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Jul 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 18, 2021

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. . . . God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. . . . And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. . . .So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. . . . And God made the beasts of the eaerth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creep on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. . . . And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:1-4, 10, 12, 16-18, 21, 25, 31

Intro: The Bible begins at the beginning – the story of creation

It is important that we read this passage as a story and not as a scientific account
(I do not have a problem with people trying to harmonize it with science, but that was not how Genesis was written nor how it was meant to be read)
– stories have a plot, characters, setting and mood
• in this story, the universe does not merely exist by itself
◦ it has an Architect, a Creator – and he has a purpose for it
• each new addition as it unfolds, is inspected and approved
◦ once the project is complete, all of it is very good
– the goodness of the created world is repeated and celebrated in the Old Testament
• in the Book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified and sings:
The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water. . . .
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man (Pr. 8:22-31)
◦ also in the Psalms
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein . . . . (Ps. 24:1)
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
and plants to cultivate,
that he may bring forth food from the earth
and wine to gladden the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Ps. 104:14-15)
◦ and on and on, the Hebrew Scriptures celebrate the created world
• the Catholic saint who caught this better than any other was St. Francis of Assisi
◦ in his “Canticle of the Sun,” he sings,
“Praise be to you, my Lord . . . through Brother Sun”
“Praise be to you, my Lord . . . through Sister Moon”
“Praise be to you, my Lord . . . through Mother Earth”

We are made of the same stuff as the rest of our universe

Our relation to the earth is organic
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return (Ge. 3:19)
– our spirit may belong to God’s realm, but the body belongs to the earth
– today I will conclude my series of talks on body parts
• what I’ve tried to stress is that our bodies are not only material, but spiritual
◦ not two different realities – but spirit belongs to another, larger dimension
◦ we are spiritual bodies
• today we’ll explore our embodied connection to the earth
◦ what will be our attitude to Earth? how will we treat it?

We know the world through our bodies

Our sense of direction, our orientation in world begins with the body
– so depending on what direction my body is facing,
• “north” can be to the right of me, the left, in front of me, or behind me
Arthur Vogel, “The fundamental role which being-in-the-world-through-our-bodies plays in our personal lives can be simply and convincingly demonstrated by the role played by prepositions in our thought. Such terms as in, between, over, under, behind, within, without, beyond, beside, are basic to our thinking, but they come to us from an experience of the world . . . The world of our personal embodiment.”
• with this basic knowledge, we can conceptualize other objects
◦ for instance, “Voyager has traveled outside our solar system”
◦ our body-knowledge is how we understand what “outside” means
– let’s bring this down to earth
• remember relief maps? colors are used to indicate elevation
◦ some were even molded with 3-dimensional mountains and valleys
◦ topography maps are similar, but more technical
• suppose you had to create a relief map using only words?
◦ a technical description of landscape; its height, depth, width, breadth, shapes and configurations?
◦ that would take some imagination

The Bible does this, using what we know from our bodies
And the east boundary is the Salt Sea, to the mouth of the Jordan. And the boundary on the north side runs from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan. . . . Then the boundary goes up by the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the southern shoulder of [Jerusalem]. And the boundary goes up to the top of the mountain that lies over against the Valley of Hinnom . . . . (Jos. 15:5-8)
• two body parts used for the contours of landscape are obvious
◦ the mouth of Jordan and the shoulder of Jerusalem (the side of a hill or a slope)
• but there are other body parts not obvious in our English translation:
bay is literally tongue
top of the mountain translates a Hebrew word for head
over against is the Hebrew word panyim, “faces” (in this instance, facing the Valley of Hinnom
• another familiar expression is the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:17)
– Old Testament maps were drawn up using analogies of the human body
• in Joshua, these maps were made to establish boundaries between the twelve tribes
◦ each territory was like a body, and the borders were like its skin
• do you see how the human body is superimposed over the earth’s body
◦ this is possible because we are alike
◦ in Genesis, the human body and earth are mutually dependent
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Ge. 2:15)
. . . and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread . . . (Ge. 3:17-19)

Thinking about all of this, two of the Bible’s books came to mind

Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs – they appear side-by-side
– both are relatively short, and both are controversial
• when studying them, question that comes up most often is:
◦ “Why is this book in the Bible?”
◦ neither mention the name of Yahweh, and the Song does not even mention “God”
• Ecclesiastes is Utilitarian and pessimistic; the Song is Epicurean and optimistic
– I thought of them, because the backdrop for both is the created world
• if we ask, “What does it mean to be alive in the world?”
◦ each of these books gives a very different answer

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun? (Ecc. 1:2-3)
This is how Ecclesiastes begins and ends (Ecc. 12:8)
– the writer claims to be a descendent of David,
• and describes himself as “The Preacher” – “one who gather an audience”
vanity is a poor choice for translators to make
• the Hebrew word hebel is your misty breath on a cold day
(cf. Jas. 4:14, For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes)
◦ it is nothingness, emptiness, futility
Robert Alter, “For the most part . . . his observations are properly philosophic, inviting us to contemplate the cyclical nature of reality and human experience, the fleeting duration of all that we cherish, the brevity of life, and the inexorability of death, which levels all things.”
Alter describes Ecclesiastes as a “radical dissent, in which time, history, politics, and human nature are seen in . . . a bleak light” and “the world is a theater of continuing frustration and illusion; that is the way that God/fate/the intrinsic constitution of reality has determined that it should be.”
– contrast this with beginning of the Song
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant . . . (Song 1:2-3)
• immediately we see the pleasures of physical love
◦ there is touch, and taste, and fragrance (soon all of the senses will be stimulated)
• for the lovers who sing to each other, the earth is teeming with life
◦ love thrives in its mountains and valleys, its vineyards and gardens
◦ it seems that everything in nature finds a counterpart in the human body
Ariel and Chana Bloch, “Nature is the mirror of the human lovers. . . . The poet’s metaphors keep shifting between the actual landscape, suffused with erotic associations, and the landscape of the body. The Shulamite waits for her lover in a garden, but she herself is a garden . . . .” “The images are not literally descriptive; what they convey is the delight of the lover in contemplating the beloved, finding in the body a reflected image of the world in its freshness and splendor.”
Robert Alter, “The Song of Songs is the great love poem of commingling—of different realms, different senses, and of the male and female bodies. . . . there are abundant cross-overs from the luxuriance of the landscape to the luxuriance of the human body.”

The Song and Ecclesiastes share same themes, but develop them differently
the wind in the Song:
Awake, O north wind,
and come O South wind!
Blow upon my garden,
let its spices flow (Song 4:16)
the wind in Ecclesiastes
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns (Ecc. 1:6)
• what’s did the Teacher conclude about traveling in circles? You never get anywhere
• all worldly pursuits are a striving after the wind (Ecc. 2:17)
Alter translates this, herding the wind
the sun in Ecclesiastes describes the environment of human endeavor
under the sun (Ecc. 1:9, 14, etc., etc.)
• this is a materialistic worldview in which death makes everything irrelevant (Ecc. 2:15-17)
◦ even the sun and moon are eventually darkened (Ecc. 12:2)
• but the lovers see the beauty of sun and moon in each other’s body
Who is this who looks down like the dawn,
beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,
awesome as an army with banners? (Song 6:10)

Conclusion: There’s so much more here to contrast and compare

If you’re interested, you can continue this study of the two books on your own
– my concern here is that we see these books as a challenge of two doors
• what happens if we take our bodies through door one?
• and what happens if we choose door two?
I am not a doomsday person
– and I do not spend my time in scripture trying to figure out the day and hour of Jesus’ return
• but anyone who happens to be noticing, can see that we have done great damage to our planet

If we commit our bodies to an Ecclesiastes view of life,
we will go on abusing Mother Earth
If we take a Song of Songs view of life,
there is hope for redemption for the earth body and the human body
• we share a destiny with our planet
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. . . . For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Ro. 8:19-23)

James Hall, “It is in the gospel stories of Jesus that we recognize how present and intimately available God is in creation. The story begins with Jesus’ birth in a manger-a place where animals were kept, most likely a cave in the hillside. God’s incarnation in human form begins in the earth itself. Years later, Jesus responds to the cry of John the Baptist, ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.’ Then and now, John and his cry embody the undomesticated wildness of God. In that remote setting, Jesus was baptized . . . .”
– think of how much of Jesus’ teaching referred to nature
• seeds and soil, lilies and birds, fig trees and vineyards
• he is himself is the true vine and the Spirit is living water
Hall, “Throughout his ministry Jesus withdrew to remote mountain and desert places to pray. On the night before he was arrested, he went to a quiet garden to pour out his anguish and grief. For Jesus the most intimate moments with God took place in the desert, on the mountain, in the garden, among the wildness and beauty of God’s creation.” “. . . when we lay the written scripture, so full of images from the natural world, beside the scripture of the earth, our understanding of each is enhanced.”
“Only recently have we lost contact with the earth out of which we were made, and on which we depend for life and sanity. Some think that this is why we are blindly destroying our habitat. In our alienation from the earth, have we gone mad?”

If we are looking for the redemption of planet earth and our bodies with it,
– we will need to treat our bodies as part of nature’s song
• and treat our planet’s body with same care we give our own
• we will want to connect with the created world as Jesus did
◦ and like Jesus, pray with our bodies
Hall asks, “How do we learn to pray the prayer of embodiment with all creation? One way we can begin is by going to a less inhabited, natural place. . . . Such a place, if it is accessible and we go there often, will become a special and sacred place where we can meet God in the things he has made.”

