible to walk in the street in slippers and hair nets.”
appreciation for the beauty of a woman’s hair was an intimacy shared by lovers
Your hair is like a flock of goats
leaping down the slopes of Gilead (Song 4:1)
◦ undoing it might be a shaming ritual
◦ meant to make her feel vulnerable and transparent

Two men whose hair was a distinctive feature in their stories
– Samson, of course, whose hair represented his devotion to God
• and Absalom, the oldest son of David
Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighted the hair of his head [ and it was over two pounds] (2 Sam. 14:25-26)
• in the lives of both men, I see vivid examples, of how a person’s strength can also be their weakness
– prophet Ezekiel was told to cut his hair and use it in a street-theater prophetic drama (5:1-4)

I will just mention in passing, a terrifying story in 2 Kings (2:23-24)
– there may be a deeper meaning to it, but for me the lesson is,
• don’t make fun of bald men (I’ll leave it at that)
– in the New Testament, on two occasions women dried Jesus’ feet with their hair
• both Paul and Peter instructed women not to braid their hair
◦ we’re told it has to do with modesty and humility
• it was more likely meant to address the challenge of economic inequality
◦ hair braided with jewels was an indication of wealth — a status symbol
◦ in and honor/shame culture, the showy fashion of the wealthy would shame the poor

Last week we saw that body parts can speak in three potential voices:
– a literal voice, a figurative voice, and a spiritual voice
• we use hair figuratively: when we:
• describe hair-raising adventures, missing a target by a hair, or splitting hairs
– what is “a bad hair day”?
• at first, when you can’t get your hair to do what you want it to do
◦ then, it more generally came to mean a day when everything goes wrong

To treat our hair in a way that yields positive results, I suggest we learn a lesson from “the Teacher”
Go, eat you bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head (Ecc. 9:7-8)
– he is saying, “Dress and groom yourself as if you’re happy”
• we tend to feel better about ourselves, if we feel that we look good
◦ getting compliments after coming from the beauty salon or wearing a new shirt,
◦ lifts our spirits, makes our attitude more positive
• I’m not suggesting we attempt to adopt worldly criteria of beauty
◦ there’s a beauty that has nothing to do with body type
◦ the most beautiful people I know, their beauty is not about their looks
– we can groom our inner beauty
• but that may require a significant reorientation
Pat Ogden, “We remember the past not only in words, images, and stories, but also through chronic habits of tension, movement, and posture. Our bodies continually respond to what happens to us, how others treat us, and how we feel inside. . . . It takes a long time, but eventually the body’s repeated reactions become automatic, long-lasting patterns that carry the memory of a past that our minds have forgotten . . . or repressed.”
“When we translate the nonverbal language of these elements into words, we glean insights into behaviors that contribute to difficulties in our current lives and discover new avenues for changing outdated patterns.”

I’m going to jump from here to our next body part; the head

I don’t think I need to say as much about the head as I did hair
– the head is what stands out, because it is the most exposed part of body,
• it receives whatever a person has coming
◦ blessings (Ge. 48:14; De. 33:16), anointing (Lev. 8:12);
God’s loving kindness (Ps. 103:4)
◦ or guilt (2 Sam. 3:29); shame (Job 10:15); sins (Lev. 16:21)
• the head is covered: for protection (Ps. 140:7; Ep. 6:17)
Hans Wolff, “The head represents a danger point for the life of the individual (Judg. 9:53); that is why the bodyguard is called ‘defender of the head’ (1 Sam. 28:2, somer lerosi). To bow the head is an act of humiliation (Lam. 2:10). Conversely, raising the head means the end of the humiliation–a raising up, a recognition, or a restoration to office (Gen. 40:20; Ps. 3:3) . . . when it is not an attitude of arrogance . . . .”
◦ but the head is also covered in grief or despair (2 Sam. 15:30)
◦ and sometimes covered with dirt or ashes
– the forehead was especially important
• in some ancient cultures, people would mark or tattoo it
• in giving Moses the pattern for the garments of the high priest, he said,
You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the LORD.” . . . It shall be on Aaron’s forehead . . . that [the holy gifts] may be accepted before the LORD (Ex. 28:36-38)

What I find most significant for us this morning is the “lifting up” of the head
– this is used literally and figuratively (to “exalt” or “be raised up”)
• with the head lifted up, are able to see where we’re going
◦ then we don’t head off in wrong direction and hopefully make headway toward our goal
– our heads orient our whole body – turn your head and the body turns
• must be aware of this when driving or riding a bike
◦ if we turn our heads to look at something, we’re likely to turn the steering wheel that direction too
Pat Ogden, “All animals, including humans, have an innate ‘orienting reflex’ that is activated by novel stimuli: a new sight, sound, smell, person, or something we unexpectedly touched. When this reflex is stimulated, we instinctively and involuntarily focus our attention toward the unfamiliar stimulus, automatically turning our eyes or even the entire head and body toward it.”
• if we know this, we can choose to change our orientation by paying attention to something else
• emotion affects the body
Stanley Rosenberg, “A rotation of C1 and C2 [vertebrae] can put pressure on the vertebral artery, which supplies the frontal lobes and the brainstem, where the five nerves necessary for social engagement originate. From my clinical observations, I believe that it only takes on negative thought to bring C1 and C2 out of joint, affecting our posture and physiology”
◦ emotions affect the body, but we can turn it around so the body affects emotion
◦ we do this by noticing what our body is doing, and changing it (posture, movements, gestures)

Conclusion: The position and tilt of our heads are an untapped resource

Do you walk looking down? Why?
Are you studying something at your feet?
Are you trying to avoid something?
(like seeing other people)
Do you feel down?
Unworthy?
Walk with your head up
and you chin parallel with the ground
Reorient your head, and your whole self with it
Let God be your shield
and the lifter of your head (Ps. 3:3)

“Get your head in the game!”

