Blog Archives

The what and why of honoring our parents

July 4, 2013

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) 

Aside from the kind of sentimentality we see plastered on the front of Hallmark cards at the commercially manufactured holidays of Mother’s and Father’s Days, the commandment to love our parents is rooted in something deep within our faith tradition: the relationship that God has to creation and the relationship that Jesus has to God the Father.

It is common to think of God as our Father. We follow Jesus’ lead in that regard (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…). We also find maternal language for God. Our own “Brief Statement of Faith” borrows maternal language for God found in Isaiah when it reads: Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child…God is faithful still. Put simply, to honor our parents is a way to honor our God.

So what does honor mean? Before entering the stage of life to which Mark Twain refers in his quote, most of us tend to look up to our parents. We may even put them on a pedestal. To be certain, honoring our parents is different than worshipping our parents. 

Best understood, honoring our parents leads us to an unyielding respect and appreciation.

Yet beyond the “what?” of this Commandment, there is the “why?” This is the only Commandment where God gives us a reason for following his law. We are to honor our parents “so that [our] days may be long in the land that the Lord [our] God is giving [us].” 

We rest because we are human

June 26, 2013

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

 

The Israelites weren’t to rest because they were tired. They were to rest because they were human – humans who get distracted by busyness and forget that we are all children of God, created to delight in the presence of God. There is an old saying that, “Just as much as the Jews kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept the Jews.”

In the midst of a world that refuses to slow down, Noah benShea, a contemporary Jewish writer, compares our life of work to weaving a tapestry. Like a tapestry weaver, “we are working at it from the back, ‘in a blind.’” He says that the Sabbath allows us to step back and to
turn the tapestry over so we can see “the larger pattern of who we are, and [through that] the implication of our relationship to the world in which we do our work.”

How do you carry the Lord’s name?

June 20, 2013

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in his book Biblical Literacy, highlights an important textual matter in the third commandment.  While we are used to the commandment being translated, “you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain,” Telushkin points out that the literal Hebrew translation is, “you shall not carry the Lord’s name in vain.”

Though take and carry are relatively small words, the difference between them is significant.  If we think in terms of how we take the Lord’s name, then it can be easy to rationalize our way out of its inappropriate use.  But if we truly consider how it is that we carry the name of God, then suddenly we are dealing with something weightier, and more significant.
To carry God’s name means that we understand that it is not just our words that reflect our belief, but our actions do so as well.

How do you carry God’s name?

Carrying God’s name in your life

June 17, 2013

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Exodus 20:7

At a church I served previously, the Children’s Sermon was a part of every Sunday morning worship service. One year, on Memorial Day weekend, I opened the Children’s Sermon time with a question. “Who can tell me what is special about this weekend?” I asked. (I was hoping, of course, for a comment about Memorial Day.)

Without hesitation, a little boy in front of me said in a confident voice, “GOD!”

Yes.

No matter where we find ourselves, or what we are doing, what is special about every moment is God. This is an important thing to consider when we come to the Third Commandment. Though most of us see it simply as a prohibition against cursing in God’s name, the truth is that this commandment means much more than that, because our lives mean much more than just what we say or don’t say.

How do you carry God’s name in your life?

Katherine

What is it about idols?

June 14, 2013

They are easy to worship.

They stay put.They obey and affirm.

They tell us what we want to hear.

They ask of us only what we want to give.

They are safe.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
        Exodus 20:4-6

This particular commandment doesn’t keep us from ourselves as much as it opens us to experience where and how this mysterious, unpredictable God is breaking in, revealing something new. It invites us to imagine not only what it means to love God but what it means to truly love one another: to offer ourselves beyond our selves, to give up control for the sake of giving into relationship, to remember who we are and whose we are.    

 

 

Becoming free. Remaining free.

June 12, 2013

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6

While Moses was receiving the Law, a guide to what it meant to be God’s people, those very people had turned to another god.

This almost ended the deal, Scripture tells us.

To become free took God’s eyes to be fixed on the people. To remain free took the people’s eyes to be fixed on God.

More from us. More of us.

