The biggest news this week, however, was the decision by the US Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA) and thus paving the way for same sex 'married' couples to enjoy the same benefits to which heterosexuals are entitled under law. This is not a small matter! And the 'after shocks' of this landmark ruling, is being felt all around the world. For make no mistake about it, for centuries of human existence, the institution of marriage, in the Western World, and its attendant benefits, has had as its foundation, the concept of " one flesh". A concept which is rooted in Holy Scriptures: " For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh". So 'fly high or fly low', however one may wish to argue the case, you cannot become one flesh in a homosexual union in the eyes of God - the God of Abraham, of Issac and of Jacob. Therefore this ruling by the Supreme Court is not just an attack on the Institution or Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, or the Church, it is an attack against the nature of God Himself.
What then did the Lord say this week in the midst of this convulsion in the moral sphere of this world this week. Was He in agreement with President Obama that "justice" had been done? A thought came into my mind this week as I reflected again on this issue. The fact is that, in the Kingdom of God, Justice has a twin brother named Righteousness. You will not find one without the other. So anytime, anyone, whether President, of Judge, or human rights advocate, or Gay Rights Crusader, or Evangelist or Pastor or Bishop, advances an argument which leaves out either one. Be careful! So when the Scriptures warn us, as it did last night, when I awoke to read God's Word, that " See that no one is sexually immoral", be very careful Mr President.
The first message set the tone for the week. Our response to this attack on the moral teachings of the church, is not to be afraid, or even worried, but to pay more attention to knowing the Lord. As it is this constant focus on God's Presence Within, that will enable us negotiate our way in the midst of the sweeping changes that will inevitable take place in the moral landscape our our modern and increasingly secular and antagonistic to the church, world. And thus to help guide and rescue people from evil.
MESSAGE ONE - ADDRESSED TO MY CHURCH LAST WEDNESDAY
Winds of change are blowing across the world. It has happened before, and it will certainly happen again. We must therefore take note and respond appropriately, when necessary. In the meanwhile an extract from Brother Lawrence's " The Practice of the Presence of God", which is spoken of in the same breath as Augustine's "Confessions", and Thomas a Kempis' " The Imitation of Christ", offers us a way forward in discerning the voice of God in the midst of the noise. Or even when the world is quiet!
CONTINUE IN HIS PRESENCE
Verse :Proverbs 8:30
There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God.....
If I were a preacher I would preach nothing but practicing the presence of God ( no doubt that's why Paul's mind was focused on Christ and him crucified...my words...from 1 Cor.2:2) . If I were to be responsible for guiding souls in the right direction, I would urge everyone to be aware of God's constant presence, if for no other reason than because his presence is a delight to our souls and spirits.
It is, however, also necessary. If we only knew how much we need God's grace, we would never lose touch with him. Believe me. Make a commitment to never deliberately stray from him, to live the rest of your life in his presence. Don't do this in expectation of receiving heavenly comforts; simply do it out of love for him.
Put your hand to the task! If you do it right, you will soon see the results.
MESSAGE TWO - ADDRESSED TO MY CHURCH YESTERDAY
All week long I have pondering the recent action by the Supreme Court of the USA to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act
( DOMA). And the Lord told me to " Be Still". Then last night came an intriguing message for the church. And for myself. The second paragraph from the bedtime reading from Kelly's book I found challenging. And the penultimate one I found very instructive. But your experience might be different. Whatever it is I hope we receive the central point, that " life with God is the center of life, all else is remodeled and integrated in it" And it is possible to live this kind of life. And this kind of life is the only answer to the winds of change sweeping across the world. It is the only kind of life that can " set men free"....this message is to be continued as the words of the hymn led me to the opening chapter of the book of Ephesians and the challenges in the summary of the book is all about, in the NIV
|LORD RENEW THY CHURCH BEGINNING WITH ME: LORD RENEW THE CHURCH THAT THE CHURCH MAY RENEW THE NATION(S)|
I DREAMT ABOUT BISHOP SPENCE LAST NIGHT. WE WERE IN A SPANISH SPEAKING COUNTRY. PERHAPS CUBA. PERHAPS WHAT THE USA MIGHT LOOK LIKE IN THE FUTURE. SPANISH SPEAKING AND ATHEIST! EVERY TIME I OPENED THE BIBLE AND BEGAN TO SPEAK, SOME 'MINDER' WOULD INSTRUCT ME TO STOP. I MET A 'BISHOP'. AND ASKED THE HIM A 'DIFFICULT' QUESTION. IF THEY DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE, ON WHAT BASIS, WAS HE MADE A BISHOP'? THE 'MINDER' SMILED AND SAID THAT PERHAPS THEY WOULD STRIP HIM OF THE POST.
THEN WE, MYSELF AND BISHOP SPENCE, WERE IN A CAR. I THOUGHT HE WAS APPROACHING THE GATE TO LEAVE, AS THIS PLACE WAS DANGEROUS, BUT INSTEAD HE TURNED THE OTHER WAY AND WENT DEEPER INTO THE CITY. AND TO COVERTLY SPEAK WITH PEOPLE. SO WE BEGAN TO SMUGGLE PEOPLE OUT OF THE CITY IN THE TRUNK OF THE CAR. WAIT A FEW WEEKS AND GO BACK AGAIN, WONDERING WHEN THEY WOULD CATCH US.
THEN I WOKE THIS MORNING WITH THIS HYMN IN MY HEAD.
MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF THE COMING OF THE LORD.
HE IS TRAMPLING OUT THE VINTAGE WHERE THE GRAPES OF WRATH ARE STORED.
HE HAS LOOSED THE FATEFUL LIGHTNING OF HIS TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD
HIS TRUTH IS MARCHING ON....