Apr 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 11, 2021

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O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on m tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them.
The days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:1-6 and 13-16

Intro: I’m going to begin with two quotes:

“. . . if we would pay more attention to those bodies as we live them from the inside, instead of thinking of them only as we see them from the outside, we would know more about ourselves than we now do.”
“The body speaks clearly to those who know how to listen” “The multifaceted language of the body depicts a lifetime of joys, sorrows, and challenges, revealed in patterns of tension, movement, gestures, posture, breath, rhythm, prosody, facial expression, sensation, physiological arousal, gait, and other action sequences.”
– I’ve quoted first a pastor and professor of theology, Arthur Vogel
• and second a psychotherapist researcher and clinician, Pat Ogden
– it takes science a little while to catch up with scripture
• I’m not entirely joking when I say that
◦ for centuries we’ve had in the Psalms, poems of joy and sorrow
◦ we have seen how the poets locate these emotions in their bodies
• now scientists tell us our bodies have their own language
◦ that without words, the body reveals its feelings and emotions
◦ for instance, “guilt written all over your face” is not just something Mom said to get us to confess
Joe Dispenza, “Every time you have a thought, there is a biochemical reaction in the brain—you make a chemical. . . . the brain then releases specific chemical signals to the body, where they act as messengers of the thought. When the body gets these chemical messages from the brain, it complies instantly by initiating a matching set of reactions directly in alignment with what the brain is thinking. Then the body immediately sends a confirming message back to the brain that it’s now feeling exactly the way the brain is thinking.”
– the body not only manufactures and is aware of these feelings
• but it also gives expression to them through posture, gestures, and other nonverbal signals

Would you agree that Psalm 139 is a classic?

The poet is fascinated and in over God’s thorough knowledge of him
– every movement and motion – every word spoken
• from before he was born to the day he will die
– there is no escaping or hiding from God
• not that he wants to get away from God
• rather, he is comforted by the knowledge wherever he goes, God is there
◦ and he is there for him

I’ve chose a section of this psalm that focuses on body parts in general
– the New Testament refers to body parts as “members”
(to be dismembered is the removal of all the body parts)
limbs: hands, arms, feet, legs, etc.; and organs: heart, bones, kidneys, etc.
• here the poet reflects on his embryonic gestation
v. 13, God formed (made) his inward parts, a reference to his kidneys (center of the inner-self)
he was knitted (like weaving a basket) – in his mother’s womb
v. 15, his frame (bones that give the body its structure and keeps it upright)
made in secret and the depths of the earth are metaphorical references to the womb
v. 16, unformed substance refers to the embryo
◦ the Hebrew word here is an interesting one, because it means rolled up, and if you’ve every seen photographs of a fetus, you can notice how early on the body looks rolled up, and its unwrapping occurs as it continues to develop
– no wonder the poet says he has been fearfully and wonderfully made

I have read a couple of text books on Clinical Neuroanatomy
– and understood maybe five percent of what I read
• when I came to the section on ears and eyes I was bowled over
◦ both organs have minute parts that are moved by tiny muscles
◦ the iris dilator muscle is minuscule, and enervated by an even more minuscule nerve
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the LORD has made them both (Pr. 20:12)
• and he made them fearfully and wonderfully well
– something I’ll explain at this point, and keep reminding you
• when scripture mentions body parts, it refers not only to limbs and organs,
◦ but also to their function, and sometimes the function is used as metaphor
◦ for instance, the eyes see the world, but can also refer to vision itself, but can also refer to mental perception

In scripture, the body, like life itself, is a precious gift

In Genesis chapter 2 we read,
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7)
– “formed” here translates the Hebrew word yaw-tsar;
• this is the first time it is used in scripture – until God has been creating and making
◦ later on, yaw-tsar will be used of potters shaping clay into something
◦ for humankind, God rolled up his sleeves, got his hands dirty, and sculpted a body, into which he breathed life
• in the New Testament, the body is both a “tent” (temporary shelter) and a “temple”
◦ Paul’s references to the body cover the entire ministry of Jesus
John A. T. Robinson, “One could say without exaggeration that the concept of the body forms the keystone of Paul’s theology. In its closely interconnected meanings, the word (soma) knits together all his great themes. It is from the body of sin and death that we are delivered; it is through the body of Christ on the Cross that we are saved; it is into His body, the Church, that we are incorporated; it is by His body in the Eucharist that this Community is sustained; it is in our body that its new life has to be manifested; it is to a resurrection of this body to the likeness of his glorious body that we are destined. Here, with the exception of the doctrine of God, are represented all the main tenets of the Christian Faith . . . .”
– the body is so important, that our resurrection bodies are built for eternity
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:53-54)

Fearfully and wonderfully covers all of the body’s capacities

To know and feel and do
– the capacity to suffer, both physical pain and mental anguish
• our reflexes, responses, and reactions to the world
◦ our responses and reactions to other people
• and all of our feelings, emotional and physical, are produced by the body and experienced in the body
Antonio Damasio, “Even in the most typical course of events, the emotional responses target both body proper and brain. The brain produces major changes in neural processing that constitute a substantial part of what is perceived as feeling.” “The current evidence suggests that most feelings probably rely on all sources—skeletal and visceral changes as well as changes in internal milieu.”
◦ that last line comes very close to the biblical view of the body’s experience of feeling in bones and viscera
– we frequently read of the way poets and prophets were aware of emotions,
• and where they were located in their bodies
• which is also something that we tend to ignore

