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Read Genesis 6:11-22
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27-28 NRSV)
Recently, I sat down and watch the film Noah with my wife. The film, starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson, is inspired by and loosely based off of the account of Noah in Genesis 5-10. I say loosely, because the film is artistic in it’s approach. It takes five chapters, what could amount to 30 minutes (an hour tops) and builds out of that source material a film that is two and a half hours long. It includes all of the characters from the Biblical narrative and it includes new characters. Most importantly, it pays close attention to the obscure stories within the larger story of Noah, and it interprets those stories in light of the larger one. While many Christian critics said the film disregarded the Bible, I find that the film actually paid the Biblical text much more attention than other adaptations. With that said, it did so unconventionally.
In the film, the “bad guy” is a man by the name of Tubal-Cain. To make a long story short, he is a descendant of Cain (as in Cain and Abel), whereas, Noah is a descendant of Seth who was born after Abel was murdered and Cain was banished. Tubal-Cain is a power-hungry person, as are all (or most) of the people who descend from Cain. Noah, and his family, are not. They are peaceful, vegetarian, and living in harmony with the earth. In one scene, after having helped Tubal-Cain recover from injuries, one of Noah’s sons happens to see Tubal-Cain eating meat and he tries to stop him. “The beasts are precious,” he protested. Tubal responded, “The beasts are for us. The Creator needed to take dominion over it and subdue it. He created us. This is our world, Ham. Seize it.”
As I was watching this scene, it occurred to me that that both sides are founded by the same story. Both Noah and Tubal-Cain have grown up knowing and living by the same story. In the beginning, God created everything, including humans. God created humans in God’s own image, and God put humans in charge of creation by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). What separated Noah from Tubal-Cain (according to this film, not necessarily according to the Bible) is that Noah understood that the command to take dominion and subdue, meant to tame and care for, as opposed consume and destroy.
In fact, when you read the Scriptures carefully, it seems that God created human beings and placed them “in charge” of all that God created. To be a ruler with dominion is to have a position of great responsibility and power. God gave humans that power so that we would care for a creation that God loves, for a creation that God says is “good.” Why would God want humans to consume and destroy creation? Why would God create animals for people to abuse and torture them? Why would God create plant-life for humans to slash and burn?
I am not suggesting that humans shouldn’t eat meat (though I choose to abstain), nor am I suggesting that people shouldn’t farm or utilize natural resources; however, I am suggesting that God created us to be caretakers of creation and that, “have dominion and subdue” does not equal “consume and destroy.” We are all called to be caretakers and lovers of God’s creation. We are all called to be as responsible as possible in how we utilize resources. We all need to eat and live, and things die (both plants and animals) as a result of that need; however, that does not give us free reign to consume and destroy at will. It’s time, as children of the Creator, that we hold each other accountable to being better stewards of creation. It’s not just “what’s right”, but it’s also what we were created for.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” – David Orr
Lord, help reconnect me with my purpose as a caretaker for all of your creation, including the people you have placed in my life. Amen.
Read Genesis 11:1-9
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)
Well, Happy New Year! It’s 2015 and we’re half-way through the second decade of the 21st century! Isn’t that just mind-boggling? Well, whether we are blown away about that or not, time keeps on moving and so must we. As such, I find this to be an excellent time to take a look at the 4th of 15 ailments that Pope Francis I has addressed with his curia, in order for us to reflect on how the universal church falls into “dis-ease” over these problems.
Ailment #4: Planning too much. How many of you are planners? You know who you are. How many of you spend your days trying to make sure that everything is in order and that all gets done? How many of you plan what time you wake up, what time you eat breakfast, what time you do your daily chores, what time you run your weekly errands, what time you eat dinner, and what time you go to bed? Planning is such an important part of our daily routine and, if the truth be told, without planning life would simply be too chaotic. So, why is planning an ailment of the church?
Simply put, planning is NOT an ailment of the church? In fact, it is not one the 15 Ailments of the Curia that Pope Francis I addresses either; rather, PLANNING TOO MUCH (aka over-planning) is the ailment we are addressing here. There is no sin in having a routine to follow. Structure never killed anyone; however, having an overly cumbersome and top-heavy structure has killed a good many people. Like the Tower of Babel, such a top-heavy and over-reaching structure is bound to come tumbling down.
