Thursday, December 03, 2015

Just thinking and praying

Another shooting for reasons not yet known

"See, The Lord's hand is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.  Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.  For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness."  Isaiah 59:1-3 NRSV

For the life of me, I cannot wrap my mind around yet another shooting and heart so inclined to murder.  

We can - we must - pray for the victims and their families, but I think maybe it is time for some serious introspection in our prayers.  Many wonder where The Lord is in such tragedies, but perhaps it is time for the Church to be serious about the business for which we have been called forth and stop pretending we should be living in some kind of spiritual Candy Land.  Maybe it is The Lord asking where His people are.

The Covenant of The Lord has had a stipulation from the beginning: in order to expect Divine protection from the evil in the world, the people of The Lord are expected to abide by the Holy and Divine Law.  This biblical reality has been watered down for so long that we simply expect The Lord to protect us from the evil that surrounds us because we show up for church once in a while, and can say and spell "Jesus".  We are essentially clueless as to the very real demands of the Gospel because we have convinced ourselves we don’t have to do anything to earn The Lord’s love, yet we expect the promises to materialize to a people largely (and willfully) ignorant of what is written for us to know.  Worse, perhaps, is the expectation that others should abide by the Divine Law; that same Law we insist does not really apply to us Christians.

It is fair (and probably of profound importance) to ask ourselves: Why should The Lord protect us?  Because He loves us?  Because we have put more emphasis on "correcting" the Bible so as to be sensitive to political demands that we stop calling The Lord anything other that simply "God" so as to avoid offending anyone other than the Holy One Himself?  Because we have been so focused on inclusivity that we fail to remember there are covenant conditions, not least of which is obedience for those already claiming to be of the Covenant?  And that obedience borne of an abiding faith that trusts fully that The Lord will indeed look after His people?  Or are these expectations too high?

But who are His people?  The Jews?  The Catholics?  The Protestants?  The Muslims?  Who are HIS PEOPLE who are "called by My Name" (2 Chronicles 7:14)?

The Lord's own Chosen were in trouble because they had lost (or surrendered) their faith.  They forgot (or it just became inconvenient or unpopular) to do the right and faithful thing.  They were judged with "blood on their hands".  That is, they had learned to exploit each other for personal gain rather than to support and defend the well-being of the community by defending those unable to defend themselves.  They slandered those they didn't like, and they spoke whatever was necessary to get ahead.  “Each did what was pleasing in his own sight” (Judges 17:6).

And The Lord, the God whose Name is "love", turned His back.  He had "hidden His face" from His own people, and their prayers nor cries for mercy were to be heard “for their hearts are far from Me”.  So how is it that we have read this reality of Israel and Judah (The Lord’s Chosen people divided against themselves), and we have managed to convince ourselves this cannot happen to us?  We who claim to "believe" but do not fully trust nor live as though we do really “believe”?  We who casually and carelessly toss the Holy Name about but only for personal gain or some faceless feel-good notion of having “witnessed” on social media without actually engaging others?  We who gleefully pass along unsubstantiated rumors?  We who in our own self-righteousness eagerly curse those who stand politically opposed to us?  We who will spend thousands for ourselves this Holy Day season in the name of Jesus but will toss only spare change at the many ministries counting on the season of good will to fill their coffers to last the whole year since we don't feel such good will in JulyWe who will gladly curse those who do not “believe” as we think they should believe?

We are, I believe, under judgment because while we may be quick to call for prayer after the fact, we do not seriously consider faithful living before the fact.  Has The Lord "hidden His face" from us?  Does The Lord choose not to "hear" us?  Let us ask ourselves: why should He?

“If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their lands” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The Lord demands loyalty, faith AND faithfulness, and unwavering allegiance to His Covenant.  Until the Church (those who call themselves by My Name) gets past this notion of “cheap grace” that promises much but asks little, we may well see much worse than we’ve already seen.

I know many will dismiss this observation because it is not a “happy” message; but maybe if we will stop seeking that which tickles the ears and senses and start seeking that which feeds the soul, we will find before us a God mighty in word and power … and mercy.  And we will find this only as a people united, not a bunch of persons each seeking his or her own.

And it starts with earnest repentance.  Not a mere “apology” with cheap words - but a determination to live fully into the Covenant of The Lord - not strictly because we wish to avoid the Judgment but because we desire to live the fullest life possible in Him and on His Terms.  This is The Lord’s promise, and it is made more fully possible in the Living Word made Flesh; Christ Jesus who came to show us what faithful living actually looks like.

Lord, have mercy!


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