June 10, 2013

The Ten Commandments tell us that God wants more from us. God wants more of us.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6

Like mirrors, idols reflect and (therefore) affirm what we project. Unlike mirrors, they give those images such authority that worship is our only response. Idols are easy to worship. They stay put. They obey our instructions and affirm our agendas. They answer all of our questions with answers that we want to hear (or at least expect to hear). They ask only of us what we want to give. It is easier to worship an idol than some uncontrollable, unpredictable, demanding, even jealous God. Idols are safe. They tuck our sense of right and wrong in the warm comfort of sanctifying the way the world is, the way we are, the way we want the world to be.

This particular commandment doesn’t keep us from ourselves as much as it opens us to experience where and how this mysterious, unpredictable God is breaking in, revealing something new. It invites us to imagine not only what it means to love God but what it means to truly love one another: to offer ourselves beyond our selves, to give up control for the sake of giving into relationship, to remember who we are and whose we are.

What are some idols common in our world today? Where do they get their power? What idols do you worship, and why are they destructive to your relationship with God?

One service, two classes

June 6, 2013

Dear Wired Word Faithfuls,

The average American family gives about 4% of its income to charity, a percentage that is well below the biblical tithe (10%). It is also a fraction of the 50% donated each year by a young man in the world of finance named Jason Trigg. His generosity gives us an opportunity to think about Christian stewardship, the faithful use of money and what the Scriptures teach us about how our giving impacts the world around us. Although The Wired Word class will not be meeting in the summer, you will find the topic below of interest.

Continuing this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, we will gather for one service (11:00) while we walk through a special summer series on the Ten Commandments. Each week, our worship will center on a particular commandment as we work our way through the “Decalogue” (“ten words”). The pastors have also written a weekly devotional to help you explore this rich and often overlooked text. You can find this devotional on our web site or in hard copy around the church.

During the Sunday Class time (9:45-10:45) we are offering two classes. The first is entitled “With Our Whole Heart,” (in the Chapel) and will unpack that Sunday’s respective commandment to deepen your worship experience. The second is a class titled “Being the Body of Christ,” (in the Pattie Cole Room) which will focus on the ever-changing missional nature of the church. We encourage you to join these classes through the summer.

We will continue to send the Wired Word topic for your own reflection and look forward to open discussions at the church in the fall.

Also, if you are looking for summer reading, check out our 2013 Willard Speaker’s work. You can find them all at brucefeiler.com. I would recommend that, by the September 29th event, you pick up a copy of “Generation Freedom.” Great read.

Enjoy the topic and we’ll see you this Sunday at 9:45 in the Chapel to hear Peter Buck lead “No Other Gods” found in Exodus 20:1-3, or in the Pattie Cole Room where The Rev. Pen Peery will begin a series on “Living Into a Missional Church.”

Kirk

Summer, The Wired Word, and the Ten Commandments

June 2, 2013

Dear Wired Word Faithfuls, 

Starting this Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, we will gather for one service (11:00) while we walk through a special summer series on the Ten Commandments. Each week, our worship will center on a particular commandment as we work our way through the “Decalogue” (“ten words”). The pastors have also written a weekly devotional to help you explore this rich and often overlooked text. You can find this devotional on our web site or in hard copy around the church.

During the Sunday Class time (9:45-10:45) we are offering two classes. The first is entitled, “With Our Whole Heart,” (in the Chapel) and will unpack that Sunday’s respective commandment to deepen your worship experience. The second is a class entitled “Being the Body of Christ,” (in the Pattie Cole Room) which will focus on the ever-changing missional nature of the church. We encourage you to join these classes through the summer.

We will continue to send the Wired Word topic for your own reflection and look forward to open discussions at the church in the fall.

Also, if you are looking for summer reading, check out our 2013 Willard Speaker’s work. You can find them all here. I would recommend that, by the September 29th event, you pick up a copy of “Generation Freedom.” Great read.

We’ll see you this Sunday at 9:45 in the Chapel (the Mission class will start meeting next week, 6/9) for Pen’s overview of the 10 Commandments!