Our bodies have a story to tell

They carry the history of our past
Pat Ogden, “We remember the past not only in words, images, and stories, but also through chronic habits of tension, movement, and posture.”
– you may know that my wife Barbara is a physical therapist
• she has excellent skills at reading the bodies of her patients
◦ she can read an illness or injury by looking and observing the patient’s posture and movements
◦ and sometimes touching or having the patient perform a simple task
◦ she will also ask questions about what they feel with certain motions or when they stretch a limb
• these things are not only effects of injury or illness, there are also imprints of their personal history
◦ we may have developed a protective posture as children
◦ what we do not realize is that our childhood posture became a habit,
◦ and our body automatically repeats it when we feel threatened or insecure
– my son, Scotty, has a neighbor who I noticed,
• that when walking to her car, she looks like she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders
• a couple weeks ago I had a brief conversation with her
◦ I then learned she is not only a single mom raising an adolescent son, but she is deaf
◦ talking with her, I realized how difficult it is for deaf people to find resources that are available to them on their own
◦ no wonder this woman walks slightly bent forward with her head down
Pat Ogden, “. . . the way we move, stand, sit, and so forth, is the result of personal history interacting with immediate circumstance. . . . Our posture, movement and sensation fluctuate moment-to-moment depending on the present situation and the people we are with as well as our internal state, predictions, and expectations.”
“. . . often we do not understand the original wisdom of these physical reactions and do not realize that being aware of and changing them can help us to move beyond the confines of the past.”

Now I’m going to tell you what mischief I’m up to

A few years ago, I spent several Sundays exploring the body in scripture
– I have learned a great deal more since then – I want to revisit that theme
• we live with God inside these bodies
• I’m convinced we need to know their spiritual significance
◦ how we’ve let them develop or have constrained our growth within them
◦ how we know and serve God in them and through them
Pat Ogden explains that the body serves us in a practical way, “not only as a guide to help heal from the wounds of the past but also as a roadmap for discovery and growth in the future.”
– this is a fascinating adventure and well-worth exploring
Pat Ogden, “The sensation and movement of the body is a laboratory that is always available to teach us more about the hidden recesses of the self, expanding our understanding so that we can try out new ways of living and relating.”
– we’re going to learn the wisdom of the body
• how doing things differently with our body,
◦ can help us break free from the past addictions that linger
◦ and walk through life with a new energy and confidence in God

Conclusion: Alright–slowly draw into your body a deep, cleansing breath

Notice your body – are you sitting up straight? are you relaxed?
– your body is how you first present yourself to the world
• what does it say about you?
• do you embody love? acceptance? openness?

I hope you will gain insight into this wonderful body of yours,
that you will find its undiscovered resources and strengths
The body is meant for the Lord and the Lord for the body (1 Cor. 6:13)
You are not trash, you’re a temple;
the object of God’s love and desire

Apr 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 4, 2021

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As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Luke 24:36-43

Intro: I suppose it’s okay to say “Happy Easter”

I’m not comfortable with this greeting, because “happy” seems frivolous and transient
– I doubt we could convince the world to say “Bless-ed Easter”
• or “Joyful Easter” – but at least we’ve got one thing right:
◦ this is a day to celebrate – and not only this day, but the weekend
◦ because there would be no Easter morning without Good Friday
• what makes Easter blessed? Joyful? A day to celebrate?
– one way to see it: Jesus entered a fight that wasn’t his
• we hear of communities in other places that are being hunted and killed
◦ we shake our heads and say, “How terrible,”
◦ but we don’t leave home, or even get off our comfortable sofa
“It’s not our fight”
• Jesus, however,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Php. 2:6-8)
◦ he came and joined sides with those who were suffering
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Heb. 2:14-15)
◦ Jesus not only fought this battle, but he won it–for us
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. . . . For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:20-26)
So–Joyous Easter!

In this brief post-resurrection scene, what is Jesus’ big concern?

He wants his disciples to be absolutely certain of his resurrection
– that he has returned to life – and that he is alive in his body
• they were not seeing a ghost or spirit
◦ if they reached out to touch him, as he invited them to do,
◦ their hands would not pass through him
• he was there and he was real
– now, in the typical manner of preachers, I will make three points

First, what we learn from this regarding Jesus’ resurrection body

The body in which Jesus presented himself was physical; flesh and bones
– this is what makes a human person, human
• Hebrew: humankind is ahdam, from adahmah, ground or soil
• English: human is derived from the same word as humus, soil
◦ as humans, we are material beings,
◦ made from the same stuff as our planet

Many years ago, I learned from one of my books on theology that there was a debate as to whether the human person could be defined as a dichotomy (two parts: body and spirit) or trichotomy (three parts: body, soul, and spirit). We are familiar with the -tomy part of these words, because it is derived from the Greek language and means to divide or cut. For instance, when surgeons cut an organ out of a person’s body, they are performing a tonsillectomy, or an appendectomy. However, there is no -tomy within a human being, there is no division of parts. Rather, we are atomic (in Greek, a=un and -tomy=cut, that is, uncut or undivided; namely, whole). There are dimensions of our holistic selves that are invisible to us–like the conscious self of the mind or the mental realm of thought, that we cannot see, but those are not separate parts of our person. So it is with the human spirit, that is so one with our physical self that if it goes our body goes too–no spirit, no life For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead (Jas. 2:26). As Genesis 2:7 says, when God breathed the breath of life into Adam, he did not then have a soul, but he became a living soul.

