Monday, November 30, 2009

29 November 2009

Deuteronomy 30: 10-20

As we enter the season of Advent, we reflect on the lessons. The 3rd lesson from Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a set time for everything. For us now in the western church, it is the time of Advent. Advent comes from a Latin word which means to come. Advent has the double sense of preparing for the coming of Christ, his first coming when he was born into the world as a little child to save the world, and for his second coming, when he will come to judge the world.

The question is, are we ready. Deuteronomy tells us that if we listen to the law and obey it, then we shall live and multiply. While of course in its initial sense, this reading is for the Jews getting ready to enter the promised land, it is also for Christians. God has set before us the way of life and of death. Jesus, who is the Law has come down for us, so we do not need to seek in heaven for him, nor anywhere else. He is as close as our heart, if we truly seek him, and he has given us his word, and his word can be obeyed.

Do we love Jesus then? Love is what gives us the power to obey. Love gave me the power to give up tobacco because I loved the kids in the church enough to know I didn't want to be a bad example. Love for family allows us to sacrifice for them, and to live according to the spirit. Love for Jesus allows us to obey his laws. Are his laws tough? Without love they are. If we are having trouble following God's word, we need to ask ourselves, "Have I really accepted Jesus?" What does this mean? In the new Testament, we are told, "if you believe in your heart and confess with your lips you shall be saved." In Mark, we are told, if you believe and are baptised, you will be saved." We are also told , "Those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved." Are these mutually exclusive? NO they describe a process. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with our hearts. We must call upon his name, and we must confess our belief before witnesses, the church, and we must be baptised. All of these ingredients are necessary. Baptism shows we are obedient to him and is a sign we have passed into new life, and is a sacrament by which we are joined to the church. Does this mean if you accept Jesus, and die before you have a chance to be baptised, that you will be condemned? Clearly not, but I would wonder about your salvation if you put off being baptised.

Salvation is not about fire insurance. Many say they have accepted Christ as Saviour, but their lives do not show it. When we are saved, (made whole), we are truly made whole, maybe not all at once, but Jesus will be moving in our hearts and minds so that he will be our Lord indeed. Often we fall away, sometimes because there was no true faith to begin with, and sometimes because we never achieved the discipline we need to be true disciples.

Ask yourself, "Do I truly love Jesus move than anything? Do I love him more than _______________(wife, kids, money, tennis, football, soccer, whatever)? Where do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? Do I need to make a change? Am I ready for Jesus to come back?

What would you do different, if you knew that Jesus would return tomorrow? That is the point of Advent. To figure out what we would do different if he was coming back tomorrow and to do it. I myself have cut back my time with the TV and increased time with the Bible. Our love relationship with Jesus is only strengthened by studying his work, and through prayer.

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Monday, November 16, 2009

Third Sunday of Kingdomtide: 15 November 2009

Genesis 19:1-38

This week’s Tanakh gives a powerful message of the love and mercy of God. As you may recall, God states that there is a great outcry against Sodom and Gomorra. He has also told Abram that he will not destroy the city if he finds ten righteous men in the city.

The angels proceed into the city, where Lot finds them. It is important that we look at Lot. When we last saw Lot, he had decided to live in the area around Sodom and Gomorra and indeed had been captured when these cities were attacked. This weeks reading, we find Lot living in the city, with his daughters promised to men of the city. Such is the power of evil. When we choose to stay close to it, it slowly drags us in.

Lot, though, is still imbued with the values of Abram. Hospitality is very important to him, and he insists that the angels stay with him. The angels, after some resistance agree. The men of the city come to Lot, insisting that he turn the men over to them for the purposes of sex. Lot refuses, and showing the importance of hospitality offers his daughters instead. The men refuse this offer, and try to take Lot, but the angels strike them blind.

Now a quick aside. Sadly the heresiarch, John Spong and others tell us that the main sin of Sodom and Gomorra was the lack of hospitality, and that homosexuality was not the problem. They tell us that the only reason that the Bible condemns homosexuals is because the Jewish culture was anti-homosexual. We should point out that it was God’s commandment which shaped the Jews, not some prior bias. God is Lord of all, and he could have chosen any homosexual culture he wanted to be the ancestors of Messiah. There were plenty to choose from in Canaan.

Back to the story. Remember, that God told Abram there was a great cry against these people. God, when we refuse to obey him, lets us stew in our own juices so to speak. We are told in the New Testament, that homosexuality is the result of idolatry. We also know they left off hospitality. There were probably many other sins against Sodom and Gomorra, and when a people or person refuses to turn to God, then God allows that sin to reign over those people. This is exactly what happened to Sodom and Gomorra, and in time is what happened to the Canaanites. These are the only two societies so completely condemned in the Torah. Societies so evil, that they had to be destroyed lest they contaminate other peoples, and as we recall, the Canaanites were not completely destroyed and led the people of Israel astray!

The Angels warn Lot of what is to happen, and tell him to gather his family. He goes to his sons-in-Laws, and they think he is joking. Evil has no comprehension of judgment. Wicked men turn things into a joke and reap the consequences. Giving up on his sons-in- laws, Lot returns to the house, and appears befuddled. This is the only place in the Bible in which I can recall that God forces someone to be saved. The angels take Lot and his wife and daughters by the hands and lead them out of the city, and command them to run for the mountains, so as to be safe. Lot again pleads with the angels, the mountain is too far, could he not go to Segot, and God in his mercy permits it. But our story is not done. The angels command him and his family to run, and not turn back, but Lot’s wife cannot resist. She looks back and is transformed into a column of salt. God requires obedience. He covers us with the blood of Jesus for our salvation, but Jesus must be our Lord as well as our saviour, or all bets are off. Lot and the daughters are safe, but his wife is gone. They arrive safely at the village, but Lot seemingly has learned his lesson. He realizes how evil these people are and leaves for a mountain. His daughters in a fit of desperation ply him with wine to get him drunk so they can have children, showing their desperation (it was the sons who took care of the mothers) and their contaminating. In the congregation, it was asked yesterday, why Lot didn’t go back to Abram. I had never thought about it. I suppose that maybe Lot was ashamed to go back. It is certain that Abram would have taken him back in and probably found husbands for the daughters.

We have then the story of Sodom and Gomorra. God judged them and found them wanting. He remembered Abram and his promises, and for Abram’s sake rescued Lot from the destruction to come. He virtually forces Lot to leave the city, for the sake of Abram. What a gracious God. He wants each of us to be saved as well. Are we willing? If you are ready to accept Jesus, send me an email and we will talk, or give me a call.

Mar Michael Abportus, O.S.L.