Archive for the ‘politics and religion’ Category

Bless, blessing, blessed: the definitions

December 9, 2018

Bless, blessing, blessed.  These are such common words in the Bible and in conversation. They are also words than carry big concepts. Concepts that shape how we understand the world and God’s presence in it. So how do we start to get some sort of understanding of what these words mean? One place, of course, is the dictionary.

Bless.

Blessed

Blessing

  The definitions overlap and yet there are also a variety of meanings within each definition. Each of these words can be something we do, something we ask or something we receive, something we give. God can be involved, or not. Context and the intent of the speaker matter.  The dictionary really didn’t clear much up for me. How are we supposed to use this word? What does it really mean?                    

When you read the Bible, it seems to me that Israel and the early Christians had the same problem. It’s one of several big conversations we find in the Bible, along with “What is salvation?”, “What is God like?”, “What do bad things happen?” What does it mean to be blessed, to be a blessing, to bless? The text goes back and forth on these questions. The people of God have always debated and wrestled with these questions. 

If we step back and try to look at the big picture, can we gain some clarity? I think so. Our first clue about blessing comes early, when God blesses Abram. 

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen 12:1-3)

Here, we may be tempted to think that God’s blessing is about making Abram into a great nation and making his name great. But if we read carefully, the blessing is about something different than fame and wealth. It’s repeated, which is our clue that it is important. “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.” and “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

Abram is blessed not simply because God wants Abram to have land, descendants and wealth. Abram is blessed so that through that blessing everyone else is blessed. The blessing is for others. Abram is to extend the blessing by what he does.

This is a remarkable charge to Abram. This is not how tribes, and kingdoms, and empires act. In the Bible, we find  Israel struggling with the idea that they don’t exist simply for themselves and their own well being. In the “real world” tribes, and kingdoms, and empires exist for their own well being. Actually they existed for the well being of the royalty and elites. The well being of peasants didn’t matter to the elites as long as the peasants healthy enough to grow food and do work for them. 

All of us, from kings to peasants look and round and see that there is only so much land in the world. Only so many resources. Only so much rain. What if I don’t have enough [ fill in the blank] because you have some also? 

God sees something else.  God’s intention, right from the start, is that there is enough. Abram’s blessing isn’t supposed to stop with Abram and his family. Abram is charged to pass on the blessing. There is enough so that Abram, can share the blessing. There is enough. 

Abram, if you read his story, struggles with this. He’s only human. We all fear being hungry, enslaved, homeless. The nation of Israel struggles with this. They have Torah and later the prophets to help them remember how to live generously, blessing each other. But it is hard. Israel gets confused and thinks the blessing means God likes them best. They worry that there is not enough for everyone. They worry that some other nation will be bigger, stronger, wealthier. 

All these centuries latter, we worry about the same things. Is there enough? Will someone take what is ours away? We get is so wrong that Jesus has to take a few loaves and fish and feed the multitude. But our fear runs deep. The disciples see Jesus feed everyone and they still don’t believe. We so misunderstand how blessing works and what it means to be blessed that Jesus has to preach the shocking and bizarre Sermon on the Mount. 

I wonder. What blessing do you have, do I have that we are supposed to share? What blessing does our city have, our state, our nation? What if we lived to share our blessing? What could the world look like?

What we say

August 15, 2018

Our President’s language has, once again, caused debate.

When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!

This is not the first time the president has spoken disparagingly about another human.

In May there was this statement about members of the MS-13 gang

“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” the president added. “These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

And the next day,

 “We have laws that are laughed at on immigration. So when the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I refer to them as animals. And guess what — I always will.”

And there are, as we all know, many more examples. And there are examples of this inappropriate language from other prominent people because, how our leaders conduct themselves really does matter.

 Whether one likes Trump or not. Or supports him.

Whether one likes Omarosa Manigault or not. Or believes her.

No matter whether you are a gang member or not.

This language is inappropriate.

And I mean theologically inappropriate.  I don’t care if you can politically maneuver your want into supporting these statements. Theologically these statements are wrong.

One of the basic tenets of Christianity is our believe that humans are created in God’s image. We, each of us, all of us, are image bearers of God.

Here are some things Jesus had to say about our language.

“Then he [Jesus] called them [the crowd] to him and said to them, “Listen and understand; it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Matt 15:10-11

“Then [he] said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes from the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unclean hands does not defile.” Matt 15:16-20

“You have heard that it was sad to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.; But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool’, you will be liable to the hell of fire.”  Matt 5:21-22

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Matt 5:43-46a

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Matt 7:1-2

I think you get the idea….

And in case you were going to bring up the story in Matt 15 (and Mark 7) about the Canaanite woman, I suggest you refresh your memory on similes, metaphors, analogies, and allegories, which you can do here.


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