Who Is God? Part 14 (Moses)

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.

Saint Barnabas Blog: You were telling me about Joseph, a younger son of Jacob/Israel, who was sold into slavery in Egypt, only to rise to high position as an advisor to Pharaoh.

Anaiah: Yes. Joseph predicted seven years of plenty, during which food could be stored, followed by seven years of famine. And his predictions come true. In fact, the famine extends widely, so that his brothers must travel to Egypt to buy food. And there, after many years, the family is reunited.

SBB: Does Joseph use his governmental powers to get revenge on his cruel brothers?

Anaiah: No. By various means he tests his brothers to see if they are faithful to one another, and then he reveals himself and forgives them. In the end, his whole family moves to Egypt, including Jacob/Israel his father. But Jacob, when he dies, is carried back to his homeland for burial. When Joseph is near death, he tells his family that “God will surely come to you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

SBB:   We have been discussing these stories to see what they tell us about God. What have we learned?

Anaiah: We learn that God’s project of saving the world continues through the particular family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the story of Joseph, we see that God’s power extends even to Egypt, land of many gods.

SBB:   You say that God’s plan is continuing, but that is a very general statement. Have we learned anything specific about how God’s plan works?

Anaiah: The full glory of God’s plan is still concealed from me, but I find the following points suggestive. First, God’s plan works through people who are not recognized as God’s agents. Isaac gives blesses Jacob in the mistaken belief that he is Esau. Joseph’s brothers do not recognize him when they come to Egypt. Second, time passes, sometimes for years, when it looks like God’s plan has stalled or even come to nothing. Yet over and over the plan revives. Third, there is something very significant about the trip to Egypt and the promise of return. Without knowing, I expect that as God’s plan works itself out we will continue to see unexpected agents and the passage of time. And I happen to know that the return from Egypt is an important, even crucial moment in our history, for reasons that I will explain next time.

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More About Lent: A Time for Growth

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and occupies the forty days (not counting Sundays) up to Easter.  Lent is traditionally observed as a season of spiritual growth through penitence and fasting.  This statement raises questions, to which we respond:

1.  What does “Lent: mean?  It is an old English word for the season of spring, the time when the days “lengthen.”

2.  Why forty days?  Forty days (or years) is traditional in the Bible for a period of trial or purification.  Noah’s flood lasted forty days, the Israelites fleeing Egypt wandered in the wilderness for forty years, Jesus was in the desert for forty days, etc.

3.  What is “penitence”?  Penitence means bitter regret for misdeeds or sins and the resolve to do better.

4.  What is “fasting”?  Fasting is a discipline that involves abstinence from certain foods or activities.  The word is related to our expression to hold “fast” or firmly to something.

5.  Why are Sundays not included in the forty days of Lent?  Every Sunday is a celebration of Easter (Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday), so Sundays are excluded from the penitential season.

6.  Why does Easter, and therefore the preceding season of Lent, move around from year to year?  The original Easter (when Jesus rose from the dead) occurred at the Jewish season of Passover, which was (and still is) a spring festival timed by the first new moon after the spring equinox.  The early Christian church maintained this method of timing for Easter.

7.  How will penitence and fasting promote spiritual growth?  Every person is separated from God and subject to sin, evil, and death.  There is only one solution for this problem: Jesus, who is God himself but became human to save us and bring us back to God through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  The early Christians, who witnessed these things, put it very simply:  if you want to be saved, you must repent (be penitent) and believe.

So here is the deal in a nutshell.  Easter is on April 1 this year.  If you want to fully experience the wonder of salvation from sin, evil, and death, take time in the season of Lent to ponder your distance from God, regret your sins and resolve to do better, and develop your hunger for reconciliation with God.  Fasting can be a daily reminder.  How can you fast?  Some people give up meat, or chocolate, or coffee, or alcohol.  Others give up television, or surfing the internet, or tweeting.  Think about replacing what you have given up with a positive activity.  Read a book of the Bible during Lent.  Attend our weekly soup suppers at St. Barnabas.

This year, start your trip back to God the way the early Church recommended:  repent and believe!

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Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday & Lenten Schedule – 2018

Tuesday 2/13 – Shrove Tuesday, 6:30 PM

Its time for our annual Shrove Pancake Dinner.  This is the Anglican version of Mardi Gras. Traditionally, parishes and households would prepare for Lenten disciplines by emptying out the Larder (refrigerator before refrigeration).

Come to enjoy the last feast before the beginning of Lent.

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Ash Wednesday Services

Imposition of ashes Noon & 7:00pm

Two services, February 14th at Noon and 7:00 pm. A entry rite to mark the official start of Lent. The service will observe the imposition of ashes and a eucharist.

Lenten Soup Suppers

Wednesdays, beginning, 2/21 at 6:30 pm, the parish will gather for soup supper and fellowship.  Hosts for the evening will set the menu and provide the soup.  Teams are encouraged to ease the load.

This year, to eliminate disruption at the close of the meal, there will be a table available to hold used dishes until after the discussion.  Hosts will appreciate kitchen help at the end of the evening.