What is required of us to have a role in redemption?
– perhaps re-learning how to be a child
Rachel Carson, “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement . . . . If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world would be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the source of our strength.” (quoted in James Hall)

Our hope is to become as children,
enter the kingdom of heaven
and recover our sense of wonder–
for the Creator of this fantastic universe,
for the beauty and wonders of nature,
and for our own bodies
as we present them to God,
again and again,
living sacrifices

Jul 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 11, 2021

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:22-25

Intro: While talking with an old friend recently,

I discovered something about myself – it was a senior citizen moment
– as I age, I experience nostalgia more intensely
• it is not that I would want to return to my past
• but I experience memories of it with a deeper resonance
– I graduated high school in 1969
• a couple weeks later, we put humans on the moon
◦ that doesn’t trigger moody memories or warm feelings
• a band appeared and disappeared that same year
◦ they left behind one album that reached the top of the charts in the US and UK
◦ a song from that album evokes nostalgia in me
“Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key
Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home”
(from “Blind Faith,” written by Eric Clapton and sung by Steve Winward)

One interpretation of those lyrics is that Clapton was working through addiction at the time
– he began writing songs in which he spirituality and recovery
• “Come down off your throne” — stop getting high; stop messing up your body
◦ “Somebody must change” — and you, the addict, must make that change
◦ “Somebody holds the key” — someone else, a “higher power”
◦ “I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time” — I can only do this for so long before I overdose
• a side note: on the same album included there is another song Clapton wrote:
“I have finally found the way to live – in the presence of the Lord”
– when I first heard the line “leave your body alone,”
• it struck me as being relevant to a body-obsessed culture
◦ the emphasis on one’s media image, the fashion industry, medical interventions that kept bodies alive
• other than drug use, hippies celebrated the body’s natural state
◦ they cared for it with health food, Chinese medicine, and naturopathic healing
This is what came to mind while preparing today’s talk
“Leave your body alone”

I began our current series of talks on Easter Sunday
– we began exploring the Scriptures,
• to see how our body parts experience our relationship with God
• we began with the head, then the face–eyes, ears, mouth, lips, tongue
◦ all the way down to our feet
◦ and inside to our blood, bones, and internal organs
• last week we explored the life of our body
◦ the soul – which is physical, the life-force of the body and its parts
◦ the spirit – the invisible part; the added dimension
this is where we connect with God
. . . you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Ro. 8:15-16)
– today’s talk won’t be as intense as the previous ones
• it will be more lab than lecture
• we will leave our bodies alone so they can experience Jesus for themselves

Jesus held in his hands the broken loaf, presented it to disciples

This is my body – I want us to hear this in a specific way
– we have collected all kinds of biblical information about our bodies
• but now we hear Jesus say, This is MY body
• we focus our attention on the bread in his hands,
◦ and on his hands holding the bread
◦ and on the eyes that search us and the lips that speak to us

The first thought that comes to me is “touch”

If Jesus is embodied and we are embodied, there can be touch
– Jesus touched people
• one of the first was Peter’s mother in law (Mt. 8:15)
◦ in fact, Jesus took her by the hand and helped her up (Mk. 1:31)
• soon after, a leper (Mk. 1:41)
• Jesus also touched Jairus’ dead daughter (Mk. 5:41)
• he touched the eyes of two blind men (Mt. 9:29)
• on the mountain where he was transfigured, Jesus woke his disciples with a touch (Mt. 17:7)
• he touched small children whose parents wanted his blessing (Mt. 10:13)
• another child he took in his arms (Mk. 9:36)
– Jesus used his body in extraordinary ways
• his feet took him over all kinds of terrain,
◦ even across the surface of a lake
• his hands were filled with healing and blessings
◦ in fact, the last thing he did for others was with his hands
And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Lk. 24:50-51)
◦ those hands were nailed to the cross

I have often wondered what Jesus’ touch would feel like

Jesus himself, was touchable

[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him (Mk. 3:9-10)
– there was the woman whose hemorrhage doctors could not resolve, but touching the edge of Jesus’ cloak did (Mk. 5:27)
• and the woman who kissed Jesus’ feet (Lk. 7:38-39)
• after his resurrection he appeared to the women who had come to the empty tomb
And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him (Mt. 28:9)
– one of my favorites, also after resurrection when Jesus appeared to the disciples:
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see (Lk. 24:39)
• he invited his disciples to touch him
• and he invites us to touch him
◦ think of that when you hold the bread in your hands
This is MY body

The next thought that comes to me, is the role he gives us

Mark tells us that after blessing the bread and breaking it,
– he presented it to the disciples with one word: Take
• he did not hold it just out of reach
◦ he did not say, “Now you’re going to have to work for this!”
◦ their part was easy – all they had to do was receive it
• the Lord who gave us our bodies, now gives us his body
◦ we did not earn this gift,
◦ so we don’t have to worry that we may lose it
– still, we do need to take it – to receive it
• I think we have to learn receptivity as a spiritual exercise
◦ free will means we can choose
◦ we can receive or reject
• we have wisdom when we can discerning when to receive and when to resist
◦ James says this in his typically blunt way:
Submit yourselves therefore to God (receive). Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jas. 4:7)
– receptivity offers us a different way of going through life
• getting up in the morning, we can receive the day
◦ or we can reject it, fight with it
◦ but fighting only intensifies frustration, anxiety, disappointment
• we can receive each chore as it comes, or resist and complain
◦ if we remember, we can receive Jesus in each moment

And Jesus tells us to remember
This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me (Lk. 22:19)
– scripture tells us–you and I– that we are the body of Christ
• each one, a member of Jesus’ body
◦ this past year we have been dis-membered
◦ we’re here today so we can be re-membered
put back together
• the bread and wine put us together with Jesus
◦ and today it puts us together with each other
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor. 10 16-17)
◦ Jesus’ body, entering our bodies, making us one body in Christ
– but why would he ask us to consume his body and blood?
• why would we want to?
• because we want his touch on our innermost self
◦ we’ve seen, internal body parts hold our deepest feelings
◦ emotions, motivations, needs, commitments, decisions
• we want his touch to reach down into the depth of our souls
◦ Jesus Christ within us, and taking us into himself
In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you (Jn. 14:20)

Conclusion: I want to make a suggestion for receiving bread and cup

We all know how to say something in sign-language
– you may not have realized this before
• the sign-language that we know is a way to pray with our bodies
• even if you’ve never made the sign yourself, you at least have seen it
Tertullian, “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting off our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.”
– that is what I am suggesting that you do
Richard Rohr tells us that “we have this wonderful body language . . . practiced by the older churches that we call ‘the sign of the cross.’ . . . If you’ve never enacted the sign of the cross before, I hope you’ll consider its value. And if you’re familiar (perhaps overfamiliar) with the practice, I hope you can do it now in a conscious and trustful way.”
“First of all, the very ritual says that we can know something in our body—that our body has to be reminded in whose ‘name’ it lives and moves and has its being.”
Signing the cross “is often seen as both a shielding and an honoring of the body itself. We begin with the forehead, honoring our thoughts and minds as the source or the beginning point of all our decisions to act: ‘In the name of the Father’ is certainly offering our thoughts and our mind over to God as the Ultimate source.
Then we move directly downward, crossing over our heart, toward the solar plexus, or stomach, which is certainly blessing our own enfleshment and incarnation as the body of Christ: ‘And of the Son,’ we say.
And then, now trusting and enjoying the flow, we cross our body from shoulder to shoulder, again crossing the heart, and say, ‘And of the Holy Spirit.’ Note the sweep, the movement, and the fullness of both vertical and horizontal.”
“This is a way for the body itself to know holy things, to honor itself as the temple and container of the Mystery, and to live with an newly conscious and self-declared dignity.”
“If you’re used to doing it in a mindless and perfunctory way, try letting the rote go and breathe through it each step of the way . . .”

My suggestion is that you take the bread and the cup with this sign of cross
– the Communion ritual is all about the cross
• all about the broken body and the shed blood
– this is only a suggestion
• if it seems right to you, then sign slowly and mindfully
• practice receptivity
Receive the fullness of the gift of Jesus

Jul 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 4, 2021

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Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Intro: These verses come at end of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians

He is signing off, leaving them with a benediction – a blessing
– Paul could not give greater force to his thought
• two compound words – both contain the word holos (root of English holistic)
◦ “completely” is holoteles – perfectly complete/whole
◦ “whole” is holokeros – complete in every part
• the blessing is that God would make them sacred through and through
– verse 23 reads like a clear and simple statement
• but hidden within it is a potential for all kinds of confusion
◦ the Bible does not provide precise definitions for soul and spirit
◦ so we have to work our way through a maze of ideas
• we’ve spent three months exploring body parts
◦ today we go inside and look at the life of the body
◦ the hidden energies that enable the parts to function

It would be easy to overlook blood as a vital energy

There is one central statement that explains all other references to blood in the Hebrew Scriptures
– it is attached to a prohibition regarding eating meat with blood in it
For the life of the flesh is in the blood . . . . For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is the life (Lev. 17:11 and 14)
• life translates nephesh, the Hebrew for soul – but we’ll come to that
Hans Wolf, “Everything that is said about breath and blood in the anthropology of the Old Testament is instruction in an ultimate reverence for life. But this reverence is not derived from the manifestations of life itself; it is based on the fact that the breath and the blood belong to Yahweh, and therefore life without a steady bond with him and an ultimate tending towards him is not really life at all.” Israel was “entitled only to the meat that comes from the earth and returns to the earth, while the life belongs to Yahweh alone.”
• the sacred quality of blood gave it potency in sacrificial worship
– the value given to blood had certain ramifications
. . . you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning . . .
Whoever shed the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image
(Ge. 9:4-6)
• there were serious concerns regarding spilled blood
◦ so it’s not surprising that the first mention of blood in scripture is Able’s crying from the soil
• shed blood produces a serious and special kind of guilt
◦ it violated a taboo that unleashed bad juju
◦ this is referred to as “bloodguilt” (Ex. 24:2-3; Lev. 17:4; 2 Sam. 21:1)

When we come to the soul, we find a strange develoment

“Soul” is not the definition for the Hebrew word translated soul
– the Hebrew nephesh is literally the neck (external) and throat (internal)
Joseph’s neck was put in a collar of iron (Ps. 105:18)
Like cold water to a thirsty [throat],
so is good news from a far country (Pr. 25:25)
• we’ve seen that the meaning of a body part is derived from the activity it performs
◦ the eye is sight, the ear is hearing, the hand is power, and so on
• in the same way, the throat came to have multiple meanings
◦ for instance, it can stand for what passes in and out of the throat:
Throat includes the esophagus that receives food and drink
– by extension, it can be translated appetite
The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
but the belly of the wicked suffers want (Pr. 13:25; cf. Pr. 23:2; 25:25)
Throat also includes larynx and trachea or windpipe that receives and exhales air
– our breathing is affected by physical exertion and psych stress
And the people became impatient on the way (Nu. 21:4)
• literally, their throat was shortened – brief, shallow breaths
What is my strength that I should wait?
and what is my end, that I should be patient (Job 6:11)
• literally, that my throat should be lengthened?
◦ breathe slowly and evenly
◦ or it could also mean, that my life be prolonged? Many more breaths before I die
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that [you, your livestock, servants and the stranger] may be refreshed (Ex. 23:12)
• literally, take breath – we would say, “take a breather”

