Uprooting and Replanting

Scripture Focus: Genesis 7.1, 4
1 The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation… 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.” 

Matthew 7.15-20
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 

Reflection: Uprooting and Replanting
By John Tillman

I have always been annoyed by lessons that teach that people teased Noah about building the ark. 

It’s not in scripture. It’s probably the most widely believed “Bible story” with absolutely zero scriptural support. From what Scripture reveals, it is equally likely that Noah built the ark in complete secrecy. “In holy fear” as Hebrews 11.7 describes it. It is one of those things we just have to get comfortable with not knowing. There are many mysterious things in today’s passages…

“The way to life is narrow and few find it…” (Matthew 7.13-14)

Jesus asks, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” The answer, not included in his parable, is “No.” People uproot thornbushes and burn them. Then they plant fruitful vines in their place. 

In the flood, we see uprooting and replanting. The thorny brambles of Cain and Lamech filled the world with violence and bloodshed. Scripture tells us that every inclination of people’s hearts was toward violence and evil. (Genesis 6.5)

What kind of violence and evil? The example given is the story of the taking of the “daughters of humans” by the “Sons of God.” The word translated married in this verse implies “taking” in the manner of carrying off an object. It also implies that they took many of them to be their wives, going farther than Cain’s Lamech did in taking two wives. The identity of the “Sons of God” is mysterious but less important than understanding that this violent and sinful behavior was pervasive and unrepentant. 

The pattern of sin repeats…Adam and Eve took beautiful fruit from the tree in order to supplant God. The “Sons” see something beautiful and inherently good, and abuse it for evil purposes.

Matthew 7 and Genesis 7 each contain passages tinged with tragedy. The door to the ark and the gate to life are open but few find them. False prophets and false disciples are many. But we can have hope that those who have ears to hear can, and will, hear his call.

Jesus is greater than Noah. His “ark” holds more than eight people. One righteous man, Noah, was saved from dying among the unrighteous. One Righteous man, Jesus, died among the unrighteous so they might be saved. 

We the unworthy and unrighteous can be replanted into a new kingdom of peace that is cultivated in the same field from which the violent thornbushes were uprooted.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck… — Psalm 69.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 7 (Listen – 3:18) 
Matthew 7 (Listen – 3:31)

Read more about Prepare for the End
Christians are sometimes guilty of looking forward to the apocalypse like a private revenge fantasy.

Read more about Revelation of Love
Revelation is the story of all of the obstacles to our homecoming being systematically unlocked, opened up, or destroyed

The Floodlight of Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Genesis 6.11-13
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

Matthew 6.22-23
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 

Reflection: The Floodlight of Epiphany
By John Tillman

Today is Epiphany. Epiphany follows the twelfth day of Christmas and is the end of the Christmastide season. 

Epiphany means manifestation and is a day of revealing. It is a day of light. It is a day in which the prophecy of Isaiah 9.1-2 begins to see its fulfillment. All peoples of the Earth, represented by the Magi who visited Jesus, are blessed by the appearance of the Christ. Epiphany is celebrated on a day but is also a process. Matthew refers back to this prophecy (Matthew 4.12-17) to describe the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

On the people living in the land of deep darkness…a light has dawned.

Today is an Epiphany—one of many celebrated over the centuries. The light of Epiphany continues to reveal the evil of humanity and the goodness of God’s mercy and justice toward them.

Jesus addressed inner darkness directly when he taught the parable of the eye and the lamp of the body. Noah experienced how dark the world can be when people give themselves over to violence. Light becomes darkness. Good becomes evil.

Today, we will pray that the light of Christ would dawn, exposing darkness.

Let Light Dawn
Oh, Christ, let your light dawn on us!
Heal our darkened eyes that light may enter our bodies.
Light our lamps with the oil of your Spirit, warming our hearts and driving out our darkness.

Reveal yourself to the nations through us as a dawning light.

Lord, at dawn the day is only beginning.
At dawn, the light glows softly. May it grow brighter.
At dawn, we have a choice to make:
To work and walk in the light or hide in the shadows of selfishness.

Let us leave the shadows.
Let us work the fields while there is light.
Let us walk in the light and call to those in darkness to join us.

May evil be exposed.
May hatred be bleached from our souls by the burning light of the sun.
May lies and liars be exposed.
May truth shine, expelling every dark, deceitful shadow.
May the darkness of violence have no shelter in our hearts.
May peace and mercy be made known by our words and actions.
May our love be a warming light that draws people to you.