Speaking of Lent

Lent is a penitential season when we are encouraged to look inwardly, to consider our personal relationship with God.  It is a liturgical season to fast, pray, and practice some form of abstinence.

This year during soup suppers, the theme for discussion will be:  No Greater Love

While the usual daily devotionals will be available, each of us will be encouraged to consider the magnitude of His love, and to write a paragraph, page, poem, art work, or song to share at dinner.

There is no greater love.  As individuals and a parish, prayerfully, this discipline be part of our Lenten focus.  As we share our stories and insights, His love will manifest and abound.

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WHO IS GOD? Part 13 (Joseph)

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.

Saint Barnabas Blog: You were going to tell us about the children of Jacob, aka Israel.

Anaiah: Yes. I will skip over many interesting details. In summary, Israel had twelve children, from whom traditionally the twelve tribes of our people are descended. Interestingly, the second youngest, Joseph, gets most of the attention.

SBB: We saw something like this before, when the younger brother, Jacob/Israel, was favored over Esau.

Anaiah: Yes, it’s a repeating pattern as you will see. In this case, Joseph was so favored by his father that his brothers were jealous. Even more so when Joseph reported dreams in which his brothers bowed down to him.

SBB: Not very diplomatic.

Anaiah: Perhaps not, but the dreams were sent by God, and we have a duty to report God’s truth even if it causes others to be offended. Well, friction between the brothers grew so hot that finally the brothers attacked Joseph, threw him into a pit, and sold him as a slave.

SBB: What did Israel think of that?

Anaiah: The brothers told him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Meanwhile, Joseph was carried off to Egypt and sold to the household of an official there. Through no fault of his own, he was thrown into prison. In prison, along with two disgraced officials of Pharaoh, God gave him dreams about the future, and he correctly predicted that one of the officials would be freed and the other executed. The freed official at first forgot all about Joseph, his fellow prisoner, but eventually Pharaoh himself had troubling dreams that the court astrologers were unable to interpret. At that point, Joseph was recalled from prison and correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams as foreshadowing seven years of plentiful harvest followed by seven years of famine. He advised that grain be stored during the seven years for use during the seven lean years. Pharaoh not only took this advice, but put Joseph in charge of the project.

SBB: Interesting story. What does it tell us about God?

Anaiah: Let me finish the story and then we can talk about that.

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As Evening Falls

January 27, 2018 – Saturday Evening

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life.1

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.2

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin but now they have no cloke for their sin.3

That servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.4

The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.5 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.6 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?7

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.8
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1Deu 30:19; 2Eze 18:32; 3Joh 15:22; 4Luk 12:47; 5Rom 6:23; 6Joh 3:36; 7Rom 6:16; 8Joh 12:26; (From Bagster’s Daily Light KJV)

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Coming Soon…

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Upcoming Events

 On Sunday, January 28, we will have an all-parish pot luck breakfast.  There will be only one liturgy that day, starting around 10:30 after the breakfast.  Please plan to be here and ready to eat by 9:00 a.m.  Visitors don’t need to bring anything.  There will be plenty!

On Sunday, February 4, we will be back to our usual two liturgies at 8:00 and 10:30.  In between, around 9:10, we will have adult education, a review of the joint statement of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) on the subject of Scripture and Jesus’ work of reconciliation.

Tomorrow is the start of the Pre-Lenten Season. The Sunday is officially recognized as, Septuagesima. It serves as an advanced notice for Lent, which will be three weeks before the first Sunday in Lent. It also marks nine weeks before Easter. This is a remarkable time in the life of the church and our individual spiritual lives. We will each recognize a cross road in our faith journey’s.

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Who is God? Part 12

WHO IS GOD? Part 12 (Israel)

Persistent readers of this blog will recognize that this is another installment in a continuing series. Earlier installments can be found lower down on the website scroll.

Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.

SBB: We have been talking about the origin of sin, evil, and death, but our original topic was to learn about how God is depicted in your sacred writings, what we call the Old Testament. We saw that Abraham was called by God to bring a blessing to all people, and we saw that God is looking for obedience, loyalty, and sacrifice, as exemplified in the instruction to sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise. Where should we look next?

Anaiah: Isaac had two children, twins, Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first, but by a series of rather devious actions Jacob got himself recognized as the heir to Isaac. As a consequence, Jacob had to flee from Esau’s fury and the two brothers were parted.

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SBB: Did this really happen?

Anaiah: You asked the same question about Abraham. My answer is the same: we are entitled to believe that Abraham, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob were real people, though over time some legendary elements may have entered their stories. In this case, it is not obvious why this somewhat sordid story would be told if it were not true. But again, our focus is on how God is depicted.

SBB: So what happened to Jacob after he fled from Esau?

Anaiah: He had some remarkable adventures (Genesis chapters 28-31), but the most remarkable was this: while sleeping in a certain place, he had a dream. https://jesusmessage.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/jacobs-dream.jpg?w=490&h=292

And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.” Genesis 28:12-14.

SBB: That sounds like a renewal of the promise made to Abraham.