Nephesh sometimes means desire (Pr. 23:2; Mic. 7:1)
– desire for food in Deuteronomy 12:15, and desire for wine in Deuteronomy 14:26
• but also desire for non-edibles, like Israel’s longing to return to land (Jer. 22:27)
– because the throat is essential for eating and breathing, it is life (Ps 141:8)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Just as the nephesh, as the fundamental life force, comes in with the breath, so at death it disappears in the departing breath . . . .” “Thus the nephesh represents life itself. Where there is no nephesh there is no life.” “Thus in the biblical view of humanity the nephesh represents the center of vitality, the life force, and the lust for life.”
• the nephesh is the life force of the body and all of its parts

Eventually, nephesh became “soul”
– the soul experiences the full range of human emotions
Hans Wolff, in the Psalms the soul “. . . is frightened (6.3), it despairs and is disquieted (42.5f., 11; 43.5), it feels itself weak and despondent (Jonah 2.7), it is exhausted and feels defenseless (Jer. 4.31), it is afflicted (Ps. 31.7; cf. Gen. 42.21) and suffers misery (Isa. 53.11).”
• it knows bitterness, rage, distress, hate, love, grief and joy
Staubli and Schroer, “It can suffer, rejoice, be carried away, or be rescued from death; it thirsts for God’s presence and ultimately can only be utterly at rest with God (cf. Jer 6:16; Pss 62:1; 131:2).
• there is one verse that throws a distinct light on nephesh
◦ it has to do with a person who has taken a vow
All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body [nephesh] (Nu. 6:6)
◦ here nephesh cannot mean life – it refers to the person to whom the corpse belonged
• The English Standard Version translates nephesh as person in Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 17:10 and 19:8, and elsewhere
– the human person is a living soul
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 [nephesh, soul, person] (Ge. 2:7)
• this verse is critical for understanding what we are
◦ the body is not a shell for the soul or the spirit
◦ it isn’t like a banana peel that gets tossed when we die
• the body is a living soul – one whole, complete person
◦ when the nephesh leaves the body, the person dies
◦ when a psalmist says my soul, he is saying, myself
J. Pedersen (quoted in Robinson), “The body is the soul in its outward form.”

With the soul we discover the center of our physical and psychological existence
– this is the inner person
• it includes all of the functions of the body, mind, and heart
– you and I are all of this at once

At last we come to spirit

We have seen that the word for soul is derived from a body part – the throat
– but spirit is not derived from a body part, but from the air!
• specifically, air in motion:
◦ the breeze blowing through trees, the breath in our lungs
◦ spirit is derived from breath – and breath comes from God
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath [ruah], they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit [ruah], they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground (Ps. 104:29-30)
• Hebrew thought is definitely rooted in this world,
◦ and it is oriented to the life we have in this world
◦ but Hebrew thought it is also definitely supernatural
neither the world nor life within it sustains itself
– in Old Testament, spirit and soul are flexible and interchangeable
My soul years for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you (Isa. 26:9)
• the New Testament makes more of a distinction between soul and spirit
◦ especially in Paul’s writings
• human spirit is transcendent – it belongs to an added dimension

In John’s gospel, the ministry of Jesus awakens a person’s spirit
born again is the person’s awakening to the life of God
• only God’s Spirit can produce this
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6)
◦ when it happens, the Spirit becomes fountain of life within the person (4:14)
◦ because God is spirit, he looks for people who worship him in spirit and truth (4:24)
◦ the mystery of Jesus’ teaching is that his words are spirit
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63)
◦ Jesus promised the Spirit to anyone who would come to him (7:37-39)
◦ and he gave specific promises to disciples in his final instructions (Jn. chs. 14-16)
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (Jn. 14:15-17)

I do not have all the time for Paul that I would like to take
– the main ideas I want to stress are as follows:
• everything God does in our lives is by his Spirit
◦ especially God’s love, which is poured into our hearts (Ro 5:5)
◦ and is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)
• we are God’s children by his Spirit of adoption (Ro. 8:15)
• the Spirit assists us when we pray (Ro. 8:26-27)
– but especially important is the witness of the Spirit
Paul says that we have within ourselves the witness of God’s Spirit
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Ro. 8:16)
Bernard Ramm, refers to this witness by the Latin term testimonium. “It is the touch of the divine Spirit upon the human spirit.” “In its simplest definition, revelation is God making himself known, and this ‘knowing’ is a spiritual knowing. The Eternal Spirit creates a bridge from his infinitude to the finitude of [human persons]; he imparts to [human persons] a knowledge of himself, and through that knowledge creates a fellowship with the creature.”
The witness is “an opening of the eyes resulting in an intuition of seeing; it is the unplugging of the ears resulting in an intuition of hearing. It is the removal of a veil; it is light dissipating darkness. It is illumination granting the powers of spiritual perception. The total inward [person] now sees revelation as revelation; he [or she] intuits truth as truth; he [or she] hears Scripture as the truth of God.”
Walther Eichrodt, “. . . when the reference is to the spirit of [the human person] in the wider sense, it is concerned predominantly with the higher spiritual functions: the spirit searches out God’s ways; (1) it is despondent when divine help is slow in coming (2); David holds the plans for every detail of the Temple building in his spirit.(3) It is therefore understandable that Yahweh’s direct influence on a [human person] is aimed especially at the ruah as the organ of higher [psychological] activity . . . .”
(1) Ps. 77.7; Isa. 26.9
(2) Isa. 57.16; 61.3; 66.2; Ezek. 21.12; Pss. 77.4; 143.4, 7
(3) 1 Chron. 28.12, cf. Ex. 35.21
• the human spirit is where we connect with God
◦ where all our body parts, our whole self connects with God
• I believe that your spirit is your true self
◦ it does not belong to another universe or reality
◦ it is in this world as much as your body, but in an added dimension
– we can learn to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)
• God’s Spirit moves through life with us in our spirit
• we can pray with our spirit – with or without words
What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also (1 Cor. 14:15)

Conclusion: Relax a little and take a deep breath

Can you imagine God’s Spirit in the atmosphere that surrounds you?
We can move a step back
and position ourselves behind our thoughts, feelings, and actions
To the part of ourselves that does the thinking, feeling, and acting
When we do this, we are not only thinking, feeling, and acting,
we are aware of our thoughts as thoughts,
our feelings as feelings,
and our actions as actions
That aware self is your spirit – your true self

Bring awareness to your body as God’s gift
Bring awareness to your breath as an experience of mercy
Bring awareness to your spirit,
because this is our side of the bridge to God
We enjoy interaction with God spirit to Spirit

We can become more conscious of who we are
And in doing so, become more aware of God’s Spirit
and who he is in himself
and who he is for us

Jul 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Reflexion Returns In Person!

Sunday, July 11, 2021, Reflexion will resume meeting in the Dana Point Community Clubhouse,
24642 San Juan Ave.
Dana Point, CA

As before the COVID quarantine, we will begin at 10:00ish.

If you have not been vaccinated we recommend that you wear a mask. If for any other reason you wish to wear a mask, you are welcome to do so. We will try to be sensitive to seating space, but will not worry too much about social distancing.

Speaking of seating, the clubhouse is still furnished with the same medieval torture chairs, so if you would like to bring your own lawn chair or director’s chair, we’ll be sure to leave plenty of space for that. Just don’t get too relaxed.

Looking forward to seeing everyone face to face again.

Grace and peace,
chuck

Jul 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Guided Prayer

On Sunday July 20, rather than beginning our meeting with a prayer, I walked us through a prayer. Being that we had reached our twelfth week of talks on body parts, it seemed appropriate to bring attention to one way of “presenting” our bodies to God. I was asked to make that prayer available for others to use in their own quiet time. Since I had not prepared the prayer, this may not be the exact script, but it will be close enough.
I would suggest that you read the prayer onto a recording device in your own voice (there are recording apps for most smart phones). Read slowly and softly, pausing occasionally to allow yourself to feel what is happening in your body.
There is nothing magical, or even unique, about this prayer. It is simply another way to pray that we can add to our collection. As always, the most important part of prayer is the connection with God that occurs in prayer. This is possible through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Begin:
Slowly draw in a deep, cleansing breath, and slowly exhale.
Repeat the cleansing breath, being mindful of the passage of air
into and out of your lungs.
Repeat the cleansing breath.

Imagine a warm oil gently poured over you.
Notice that it covers the entire crown of your head.
Receive this as an anointing of God’s Spirit.
As this warm presence slowly descends, it brings peace.

Feel this warm peace flow down to your eyebrows.
Relax your forehead as your receive this gift.
Surrender to God and the peace of his presence.

The warm peace comes over you eyes,
and the muscles around them relax.
Feel the warmth on your cheeks, over your nose,
and into your sinuses.
At the same time, your ears are covered with peace.

The peaceful warmth spills over your mouth.
Your lips receive it and relax.
Your tongue relaxes.
Your teeth and gums relax.
Now your jaw also is warm and relaxed.
Notice how your entire head and face
are bathed in peaceful rest.
Surrender your head and face to God’s Spirit.

The warmth continues downward.
Your neck receives God’s peace.
Notice the warmth as it moves outward,
over your right shoulder,
down your upper right arm to your elbow;
down your forearm to your wrist.
Feel the peace that flows into the palm of your right hand;
into your thumb,
and out to the tip of each finger.

Now your left shoulder is bathed in warmth;
down your upper left arm to your elbow;
down your forearm to your wrist.
Feel the warmth that flows into the palm of your left hand;
into your thumb,
and out to the tip of each finger.

Take a moment and notice how the warm peace
covers your entire head and neck,
and over your shoulders, arms, and hands.
Rest in God’s Spirit.

As the warmth descends into your chest and upper back,
surrender to the Spirit’s touch.
Relax your neck, shoulders, and upper chest and back.

Feel the warmth cover your stomach and lower back.
Notice how your entire upper body is enveloped in peace.

The soothing oil continues to flow,
down your right hip and into your thigh;
down your upper right leg to your knee;
down your shin and calf, into your ankle;
down to your heel, the sole of your right foot,
and out to the tips of your right toes.