The church is notorious for over-planning. We’re just pulling out of Advent…a season where there isn’t enough spaces on the calendar for all the planning that gets done. What’s more, we’re quickly approaching Lent…yet another time of crazy planning. But it’s not just the church calendar that gets planned for. Have you ever been to a church administrative council meeting? We get so caught up over our finances (or lack thereof), over capital projects, over parking issues, and over a host of other things. Who will cover for this person when that person is out? What have we got planned if only 2 show up to youth group? What happens if 400 show up to youth group? And on, and on, ad infinitum et nauseum.
Now take that down from the church level to our own personal lives? We plan so much that we barely have time (or so we think) for anything else in our lives? Between work, school, church, family, etc., we are literally all booked up. The question for us, on all of these levels, is this: “What room are you leaving for the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of the church?” Do we have such of a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit that we feel we must have everything figured and planned out? Are we a people of faith or impeccable planning?
Today’s challenge is for us to stop planning too much and leave some wiggle room for the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of the church. It is true that the door will open wide for things to not work out as planned, but that is exactly the point. Things don’t always need to be planned, nor do things always need to work according to our plan. Let’s face it, God is the one with the plan and God is inviting us to join in on the plan, but we have to be willing to trust, follow and obey…and we can’t do those things if we constantly see ourselves at the helm. So, step back and allow God to do some of the steering. It’s okay to have a plan, so long as you know whose plan you are ultimately following.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Earthly wisdom is doing what comes naturally. Godly wisdom is doing what the Holy Spirit compels us to do.” – Charles Stanley
PRAYER by St. Augustine of Hippo
O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams. Amen.
Read Genesis 32:22-32
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV)
Questioning is a huge part of what it means to be human. We as human beings have been given the ability to think for ourselves, to know good from evil, to create, to name, and to care for other things. We have been given the vision of what paradise is, of what it means to live in harmony with all of creation, and we have also been forced to recognize that reality is often times much different than our vision of utopia. It is in those moments that we find ourselves questioning ourselves, questioning humanity, questioning the created order and, most importantly, questioning our Creator.
This is especially true when we are going through our own trials. When we find that we are losing control over different aspects of our lives, or when we come to the realization that we were never in control to begin with, we find that we start to question God. When we lose our wealth, when we our loved ones, when we lose our health, when we lose our independence, when we suffer loss in any sense, we can’t help but cry out to God and question why these things are happening. What’s more, we often get angry at God and, in the process, begin to feel guilt over our anger, over our doubt, over our questioning.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, we read of a man named Jacob who had stolen his brother’s birthright many years earlier and he was on his way back home to try and make amends with his brother who wanted to kill him…literally. One night, while on his way back to his homeland to meet his angry brother, a man suddenly wrestles with Jacob. We aren’t told who this man was and one can assume that Jacob had no clue who he was either. The two wrestle each other all night long and, in the end, Jacob wins the wrestling match. Realizing that Jacob had won the other man strikes him on his hip, which leaves Jacob permanently injured. Still, Jacob did not let go of the man and refused to do so until the man blessed him.
Perhaps Jacob thought the man was his brother Esau, after all, it was dark and the man happened upon him suddenly. Regardless, the man ends up relenting and giving Jacob his blessing. After that, Jacob lets the man go and he names the place Peniel, which means, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” For whatever reason, Jacob came to the realization that the man was God, and that he had wrestled with God. Upon this revelation, God renames Jacob Israel because he had wrestled with God and prevailed.
I tell this story for all who feel guilty for wrestling with God. For all who have questioned and for all who have found themselves angry with God, take heart! You are not alone. God has big shoulders and can take our questions. God knows our hearts and understands our anger. God blesses us when we wrestle with God, because that means we are in relationship with God. We weren’t created to be mindless drones; rather, we were created to be a relationally engaged people. Who doesn’t struggle in relationships? That’s the very nature of them.