Anaiah: Exactly. Notice that the vision of God includes a ladder between the earth and heaven. God does not live in the sky, of course. We know from the creation story that he made the sky. But it is ancient literary device to picture God in the sky, where he can survey all the earth at once. The point here is that God is allowing a connection between the heavenly realm and the earthly one. This story tells us, perhaps with legendary additions, of a personal encounter between a human man, Jacob, and the divine Creator.

SBB: There are lots of stories through history of such divine encounters.

Anaiah: Yes, and one common feature is the narrator’s inability to describe in concrete terms what he or she experienced, leading to common reliance on picture and metaphor. We see this again in the even more intimate encounter to follow.

SBB: What do you mean?

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Anaiah: Jacob eventually wanted to go home, and that meant a meeting with Esau. Afraid that Esau and his followers might attack, Jacob sent rich presents ahead, along with this growing family and group of servants, and stayed behind alone, waiting to see if his brother was willing to be reconciled. What happened next is interesting:

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel [meaning “strives with God”], for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” https://saintbarnabasanglicanofseattle.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/3a6ef-jacobwrestlinggod.jpg?w=472&h=480

SBB: That is a vivid story. What does it mean?

Anaiah: Its deepest meaning is a mystery, which is only to be expected when we are dealing with the transcendent Creator of the universe. But I see the following. First, we have God’s somewhat scandalous choice of Jacob, the devious brother, for favor and intimacy. Second, we have the interesting combination of Jacob’s struggle against the mysterious man, and at the same time his refusal to let him go. The history of our people has been one of resistance to God mixed with clinging to him. God appears as both an adversary and a source of blessing. Reflecting on this story, I have concluded that it represents an important truth. When we do not surrender ourselves to God’s priorities, he can appear to us as an adversary, frustrating our plans for power and independence. But when we cling to God, we get a blessing that we did not expect. For this reason, our people have often called themselves the “children of Israel,” thinking of the blessing and the struggle.

SBB: Did Jacob ever reconcile with Esau?

Anaiah: Yes, it turned out that his fears were not realized. Jacob lived on and prospered, with many children, who form the basis for the next story I will tell you.

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Epiphany

Epiphany (from a Greek word meaning manifestation or appearance) is a festival celebrated on January 6, the twelfth day after Christmas (for that reason it is also called Twelfth Night).  It celebrates three different events that manifested or revealed the glory of Jesus Christ to the world:  (1) in the adoration of the Wise Men from the East (see the second chapter of Matthew), (2) Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, when a voice from heaven proclaimed him the Son of God (see the first chapter of Mark), and (3) the marriage at Cana where Jesus began his miracles by changing water into wine (see the second chapter of John).  Over the next few Sundays we will be hearing these stories from the Bible.https://frjeromeosjv.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/epiphany-tript.jpg?w=640

Various legends have grown up around this festival.  The Wise Men (or Magi) became the Three Kings, though the Bible does not say they were kings or even that there were three of them.  Another legend is that as the Wise Men traveled towards Bethlehem, they met an old woman who was cleaning her house.  They invited her to follow them.  After she finished sweeping and collected some gifts for the holy child, she set out, but by then the Wise Men were out of sight.  Ever since that day, she has been wandering the earth looking for the child Jesus.  According to Italian folklore, on the eve of Epiphany she comes down the chimneys of the houses and leaves gifts for children.  In Italy she is known as the Befana (a corruption of the word Epiphany).  Over the centuries, Epiphany became a day of pranks and revelry (which may explain why Shakespeare’s play about jokes and disguises is called Twelfth Night).  In Rome, the revelry was centered in the Piazza Navona, where crowds gathered to sing, dance, and make as much noise as possible.  The final movement of Ottorino Respighi’s delightful work, Roman Festivals, presents the Befana festival in musical form.

These folk legends and customs remind us of a time when Christianity was the  dominant popular culture and furnished seasonal occasions for joy and sorrow, reflection and revelry.  This is no longer the case.  One can no longer learn about Jesus Christ simply by cultural exposure.  But that does not change the importance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our eternal destiny.  At St. Barnabas, we are dedicated to preserving and spreading the Good News.  Come and hear about it!

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There is still time…

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Are you still considering a New Year’s resolution? This year, instead of resolving to join that health club (again), why not resolve to learn more about the loving creator of the universe?  That is what we are doing and you are welcome to join us. We start fresh every week on Sunday mornings at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

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Joy to the World!

Have you ever noticed the note of joy in our Christmas carols?  Joy to the world!  O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!  Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies!  Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice!  God rest you merry, gentlemen . . . O tidings of comfort and joy!  All of this echoes the words of the angel who came to the shepherds:  Glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Joy is more than pleasure or personal satisfaction.  It is an emotion that includes both delight and triumph at the victory of what is good, of light over darkness.  And so it is the perfect word to describe our feelings at Christmas, when God became man to save us from sin and evil and death.  God’s plan is so often quiet and incremental, but here we see a decisive step in our salvation, and so we feel joy.  The Christmas season is twelve days long (remember the 12 days of Christmas?).  Come and join us in rejoicing at God’s goodness.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

 

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