Now your left hip and thigh,
down your upper left leg to your knee;
down your shin and calf, into your ankle;
down to your heel, the sole of your left foot,
and out to the tips of your left toes.
Notice how both legs are relaxed.

Return to the crown of your head,
and follow the flow of peace over your face,
down your neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
Down your abdomen and back,
your hips and thighs;
your legs and feet
to the tips of your toes.
Read in this peaceful presence.

Turning our attention to our insides,
begin with that rational part of your brain.
It is located above your eyes, behind your forehead.
Speak gently to that part of your brain.
Tell it, “For now, there is nothing you need to figure out.
No calculations to make, no riddles to solve.
Be still.”

Moving into the interior of your brain,
tell that emotional part,
“For now, there is nothing to fear.
Nothing to worry about.
No complaints. No arguments.
Peace. Be still.”

Moving down into the brainstem,
where your brain connects with the spinal column,
tell that part of your brain,
“For now, there is no emergency.
There is no need to ring any alarm.
No need to activate the body to any action.
Let your body know that it is in God’s hands;
that it can rest in his love.
All is well.”

Allow God’s peace to move from your spine,
through your peripheral nerves,
into your entire body,
out to the boundary of your skin.

Let your throat relax.
Allow your esophagus to carry warmth
into your stomach
and through your digestive tract.

Feel the air that passes through your trachea,
down into your lungs,
and surrender that part of your body to God’s peace.

As oxygen moves from your lungs to your heart,
say the word “Peace” to your heart.
Say “Peace” to your kidneys and liver.
Say “Peace” to your pancreas and your spleen.
If you have gall bladder and appendix,
say “Peace” to each of them.

Notice how your entire body is in a state of rest.
You trust your body to God.
You surrender it to his Spirit.

Spend a moment enjoying this quiet stillness.

When you are ready,
give thanks to God.
Move into your next activity,
knowing that God is with you,
and you are completely his.

Jun 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 27, 2021

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For a voice declares from Dan
and proclaims trouble from Mount Zion.
Warn the nations that he is coming;
announce to Jerusalem,
“Besiegers come from a distant land;
they shout against the cities of Judah.
Like keepers of a field are they against her all around,
because she has rebelled against me, declares the LORD.
Your ways and your deeds
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom, and it is bitter;
it has reached your very heart.”
My anguish, my anguish! I write in pain?
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet
the alarm of war.
Crash follows hard on crash;
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
Jeremiah 4:15-21

Intro: Years ago, a woman who was a stranger to me, told me,

“I feel like I know you, because your personality comes out in your talks”
– that caught me off guard – I didn’t know I had a personality
• anyway, reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, I’ve always felt like I know him
• he is truly present in his writings; not only in delivering the word of the LORD,
◦ but in his personal reactions to that word,
◦ his complaints, the difficulties it gets him into with others, and his grief
– he was living in the last days of Judah
• which were bringing to an end David’s dynasty and the temple
◦ he was watching his nation rush to its ruin
◦ he spent his life warning them, “The bridge is out! Stop!”
• but he was ignored, ridiculed, threatened, and assaulted
◦ and all the while, he grieved for his people and his nation

Jeremiah did not actually cry, My anguish, my anguish! but as in the King James Version, My bowels
– the Hebrew word is used in reference to the entire abdomen or torso
• the body cavity and all the organs in it
◦ we can imagine Jeremiah, with his arms crossed over his stomach, crying,
I writhe in pain!
• he felt this traumatic agony in his heart also–that is, its walls
◦ as if his heart were constricted and at the same time beating out of his chest
• extreme stress can cause these sensations of constriction and palpitation

For twelve weeks we’ve explored body parts in the Scriptures

Today we venture inside the body, and specifically to the internal organs
– like other body parts, our organs speak to us, if we’ll listen
• they tell us something about what we’re feeling and how deep it goes
• if we have experienced something similar (rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, anxious stomach) we understand
◦ the Bible doesn’t always label feelings or provide a list of emotions
◦ people at that time did not experience emotion as a mere mental event
◦ they identified its location in a specific organ of their bodies
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, Israel’s sages and priests “were not content with . . . general statements about the abdomen as a whole. They attempted to make connections between particular feelings and the individual organs, much like the familiar practice of examining the entrails of animals.”
Antonio Damasio, “All emotions use the body as their theater . . ., but emotions also affect the mode of operation of numerous brain circuits: the variety of the emotional responses is responsible for profound changes in both the body landscape and the brain landscape.”
– following the biblical path, we can become more in tune with our feelings,
• and perhaps do a better job of regulating and cultivating them
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Each region of the physical body has its counterpart in an emotional body or map which carries a deeper meaning for us, often completely below our level of awareness. In order to continue growing, we need to continuously activate, listen to, and learn from our emotional body.”

Jeremiah’s anguish was located in his “belly”

As I said, all the inner parts are located here – the viscera
Staubli and Schroer, The belly, together “with the heart . . . fill the entire space within the torso, the central part of the body. Heart and entrails, thinking and feeling compose a common space of human inwardness out of which we react and make decisions.”
– this space includes the internal reproductive organs
• so compassion, empathy, and mercy are felt here
◦ I think when the King James Version first appeared, people were more in touch with their bodies
(which explains why they weren’t afraid of using words like bowels or womb to locate emotion)
◦ Paul used bowels when looking for compassion among the Philippians (Php 2:1)
(but ESV translates it metaphorically, affection)
John also referred to the bowels when he asks, Where is the compassion for a person in need if we have the resources to meet their need but don’t open up and support them? (1 Jn. 3:17)
– wisdom can also rest in this area of body (Pr. 14:33)
• the brain was not recognized as the organ of thought or feeling
◦ perhaps because it does not feel pain, like the other organs
Hans Wolff, “. . . it was primarily in sickness that Israel learnt to recognize the heart as the central and crucially vital organ (cf. also Isa. 1.5; 57.15; Ps. 37.15).”
◦ so wisdom was carried close to the heart – wisdom works on heart
• but more often, the belly stood for various appetites and desires
Paul warned Philippians of enemies of the cross whose god is their belly (Php. 3:19)
(see also 1 Cor. 6:13 and Job 20:20, 23

When the Old Testament speaks of inner parts, it frequently refers to the belly
– the organs there can be in turmoil (Job 30:27)
• moan (Isa 16:11), melt like wax (Ps. 22:14) or churn (Lam 1:20)
• they can yearn for someone and have mercy (Jer. 31:20)
◦ but God’s law can also be inscribed there (Ps. 40:8)
– another, more general term for inner parts, tucha
• God can place his wisdom there (Job 38:36)
• where God wants truth of who we are to be located (Ps 51:6)
qereb (“within”)is also a general term for the interior of the body (Ps 64:6)
• people sometimes harbor deceit here (Ps. 5:9; Pr. 26:24)
– there are also references to inner chambers
• these are very private places, like a bedroom (2 Ki 6:12)
• although cut off from others, God searches these hidden recesses (Pr 20:27)

Two of the featured organs in the belly refer to the womb

Beten can refer to both male and female reproductive organs
Rechem refers more specifically to female reproductive organs
Staubli and Schroer, “Hebrew rahem means ‘to have compassion’ or ‘to have mercy,’ and rahamim is ‘compassion’ or ‘sympathy.’ All these words contain a still simpler and earlier word, namely rehem, the female lap, uterus, or womb.”
Kathleen McAlpin,Rahamim implies a physical response; the compassion for another is felt in the center of one’s body; it is an upsurge of mercy that also results in action. It is a word frequently predicated of YHWH who has deep mother-love (Isa 49:15; Jer 31:20) or strong father-love (Ps 103:13; Isa 63:15-16) for Israel.” “Mercy, or compassion, is the capacity to be moved, through a depth of feeling, by the vulnerability of another. . . . Mercy is tenderness moved into action for the other.”

It may surprise us to learn the kidneys play large in the interior life

They too are a place where emotion is deeply felt (Ps 73:21)
– rejoicing can come from this inner source (Pr 23:16)
• the kidneys can instruct a person (Ps 16:7)
• sometimes, if God is someone’s mouth, he can be far from this intimate inner space (Jer 12:2)
– in Psalm 139, God formed the poet’s kidneys in his mother’s womb (v. 13)
• even then and there, God was intimately involved in the poet’s inner life

The liver and gall bladder are also relevant to human emotion

The liver can be poured out, emptied out by tragedy (Lam 2:11)
Gall bladder is merrara (Job 16:13) derived from mer, which means “bitter”
Staubli and Schroer, “Different still from the sensitive liver and the vulnerable kidneys is the irritable gall or bile; it is important to prevent this from rising or spilling out. Its name in Hebrew is ‘the bitter’ . . . .”
– this word is used when a person’s experience of life has grown bitter
• or it can refer to someone’s actions that are prompted by impure motives (Acts 8:23)

By far, the word used most frequently for inner life is heart

Henri Nouwen, “In our milieu the word heart has become a soft word. It refers to the seat of the sentimental life. Expressions such as ‘heartbroken’ and ‘heartfelt’ show that we often think of the heart as the warm place where the emotions are located in contrast to the cool intellect where our thoughts find their home. But the word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.” “From the heart arise unknowable impulses as well as conscious feelings, moods, and wishes. The heart, too, has its reasons and is the center of perception and understanding. Finally, the heart is the seat of the will: it makes plans and comes to good decisions. Thus the heart is the central and unifying organ of our personal life. . . . It is this heart that is the place of prayer.”
Staubli and Schroer, “In the Bible the heart is primarily the locus of reason and intelligence, of secret planning, deliberation, and decision. According to Deut 29:4 the human being has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart (NRSV ‘mind’) to understand.”