Flood the earth again, Lord—this time with light.
Healing, cleansing, warming, revealing light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let all flesh bless his holy Name forever and ever. — Psalm 145.22

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 6 (Listen – 2:48) 
Matthew 6 (Listen – 4:35)

Read more about Into His Light — Hope of Advent
The corruption of this world deepens the darkness we live in each day and, in sinfulness, we prefer darkness to light.

Read more about Becoming Light — Hope of Advent
May the fruit of the light shine from us.
May goodness, righteousness, and truth beam from us.

Two Lamechs, One Jesus

Scripture Focus: Genesis 5.28-29
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” 

Matthew 5.43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  

Reflection: Two Lamechs, One Jesus
By John Tillman 

Noah’s world was cursed by anger, hatred, division, and sin. Sound familiar? 

Lamech, the father of Noah, is a descendant of Adam’s son, Seth. Lamech the father of Jabal and Jubal is a descendant of Cain. The two Lamechs have their hopes in and represent very different things.  

Cain’s Lamech is his sixth descendant, a number often associated with humanity and with the days of creation. Lamech multiplies all of Cain’s sins. (Genesis 4.19-24) His hope is in violence and oppression. He violates God’s establishment of marriage by “marrying” two wives. (The Hebrew is not the same word as “marry” or  “wed” but means “take” as in carry away or seize. This implies violence in the taking of these women.)   

Cain’s Lamech multiplies violence. He is proud of being more violent than any other man. He escalates violence and rejects peace. He seeks to weaponize God’s curse on Cain for his violent advantage. 

Seth’s Lamech is his eighth descendent, a number associated with the “eighth day” or rebirth of creation. To Eve, Seth is God’s replacement for Abel, who Cain killed. Seth’s line represents hope in God and rebirth. This is the hope in which Lamech names his son, Noah. Through Noah, Lamech prophesied that the curse of the garden would be lifted and God would comfort his people. (Genesis 3.17; Romans 8.20

The peace, comfort, and the breaking of Eden’s curse did indeed come through Lamech and his son, Noah. They are both included in the genealogy of Jesus, who gives us peace and comfort in a world flooded by darkness. 

Noah was placed on a wooden ark to save himself and his family from evil, violent people who filled the earth with bloodshed. Jesus placed himself on a wooden cross and drowned himself in the flood of our sins. Jesus brought us up from the watery grave of our sin, to deliver us from destruction. Through Noah and Christ, we have a new covenant. We are to love, not hate, our enemy. We are to not be self-serving but bless all around us. 

The literal sons of Cain’s Lamech died in the flood. But his ideological descendants abound. There are two lines of mankind. 

There are those who multiply and escalate violence, trusting in and glorying in their strength.
There are those who work to reverse the curse, flooding the earth with hope, peace, and rebirth. 

Which line of Lamech will you follow? 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 5 (Listen – 3:18) 
Matthew 5 (Listen – 6:03)

Read more about Responding to Political Violence
Despite our sense of moral superiority, we have not advanced beyond violence for political ends.

Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
We cannot continue posting and liking things that are resentful, quarrelsome, and the opposite of gentle, yet expect to represent Christ.

Who Needs Anger?

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Peace,
John

Scripture Focus: Genesis 4.6-7
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Matthew 4.8-11
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. 

Reflection: Who Needs Anger?
By John Tillman

Anger is just one of the devil’s tools that he uses as he “crouches at the door,” ready to master us as he did Cain, longing to sift us as he did Peter. (Luke 22.31-32) When Jesus condemned being angry at one’s brother as being comparable to murder, (Matthew 5.21-22) it is likely that he had Cain’s anger, and its result, in mind.

Anger is out of control in our society. Two of the main reasons why are that anger feels good and anger is profitable

Anger feels good? Yes. We get a rush of self-righteousness from anger. Anger gives us a false feeling of control. We feel as if by our anger we are doing something about a problem.

Anger is also profitable. How? Because it is a reliable trigger for manipulation. Satan knew this in the garden and used anger to manipulate Cain. Article writers know this. Politicians know this. Advertisers know this. Angry readers click and share without verifying facts. Angry voters vote rashly. Angry consumers are suggestible and susceptible. Angry citizens tolerate and ignore the abuses of leaders who stoke their anger.

The sin of anger hides in other things. Anger hides in misguided love. (Abusive husbands and parents “love” their wives and children. Abusive leaders “love” their country.) Anger hides in our desires for justice. Anger tempts us to seize control. Jesus was tempted to seize the kingdoms of the world in the wilderness. Peter attempted to seize control with a sword in the garden.