I cannot say this enough; from the beginning this was our destiny
– to be embodied, self-conscious and other-conscious organisms,
• living on a wonderfully beautiful, life-sustaining planet
• a living, human body is not a lesser or inferior life,
◦ and the earth is not an inferior habitation
– God made us for himself, as we are and in this created world
• this is what we are meant to be
• and this is where we’re meant to live
◦ and this is where he wants us to know him and walk with him

Theologians discuss the continuity and discontinuity of Jesus’ body before and after his resurrection
– that is, how was his body the same after his resurrection and how was it different
• it was the same in that he was flesh and bones
◦ his body still bore wounds of cross, he could be touched, he ate
• yet in some ways it was different
◦ which may be why some people had difficulty recognizing him (Lk. 24:16; Jn. 20:14)
◦ he could suddenly appear in a locked room (Jn. 20:19; Lk. 24:30-31)
– my belief is that Jesus’ resurrection body was physical, but more
• but there was a dimension added to his four-dimensional self
◦ unlike our bodies now, he was fully present in both heaven and earth
◦ in his body he participated in all dimensions of reality,
those that we know and that which for now no eyes has seen nor ear heard

Second, Jesus’ new body tells us something about our new bodies

Paul knew that he was fully known by God, but that he did not yet know God fully
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. . . . For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Cor. 13:9-12)
– our present bodies are in some way incomplete
• they are perfectly adequate for life in the world and for pleasing God
• but they are also limited, vulnerable, and fragile
◦ we get sick, we sustain injuries, we age, we weaken, and we die
◦ we know and experience only four dimensions of reality
– we are not separated from heaven by space or distance
• there is only a sheer curtain that shields our bodies from it
• our resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrection body
◦ and then the kingdom of God will no longer be invisible to us
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself (Php. 3:20-21)

At this point, we usually turn to St. Paul
– he addressed our questions head-on
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (see 1 Cor. 15:35-49)
• Paul says the answers are right in front of us
◦ they don’t provide every detail, but they demonstrate how God works
1. We can draw an analogy from what we know about agriculture
◦ a seed goes into the ground and from it a plant grows
◦ so our bodies go into the ground, they rise up in a different form
2. We can draw an analogy from animal life
◦ not all flesh is the same
◦ so we can assume that our resurrection flesh will be different
3. We can draw an analogy from celestial bodies–the earth, moon, sun, and stars
◦ there are differences in glory, but all are glorious
– so in each example there are discontinuities between our bodies now and our resurrection bodies
• but as John Polkinghorne pointed out, the repetition of the word “body” reveals the continuity between our bodies now and then
◦ my body will still be my body, but transformed
• the way we move through death into life,
◦ is a move from the bodies we inherited from Adam
◦ into the new and improved bodies we will receive from Jesus
John Polkinghorne, “If this understanding of the nature of humanity is correct, then it follows that our destiny beyond death will also be to live in an embodied state. To suppose the contrary would be to settle for a less than human form of future hope. Of course, the life of the world to come will also have to be a transformed kind of bodily existence, if that life is to be everlasting and free from the shackles of mortality.”

When Jesus argued for the resurrection against the Sadducees, he said,
And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt. 22:31-32)
John Polkinghorne, “The logic is incontestable if one accepts that there is a God who is everlastingly steadfast and faithful. If the patriarchs mattered to God once—and they certainly did—then they must matter to God for ever. If we matter to God once—and we certainly do—then we must matter to God for ever.”

Third, our resurrection bodies tell us something about our current bodies

When Christianity was still in its infancy, it was threatened by a mystical philosophy
– those other teachers made a complete break between spirit and matter
• spirit was good, divine, pure, and the only way to reach God
• the physical universe was the opposite and totally separate from God
◦ the human body was worthless and did nothing other than get in the way
◦ some of this teaching seeped into the church (and in some places still lingers today, as in the dichotomy/trichotomy debate)
Ilia Deio’s observation regarding popular culture is true of those who would separate the spirit from the body as well as those who do not believe that there is a spirit-dimension to the body:
“Modern culture’s preoccupation with the physical body and the exploitation of the body as soulless matter reflects the deep human disconnect from self, neighbor, earth, and God.”
– you and I need to anchor ourselves in a biblical view of the body
• that it is gift, that we cannot separate it from our true self
• and we can honor God with and in our bodies by dedicating them to him
. . . do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Arthur Vogel, “When we human beings begin to think and talk about God, the hardest thing for us to remember is that our bodies are an important aspect of our being and must not be neglected in our theology. After all, it is God who made us this way.”
Thomas Ryan tells us what the Incarnation (God becoming flesh) of Jesus means:
“God sent us a message: from now on, I am identified with this bodiliness, this fleshiness, this materiality, this sensuality, this worldliness, this passion.” “The stuff of material creation quite literally became the body of God. Henceforth, there is no basis for dismissing this world as some second-rate practice field for the real life in heaven. . . . Life in this word is already shot through with divinity, with the very life of God. . . . we have been gifted with this world and these bodies because this is where God dwells. . . . Human bodies are part of God’s image and the means through which absolutely everything we learn about God must come to us.”
– whatever we desire of our relations with God,
• we must work at it with our bodies
• how we structure its use of time, energy, and resources

Conclusion: There is a conversation with Jesus we all must have

It is the same conversation he had with Martha after her brother died
– when she told Jesus that Lazarus did not have to die, if only Jesus arrived had sooner
• Jesus told her, Your brother will rise again
• to which she replied, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day
– now here is the part of the conversation we need to have with Jesus:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25-26)

This is where the destiny of our bodies begins
Jesus tells you that he is the resurrection and the life,
that if you trust your life to him, even if you die, you will live again
And then looking into your eyes, he asks,
Do you believe this
Because trusting him for life today and forever,
is our hope that like him,
we will rise with new bodies,
“Built to last”–for eternity

