Counting to Pentecost
“‘ “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count seven full weeks. Count fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.”
Reflections April 19, 2023
“‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.”
Waving is an act of drawing attention, of signaling recognition. Whose attention is being drawn by the waving of this sheaf?
God, of course, needs no reminder, but we benefit from the act of presenting the fruit of our labor to His purposes. The act of dedication draws our attention to truths like, it was God who created and strengthened our hands to work, gifted us the land we tilled, and all we do is to His glory not ours.
We draw our attention to the benefits of His blessings. “This is Your harvest from which I am benefiting.”
There is more to be said here…
A Slippery Slope with Valuable Foliage
“In Man Is Not Alone, he [Abraham Joshua Heschel] draws on an old rabbinic teaching that divine revelation is an experience of God that is different for each person. The Torah comes to each of us, a revelation of God that we receive, each in a unique way, renewed every day. No single path leads to God because one’s religion must be authentic to who we are. Since each person is unique, each expression will be as well. One cannot be Jewish the way one’s grandparents were Jewish; that would be spiritual plagiarism: ‘A vibrant society does not dwell in the shadows of old ideas and viewpoints; in the realm of the spirit, only a pioneer can be a true heir. The wages of spiritual plagiarism are the loss of integrity; self-aggrandizement is self-betrayal. Authentic faith is more than an echo of a tradition. It is a creative situation, an event.’”
Abraham Joshua Heschel. Thunder in the Soul (p. 16). Plough Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
Maxims from My Dad
Some of these I heard my Dad say often. Some of them I distilled by watching his life.
A man accepts responsibility.
There is no authority without corresponding responsibility (and vice versa).
If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
Be serious about staying unstained by the world. (His favorite illustration of this was making a batch of brownies, emphasizing the various portions of multiple ingredients, and then asking the audience if they minded just a tiny bit of dog poo mixed in.)
Hard work is satisfying.
Love does what is in the loved one’s best interest, not necessarily what makes them feel good at the moment.
A man rises early.
A godly man starts his day in God’s word.
A responsible man prepares ahead of time for financial realities by saving appropriately. “Don’t let that money burn a hole in your pocket.” was a phrase I heard frequently, and that I think came from my grandfather.
Save separately for short term and for long term goals.
No matter how intelligent you are there is great pride in manual labor.
Treat your wife the best you possibly can; skimp on yourself.
Giving limits is a loving act.
Always be inclined to explain.
Never speak ill of someone else.
Recount stories that reflect well on someone else often.
Be always willing to learn, but don’t fear to question conventional wisdom.
What you have been given, labor to improve it.
Childhood is the time when you train for adulthood. Prepare your children for life!
Loving and serving God takes precedence over all else.
Love of God and man is best expressed by action and affirmed in words, not the other way around.
Be hard on yourself; be patient with others.
“Are you saying I’m sinning?”
This question, typically voiced with indignation, is the response of a legalist to discovering there is the possibility—or even just the suggestion—that they might be unknowingly sinning.
A healthy believer would respond: “If that is biblical I want to know more! How did you come to that conclusion? Can we open the scriptures together?”
Only someone whose sense of comfort in regard to their relationship with God derives from feeling they are performing well, responds with indignation to the idea they might be unknowingly sinning.
A healthy, mature believer is in touch with the reality that they are utterly dependent upon God’s mercy and grace. And, consequently, is motivated to improve their reflection of Christ’s character not out of any hope of deserving, but out of gratitude and passionate allegiance to Jesus as their Savior and King.
Therefore new realization is an opportunity, not an indictment.
Tourists or Residents?
“[T]our guides create tourists rather than residents—consumers of knowledge rather than participants in actual communities. We may introduce people to the basic contours and city limits of the gospel—“map knowledge”—but how do we fundamentally reorient them within the new neighborhood of the gospel? Given the significant influence of the modern social imaginary, discipleship must be embedded within a Christian social imaginary in order to be an effective journey of counterformation. This will require a new vision of life, a new story to live within, a new community to be part of, and new practices to live by. Indeed, to live well as “resident aliens” in this world, we must know our true home.”
– Jonathan Grant, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age (p. 135)
A Nation’s Desires
“Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.”
It used to be that porn displayed the desires a culture entertained but didn’t want to publicly acknowledge. The demarcation between our entertainment and our porn is disappearing.
The topics that previously were pornographic now dominate our public consumption, indeed, even our advertising.
Now that adultery and homosexuality are the stuff of living room consumption, incest and pederasty will begin to dominate our porn. It is an increasingly short step from there to the living room.
Because we are all created in God’s image, when a culture rejects sin as a category individuals still experience shame. The secular solution to shame is to make shameful behavior public and brazen, and the next step is to demand it be celebrated.
While humans are fickle and will often comply with the ludicrous demands of the brazen to be celebrated, the land is immune to their tyrannical tantrums and continues to record the sins committed against it with no change in standard from creation.
“Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”
“The cultural air we breathe fuels our hunger for the extraordinary, yet in Romans 12 we are told that our everyday, ordinary lives are worthy of being offered to God as a true sacrifice to Him. This is because we have the resounding “IT IS GOOD” from the Father tumbling down to us from Genesis right into our present lives. The blessing of the Father was not reserved for the special exotic animals. Nor was it reserved for Adam when he had done something really heroic. It was on creation itself – creation with its limits, its rhythms, its extraordinary ordinariness. Without an understanding of the blessing of the Father on creation itself – on life on earth as our place of communion with Him – we will be seeking a higher spiritual experience, like the ancient Gnostics. We will always need to convince ourselves that we really are ‘sold out’ or passionate.”
Julie Canlis, A Theology of the Ordinary, pg 27
“The limitations that are part of us being ‘not-God’ were intended to keep us close and in relationship with God. Our very limitations imply the need for relationship. To be a creature is to refuse to make ourselves but instead to joyfully accept our limitations. It is to know that our self-making would be our un-making.”
Julie Canlis, A Theology of the Ordinary, pg. 15
“One system of particular interest to researchers in the last ten years is that of mirror neurons, which leads to mimicry. Virtually all intentional human behavior is ultimately mimicked.”
Curt Thompson, M.D. Anatomy of the Soul (p. 42)
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”Ephesians 5:1