It can be stubborn or hard (Ps 81;12; Ex. 7:3; Mt. 19:8)
– it can also be soft or tender (2 Chr. 34:27)
– it is meant to be pure (Mt. 5:8); united (Ps 86:11); whole (Ps 86:12)
– it can be stricken by hardship (Ps 109:22)
– a person can have a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12; Pr 14:33)
– the heart can be strengthened with food (Gen. 18:5)
– it can carry sadness (1 Sam 1:8; Pr 15:13) or joy (1 Sam 2:1; Ps 13:5)
– people can lose their hearts (Gen 42:28; 1 Sam 17:22)
– depression can fill the heart (Ps 13:2; 38:8-10)
– the heart holds our secrets and desires (Pr 6:25)
– it can be lifted up (with pride or conceit; De 8:14; Ps 131:1; 2 Chr 32:25)
– everything we think or do comes from heart
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life (Pr 4:23)
– the heart is the body-part that has understanding (De 29:4; Ps 49:3)
– and wisdom (Pr 14:33; Ps 90:12) and it seeks knowledge (Pr 15:4)
– talking to the heart is talking to one’s inner self (1 Sam 27:1)
– it is the repository of memory (Lk. 2:19)
– its mood affects all of life (Pr 15:13; 17:22)
– it can be agitated (Pr 23:17) or tranquil (Pr 14:30)
– courage, fear, grief, and despair are all felt in the heart (De 28:67; Isa 7:2; Ge 45:26)
– for someone to speak to the heart of another refers to romantic or comforting words (Hos 2:14)
– the heart is private (Pr 14:10), but God knows every heart – he searches every heart
(1 Ki 8:39; Ps 44:21; Pr 15:11 and 24:12; Ps 44:21; Acts 15:8)
– to be without heart means to be lacking wisdom or good sense (Hos. 7:11)
– while humans see a person’s outward appearance, God looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7)
– the Lord is near the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18)
He heals and binds up their wounds (Ps 147:3)

Staubli and Schroer, “The integrity of a person was preserved by the heart and kidneys, that is, thought and feeling. Even God tests character by shoving both organs, like gold or silver bars, into an oven to test whether they have been mixed with worthless slag in order to deceive. This image from the language of metallurgists appears fairly often in the Psalms; frequently it is those praying who, confident of their innocence, challenge YHWH to test them:
Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart [kidneys] and mind [heart]! (Ps 26:2).”

In the New Testament specifically:
– adultery can be committed in the heart (Mt. 5:28)
– wherever a person’s treasure is, their heart will be there (Mt. 6:21)
– Jesus seeks to plant his word in human hearts (Mt. 13:19)
– the heart is the place of sincere action (Mt. 18:35; Rom. 6:17)
– a good person has a good heart from which goodness flows (Lk. 6:45)
– as in the Old Testament, the heart can experience anguish (Ro. 9:2; 2 Cor. 2:4)
And it also knows desire (Ro. 10:1)
– a Christian community can have one heart (Acts 4:32)
– a person can hold another in their heart (Php. 1:7)

A vital truth God revealed to his prophets: His people needed heart surgery
– either an new heart or some serious work done on their hearts (Ps 51:10; Eze 36:26; Jer 31:31-34)

Conclusion: I need to bring this to a close

It might as well be with the most shocking statement in the entire Old Testament:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath (Hos 11:8-9)

God exercises his prerogative as God to show mercy versus justice
– he does it, because his own “inner parts” are roiling within him
– a decision must be made regarding his people
• and it’s as if he is feeling the turmoil that Jeremiah suffered
• God loves too much, cares too much, feels too much to give up his people

How do we respond to such love and mercy?
With our whole heart and all our inner parts
Our everyday lives bring events that affect us
Our internal organs respond to those events,
as our nervous system activates them
Our organs speak to us
butterflies in the stomach
a lump in the throat
a gut feeling
We can learn to respect the wisdom of our bodies
Try to be more aware of what they’re telling us
Allow God, who searches our hearts,
to speak to us through these experiences

Jon Kabat-Zinn, “A number of specialized meditative practices such as loving kindness meditation are specifically oriented toward cultivating in oneself particular feeling states that expand and open the metaphorical heart. Acceptance, forgiveness, loving kindness, generosity, and trust all are strengthened by intentionally centering and sustaining attention in the heart region, and invoking such feelings as part of formal meditation practice. But these feelings are also strengthened through simply recognizing them when they arise spontaneously . . . .”

How to respond to such love and compassion as God shows us?
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name! (Ps. 103:1)

Jun 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 20, 2021

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You clothed me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit Job 10:11-12

Intro: When I first started reading all the way through the Bible,

I would dread coming to the Book of Job
– it seemed like I always got more depressed reading it, or bad things would happen
• but as I came to a better understanding of Job, I began to enjoy reading it
• I see Job as the hero of all who suffer–innocently
– Job stood up for himself – against his friends – against his culture
• he even stood up to God – of course, he didn’t win that one
◦ but he didn’t lose either
• his complaint here: “What’s the point of making and caring for me, just to tear me apart?”
◦ note the poetic description of his fetal gestation in verse 11

Job’s ordeal began with circumstances relating to possessions and family,
– but in the second round, the ordeal entered his body
• the Adversary’s challenge to God regarding Job had been:
Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life, But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face (Job 2:4-5)
– we have been itemizing body parts and their spirit dimension
• eyes, ears, mouth, head, neck and shoulders, hands and feet
• today I will talk the biggest body part of all: the skin and flesh

There are a surprising number of references to flesh in Bible

The first mention of it, connects the man and the woman
– remember, everything so far was affirmed to be “good”
while [the man] slept [God] took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh – from it God fashioned the woman – the man’s response, This at last is bone of my bones / and flesh of my flesh – then the storyteller adds a brief commentary, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Ge. 2:21-24) — the original intimacy
• the next mention of flesh, however set a limit on human longevity
My Spirit shall not [contend with man] forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years (Ge. 6:3)
◦ that was because all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (6:12)
◦ God determined to make an end of all flesh [and] to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven (Ge. 6:13 and 17)
◦ after the flood God made a promise, an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth (9:16)
– the Hebrew word for flesh is basar
• and already we can see it has a variety of meanings
In its broadest sense, flesh can refer to all animal life (Ps. 136:25)
– the shared existence of creatures with skin and hides, feathers and fins
• but it can refer more specifically to all human life (Ps. 65:2)
Yahweh is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Nu. 16:22; 27:16)
◦ or a specific group of people (Ps. 56:4)
basar is the bond of family relations (Laban and Jacob or Joseph and his brothers, Ge. 29:14; 37:27)

Flesh is the external part of the human body (Ex. 4:7; 28:42)
– and also what lies just below the skin
• so basar also means “meat” (Ex. 29:32)
– the law of Moses is very body-conscious – especially regarding what enters and exits the body
• this extends to the body’s coverings
◦ Leviticus 13-14, diagnosing a breach in body’s covering
◦ it moves outward through three layers progressively: skin, garments, and houses
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “No illness is mentioned more frequently in the First Testament or treated at greater length than leprosy in the flesh (Leviticus 13-14). Those who suffer from that illness are counted among the dead, because they have to live cut off from the living.”
• being the external part of a person, the flesh can be superficial and disconnected from heart
◦ a ritual in the flesh should also affect a change in the heart (Jer. 4:4; 9:25)

People in Scriptures were acutely aware of psychosomatic distress
– they felt their emotions in their flesh
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart (Ps. 38:7-8)
When I remember, I am dismayed, / and shuddering seizes my flesh (Job 21:6)
My flesh trembles for fear of you (Ps. 119:120)
• regarding a positive psychosomatic response:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure
(Ps. 16:9)
– the flesh defines the limits and boundaries of human existence
Staubli and Schroer, “[the] word basar is the only one among the many Hebrew words for the body and its parts that is never applied to God, and is frequently contrasted to YHWH as the very symbol of all that is mortal . . . .”
• so we read:
The Egyptians are man, and not God,
and their horses are flesh and not spirit (Isa. 31:3)
– the flesh represents human frailty, weakness, and vulnerability
• we are not to put our trust in the arm of the flesh (2 Chr. 32:8; Jer. 17:5)
• we were not built to be impervious to wounds and injury
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? (Job 6:12)
[God] remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again (Ps. 78:39)
◦ an unavoidable fact is that flesh is impermanent – it dies
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it:
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isa. 40:6-8)
◦ this is why our flesh longs for God
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Ps. 63:1)
– in the Proverbs, wisdom can bring healing to the flesh (3:8; 4:22)
and a tranquil heart gives life to the flesh (Pr. 14:30)

Jumping to the New Testament

Flesh and blood refers to what is purely human (Mt. 16:17)
– so flesh can give birth only to more flesh (Jn. 1;3; 3:6)
• in other words, there’s no human way to obtain the life of the Spirit
• being limited to the flesh, we judge according to the flesh (Jn. 8:15)
◦ that is, according to our limited human standards, criteria, perception
– flesh can also refer to descent from an ancestor (Ro. 1:3)
• Paul noted that not all flesh is the same (1 Cor. 15:39)
• So, like the Old Testament, flesh can mean:
◦ the body (2 Cor. 4:11; Gal. 2:20)
◦ all animal life (1 Cor. 15:39)
◦ all of humankind (Acts 2:17)
– the most radical statement about human flesh in scripture
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)
• as such, Jesus could use his flesh as a metaphor–e.g., that it is like bread
And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (Jn. 6:51)
• what prevents us from taking this literally?
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63)

There is something I have come to see is of critical importance

It has to do with Paul’s teaching on life in the Spirit of God
– it is tricky, because he draws on spiritual wisdom,
• and that is not the same as rational knowledge
◦ it is not even the same as biblical or theological knowledge
• it turns out that flesh is one of the key themes in this teaching
◦ if we get stuck in the flesh, we cannot make spiritual progress
– think about this:
• our rational thoughts can bring us to knowledge of the Spirit
◦ but we cannot receive the Spirit through reason or the knowledge it yields

The way Paul uses flesh in this teaching; it is not a body part!!!
– however, it can influence what we do with body parts
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members [body parts] to bear fruit for death (Ro. 7:5)
• this can be very confusing, because when we hear “flesh,” we automatically think of the body
• but Paul is using flesh as an analogy (as Jesus used bread as an analogy)
◦ the body can be demanding, adopt bad habits, and can be tricked
◦ these are characteristics of the flesh as well, only they are internal and mostly hidden
– in Paul’s dark use of the word, flesh is sort of like a psychological energy
• it is not a specific sin, but the source and potential of all sins
• the flesh it cannot be corrected, redeemed, or transformed
◦ it has to go – and that we can’t do by ourselves
But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh (Gal 5:16-17) Read more on this in Romans 8:1-11

Yesterday morning I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 12
– I had in mind all I had read up to that chapter
• I am going to share with you the last paragraph of my meditation

Ultimately, Paul’s intention was that through his teaching he could bring the Corinthians to a new consciousness of God, Christ, and the Spirit. This would result in their maturation from their infantile concrete thinking to their adult experience of God. In their mature spirit-consciousness, they would arrive at a love that would fuse them to God in Jesus and erase the ego needs that drive individuals to think they are superior to others, separated from them by their greater knowledge, charismatic powers, or affluence. Mystics realize that when they have nothing, at last, they have everything.