Peace

Kirk 

The Wired Word – Good News

May 16, 2013

Dear Class Member,
The nature of news reporting is usually to focus on bad news, and in doing so, much good news gets crowded out. But occasionally some genuine good news is so compelling that it takes precedence over the bad. The finding of three missing women alive in Cleveland earlier this month is one such story. While there’s a lot of bad news in what happened to those women over the last decade and in the despicable behavior of their captor, the joy when they were found was abundant and widespread.

That reminds us that amid the frequent bad news of life, there is a hunger for good news. We also note that the word “gospel” means “good news.” So we are going to use the news of the rescue of the three women as a basis to talk about this hunger and about why the gospel is, in fact, GOOD news. That will be the topic of our next class.

If you wish to start thinking about our topic in advance, below is some introductory material. The Reverend Pen Peery will be leading the class, which will meet on Sunday, May 19, 10:00am in the Pattie Cole Room.
Kirk

The Wired Word invites us to contribute news story suggestions for upcoming lessons. If you have a story you’d like to suggest, post it to The Wired Word forum at http://thewiredword.squarespace.com/.

In the News
On May 6, three young women — Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight — who had been kidnapped separately a decade ago in Cleveland, Ohio, were found alive in a house not far from where they’d had been snatched. From the moments of their disappearance until the day of their rescue, nothing had been heard from the women, and their families grieved their loss while still hoping that somehow they would be found.
The women had been held as sex slaves by a man who is now in police custody.

Since the details of the rescue of the women, along with a 6-year-old girl who’d been born to one of the women while in captivity, have been widely covered in national news, we aren’t going to to repeat them here. However, it’s worthy of note that the joy in the families of the rescued women was shared widely not just among people who actually had known the women (who were 14, 17 and 21 when they were kidnapped), but also throughout the city and suburbs and, to some extent, across the nation.

The editor of The Wired Word lives in northeast Ohio, which is the broadcast area for the Cleveland news programs. He said he was struck that in almost every early report he saw on TV about the women being found, there were people rejoicing, crying tears of joy, smiling widely and cheering.

“It often appeared that whole neighborhoods had come out on the streets to help the families of the women celebrate,” our editor said.

While we found no online article focused primarily on the joyful response, several reports commented in passing on the joyful atmosphere.
The Huffington Post, for example, reported, “Cheering crowds gathered Monday night on the street near the home where police said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight had been held since they went missing and were found earlier in the day.”

The Daily Beast observed, “The news stopped everyone in Cleveland dead in his or her tracks. … All three women were taken to nearby MetroHealth Hospital, where a huge and jubilant crowd soon gathered and patiently waited for any bit of information on their condition.”

And according to Cleveland.com, a couple of days later, when two of the women returned to their homes from the hospital, “Crowds cheered and chanted the women’s names as vehicles, flanked by police motorcycles, drove slowly to the two homes festooned with balloons, ‘welcome home’ signs and stuffed animals.”

Well wishes for the women have poured in from across the nation, and, as of last week, donations to a fund set up by the city to help the women get established independently have come in from 34 states as well as from Australia, Canada and France.

Our editor commented that the joy in the city reminded him of the song “A Little Good News” (sung by Anne Murray) that tells of so much bad news in the media, and then says, “One more sad story’s one more than I can stand … We sure could use a little good news today.”

The Big Questions

Here are some of the questions we will discuss in class:

1. Is it your impression that life brings more bad news than good, more good news than bad, or a roughly equal mix of the two? Why? What bearing, if any, do you think that one’s station in life and one’s economic status might have on how a person would answer that question?

2. Are you aware of a personal hunger for good news? If so, what do you think is the root of that hunger?

3. In the Roman Empire, the word translated “good news” was often used for official announcements. Why do you think that Jesus and the apostles used the term “gospel”/”good news” to characterize Jesus’ message?

4. What is the good news that Jesus proclaimed?

5. Can anything or anyone other than God satisfy the hunger for good news? Explain your answer.

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
We will look at selected verses from these Scripture texts. You may wish to read these in advance for background:
Luke 15:11-32
Isaiah 52:1-10
Matthew 11:2-6
Mark 1:14-15
1 Corinthians 15:1-11

In class, we will talk about these passages and look for some insight into the big questions, as well as talk about other questions you may have about this topic. Please join us.