Take heart, be confident, and know that God does love you and that God does give you the space to wrestle! God has blessed you with the ability to question, to think freely, and to wrestle with God when we don’t understand why things are as they are. In fact, it is in that relational wrestling match that we will find that God has richly blessed us with a renewed assurance of our identity in our Creator, and of our Creator’s identity in us. For all who have indeed wrestled with God, stand up tall and thank God for such an awesome opportunity.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.” – Marcus Aurelius
Lord, you know my heart and you know that I have struggled and even wrestled with you. I thank you for having broad shoulders and for giving me the opportunity to wrestle and, more importantly, to be in relationship with you. Amen.
Read Genesis 16
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalms 37:5)
When I was in High School, I remember that we used to have to do all sorts of different “team building” activities in gym. The idea was to teach the students how to work as a team, how to rely on each other as teammates and, most importantly, to learn to trust one another. If a team does not act as a single unit, it will fall apart into a fragmented mess.
One of the activities that our gym teachers would have us do involved a great deal of trust. They would blindfold some of the students and have them stand with their backs facing other students. In turn, the students were told to lean back and let themselves fall back into the arms of the people standing behind them.
I remember when it was my turn to be blindfolded. I remember how paralyzed I was for fear that the other person wouldn’t catch me. The last thing I wanted to do was to fall flat down on the ground, making a fool of myself in front of all my peers. It was hard, extremely hard, letting myself go in order to fall back into the arms of the person behind me. Eventually, I did let go, was caught in mid-air, and was relieved when my turn was over. With that said, I cannot say that I felt any more trust, nor was I looking forward to do that again.
We, as human beings, have a particularly hard time putting our trust in other people. And this is never any more evident than it is in the church. Too many times we find infighting, bickering, dissention, and all sorts of conflict rise over the issue of trust. But the trust issue doesn’t stop there. Though we attend church, we sing hymns, we praise God, and we pray to God, we ultimately find ourselves lacking in trust when it comes to God.
Though we say that we put our faith and trust in God, we often find ourselves acting in a way that would state otherwise. Though we say that we trust God to guide us through our situations, we find ourselves trying to do things our way, just like when Abraham figured he would have to sleep with his servant in order for God’s promise to come true. Instead of fully placing our trust in God, we pull back our trust in order to “take control” of things.
It is in those moments that we find ourselves in situations we could have otherwise avoided had we only placed our trust in God to guide us through. As the church, as Christians, we are called to be a people of faith and of trust. We are called to trust in God and we are called to trust in each other. If we do not stand together, and place our trust in one another, then what good news are we really displaying to the rest of the community? If we are lost in our own brokenness how can we ever witness to the hope, healing and wholeness that Christ has to offer?
The challenge today is for us, as Christians, to begin to reestablish our trust in God. It is time to let go and fall back into God’s arms. We need to trust that God will not let us fall and, so long as we love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), God will do mighty things in us, through us and even in spite of us. But how can we place our trust in God if we cannot even put our trust in those who are trying to serve God alongside of us? God desires all of us to be a people of trust. Place your trust in God and let God lead you from where you are to where God is calling you to be.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Let the love of God lighten your life, let his kindness mold you into his presence, let him be your guide as you travel the road of life.” – Unknown
Lord, today I place my trust in you. Lead me in a way that deepens my trust in you and in your people. Amen.
Read Psalm 100
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8, NRSV)
Most, if not all, of us can sift through the years gone by and remember a time when we were children. Though it may be a while ago, and though certain memories might be fuzzy, we can with a little effort remember what it was like to be a child. What it was like to look at the world through innocent eyes, what it was like to rely on our parents, what it was like to have a mind like a sponge, soaking in all of our surroundings and feeding off of that knowledge with youthful energy and passion.
Of course, I am sure if we can remember those things, I am also pretty certain we can remember the not so positive things as well. I am sure that, with a little effort, we can remember being told that “children are to be seen and not heard.” I am sure we can remember being scolded for doing this or doing that, without fully understanding why we were getting scolded for behaving no differently than the adults do. I am sure we can remember people talking down to us as if we were too young to understand, or dismissing our thoughts and ideas as if they didn’t count because of our age.