Conclusion: There’s so much more to this!

For now, here is what I suggest:
Let the confusion we have relating to our (sinful) flesh and body become a reminder
That when we think the problem we have
resisting temptation,
fully trusting God,
remaining consistent in prayer,
being always mindful of God,
when we think the problem is with our body,
let’s bring our awareness to a larger reality
and open a door to the Spirit

Jun 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 13, 2021

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Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him John 13:1-11 (Please read the entire text)

Intro: Jesus is doing something rather dramatic in this passage

Look at the verbs! He busies himself with the menial task of a slave
– Jesus is teaching his disciple through a living parable
• he’s not telling a story this time – not explaining a truth
• he is acting out a lesson
– in the Synoptic gospels, Jesus explains the difference of how hierarchy is ordered in his kingdom
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:44-45)
• so here, Jesus shows them what that means
◦ you can be sure, Peter wasn’t only disciple that felt the impact of this lesson
• they would never forget the night Jesus washed their feet

In our Reflexion community we have a specific interest

Our shared spiritual journey
– ongoing progress in living more God-filled lives
• so let’s suppose you’re with us today,
◦ because you want to deepen or enhance your experience of God
◦ you want a greater awareness of him, greater sensitivity to his touch and to the sound of his voice
• so here you are, and I’m talking to you today about your feet!
◦ how disappointing! How ordinary and unspiritual!
– but if we cannot discern how we live to God through our feet,
• then it’s possible that we present our bodies to God in worship is just talk
Nicole Roccas, “In Orthodox Christianity . . . [we] sometimes burn incense, or use prayer ropes, or set certain corners of our homes apart for prayer. These rituals are not meant to be rote or mindless, but to nourish reverence and to remind us that we are incarnational beings—our bodies must learn to pray as well as our minds.”
• so the body part we’ll look for in scripture today is the feet

Being grounded begins with the feet

Pat Ogden, “The lower extremities of the body—feet, calves, thighs, and pelvis—provide our base of support and connection to the earth. As a somatic resource, grounding is the physical process of being aware of our legs and feet and their connection to the ground, and to directing our energy downward into the earth to sense the support of gravity. . . . To ground ourselves, we need to relax the tension in our bodies so we can let our bodies yield into the support of the ground beneath our feet, yet the muscles should maintain tonicity.”
– David was very much aware of his need to be grounded
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights (Ps. 18:33)
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip
(Ps. 18:36)
• feet that slip or avoid slipping occurs a lot in Job and the Psalms
◦ slipping destabilizes people, makes them vulnerable (Ps. 38:6; 94:18)
◦ so firm grounding would be feet set on a rock (Ps. 40:2) or level ground (26:12)
◦ feet can also be steadied by God (Ps. 94:18; 121:3)
• enemies can set a trap for David’s feet (Ps. 140:4)
◦ God plucked his feet from one of those nets (Ps. 25:15)
◦ then enemy’s foot is caught in their own net (Ps. 9:15)
◦ in the end, God put enemy under David’s feet (Ps. 18:38)
• David rejoices when feet stand w/in Jerusalem’s gates (Ps. 122:1-2)
– our bodies need grounding and support
• Barb takes courses to stay on top of advances in Physical Therapy
◦ a current course is entitled, “When the Feet Hit the Ground, Everything Changes”
◦ it’s about the biomechanics of the foot and ankle when standing, walking, or running
• similar course was entitled, “Chain Reaction”
◦ when the sole of the foot comes in contact w the floor, it sets off a chain reaction
◦ from the ankle to the knee, from the knee to the hip, from the hip to the pelvis,
• all the way up to the brain, which reads all this information,
◦ and makes adjustments to maintain balance and stability
Jon Kabat-Zinn–when backpacking with his family in the Teton wilderness, “With each step, the foot has to come down somewhere. Climbing or descending over boulder fields, steep inclines, on and off trails, our feet make split-second decisions about where and how to come down, what angle, how much pressure, heel or toe, rotated or straight. The kids don’t ever ask: “Daddy, where to I put my feet? . . .” They just do it, and I’ve noticed that they find a way . . . .”

Feet have a wide range of meanings in scripture

LORD has blessed you according to my foot (Gen. 30:30)
– that is, how he managed his uncle’s flocks
God keeps the feet of His godly ones (1 Sam. 2:9)
– in other words, he guards their steps
To have no resting place for the sole of the foot (De. 28:65)
– means endless wandering, to be homeless
a place forgotten by the foot (Job 28:4)
– is a lost or abandoned trail
stamping the feet (Eze. 6:11) can indicate intense frustration or anger
– the person who cuts off his own feet (Pr. 26:6) self-destructs
– if others try to trip up my feet (Ps. 104:4), they are trying to ruin me or catch me in their net
– the temple was no more than God’s footstool, the place of My feet (Is. 60:13)
– feet that run to do evil belong to people who do not exercise any impulse control (Pr. 1:16)
the wise son does not walk with them, but keeps his foot from their path (Pr. 1:15)
– similarly, God told Jeremiah that his people had not kept their feet in check (Jer. 14:10)
David, however, restrained his feet from every evil way (Ps. 119:101, NASB)
it helped that he turned [his] feet to God’s testimonies (Ps. 119:59)
– Jesus’ disciples were to shake the dust off their feet when leaving a town that rejected them (Mt. 10:14)
this may have been a way of affirming that they had not come there to take anything from anyone

The knees
to be born on someone’s knees refers to the first person to hold and care for the infant (Gen. 50:23; Job 2:7)
upon the knees to look upon is to cuddle a small child (Is. 66:12)
– knees could be weak or strong (Job 4:4; Ps. 109:24)
– knees knocking refers to panic or terror (Nah. 2:10)
– kneeling in prayer was a way to be at God’s feet in spirit (1 Ki. 18:42; 2 Chr. 6:13; Ep. 3:14)

Ankles
have not slipped means to limp or be unsteady (2 Sa. 22:37)

Heel
In most instances the heel is used in reference to someone being chased (Jdg. 5:15; Job 18:14; Hab. 3:5)
– in other instances it refers to a person attacking someone (Ps. 41:9)

There are also references to the sole of the foot
– the lowest part of the body, opposite the crown of the head (Job 2:7)
– the body part that has direct contact with the earth (De. 11:24)

All these reference have to do with what we experience through our feet
– what our feet feel — what our feet do — what our feet express
– referring to the feat in this way brings attention to physical ways we experience life in this world

Sometimes the foot can represent the person to whom it belongs
Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you
(Pr. 25:17)
– or it can refer to a person’s whereabouts
Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there (1 Sam. 23:22)
• the direction a person’s foot takes indicates
◦ behavior that is faithful (Job 23:11) or deceitful (Job 31:5)
◦ changing the foot’s direction changes behavior (Isa. 58:13)
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies (Ps. 119:59)
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word (Ps. 119:101)
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path (Ps. 119:105)
◦ but feet that walk in darkness stumble (Jer. 13:16)
• wisdom can hold the foot back from the path of evil (Pr. 1:15)
◦ wisdom can also provide secure footing and protection (Pr. 3:23, 26)
• like the hand or the eye, the foot can cause us to sin (Mk. 9:45)
– moving from the moral significance of feet to the more practical:
putting on sandals can be preparation to move out (Ex. 12:2; Ep. 6:15)
◦ the same as being told to get on your feet (Acts 26:13)
• encounter with the sacred requires removing sandals (Ex. 3:5; Jos. 5:15)
◦ meditate on that! Why must we approach God barefoot?

Many times Jesus healed lame or crippled feet
– he sent this message to John the Baptist as proof that he was the Messiah (Mt. 11:5)
• invalids were placed at Jesus’ feet to be healed (Mt. 15:30)
• Peter and John were later used to heal a beggar’s feet and ankles (Acts 3:7)
– the foot can be a measurement (Acts 7:5)
• a step can refer to progress (Pr. 4:12)
◦ or one stage of a journey (Isa. 41:2) or a plan of action (Pr. 14:15)
◦ steps can also refer to keeping pace (Gal. 2:14, in step with the truth)
• a step down could signify humiliation (Eze.26:16)
– steps could be footprints, where someone had walked (Job 29:6)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Pe. 2:21)

Many times people threw themselves at feet of another person
– this happened frequently with Jesus
• especially poignant are the instances of two women:
◦ every time Mary, the sister of Lazarus, appears in the gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet (Lk. 10:39; Jn. 11:2, 32; 12:3)
◦ then there was woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Lk. 7:38)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Shroer, “With her actions of washing and drying, anointing and kissing Jesus’ feet the woman sets up a sign. She touches the human being and at the same time she touches the feet of God, who gives protection and mercy.”
– David prayed that the foot of arrogance would not step on him (Ps. 36:11)
Bruce Malina, Since ‘hands-feet’ refer to activity and power, to be set ‘under the feet of’ someone means to be subject to that person, to be under that one’s control . . . . Similarly, to put one’s foot on the neck of a person is to indicate total defeat . . . . The neck both holds up a person’s honor which is associated with the head-face (Isa 3:16), and is the channel of life because the breath-soul passes through it.”
• to be trampled by enemy was a severe humiliation (Isa. 26:5-6)
Staubli and Schroer, “The foot, much like the hand, had a symbolic power of its own in Israel: it was associated with subjugation, domination, and the seizure of others’ property. To ‘tread someone or something under foot’ was regarded even then as an act of the greatest humiliation. . . . Thus YHWH promises King David of Israel:
‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool’ (Ps 110:1).”
• Israel’s hope was to see God tread down their foes (Ps. 108:13)
◦ this, in fact, is God’s ultimate victory, first promised in Genesis
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel (Ge. 3:15)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Ro. 16:20)
And [God] put all things under [Jesus] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church (Ep. 1:22; cf. 1 Cor. 15:25-27)

Conclusion: In 1 Corinthians Paul compares the Christian community to a body

We are all body parts – we belong to Jesus and to each other
– Paul tells us, the head cannot say to feet I have no need of you (12:21)
• the head may be top part of the body and the feet the lowest part
◦ but they need each other
• one person may be like the eyes, another like the ears, another like the mouth
but we all have to be the feet
◦ that’s the point Jesus made when he washed his disciples’ feet

