Song Of Solomon 2:8-13 and Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9 OR Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 and Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
COLLECTFor the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary time ....
Lord God, heavenly King, we bring to you our hearts, for you to make new. We want the righteousness that comes from you. We know that it costs. Help us to rid ourselves of the impurities we carry around inside us. Those impurities of jealousy and laziness, greed and deceit and pride and the foolishness that makes fun of your righteous laws as quaint inconveniences. Give us the courage and the strength, wisdom and discernment to be honest with ourselves and you. May the sacrifices we bring to you be those of a contrite heart and those that truly represent the pure religion of caring for widows and orphans in their distress. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
THOUGHTSRichard and I were discussing the scriptures and commentators and exegesis. I told him that, increasingly, the scriptures are, for me, the call of God, the call of the Beloved. It was very easy for me to see in the Song of Solomon the Lover of my soul. This is indeed the mystical path that I am on. I am so new at it, at least in the realization of it, that I feel most humble in sharing with you my thoughts. I am aware that that is all they are. I am informed myself by the writings of others. But, more than anything else, I find myself informed in prayer and contemplation.
Song Of Solomon 2:8-13
Delightfully, unabashedly celebrates the bodily pleasures of conjugal love. God made us and God made the unity, the perfect fit of 'two become one flesh' possible. Implanted in us is a need for love and intimacy that the conjugal union but foreshadows. The mysteries hinted at in the Song of Solomon are the mysteries of our destiny - that of the perfect fusion - which Christ achieved - of flesh and spirit and that of being united with our Creator so that when He walks in the Garden in the still of the evening, we will no longer be afraid.
That the Song has been suggested to portray the love relationship between God and Israel, Christ and his church or between Christ and the soul, is not a huge surprise. Mystics of all ages have spoken of God in similar language. How many of us understand the voice of God, the voice of Jesus to be the voice of a lover calling us? The image of the beloved standing at the wall trying to see in (v.9) reminds me of the passage in Revelation in the letter to Laodicea ( Rev. 3:20) where Jesus says he is standing at the door and knocking. 'If you hear my voice and open the door....'
'Arise, my love, my fair one and come away....' The time has come to distinguish the relationship as 'one apart.' 'My beloved is mine and I am his...' (2:16) Is my relationship with Christ, with God, distinguished by my fidelity to him? Does my interior life reflect the intimacy of a relationship with God?
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
I identify, as a fellow writer, with the first verse. There is much joy at times in addressing words of prayer and praise to my Lord. Many are the times I have used the psalms to do so. The lofty language, the down to earth language, they inspire my own words to God.
In this psalm, a royal wedding inspired the lines. Scholars have seen in the king, an offspring of David, a 'type' of Christ. Certainly when one reads the words it is not hard to picture them applying to Christ. 'Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions....' These words grab me. I have felt, in moments of deep connection with God, this anointing with the 'oil of gladness.' I long for God's anointing, for the deepening of the relationship we have.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
'Hear, O Israel....' Familiar words of address to the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament, these are the words used to introduce the teaching of the decrees and laws. They are a call to pay attention and to obey. The rightness and goodness of the law is stressed; it excels in wisdom, discernment and justice. Besides the law, the people are reminded of the nearness of God, a god who is in the midst of his people. God hears and answers prayers. The people are also reminded to remember the deeds of the Lord and to teach them to their children.
With the exhortation to obey, comes the command to add nothing to and subtract nothing from the commands. The sufficiency of God's revelation is stressed. That there is an inherent wisdom to the decrees of God is a given. The things we are taught are to promote an interior goodness in our hearts.
I remember memorizing this psalm in Grade Three in religion classes. I think we got gold stars if we got it right.
Who shall abide in the sanctuary? What gives access to God? The answer seems to be moral righteousness. Moral righteousness. We could call it right relationship with God, others and ourselves in accordance with God's righteous decrees. We could also describe it as an ordering of our lives in reverence of God. Or we could say it was a purity of heart before God. An interior ordering of the heart that manifests itself not necessarily only by rituals observed but by one's conduct in regards to God and our neighbours.
James is such a practical Christian. His advice is designed to help people transfer head knowledge and heart knowledge into the 'how-to' of everyday life. He uses words judiciously to get his ideas across. There is much to munch on in these ten verses.
Every perfect gift and every perfect impulse comes from God. It is not our own to claim. As firstfruits of the good news, having the word of truth implanted in us, we are the fulfillment of God's own purpose. We are to cultivate a peaceableness that accomplishes God's intentions of producing righteousness. We are to rid ourselves of the things - in us - that are unhealthy, sordid and wicked. We are to welcome, with humility, the Gospel in our lives so that the word of God may save our souls.
How do we do that? We welcome the Gospel by doing the Gospel. By putting into practice those things the Gospel tells us. By making the words of the Gospel about peace and righteousness and charity a reality. By carrying out God's purpose (feed the orphan, house the widow, strive for inner purity). We make the Gospel a living reality when we proclaim it by our lives, by our acts of daily life that show forth the love of God. We can do this best when we realize that the righteousness we are striving for is God's not ours.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
I reached to shake his hand. He hesitated, 'I've been cutting bait.' (or 'I've been working in the barn.' or 'My hands are full of grease.') 'No problem,' I say and we shake on it. I think we associate clean hands with a clean heart or some kind of worth. Certainly the Pharisees were having difficulty with the 'dirty' (ritually unclean) hands of Jesus and his disciples. They were hung up, as we say, on the right way to do things. But that right way was not God's way. It was a man-made rule. There is a name for these extra man-made laws, they are called the 'fence around the Law.'
Jesus' understanding of the Law itself and of God's purpose led to a radical statement about purity. The moral righteousness everyone wanted to have (or to be seen as having) was not a matter of outward show but of inward disposition. Whatever is made room for in the heart is what grows there. Purity is a matter of what comes forth from our hearts. Who are we when the chips are down? When it counts? Who are we when it costs? Is our purity a Sunday morning show and a weekday sham?
In our day there seems to be a mindset that sees the Law as more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Even the Law itself can be changed or disposed of if we don't really want to live by it. Nothing much has changed in two thousand years. All my righteousness (that coming from me) is as filthy rags. The only righteousness I really have is that which comes from God by grace.
Ordinary ThoughtsAutumn seems to have come early to the Columbia Valley. There was fresh snow on the mountaintops on August 17th. Frost nipped a few local gardens just as some produce was coming to perfection. The bears are active earlier than usual seeking the apples and the berries. I even saw some bear scat on the levee behind our house the other day. Despite the earliness of the season, it is still within the rhythm of the year. Thick early morning mists mark the end of summer here. And so we continue learning about Christian discipleship and the Way. Blessings as the geese fly in formation overhead, the fields brown up and the delightful smells of pickling and canning manifest themselves throughout the land.
copyright - Charlene E. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
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