With that, I wish you a Bless-ed Easter, a Joyful Easter–today and forever

Mar 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Palm Sunday 2021

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I am sure that you are familiar with Jesus’ celebrated arrival in Jerusalem. If not, you can read the story in Luke’s Gospel in chapter 19, verses 28-40 (in fact, this event is reported in all four Gospels). Luke adds a detail not found anywhere else.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children with you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44

Intro: Reading this passage,

It occurs to me how little preparation went into this parade
– Jesus did not send two months in advance an event team,
• to pull permits, gather resources, and begin advertising
◦ he simply arrived–and from there it was all spontaneous
• so how did it turn into such a big deal?
◦ it was Jesus himself–his person and mighty works he had done
– from another point of view, this event had been 1000 years in the making
• the script was written and choreographed in Psalm 118:19-28

For Israel, Jerusalem was the center of the world
– in the Hebrew Scriptures, it was also called Zion
• unlike Jerusalem, Zion was more than a place on a map
◦ Zion is God’s promise fulfilled – God’s covenant ratified
◦ poets and prophets were the ones who most often spoke of Zion
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of the all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress (Ps. 48:1-3)
Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain (Is. 4:5-6)
• Zion tells the erratic history of God and his people
◦ and the unfolding of God’s salvation for every nation and all people
◦ Zion had a spectacular destiny, which made its failure equally spectacular
– looking at Jerusalem, Jesus saw its high walls beautiful gates
• and behind them the Emperor’s fortress and God’s temple
◦ Jesus saw busy streets crowded with merchants and buyers
◦ and crowning upper level of the city, he saw the priests’ luxurious homes
• he saw all of this, and something in his heart broke
◦ he saw the city as it was then, unaware and unsuspecting
◦ he saw what Jerusalem could have been
◦ he saw its future and the rubble that it would become–a vacant mound, haunted by its past

Jerusalem did not have to fall – Zion did not have to disappear
– its residents did not have to be killed or enslaved
• if only . . . if only they had known on this day the things that make for peace
• many centuries before, the poet had written,
This is the day that the LORD has made; / let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24)
◦ that day came, and the crowd of disciples were rejoicing
◦ but Jesus wept

What are we going to do with the Palm Sunday story this year?

My thought, is that we can find in it an instrument panel
– we’re all familiar with the gauges on our cars’ dashboards
• they provide vital information,
◦ which we depend on for safe and successful travel
• let’s imagine that we have a discipleship instrument panel
◦ what gauges are on it, and what do they tell us?
– the Palm Sunday story provides several concerns for us to consider
• if we want to check the status of our discipleship,
◦ I suggest we examine three specific indicators

We will begin with vision

Do you have a vision? If so, are you making progress in it?
– Jesus saw the city – and obviously, he saw more than buildings and traffic
• the sadness he felt was over what his people could not see
◦ it was hidden from their eyes
◦ we are told in the Proverbs,
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law (Pr. 29:18)

To cast off restraint means to “let loose.” In this context, it means that when people lose focus on the meaning and purpose of their lives, they go off in every which way. The law sets boundaries for our lives and provides clear direction. The same word for cast off restraint occurs when Israel lost sight of Moses for forty days. Losing the vision of their leader, when he finally returned he saw that they had broken loose (Ex. 32:25)

• a vision reveals a purpose for our lives and gives us a game-plan
◦ it enables us to focus for our resources, time, and energy
Kathleen McAlpin, “The search for meaning in ministry is ultimately the search for God, the vision of God. I believe that taking time to theologically reflect on experience and praying to seek the presence of God in the complexities of life in church and society is an urgent call for all in ministry today.”
◦ she does not limit “ministry” to paid, professional staff

A vision comes to us through our mind and imagination
– first, we take a hard look at the reality of our world
• we must remove our blinders, so nothing is hidden from our eyes
◦ the prophet Habakkuk provides a good example for this:
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you, “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted (Hab. 1:2-4)
– next, we look for God’s answer
I will take my stand at my watch post
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint (Hab. 2:1)
– then, God’s vision comes to us

I said we use our mind and imagination, but I want to qualify my statement
– we use, what Walter Brueggemann famously calls prophetic imagination
• basically it’s waking up to the realization “things could be different”
• a vision gives us a concrete idea of how things could be
◦ it is seeing specific tasks that need to be done
◦ and it is seeing how we can participate in the work
– prophetic imagination is a hope-inspired, hope-filled imagination
• our vision does not have to be grandiose
◦ I can be willing to play a small part in a huge project
• also, a vision is not necessarily a goal we are to reach
◦ we have our work, but we’re not responsible for the outcome
Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. . . . And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them (Eze. 2:3 and 5)
◦ a vision is the gift of seeing what God sees and our role in it

The next indicator to check is passion

Jesus wept – and when he entered Jerusalem,
– he chased the business entrepreneurs out of the temple
• it is not enough to know our vision–we must also feel it
passion is what goes on in our hearts and spirits
• passion is what gets us off the couch and into the world
◦ we must care – and care passionately (2 Sam. 15:21)

Passion has two meanings: first, it is an intense and driving emotion
– for a long time I was confused about the second meaning
• it came from my reading in the King James Version of Bible
[Jesus] shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3)
◦ I wondered whether Jesus’ passion referred to his agony in Gethsemane
◦ but the other meaning of passion is to feel pain, to suffer
Walter Brueggemann, “. . . the real criticism [of society’s wrongdoing] begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right.” “If we are to understand prophetic criticism we must see that its characteristic idiom is anguish and not anger.”
He says that the effect of living in our consumer culture is to create numbness, but “Prophetic ministry seeks to penetrate the numbness to face the body of death in which we are caught. Clearly, the numbness sometimes evokes from us rage and anger, but the numbness is more likely to be penetrated by grief and lament.”
Kathleen McAlpin, “Focus on an experience that has the potential to reveal to you a depth of value in your ministry or work. It would be well to consider an experience that holds some clear or deep emotion for you.”
• this is so true of Jesus, who several times expressed his feelings to his disciples
◦ and moving through passion, Jesus came to compassion

The third indicator is mission

There are several places in Luke where we learn Jesus’ mission
– for instance:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
(Lk. 4:16-21)
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Lk. 13:34)

Mission is what we do with our bodies and souls
What is your role in God’s vision?
– whatever it is, do not think of it as small or inconsequential
Henri Nouwen, “To pray means to stop expecting from God the same small-mindedness which you discover in yourself. To pray is to walk in the full light of God and to say simply, without holding back, ‘I am human and you are God.’”