On the flip side, I have seen the opposite occur too. I have seen people who are considered “older” passed off as being irrelevant. I have seen people’s ideas invalidated simply because “they don’t meet up with the times.” I have seen traditions scoffed at because they are “old” or “archaic”. We all can think to a time when we, or people we know, have made judgments against people because of their age.
Why is it that we are so focused on age? Why is it that a child is passed off as too naive to know what God is calling him or her to do? Why is it that an elderly person is invalidated because they are considered too old to know what is relevant for today’s generations? Does God discriminate based on age? Does God refuse to speak to and through people based on their age or their experience?
In Genesis, Noah was somewhere between 500 and 600 years old when God told him to build an Ark…he was 600 years old when the floods came (Genesis 7:6). God called Abraham to be the ancestor of many nations at the ripe age of 99 (Genesis 17:1). In Jeremiah, God called the prophet to speak despite Jeremiah judging himself to be too young (Jeremiah 1:6). The author of the first letter to Timothy, instructs the young minister to not let anyone think less of him because he is young, but to “be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT).
In reality, we serve an ageless God who is not limited by the limitations we place on ourselves and on others. God is neither young nor old; rather, God IS. With that said, God IS calling us, whether young or old, to live in a way that values others. God IS calling us, whether young or old, to live in a way that is humble. God IS calling us to recognize that there are no limitations in God, that all things are possible. God IS calling all of us to knock down our walls of segregation and discrimination and to open ourselves to God’s spirit working in, through and in spite of all of us. Today’s challenge is to answer that call to see God working in and through all people…including yourself.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“God is not limited by the limitations we place on ourselves and others.”
Lord, I know that you are not a God of limitations, but of eternal possibility. Remove my biases against myself and others. Use me in a way that promotes growth and brings hope, healing and wholeness to those in need of it. Amen.
Read Genesis 22:1-19
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)
One of my favorite movies growing up was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Though I love all of the Indy movies, this one has always had a profound impact on me, especially on my understanding of faith. The story follows Indy on an adventure to save his dad; however, little does he know that this rescue mission will not only be about rescuing his father, but also rescuing his faith; he’s journey, over time, become a soul-searching quest.
In one scene, Indy finds himself standing at the edge of an abyss. He is facing a test unlike any other he had ever been challenged with. He quickly realized that the only way across was to take the proverbial leap of faith. The only problem was that the leap was about the length of a football field, if not longer. How is that humanly possible? How can anyone hope to get across such a huge abyss? Surely it is absurd to believe he could actually do it.
Yet, Indy must take that leap as his father’s life is bleeding out onto the cavern floor. He has to reach the Holy Grail, with the hope that the fabled treasure will restore his father’s life. Slowly, Indy places his hand over his chest as if to try and calm his heartbeat. Could he really go through with this. All reason points to him plummeting to his death. Yet, he raises his right leg and lets his weight fall forward. As he falls forward, his foot lands on an invisible walkway. Indy has passed the test.
As Christians, we often take our faith for granted. We say we believe in God, we say we believe in miracles, and we even say that we KNOW that God exists and that miracles happen; however, if we truly KNEW such things, would we really need faith? If Indy knew that the walkway existed, would he have had to calm his heartbeat? All that Indy thought he knew was that he was bound to plummet to his death.
Christ calls us to be a people of faith. Like Abraham, who did not know God was going to stop him from sacrificing Isaac, like the prophets who didn’t know if they would survive proclaiming God’s judgment to the kings of Israel, just like Jesus who faced the gulf of the unknown in the olive garden, just like the disciples who did not know what fate awaited them in foreign lands, we too are called to live a life of extreme faith.
Søren Kierkegaard, once said that the faithful are like those who are suspended over 70,000 fathoms of water and yet they still have faith and are joyful. Why? Because, though it might be absurd to have faith in the midst of such uncertainty, they trust that God will come through. It may be absurd to the rest of the world, but the person of faith holds onto that absurdity in faith. I challenge you to be a people who have such trust in God. I challenge you to be living examples of extreme faith, to be tiny mustard seeds that move the mountains and shake the foundations of the earth.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.” – Søren Kierkegaard
Lord, help me to grow in my faith so that I may be equipped with your grace, enough to move the mountains with your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.