Go barefoot when you can – and pay attention
Your feet have something to say to you
about the earth on which you are walking
about its Creator – about others who share it – & about yourself EXERCISE

EXERCISE:

I have left out several other aspects of legs and feet
– in particular, I have not mentioned walking
• walking with God is not a mere metaphor
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Ge. 3:8)
Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him (Ge. 5:24)

The idea of walking can be expanded so that it refers to the course of one’s life
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him (Col. 2:6)
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:6-7)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love . . . (Ep. 4:1-3)
Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us . . . (Ep. 5:1)

Pat Ogden, “The way we walk speaks volumes about who we are and how we feel. Whether we shuffle, stride, saunter, glide, traipse, or trudge with heavy footsteps, we are telling the world how we feel today, how we feel about ourselves and what we expect from others. We may plod along, dragging our feet behind us as if we have very little energy, giving the impression that we are tired or depressed. We may walk with a hurried, rushed gait, leaning forward, eyes focused straight ahead, giving the impression that we are preoccupied, busy, harried, and have not time to spare. If we feel afraid to be seen, we may walk cautiously and hesitantly; if we feel uncertain, we may slouch and shuffle with our eyes cast downward. We may stomp our feet with every step if we feel angry or bounce with a spring in our step if we feel joyful. Our gait changes with our mood, but our characteristic style of walking, like all our physical habits, is formed over time from a variety of influences.”
“Our gait changes depending on how we feel, the environment, and who we are with. If we are with someone with whom e feel good and who treats us well, our gait may become more confident, arms swinging, posture more aligned, and head lifted.”

I used to take the most wonderful walks with a friend of mine
We spent our whole time talking about Jesus, scripture, and God’s work in our lives

So here’s the exercise I am suggesting for you:

Imagine that you are taking a walk with Jesus
He’s not scolding you, not giving you all kinds of instructions with each step
The two of you are simply enjoying each other’s company

Where are you?

What do you notice about your pace?
Fast, slow, unhurried

What do you notice about your stride?
Big steps? Small steps?
Is there a rhythm you both fall into

What is different about the way you walk when you’re with him?
How does it feel in your body?
How does it feel emotionally?

Does it feel different than walking by yourself?

Does it feel different than walking with someone else?
If so, what is the difference?

How important is it to you that you reach a destination?

What do you notice happening in regard to your relationship with Jesus?

Now, at your first opportunity, take a literal walk with Jesus
Relax, breathe, take it easy
Be mindful
Notice whatever Jesus points out

Jun 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 6, 2021

Intro: In a moment, I will ask you to read Psalm 17

It is a simple prayer–and there are other psalms like it
– poet is petitioning God for justice – he begins and ends with sedek
• he is going to bring a case into God’s court, as it were
• in the first movement, he argues his integrity
◦ in the next, he petitions God to intervene
◦ next, he presents details of what his deadly enemy has done
◦ then he suggests the sort of punishment they deserve
◦ at the end, he makes a confident assertion regarding the outcome
[now, please read Psalm 17]

– I did not choose this psalm for its message
• I chose it, because every stanza mentions a body part: ear, lips, face, eyes, heart, mouth, etc.
◦ it illustrates how scripture makes use of the body;
◦ the drama of life is played out from head to toe

The poet mentions God’s hand twice – he specifies the right hand in verse 7
– the subject of today’s talk is the hand/s – and it’s a huge challenge
Hans Wolff, “By far the most frequently mentioned extremity is the hand (yad). The part of the body that grasps and can be grasped . . . .” (yad appears 1600 times in the Old Testament!)
• in many instances, hand is an obvious sub-theme
See Job 1:10-12, where Satan claims that Job is an upright man only because God has blessed the work of his hands, but if God were to stretch out his hand, Job would turn and curse him. God puts all that Job had into Satan’s hand, but with a command that against Job he was not to stretch out his hand.
– another example can be found in 1 Samuel 24:4-20
• when reading the Bible, and you come to the word hand,
◦ take note of how it is used – is it a subtle theme?
• in scripture, the hand is the agency of mind and heart
◦ how we externalize our intentions and imaginations
◦ how we make creative changes to our world
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Human action is concentrated in the hands. Action means ‘doing.’ Our doing gives information about our thoughts and desires; it is their expression. In our work we continue God’s creative task. Therefore doing/working is service to God. Work without reflection (heart) is only reproduction.”

In our English language, hand can represent variety of actions

If I have to hand it to you, I’m either handing you a literal object
– or I’m giving you a compliment; “You certainly know what you’re doing”
We can be dealt a good hand or a bad hand
– in a card game, or a specific situation, or in life in general
We can lend a hand literally,
– or by watching grandkids so their parents have a date-night
A handout can be cash we give to a panhandler
A hired hand is not an appendage,
– but someone who is paid to do a specific task

In the past year we have been reminded to wash and sanitize our hands
– more than ever before –
• we have been made aware that our hands can pick up more than the objects we grab

In the Scriptures, the hand is used to signify many different things

Of course, it is frequently the literal body part
– the tribe of Benjamin was famous for its left-handed soldiers (Jdg. 3:15; 20:16)
• but they could also be ambidextrous (1 Chr. 12:12)
In general, the right hand was favored (as in our psalm)
– the seat of honor was at the right hand of a king (Mt. 14:62; Heb. 1:3)
– priests were anointed on right ear, right thumb, and right toe (Ex. 29:20)
– God’s right hand is filled with righteousness (Ps. 48:10)
• and at his right hand are pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11)
People are taken by the hand (Ge. 19:16; Mk. 8:23; Acts 9:8)
A person could die by the hand of someone else (Jos. 20:9)
– messages were delivered by the hand of servants (1 Sam. 11:7)
– and by the hand of God’s prophets (Hag. 1:3)
The main symbolic significance of the hand is power
(see Pr. 18:21, where “the yad [hand] of the tongue” is translated “power”)
If a hand fell upon someone, it could either
– harm them (Ge. 37:27; Ex. 9:3) or help them (Neh. 2:8)
To take someone one from the hand of another is a liberation
– the same with taking something harmful from the hand of someone (Ex. 2:19; Isa. 51:22)
To place a hand on one’s mouth is to silence oneself (Mi. 7:16)
Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further (Job 40:4-5)
The hands can clap for joy and praise (2 Ki. 11:12; Ps. 47:1)
– the sound of clapping can even be heard in nature:
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together (Ps. 98:8)
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isa. 55:12)
But clapping can also be a form of insult (Eze. 25:6)
– or a way to ward off someone else’s misfortune (Lam. 2:15)
– clapping can also signal a warning (Eze. 6:11; 21:14)
To shake the fist or wave the hand at someone can be a threat
(Isa. 10:32; Zech. 2:9)
Washing the hands could be declaration of innocence (De. 21:6; Ps. 26:6)
– Pilate’s futile attempt to absolve himself of Jesus’ blood (Mt. 27:24)
– the Pharisees’ ritual hand-washing did not cleanse their hearts (Mt. 15:1-20)
In my hand: to possess something (1 Sam. 12:5)
Into my hand: to be given something (1 Sam. 17:46)
Into your hand: to give something (Ge. 9:2)
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And having said this, he breathed his last (Lk. 23:46)
The work of the hands means something is handmade (Isa. 17:8)
– or it could also refer to manual labor (Pr. 12:14)
To open the hand is to give freely (De. 15:8)
If the hand falls limp, it signifies exhaustion (Isa. 13:7; 35:3)
To take a person’s hand can form an alliance
And when [Jehu] departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he greeted him and said to him, “Is your heart true to my heart as mine is to yours?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. And Jehu took him up with him into the chariot. And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” (2 Ki. 10:15-16)

In ritual contexts, hands can be lifted in prayer (2 Chr. 6:12-13; Ps. 63:4)
– it is as if the person is reaching out to God
• reaching like this reveals the direction one’s heart is going
The hand can be raised to swear an oath
(most frequently it is God or an angel who does this (De. 32:40; Is. 62:8)
– but it can also be used to get the attention of an audience (Acts 13:16)
A hand on the head of a sacrificial victim transfers sin and guilt (Lev. 4:32-35)
The hand is used to bless – e.g., a child (Ge. 48:14-15)
– when parents saw what Jesus did with his hands, they begged him to touch their children
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mk. 10:16)
• with upraised hands, the priests pronounced blessings on worshipers (Lev. 9:22)
Laying hands on people can be done to impart healing (Mk. 8:23; Lk. 4:40)
Laying hands on people can be done so that they receive the Holy Spirit (De. 34:9; Acts 19:6)

I wanted to mention the arms and fingers – I’ll cut this short

– we’re must not put our trust in the arm of flesh (1 Chr. 32:8; Jer. 17:15)
• fingers represent more dexterity than the hand that grasbs
• fingers appear in the design and sculpting of idols (Isa. 2:8)
Staubli and Schroer, “In a human hand it is determined whether a piece of wood or stone will be used for plowing, grinding grain, or killing someone [or manufacturing an idol] (Num. 35:16-17).” (also, see Isa. 44:9-20)
Wolff, “When idols are not only called the work of men’s hands but expressly the work of their fingers as well (Isa. 2.8, 17.8), they are no doubt thereby being exposed not only as being the works of man’s own powers and capacities, but also as being the products of his art, formed by the fingers.”
– we see God’s finger when inscribing the law on the stone tablets (Ex. 31:18)
• and again in his artistry when creating the heavens (Ps. 8:13)
• we learn what God can do with just one finger (Ex. 18:19)
◦ Jesus told his critics that if he was exorcising demons by “the finger of God,” then the kingdom of God had come
Staubli and Scroer, [Lk. 11:19-20) “Jesus’ words rely on their knowing the Exodus passage, for only then can one understand why Jesus speaks of the finger of God in this context. He uses a typical rabbinic move, from the lesser to the greater: Moses, with the finger of God, conquered a political power and thus brought liberation; Jesus, with the finger of God drives out demons, and where that happens the reign of God is breaking in.”