Conclusion: This year, Palm Sunday will be like an annual check up

We’ll take our temperature and check our heart rate and blood pressure
If we have a vision that generates passion,
then we know our mission
Vision will harness our passion and focus our mission
Passion will refresh our vision and motivate our mission
Mission will pursue our mission and renew our passion

So let’s get to it!
Because when we bless one life,
we have made an important change in the world

Mar 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 21, 2021

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And [Jesus] came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46

Intro: Are you ready for another dose of our morning meds?

Our meditation medication relieves a common disorder
spiritual somnambulism–sleepwalking through life
Anthony de Mello begins his book Awareness, “Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing we call human existence.”
• waking up was one of my morning meds last week

Jesus asked his drowsy disciples, “Why are you sleeping?”

We know the “why,” because Luke told us, they were sleeping for sorrow
– I used to think Luke was making an excuse for them,
• but grief can be exhausting,
• and a dark cloud of sadness hung over their table-talk that night
this will be our last meal together
one of you will betray me
the Son of Man goes as it has been determined
Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you
you will deny that you even know me
◦ so even though Jesus asked them to pray, they slept
◦ all of this sad news wore them out
– this is something about myself that I do not like–at all:
• when there’s a time I should stay awake, but I cannot
◦ excessive sleepiness feels like a helplessness state
• I think it’s similar to cowardice in face of sudden danger
(our nervous system takes over, allowing us no time to think)
◦ like when Peter was caught off-guard later that night
◦ I don’t think it was because he lacked courage,
but at that moment he lacked the grace to be courageous
God had not supplied the grace to suffer and die with Jesus–that time

The disciples could not resolve Jesus’ question with a simple answer
– “We were too sad,” “We were really, really sleepy”
• these excuses are not good enough
• they do not justify how the disciples could let this happen
◦ and at this critical hour?
◦ not now when the mob is at the gate and Judas is leading them
– it is not uncommon for us to have sleepless nights
• kept awake by illness or pain, anxieties or an emergency
◦ even if we’re fatigued and want sleep, it eludes us
• this was one of those nights, for Jesus
◦ his sorrow was infinitely greater than his desciples’
◦ but instead of being there for him, they slept through his agony

Jesus taught us to pray our way around temptation

Or to pray temptation away, or pray our way through it
lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
– we pray to enlist God’s help
Pray that you may not enter into temptation (v. 40)
• we don’t have to go through hard times alone
• or God can prevent us from making a wrong turn,
◦ and walk ourselves into a deadly situation we can’t manage
– that means prayer oftentimes includes listening
• when God has our attention in prayer, he speaks as well as listens
• so even if something unexpected happens,
◦ we’re not caught off-guard completely

Meditating on this verse, I heard Jesus asking me,
“Why are you sleeping?”

Sometimes I’m very much aware of what God has not given me
– or what has been taken from me
• but when I’m awake, I realize what Jesus has given me
• he has given me moments
◦ not a few superb moments scattered through my lifetime,
◦ but a continuous stream of moments
and God’s Spirit inhabits each one of them
– these moments flow through bright patches of sunlight,
• and valleys darkened by the shadow of death
• but in each moment, there is something worth noticing,
◦ something that awakens a sense of awe, of wonder

Sometimes when I’m reading, I remember to be aware
– that I can practice awareness any time, no matter what I’m doing
• so I switch to a different level of experience
• I am still reading, but even while reading, I am aware of myself reading
◦ I don’t miss anything on the page,
◦ but I’ve added a depth to my experience of reading
– there is this moment, right now –as I’m talking to you
• your mind may have drifted off or you may still be listening
◦ but right now you can become aware of yourself, listening
• Anthony de Mello is right, we walk in our sleep
◦ moreover, we talk in our sleep, and listen in our sleep
◦ we do these things, but we’re not aware that we’re doing them
◦ and not being aware, we’re not getting the full experiencing of life
• we may have lots of thoughts about life,
◦ but that is not same as experiencing what it is to be alive

My youngest son, Scotty, has three children, ages nine, eleven, and thirteen. Awhile back, when peeling oranges for them, they complained if there were any “strings” of rind on them. (When I was a kid, I was told that all the parts of a fruit I did not want to eat were “the best” for me.) So when I’m preparing for Addy (Scotty’s oldest daughter), I carefully remove all strings. This takes extra time when I’m already nervous about getting her to school on time, I don’t enjoy doing it. It is not unusual for Addy to share her lunch with a friend. One day as her friend took a section of Addy’s orange, she remarked, “Wow! This orange was peeled with care.” After Addy told me about this comment, I’ve found myself waking up to these moments when I’m gingerly removing strings from oranges. I think of my granddaughter, whom I love, and this one simple task that she’ll never remember when she’s all grown up. Being aware of what I am doing in those moments, blesses the for me.
– sometimes I catch an expression on the face of one of my grandchild
• or hear them say something with the richness of their childlike expression
◦ I appreciate their specific ages and personalities
◦ and in that moment I sense awe and feel reverence
• how can I think that doing simple chores is a waste of time,
◦ when moments of wonder are flowing through them?

