Sunday, January 27, 2013

He that receiveth you receiveth me

This struck me yesterday:
Matthew 10:40-42 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
“When Jesus said this he was using a way of speaking that the Jews regularly used. [They] felt that to receive a person’s envoy or messenger was to the same as to receive the person himself. To pay respect to an ambassador was to pay respect to the king who had sent him. To welcome with love the messenger of a friend was the same as to welcome the friend himself.”     ~William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew p. 397-398
Jews in ancient Israel also understood that this admonition to pay good attention to and welcome a messenger with love or respect and heed the message he carried would only be true if the ambassador, envoy or messenger were carrying a true and accurate message. If he was carrying a message that the messenger thought was authentic but which was not, or if he was carrying a message that he had invented himself, there was no virtue in receiving him as if he were the sender he represented. And it was your responsibility, as host, to determine whether or not the message was truly from the person it purported to be. Hence the use of seals and sealing wax to verify that the message had not been tampered with. The recipient was expected to use his own eyes and reason to check the state of the seal and the content of the message to determine its validity.
A quick search of the concordance reminds me that the admonitions in the standard works are to hearken to prophets (hearken, in the years following the KJV translation meant to listen; to listen eagerly or curiously, to attend, to pay regard (Samuel Johnson’s 1785 dictionary)) but the admonitions to “follow” only refer to Jesus and righteousness. I think that’s significant.
From the above I assume that we may say that messages may be sent via messengers, but it is the recipient’s responsibility to determine the accuracy of the message and act accordingly.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"...And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:38

Taking up a cross was what a convicted troublemaker did when condemned to death by crucifixion.  Roman tradition was that you would be required to carry the crossbeam of your own cross to the location where you would be crucified as punishment for failing to abide by Roman law.

Crucify: to put to death by nailing or binding the hands and feet to a cross
Crucify: to treat with gross injustice; persecute; torment

Carrying that crossbeam was a sign and a punishment for failing to live according to the expectations of those in power.

Christian life, I think, does call us to fail to live according to the expectations of various powerful forces in our society today.  And that requires a real and felt sacrifice in most instances.

William Barclay wrote about that.  "The Christian may have to sacrifice his personal ambitions, the ease and comfort he may have enjoyed, the career that he might have achieved; he may have to lay aside his dreams, to realize that shining things of which he has caught a glimpse are not for him.  He will certainly have to sacrifice his will...he must do what Christ likes.  In Christianity there is always some cross, for it is the religion of the cross."

I think that this aspect of Christian life is one that we particularly struggle with in North American society today.  Think, what if I had substituted "a woman" for "the Christian" in the above quote?  Anger?  And how many people, men and women, fight to be able to maintain and achieve the world's possible personal, career and comfort dreams and still be wholly converted to Christ?  How often do we Christians laud those who do achieve those dreams and dismiss as simply "ordinary" or "complacent" those who do not?

I am beginning to think that the society in which we live, that so desperately does not want to make permanent personal sacrifices for the greater good, has its sentiments deeply embedded in the lives of all of us who aspire to follow Christ.  Following Jesus Christ involves carrying the crossbeam that proclaims that we have refused to embrace society's expectations, the expectations of committing to, achieving and living what it qualifies as "the dream".

That's serious.  And if you are courageous and humble enough to do so, you will find some who support you and you probably should also expect some important voices in your immediate vicinity today to feel threatened and hand you a crossbeam to carry with you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him and that he might send them forth to preach. Mark 3:14

Collecting thoughts today.

"The were chosen to be with him.  If they were to do his work in the world, they must live in his presence before they went out to the world; they must go from the presence of Jesus into the presence of men...

"Sometimes in the complexity of the activities of the modern church we are so busy with committees and courts and administration and making the wheels go round we are in danger of forgetting that none of these things matter  if they are carried on by men who have not been with Christ before they have been with men."
~William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, p.361

" How can we expect to strengthen families or help others unless we first have written in our own hearts a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement?"  ~Linda Burton, RS General meeting, Sept. 2012

"I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day.  When he interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved.  He knew the infinite value of the people He met.  He blessed them, ministered to them.  He lifted them up, healed them.  He gave them the precious gift of His time."  ~Dieter Uchtdorf, General Conference, October 2012

"Charity is the pure love of Christ."  ~Moroni quoting Mormon

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity...I am nothing."  ~Paul

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Three Inner Attitudes

"If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others...this is the inward reality of simplicity.  However, if what we have we believe we have gotten, and if what we have we believe we must hold onto, and if what we have is not available to others, then we will live in anxiety."
~Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 77

Friday, January 04, 2013

"And when when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, 'Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?'...Jesus...answered...go ye and learn what [the saying] meaneth: 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice;" Matthew 9: 13

This caught me up short today:
"the Pharisees had a view of religion which is by no means dead.
(i) They were more concerned with the preservation of their own holiness than with the helping of another's sin.  They were like doctors who refused to visit the sick lest they should be injured by some infection.  They shrank away in fastidious disgust from the sinner; they did not want anything to do with people like that.  Essentially their religion was selfish; they were much more concerned with saving their own souls than to save the souls of others.  And they had forgotten that that was the surest way to lose their own souls.
(ii) They were more concerned with criticism than with encouragement.  They were far more concerned to point out the faults of other people than to help them conquer these faults.  When a doctor sees some particularly loathsome disease which would turn the stomach of anyone else to look at, he is not filled with disgust; he is filled with the desire to help.  Our first instinct should never be to condemn the sinner; our first instinct should be to help him.
(iii) They practiced a goodness which issued in condemnation rather than  in forgiveness and sympathy.  The would rather leave a man in the gutter than give him a hand to get out of it...
(iv) They practiced a religion which consisted in outward orthodoxy rather than in practical help.  Jesus loved that saying from Hosea 6:6 which said that God desired mercy and not sacrifice, for he quoted it more than once (cp. Matthew 12:7).  A man may diligently go through all the motions of orthodox piety, but if his hand is never stretched out to help the man in need he is not a religious man."
~William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1, p.334-335

Good for me to think about.

And then reading Doc & Cov 1 with L this evening in preparation for the lesson on Sunday there was this:

"the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man."

Good to be reminded.