Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Born From Above

Psalm 107:17-22
17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
and drew near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy.

The psalmist reminds us that as we rebel against God and enter all kinds of paths of unrighteousness that it takes a toll on our bodies. Just as following God improves every aspect of our being body, mind and soul, so following the path of the enemy also leaves our body sick. In this case this person’s rebellion led them to the gate of death. Fortunately in their powerlessness they cried out to God and He heard them and rescued them. The psalmist encourages the person(s) to give thanks to God whose steadfast love endures forever. Although not every time we are sick is a result of sinful ways, sometimes it is. Some of our problems, we bring on ourselves, but it is never too late to call on God for help. Though we have been unfaithful, if we reach out to God in His unfailing love He hears our cry and offers us mercy. This is a reason to be most thankful for God’s covenant love for us in good and bad.

1 Samuel 9
New International Version (NIV)
Samuel Anoints Saul

9 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. 3 Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them. 5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” 6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” 7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?” 8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel[a] of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.) 10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was. 11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?” 12 “He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.” 14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place. 15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.” 17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.” 18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?” 19 “I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?”21 Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” 22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited—about thirty in number. 23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.” 24 So the cook took up the thigh with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion from the time I said, ‘I have invited guests.’” And Saul dined with Samuel that day.25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. 26 They rose about daybreak, and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get ready, and I will send you on your way.” When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. 27 As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us”—and the servant did so—“but you stay here for a while, so that I may give you a message from God.

Here we have the curious account of the nomination of Israel’s king. One would have thought it would have come through the line of Judah, which was spoken of before and that people would have lined up to nominate who would be the prince who would rule. But instead God reveals the King to Samuel, the prophet of Israel, and Saul is led by providence to encounter Samuel as he was trying to recover his father’s donkeys. Saul’s seer and a young maiden all play a role in connecting Saul and Samuel and it would have been a glorious affair had it not been connected to the origin of this, which was rooted in the people’s desire for a king. Nonetheless God intervenes and calls Saul a Benjaminite to be the first king of Israel. We see similar story lines in Jesus’ day when he is looking for a donkey on Palm Sunday, and also we meet another Saul, a Benjaminite, who would later be named Paul and be great leader for the church. We learn more about this Saul’s coronation tomorrow.

John 1:1-13
The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Reflection: We begin today the 4th gospel, the Gospel of John. Many call him the evangelist. The first three gospels are called the “synoptic” gospels, because they share many of the same stories about Jesus’ birth, life, interaction with the disciples, public ministry, crucifixion, death and resurrection. Although as we have seen, there is some material unique to each of them. John is also a more theological gospel seeking to explain the meaning of Jesus’ life than just tell the stories.
In this first chapter, we see a theology, or an explanation of Jesus’ beginning. It says that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with and the Word was God. The Greek word for Word is “logos” which means all knowledge or all rationality about God. Meaning everything that can be known about God is in the Word or the logos. It also shows that the Word was there speaking and Creation came into being. We also see in the Word there is light, which is the hope of all people. Then, because we know the story from the other gospels, John the Baptist came to give witness to light, the Word so that all men and women might know who this Word was! John the Baptist was the messenger of the light to the people.

Our section ends with the words, “and to all who received Him, He gave them the power to become children of God, children born not of natural descent but born of God! The literal word is the Greek “anothen”, which means “born from above”. This is where we get the word “born again”, which we will hear more about in chapter 3. John starts with the incarnation, that Jesus became one of us, though He was fully God. This is important because Jesus walked in our shoes and identifies with our condition yet was without sin. As we receive Him today we become His sons and daughters and inheritors of all that His! What a promise, what a beginning, there will be more to come in what has always been my favorite Gospel!!!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God. Psalm 95:2-3

Jesus said, “Give to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17 (NIV)

You alone are good, O God. We give you all thanksgiving and praise! You alone are great, O Christ. We bow before you in humble adoration! May the joyous sound of grateful hearts never end as the strains of truth and trust resound in you, our Savior. Amen.

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