How can we wake ourselves up to our God-filled moments?

Can we set a spiritual alarm clock, so that when it goes off, we
hear Jesus’ voice, “Why are you sleeping?”
– how do we start any new and exciting project?
• we clear off our desks – or table, workbench, an area on the floor
◦ we create a space where we’ll do our work
• we can also create the mental space we need in order to notice what’s here
◦ remove anxiety, resentment, regrets, intrusive thoughts
◦ what St. Paul said, is we remove from our mins includes
arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)
– sometimes to do this, we must first relax our bodies
• a tense body keeps the mind tense
• and a tense mind increases muscular tension

When Jesus was with his disciples after the resurrection, John says,
he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:21)
– this gift of the breath of life, that God has given us,
• is a great “biological app” for waking up and noticing
◦ you don’t have to run around looking for your breath,
◦ or make an appointment, or pull it out of the closet like a yoga mat
• it is always right here – if it’s not here, then neither are you
– feel the air that enters your nostrils and touches the back of your throat
• see if you can feel it all the way into your lungs
• notice how a deep, cleansing breath causes your chest to expand
◦ if you receive God’s Spirit with your breath, notice
◦ how your body and mind are blessed with a relaxed state
– you can almost feel heart rate slowing, BP dropping
– take a moment to enjoy that – to give thanks for it

Two other wake-up exercises – briefly:
1.) Take one of your daily habits–brushing your teeth, tying your shoes
– turn off your automatic pilot and pay attention to everything body does
• for five minutes, watch your fingers and notice all that they do
• for instance in getting dressed, starting your car, picking up a cup
2.) Choose one object or idea and notice the pure experience of it
– don’t use words or labels to describe it
• and don’t analyze it – if it’s blue, the feel sensation of blueness

If we practice five minutes every day–ten minutes if you have them–
– then anywhere, any time you can wake yourself up to the here and now
– you will be able to notice the wonder and feel reverence of each moment

Conclusion: Listen to the logic of a lesson Jesus taught

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also (Jn. 12:26)
Where will we find Jesus?
Since we are his servants, we find him here, now
Why are you sleeping?
Wake up!
And now,
on to your next moment

Mar 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 14, 2021

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He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his masters debtors one by one, he said o the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take you bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Luke 16:1-9

Intro: Because last week seems to me like it was two years ago,
– let me remind you that I am sharing with you my morning meds
• that is, various “meditations” from my past readings of scripture
• the passage I want to focus on comes at the end of this chapter in Luke
◦ however, this chapter is a masterpiece
◦ and it begins with this strange parable
– did Jesus really teach this? did he actually congratulate the dishonest manager?
• NO! it was not Jesus who commended him,
◦ but a character in the story—the master; his boss
• and no there’s reason to think the manager’s actions pleased his boss
◦ in fact, this very behavior is what got him fired
◦ but the boss was impressed by his clever scheme

Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh explain that “Rich landowners frequently employed estate managers . . . who had the authority to rent property, to make loans, and to liquidate debts in the name of the master. Such agents were usually paid in the form of a commission or fee on each transaction they arranged. . . .
“In the case of the dismissal of an agent, the dismissal was effective as soon as the agent was informed of it, and from that time on nothing the agent did was binding on the person who employed him. The plan worked out by the manager thus had to be enacted before word of his dismissal got back to the village. His haste in carrying out the plan is noted in v. 6.”

Isn’t it fascinating how Jesus depicts the managerial mindset?

When he gets the bad news, he immediately begins calculating
– a typical lesson in management is referred to as SWOT
• managers are taught to assess a business’
Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – and Threats
• this manager’s thoughts went like this:
1.) he knew he did not have what it takes to do the hard or creative work
◦ that is, to build his own business or develop his own resources
◦ he was only able to manage what belonged to someone else
◦ and he had exploited that ability for his own gain
2.) he was unwilling to go to others and beg for assistance
◦ perhaps that was something his ego would not allow him
◦ or it was the fact that such embarrassment in an honor/shame culture would destroy not only him, but damage his entire extended family
3.) so he would relied on his current position and the skills he had acquired
◦ dedicated managers believe they can manage anything
◦ money, buildings, programs, communication, people, the future
◦ among his other talents, this manager knew how to cook the books to hide owner’s losses
◦ he also able to spin his reputation so that potential new clients would think he was a good guy, watching out for them as their friend
– but all this, and even misconduct, are merely elements of the plot
• Jesus was not justifying his mismanagement,
◦ he was making only one specific point:
◦ wisdom tells us to prepare ourselves for the future, especially if it has the potential to become disastrous
• use what you have now to prepare for your next life
make friends who are able to receive you into “eternal dwellings”

If you’re still thinking Jesus endorsed a scoundrel read on
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Luke 16:10-13

What is Jesus saying? – God rewards faithfulness
– and the opposite of faithfulness is dishonesty
(the same word that is used of the dishonest manager in v. 8)
• in reality, no one who knew manager’s history would hire him
◦ so Jesus does not endorse the dishonest manager,
◦ but address faithfulness and unfaithfulness in one’s responsibilities
• Paul told the Corinthians his job description included being a manager (although the same Greek word in this passage is translated steward)
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:1-2)
– but again, what Jesus stresses is the relationship of the present to the future
• and using material (or unrighteous) wealth to acquire true riches

The Pharisees bristled at this teaching
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void (vv. 14-17)