I have left out so much I could say about the hand of God 🙁
– it shatters and pulverizes, but also wounds and heals (Job 5:18)
– it supports the life of every living thing (Ps. 104:28; 145:16)
– with it God measures oceans in his palm and spans the universe with hand (Is. 40:12)

Conclusion: A nineteenth century preacher told a story

A boy whose dad was a doctor, asked him,
“Why didn’t God make all our fingers the same length? Wouldn’t it be perfect if they were all the same length?”
– his father handed him an orange and said, “Grab a hold of this”
• when he did, all his fingers, and also his thumb, were even as if they were the same length
T. de Witt Talmage, “You see the Creator makes no mistakes. The whole anatomy of your hand as complex, as intricate, as symmetrical, as useful as Gould could make it.”

The human hand really is amazing
The deaf and mute speak with their hands, especially their fingers
The blind read with their finger-tips
We can love with both hands
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me! (Song 2:6)
We can wound with our hand
Blessed be the LORD my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle (Ps. 144:1)
By shaking hands, we can build a bridge of communication
Enter a new relationship, a new partnership, or a new friendship

We can bless with our hands
Henri Nouwen kept a journal in which described his visit to Canada
– he went to meet the people at Daybreak, a home for adults with mental disabilities
– a few days before he was to leave, one of the residents was hit by car
• it was touch and go at first for Ray
• the morning that Nouwen left Canada for home, he visited Ray
◦ Ray’s parents were there too
Nouwen, “I showed Ray’s father how to make the sign of the cross on Ray’s forehead. He had never done this before and cried as he signed his son in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A father’s blessing is so healing.”

I would have thought only priests were qualified to do this
But whose blessing on a child’s life
could be greater than the parents?

A friend tells me that every time he passes my house,
he sends me a blessing
You can do that too – for your friends – for your neighbors
raise your hand toward their home and bless them with peace, with love, and with hope

Pray over your hands
imagine how God can use them

We need to realize, our hands are tools
God’s Spirit will train us in their best use
and he will empower them
to touch and bless the lives of others

May 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 30, 2021

Podcast

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The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” [please read the entire passage] Ezekiel 37:1-14

Intro: When I say “Arlington,” what comes to mind?

The Arlington National Cemetery began as a solution to a problem
– after the Civil War, cemeteries ran out of space for all the remains of dead soldiers
• Arlington was offered for those who could not afford a proper burial anywhere else
• it also provided space for the remains of more than 2000 unidentified soldiers
– a friend who flew helicopters in Vietnam was nearly shot down when evacuating soldiers from a “hot spot”
• he told me, that when it seemed he was going to die, his last thoughts were of relationships
• that’s why there’s a Memorial Day,
◦ so that we don’t forget those whose last thoughts were of us

Ezekiel’s vision took him to a cemetery of sorts
– only without any graves – just a desert valley strewn with bones
• his prophecy is not about an individual resurrection
• it’s about the resurrection of a nation
– the people of Israel were beyond hopeless
• they had no country, no government, no landmarks
◦ all of that had been erased from the map
• all they had was a memory of what they had lost
◦ they had their memories, they had each other, and most important, they had God
◦ starting with their remains–dead, dry bones–God would reassemble the nation
◦ beginning with a bare bones frame, next he would add materials for life and movement
• and then he would breathe his Spirit into them and bring Israel back to life

Why are we spending all this time exploring body parts in scripture?
– because this is a way of bringing awareness to how we live with God
Do not present your members [body parts] to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Ro. 6:13, 19; and 7:5)
• thinking about how God claims for himself our eyes and ears, nose and mouth, neck and shoulders,
• gives us more objects to remind us to watch for how God moves in our lives
◦ and how we move toward him
◦ what we allow in our eyes and ears, and out of our mouths,
and what we do with our hands and where our feet take us
– among our body parts, scripture could not ignore something so important as our bones
• the skeletal system is the internal structure that supports the body
◦ it is what enables us to sit, stand, walk, and so on
◦ in scripture, the bones are also an essential component of our inner life

In the Bible we find that people were very concerned about their bones

Even after death, their bones represented a shared experience with the community
Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Ge. 50:25)
– David paid respect to King Saul by providing his bones a dignified burial (2 Sam. 21:12-14)
• even for kings, to be buried in the tombs of their fathers was an honor (2 Ki. 16:20)
• to not be buried was a terrifying thought, and punishment (2 Ki. 9:10)
◦ a bone that was not buried was considered “unclean”
(and a source of ceremonial impurity; Nu. 19:16)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Shcroer, “During life human bones are something like a barometer of health. . . . The more the bones are embedded in sound flesh, the healthier the person appears, and the more they show, the closer that person is to death (Lam. 3:4; 4:8; 5:10).”
– regarding bones “showing”:
Man is also rebuked with pain on his bead
and with continual strife in his bones . . .
His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen,
and his bones that were not seen stick out (Job 33:19, 21; cf. Ps. 22:17)
• good health is judged by the soundness of one’s bones
One dies in his full vigor,
being wholly at ease and secure,
his pails full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist (Job 21:23-24)
• poor health is felt in the bones
The night racks my bones,
and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. . . .
My skin turns black and falls from me,
and my bones burn with heat (Job 30:17, 30)
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin (Ps. 38:3)

Sharing bone and flesh signified a bond with another or others

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man (Gen. 2:23)
Staubli and Shroer, “Here and in many other places (Gen 29:14; Judg 9:2-3; 2 Sam 5:1; 19:12-13) flesh and bones express the closes relationship, such as is felt by members of the same tribe.”
– the bond Jacob shared with his uncle Laban (Gen. 29:14)
• the family connection Abimelech shared with the city of Shechem (Jdg 9:2)
• the affinity David had with the tribe of Judah (2 Sam. 5:1; 19:12-13)

Bones function with feelings and emotions of a person’s inner life

Job’s friend, Eliphaz, describing a nighttime vision
dread came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones shake (Job 4:14)
Staubli and Schroer, “The psalms have quite a bit to say about the terror that gnaws one’s bones, the dread of death that strikes a chill in the bones of those who pray (Pss 6:2; 22:14, 17; 31:10; 32:3; 38:3; 42:10; 102:3), and there are a remarkable number of sayings in the book of Proverbs that establish psychosomatic connections between one’s way of life or experiences and the state of one’s bones . . . .”
– examples of “psychosomatic connections” from the Proverbs:
trust and reverence in God
will be healing to your [navel]
and refreshment to your bones (Pr. 3:8)
the good that comes from encouraging, comforting, loving speech:
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the [bones] (Pro. 16:24)
• we’ve learned that prolonged stress or anxiety can affect bones
◦ excess cortisol in response to ongoing stress diminishes bone density
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh
but envy makes the bones rot (Pr. 14:30)
• the quality of life deteriorates from the inside-out
◦ envy and other negative emotions attack body’s internal structure
positive emotions can heal, negative emotions can harm,
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Pr. 17:22)
grief overwhelms our body parts,
I hear, and my body trembles; / my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; / my legs tremble beneath me (Hab. 3:16)
Concerning the prophets [who were leading Israel astray]:
My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake . . . . (Jer. 23:9)
the emotional distress of sin and sorrow affects the bones:
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled (Ps. 6:2)
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away (Ps. 31:10)
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long (Ps. 32:3)
the relief of forgiveness can bring a joy that heals the bones:
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice (Ps. 51:8)
Pat Ogden, “Our sense of well-being is strongly tied into the core of the body, the spine, and the surrounding muscles, and particularly to whether the spine is aligned.” [Trauma or mistreatment in childhood can] “promote postural adaptations suited to unsafe, rejection, or critical conditions.”
“Posture has a powerful influence on emotions and well-being. Fixed postures, such as a chronically slumped spine or ‘military’ posture, can be viewed as positions from which only select emotions and behaviors can be possible.”

The bones speak, and like other body parts they have something to say

All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you,
delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Ps. 35:10)
– David is listening to the basic framework of his body
• and his body’s core is telling him something
– to believe something down to our bones, is to be thoroughly convinced

The spine is what enables us to live an upright life

There’s a parallel between the body and God’s sacred tent
You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood (Ex. 26:15)
– upright has to do with the posture of the body and of a person’s character
See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes (Ecc. 7:29)
• in the Proverbs and elsewhere, the opposite of upright is crooked
• being bent over can happen as we age (Ecc. 12:1-3)
◦ but it can also be a punishment or curse (Ro. 11:9-10)
– in contrast to being bent, is our response to signs of God’s hand at work in the world
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Lk. 21:28)
– previously, Jesus saw a woman who was bent over and could not fully straighten herself, so he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God (Lk. 21:28 and 13:11-13)
• in both passages, Luke uses the same word for “straighten [up]”
Pat Ogden, “Our posture is dependent on the core of the body–the spine and surrounding muscles. A strong but flexible core and aligned posture stabilizes us both emotionally and physically while also supporting our actions.”

Conclusion: Paying attention to our posture is a very easy discipline

If you find yourself rubbing the back of your neck,
– stretching your back or your arms or legs,
• you’re most likely responding to poor posture
• we forget about our posture when
◦ engrossed in writing, reading, working on a project with small details
◦ but the body will remind us when we’ve been treating it poorly
Ogden, “How we hold our bodies is rich with meaning, conveying to others our mood in the moment and providing hints as to how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we hold. When we sit or stand slumped, upper back bowed, shoulders rounded, and head forward, we might appear detached, frightened, insecure, or compliant. Colloquialisms about being ‘spineless’ or having ‘no backbone’ testify that a collapse in the spine is associated with shame, low self-esteem, or difficulty with self-assertion. In contrast, when we have a rigid, tense ‘military’ posture, with head and shoulders pulled back, knees locked, and muscles tense, we might appear arrogant, intimidating, adversarial, or inflexible. Terms such as unbendable or ‘puffed up with pride’ describe a rigidly held spine and a core of the body characterized by inflexibility. But when we sit or stand tall yet relaxed, with our shoulders open and our chins level, we appear more focused, confident, and receptive.”

The Bible challenges us to live upright lives
– to carry ourselves with dignity, having nothing to fear and nothing to hide
• if we know that God is with us, our bodies will show it

Sometimes we cannot shake the emotions that rack our bodies
– we cannot rise to the fearless confidence that God is for us
• our rational minds resist the faith in our hearts
– one way to work at this is to move backwards
• instead of top-down, where we have to figure everything out in our heads before we can accept it with our heart,
• we work bottom up, where we carry our bodies as we would if “it all made sense”
◦ and all the help we needed had arrived

Developing a new habit of changed posture
will change our brains
will rewire them to what our bodies are saying
will reinforce our commitment to living upright
And quite possibly,
bring us to a greater awareness of God with us