In an age of anger, God’s question to Cain is more relevant to us than ever. God asks, “Why are you angry?” 

Are you being manipulated by anger? What is motivating your anger? What is your anger prompting you to do? Will you do it? Who will profit when you do?

How we respond to anger will determine how easily we will be manipulated. The anger that so easily trips us up reveals our need for Jesus. Peter thought Jesus needed him in the garden. Many today think that Jesus needs the angry swings of our social media swords or other dangerous weapons. Jesus doesn’t need our anger. We need his peace. 

Satan may sift us like wheat, but after we have turned back, may we, like Peter, strengthen our brothers with love and not anger. May we lay down our angry swords and take up feeding his lambs and carrying our cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your low. — Psalm 34.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 4 (Listen – 3:54) 
Matthew 4 (Listen – 3:09)

Read more about The Focus of Christ’s Anger
In our culture of outrage, we can’t get enough of anger.

Read more about God’s Regret and Samuel’s Anger
Samuel’s mourning for Saul and angry night of prayer helped him share God’s regret and rejection of the man he formerly supported.

Beyond Secular Santa—Epiphany

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Peace,
John

Scripture Focus: Malachi 4.1-3
1 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty. 

John 21.17-19
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” 

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 

Reflection: Beyond Secular Santa—Epiphany
By John Tillman

Secular Santa is just the kind of god some people want. 

Santa talks a big game about rewarding the good and punishing the bad, but in the end no one ever gets coal. He’s kindly and jolly and sweet but ultimately meaningless because he never truly stands against evil. That’s fine if the worst “evil” you’ve experienced is pestering from your siblings in a happy suburban home. But for those who have experienced true evil, a winking, smiling expression of justice that never punishes anyone is unsatisfying.

Santa (as typically defined in westernized culture) is really just a god of self-gratification through whom we expect to have our desires and wants fulfilled by magic that comes without a price. Santa is the prosperity gospel version of Jesus. Be good and be blessed. Name it and claim it.

In Santa’s defense, even he has been dumbed down. Saint Nicholas was not a wishy-washy wish granter but a helper of the oppressed. He used wealth to free the enslaved and impoverished not to pile up possessions for the already rich. He is also remembered humorously for “punching heretics” after losing his temper and slapping Arius at the council of Nicea

Even “Santa” has deeper meaning for the mature. The point of “Santa” becomes not to get gifts but to give them. We become like Santa, a giver of gifts to others. When practiced properly, even secular Santa traditions point us to Christ, sanctification, and discipleship.

As much as we may desire trinkets and toys from a magical gift-giver, what we all truly desire at heart is justice. Our sin-sick souls echo the sighs of the earth, seeking restoration and release from the curse of Adam. That day is coming, Malachi assures us. The “sun of righteousness will rise” and evil will be crushed and burned. Jesus is coming to town. On that day, we’ll frolic and play in ways no scene of Christmas morning can compare to. 

In the meantime, we wait and work. Like Peter, we are called to maturity, to transition from a recipient of grace to a granter of it. For mature believers, we are to feed his sheep rather than ourselves. We are called to follow Jesus in every way possible. We must take up our cross rather than lay burdens on others. We must stretch out our hands to work and establish justice or die trying.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
And now I saw heaven open, and a white horse appear; its rider was called Trustworthy and True; in uprightness he judges and makes war. His eyes were flames of fire, and he was crowned with many coronets; the name written on him was known only to himself, his cloak was soaked in blood. He is known by the name, the Word of God. Behind him, dressed in linen of dazzling white, rode the armies of heaven on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword with which to strike at unbelievers; he is the one who will rule them with an iron scepter, and tread out the wine of the Almighty’s fierce retribution. On his cloak and on his thigh a name was written: King of kings and Lord of lords. — Revelation 19.11-16

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Malachi 4 (Listen -1:06) 
John 21 (Listen – 3:58)

New Year’s Day Readings
Genesis 1 (Listen -4:55) 
Matthew 1 (Listen – 3:29)

Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 2 (Listen -3:42) Matthew 2 (Listen – 3:18)
Genesis 3 (Listen -4:14) Matthew 3 (Listen – 2:17)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
Today is the last day to give this year! Don’t miss your chance in 2020 to support our 2021 content with a one-time or recurring gift.

Read more about Christmas is Upside Down :: Epiphany
Christ’s declaration in Nazareth must echo through each of us. The Spirit of the Lord that was upon him, longs to manifest himself in us.

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