I can think of a few preachers who might also bristle at Jesus’ words
(and for same reason)
– the Pharisees ridiculed what Jesus was saying,
• as lovers of money often do when called out for their materialism
• the Lord’s response was that their justifications may convince others,
◦ but they don’t work with God
– in the Law and Prophets, material blessings were the rewards for faithfulness
• but now it is God’s kingdom that is the reward
• that the coming of God’s kingdom does not mitigate what came before
◦ because whether Old Testament or New Testament, the the call is the same:
◦ care for and provide for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger
◦ all who were weak and vulnerable

The next verse looks like a random saying
Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. Luke 16:18

– it is as if Luke may have pulled it out of Matthew’s gospel
(the same verse appears in Mt. 5:27-32 & 19:1-9 in a fuller context)
• but the verse isn’t random, but is based on a theme runs through all the Scriptures;
◦ namely, the quintessential example of faithfulness is marriage
◦ it is an analogy God used frequently in affirming his covenant relationship with Israel
• as Israel’s “spouse,”
◦ God swore his faithfulness to Israel and demanded their faithfulness to him
– today we have wi-if, but “back in my day” we had hi-fi
• hi-fidelity sound systems: so, if you had quality equipment
(amplifier, turn-table, speakers, perhaps a diamond-tipped needle, and a pristine vinyl album)
• you could play a recording of a philharmonic orchestra,
◦ and the sound would be as if you were sitting in the auditorium
◦ “fidelity of sound” meant it was true to the real thing
– so Jesus is again stressing faithfulness – fidelity
• living true to what you believe, true to the facts, true to a person
• and staying true through thick and thin

Now we come to our meditation
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” And he said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. Luke 16:19-31

In this parable, Jesus teaches same message as the parable of the dishonest manager
– in fact, they both begin with the exact same line, There was a rich man
• in the first parable: a man glimpsed his future and tried to change it
• in this parable: a man had every opportunity to change his future, but did not
– look how creatively Jesus begins this story
• the first two lines run parallel and depict these two characters,
◦ comparing and contrasting their circumstances:
the rich man: covered body in expensive clothes
the poor man: his body was covered with sores
the rich man: his daily means were gourmet feasts
the poor man: ate the rich man’s table scraps, thrown over the gate
• the second two lines also run parallel
◦ comparing and contrasting their destinies
the poor man: died and angels carried him away
the rich man: also died and was buried (unceremoniously)
the poor man: rested and was comforted at Abraham’s side
the rich man: was tormented in Hades

You probably noticed something else
– only the poor man is named – the rich man is anonymous
• he is “stock character”– a stereotype, like the scribes and Pharisees
• he is just one of many like him
◦ a cardboard cut out – he has no depth
– but Jesus gave a name to Lazarus
• knowing his name, we’re brought closer to him
◦ it’s easier to relate to Lazarus than the rich man
• perhaps Jesus is reminding us
◦ every human who suffers is a person – not just a statistic
◦ and Jesus knows each one of them by name

It seems the rich man took with him his sense of entitlement and superiority
– did he assume Abraham would be able to identify with him as a fellow member of the wealthy class?
◦ people like them were used to giving orders
• certainly Abraham would send Lazarus on this little errand
◦ after all, the rich man did not allow the poor wretch die,
◦ but fed him from his own table–didn’t he?
– it caught my attention, that the rich man addressed Abraham as “father”
• and Abraham did not disown him, but in reply called him “child”
• Luke, however, has already made the point that DNA does not count for much
Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father”. For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham (Lk. 3:8)
◦ the rich man had been relying on the wrong things for his future
◦ and he had not produced those fruits in keeping with repentance

In the story, what role do the angels and Abraham play?
– they are Lazarus’ friends,
• the kind of friends that could receive him into eternal dwellings
• and they could have been the rich man’s friends too,
◦ if only he had been a friend to Lazarus

Conclusion: In the late 19th century, an unfortunate division was made

Protestant Christianity (and some Roman Catholics) took sides:
– some worked out a theology and practice that became the “social gospel”
– others took issue with them, clinging to the “salvation gospel”

Taking seriously the biblical concern for the poor,
– a few preachers, at first, began supporting social causes
• health care and education for poor, women’s right to vote, helping alcoholics through recovery, and so on
• some went so far as to replace spiritual concerns with social concern
◦ and for that it has been sharply criticized by fundamentalists and evangelicals
– in scripture, there is no division between a social gospel and salvation gospel
• all way through we are taught concern for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger
• and salvation is both social and spiritual–there is no division
◦ it is a salvation process that begins in this life and is carried into the next
We have been saved (Rom. 8:24)
We are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18)
and
We will be saved (1 Cor. 3:15)

When John spoke of “fruits in keeping with repentance,” what did he mean?
◦ something that looks very much like the social gospel
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:10-11)
• he tells the average person, “Share your excess”
◦ when Paul encouraged the Corinthians to donate for poor he told them there was no need to impoverish themselves, but to only supply what they were able
◦ but what we are able to give is a lot more than we realize

A young woman, working in a Christian community serving refugees decided that she could “live simply so others could simply live.”
Another young woman working there also, realized (in her words) “How little we have to do to make life so much easier for people in need”

This particular meditation got me thinking,
“What more is there that can I can be doing?”
If, instead, I live a life of conspicuous consumption
while others are starving, freezing, living without shelter,
what sort of friends am I making?
the kind that can receive me into eternal dwellings?
and what sort of future am I making for myself?
So that if empathy for others
is not a big enough motive to provide proper care for others
–those whom Jesus referred to as
“the least of these my brothers” (Mt. 5:31-40)–,
then maybe concern for my own welfare
will be motive enough

These are the thoughts that I will leave with you
to work out for yourself
And may God give us the grace
to know what we need to know
and feel what we need to feel
to choose to walk the path of generous love
with Jesus,
the most generous Lover of all time