AND IN PARTICULAR THE THIRD VERSE:
IN THE BEAUTY OF THE LILIES CHRIST WAS BORN ACROSS THE SEA.
WITH A GLORY IN HIS BOSOM THAT TRANSFIGURES YOU AND ME.
AS HE DIED TO MAKE MEN HOLY, LET US LIVE TO MAKE MEN FREE.
WHILE GOD IS MARCHING ON
GLORY, GLORY ALLELUIA....
OUR GOD IS MARCHING ON
BEFORE GOING TO BED I READ THE FOLLOWING PROFOUND WORDS FROM THOMAS R. KELLY'S ' A TESTAMENT OF DEVOTION
THE CONTEXT OF THE EXTRACT CAN BEST BE FRAMED BY THE OPENING WORDS OF THE BOOK.
' MEISTER ECKHART WROTE, " AS THOU ART IN CHURCH OR CELL, THAT SAME FRAME OF MIND CARRY OUT INTO THE WORLD, INTO ITS TURMOIL AND ITS FITFULNESS. "
Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul. a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to those persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life. It is a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us. It is Light Within which illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And He is within us all.
The passage last night: From 'The Simplification of Life'
" Let me talk very intimately and very earnestly with you about Him who is dearer than life. Do you really want to live your lives, every moment of your lives, in His Presence? Do you long for Him, crave for Him? Do you love His Presence? Does every drop of blood in your body love Him? Do you sing and dance within yourselves, as you glory in His love? Have you set yourselves to be His, and only His, walking every moment in holy obedience? I know I''m talking like an old-time evangelist. But I can't help that, nor dare I restrain myself and get prim and conventional. For too long we have been prim and restrained. The fires of the love of God, of our love toward God, and of His love toward us, are very hot. " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength." Do we really do it?
Is love steadfastly directed toward God, in our minds, all day long? Do we intersperse our work with gentle prayers and praises to Him? Do we live in the steady peace of God, a peace down at the very depth of our souls, where all strain is gone and God is already the victor over the world, already victor over our weaknesses? This life, this abiding enduring peace that never fails, this serene power and unhurried conquest over the world, is meant to be ours. It is a life that is freed from strain and anxiety and hurry, for something of the Cosmic Patience of God becomes ours. Are our lives unshakable, because we are clear down on bed rock, rooted and grounded in the love of God? This is the first and great commandment.........
I think it is clear that i am talking about a revolutionary way of living. Religion isn't something to be added to our other duties, and thus make our lives yet more complex. The life with God is the center of life, and all else is remodeled and integrated by it. It gives the singleness of eye. The most important thing is not to be perpetually passing our cups of cold water to a thirsty world. We can get so fearfully busy trying to carry out the second great commandment, " Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," that we are under-developed in our devoted love to God. But we must love God as well as neighbor. These things ye ought to have done and not have left the other partially done.
There is a way of life so hid with Christ in God that in the midst of the day's business one is inwardly lifting brief prayers, short ejaculations of praise, subdued whispers of adoration and tender love to Beyond that is within. No one need know about it........There is no hurry about it all; it is a life unspeakable and full of glory, an inner world of splendour within which we, unworthy, may live.........
Now out from such a holy Center comes the commissions of life. Our fellowship with God issues in world-concern. We cannot keep the love of God to ourselves. It spills over. It quickens us. It makes us see the world's needs anew. We love people and we grieve to see them blind when they might be seeing, asleep with all the world's comforts when they ought to be awake and living sacrificially, accepting the world's goods as their right when they hold them only in temporary trust. It is because from this holy Center we relove people, relove neighbors as ourselves, that we are bestirred to be the means of their awakening. The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, as important as they are. It is God.......
Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. it is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.
Final Comments - All is well indeed. Today, in fact just this evening, as I was contemplating the whole issue, the following thought came into my mind. That the Christian Life is very simple.We need to do just two things. Look forward, as the Jews were repeatedly told as they left Egypt, to the Promised Land. And decide that under no condition will we " go back to Egypt". In the New Testament language this translates into " looking forward to Eternal Life", and no longer " Living by the Flesh", about which Paul warned repeatedly. Anytime we seek the comforts and wisdom of this world, we are guilty of " Living by the flesh". And such persons will not enter the Kingdom of God. Fly high or fly low. The secular world may win this battle, and perhaps others too in the future, but the war against evil is already done. So done, as the young people would say. And that happened on the Cross of Calvary over two thousand years ago. And as was taught to us in high school, the words of the Fitzgerald's translation of ' The Rubalyat of Omar Khayyam, which is really a ' take off from the story in the Book of Daniel, is apropos at this time in the history of mankind.
" The Moving finger ( of God....my addition) writes; and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it".
In this respect, we should warn President Obama, or perhaps inform is the better word, or anyone else who is involved in this perfidy, of the story of Esau, which follows directly in the book of Hebrews on the issue of sexual immorality.
" See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears." Hebrews 12: 16-17. As something which may gain one popularity now, and the " whole world", may, in the passing of time, cause you to " lose your very soul".
It still leaves the matter of " how does one carry the burden" for our homosexual brothers and sisters, or any other sin, as we are called to be " burden bearers" in our desire that all men and women may be reconciled to God and to each other. And thank God that all of us have had persons " carrying our burdens", our many, many, sins to God in prayer. Let us never forget that fact of life. That one, however, requires " much prayer" as Jesus told His disciples on one occasion. And such deep and soul searching prayer will only bear fruit if we " yearn for God with all our hearts", and not just for Neymar's or Brazil's success, or Shelly Ann' s victories or Usain Bolt's continued dominance in the sprints, as there are far more important matters in life than sports.