A Tale of Three Mountains


Galatians 3:1-9

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miraclesamong you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 

Camels (A Love Story)

Genesis 24:

62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered.  [READ MORE]

A Christian Home

My grandmother, Barbara Bennett Hart, wrote this hymn.

O give us homes built firm upon the Savior,
Where Christ is Head and Counselor and Guide;
Where every child is taught His love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified:
How sweet to know that tho his footsteps waver
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!

O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in Him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, tho days be dark and grim.

O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster,
And praise is natural speech to every tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that’s vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young.

O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor-
Be Thou our Guest, our hearts and homes to share.

David, Bathsheba, Nathan, and God

First, read 2 Samuel 11-12:15.  Then, read Psalm 51:

TO THE CHOIRMASTER.  A PALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE INTO BATHSHEBA.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;

build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

“The American Dream” – A Sermon by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK delivered a powerful sermon on July 4, 1965 entitled The American Dream.  It included this paragraph:

You see, the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the “image of God,” is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. (Yes) We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.

He concluded the sermon with this plea:

We open the doors of the church now. If someone needs to accept Christ, (Yes, sir) this is a marvelous opportunity, a great moment to make a decision. And as we sing together, we bid you come at this time by Christian experience, baptism, watch care. But come at this moment, become a part of this great Christian fellowship and accept Christ (Yes, sir) as your personal savior.

I especially like the sentence “we open the doors of the church now” in the final paragraph.  He was probably speaking logistically.  But to me it is a connection between his imago dei-based rights argument and the way that in Jesus there is unity.

Entire sermon manuscript
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The Bloodpath Covenant

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

Sermon Audio

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Text: Genesis 15:

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

The Bread of Life: Jesus in ‘The Hunger Games’

[ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 19, 2011]

Nancy and I both read The Hunger Games during our family vacation last week. It’s a great summer read and has all the ingredients I love in literature: it’s post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and allegorical. I could do without the teenage love triangle dramas, and the many grammatical errors are a distraction, but overall this is fun, rich reading.

Naturally, I’m always looking for the Christ figure when I read novels. (The farm boy in Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilych is still my favorite one). When I began reading The Hunger Games, I saw Katniss as the Christ figure. When her weak little sister is chosen as a participant in the death game, Katniss sacrificially substitutes herself and takes her place. This is very similar to the way the Bible describes what Jesus did on the cross: he died in our place.

Sacrificial as her act of substitution was, there is a more compelling Christ figure in this book. Consistently, the baker’s son, named Peeta (think pita bread) behaves like Jesus. In the first scene we encounter him, he throws a loaf of bread to Katniss, who is starving. For his act of kindness, which cost his family both money and pride, his mother strikes him in the face. The loaf of bread saved Katniss’ life, and nearly cost Peeta his. He paid the price for her life. The next day at school, Katniss can see his wounds. She

“passed by the boy in the hall, his cheek had swelled up and his eye had blackened.”

This is a correlative to the Christ story as described in the suffering servant narrative in Isaiah 53:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed

Katniss, her belly full of life-giving bread, observed the boy’s scars and was reminded of his sacrifice for her. This is very much like our experience of eating the bread at the Communion table.

And there is more. The baker’s son continues his Christlikeness during the death games. Everything he does is designed to lift up Katniss and give her life. His love for her is unyielding. Even as he risks his own life by freeing her from danger, he can’t stop himself from looking at her, his beloved. Later we learn that he has been looking at her ever since the first day they met, when they were five years old. He remembers what she wore that day. He remembers everything about her because he loves her without condition, even to the point of death.

In the arena, he is in fact left for dead by his oppressors. He buries himself in mud (“low in the grave he lay”) until his beloved comes searching for him, just like the women who entered the garden tomb, looking for Jesus. At first she doesn’t see him, she only hears his voice.

“Peeta?” I whisper. “Where are you?” There is no answer. Could I just have imagined it? No, I’m certain it was real and very close at hand, too.
“Peeta?” I creep along the bank.
“Well, don’t step on me.”
I jump back. His voice was right under my feet. Still there’s nothing. Then his eyes open, unmistakably blue in the brown mud and green leaves. I gasp and am rewarded with a hint of white teeth as he laughs. [See John 20]

After Katniss cleans and embraces her resurrected savior, the two climb into a cave where they are buried together for three days. Using a large stone (I’m not making this up!) to seal the entrance, they are safe from harm. In the cave their love grows, until both are healed physically and their relationship is intensely intimate.

In the same way, our relationship with God grows from within the grave of our Savior. His sacrifice was an outgrowth of his unyielding love for us. “By his wounds we are healed”, and, as we’ve studied previously together on this blog, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [See Romans 6]

Like Peeta, Jesus hasn’t just offered us some earthly bread to keep us alive for a day at school. Out of his great love for us, he has gone much further than that. He has died in our place. And profoundly, he invites us to die with him (to spend those days in his tomb with him!) in order that our sinful selves might die along with him, and so that we might join with him in his new life.

Look around you. Do you see the human condition? Do you see how we kill each other with our words and our wars? These are the hunger games. But we need not starve and we need not kill. The Bread of Life feeds us and has saved us from ourselves.

So “take, eat, remember and believe. This is Christ’s body, which is given for you.”

PS. I encourage you to read The Hunger Games and look for all of the occasions when people break bread together. Look for the unstoppable love of Peeta for his beloved. See Jesus in him. The book is difficult to read because at the center of the plot is such a an unthinkable act, namely children killing each other. But as I’ve pointed out, is it so unlike our cannibalistic sinful nature? And with such awful darkness as the backdrop, the Christlikness of Peeta shines even more brightly.