The elegant simplicity of faith is defined and symbolized in the cross.
There can be no parsing of the message it represents. It represents our separation from the God who created the universe; life and us. Yet, at the same time, it is the means by which we are again made one with Him.
It is fitting that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians should be the conveyor of this message. Corinth, in modern terms was, at the time of Paul’s writing, the most “cosmopolitan” of biblical cities, being comprised of many nationalities; social classes and particular denominations of Christianity. Its geography made it a crossroads of trade for all corners of the known world at that time.
Can you say “diversity”?
The power of Rome; the collected wisdom of Greek philosophy and the clamor of the marketplace must surely have constituted a habitat for faith not so much different from that which exists today. That is to say, sectarian; diverse; driven by and catering to many ‘special’ interests competing for power and influence.
What better a time and place for Paul to shepherd them back to the Gospel and its meaning for a fallen mankind?
Paul cites Isaiah (29:14) from the Old Testament: “The wisdom of the wise will perish”. Those professing faith in Corinth could not deny their acceptance of this piece of Scripture. That being the case, Paul continues, is it not folly to lose ourselves in using logic or knowledge to discern the nature of God?
Likewise, Paul notes that the Jews “seek signs”. Their prayers for a conquering Messiah, more powerful than any pharaoh or king or emperor, are for an ultimate conquest over enemies. This belief that a true Messiah should be proof that “might makes right” is, again, folly.
For human logic and human strength or power are but that: human. To try to attain righteousness; sanctification and redemption with our God through these means alone is hubris at best, and sinful pride at worst.
This sinful folly, born of Adam, and rampant still in our warring and factious society, is what has separated us from Him. And only He could make Himself flesh through Jesus Christ; and splay Himself on a cross to shoulder our sin as one of us out of His love for all of us. His death and resurrection unite us into His Spirit.
We need only accept this, not due to any ” logic”, nor even out of deference to ” power”. This world, and our living in it, is proof enough of His power. Accept the cross, and its meaning, and know that there is neither wisdom nor power that can understand; discern or measure His amazing Grace.
Boast not of what you can do for God or your fellow man, ….boast of what God has done for you.
Another morn; another nudge
From warm, delicate toes against the back of my ankle.
I rouse, but linger in the warmth of fleece and flannel,
Awaiting the next, more urgent, yet gentle, nudge.
Receiving it, I tread the cold wood to cold porcelain fixtures
Disturb their gleaming purity with her excellent chocolate cake,
And I smell the coffee downstairs as I dress in silence,
And brace for my labors in the cold, cold world
But that frigid air
And that frosty management
Become but mild distraction
As I tip-toe back in the darkness
To kiss the perfect cheekbone
Of the one who is my Heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day
Darned if it’s not already her birthday again. Time to write another poem.
It’s easy, though, as she is my sunshine; the Light of my life. Often she even helps me find my glasses when I lose them.
Happy Birthday, darling………
Amazing face, how sweet that smile,
That calms the beast in me
It’s warmth consoles me, soothes me, while
I strive of worth to be.
This glow, this smile, this warmth I feel
When e’er your eyes meet mine,
Does goodness in this earth reveal
Which I alone can’t find.
October’s sun, on radiant leaves
Which turn to red and gold
Can’t match the warmth that I receive
When your smile I behold.
And I’ll reside within your glow
As long as you can bear
This need for warmth that drives me so
This need for your face fair.
In this reading, Paul instructs an audience complacent in its’ belief that merely adhering to ‘“the law” is sufficient for their justification in the eyes of God. In his methodical, logical style, he gently chastises them with rhetorical questions. Like many other parts of Romans, the depth of meaning increases with each reading.
In fact, in perusing my records, I note that I wrote a devotional on this selfsame passage three years ago. In that piece, I noted Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross as being symbolic of the death of our own sinful life, and his resurrection as being symbolic of our “new” selves, walking in His way. Upon re-reading this year, I find meaning which, at least to me, is deeper.
I will be brief . Since this is a popular reading, I will not resort to citations from the text.
The point of Paul’s message is not only that we should not persist in sin so “Grace can abound”, but, more importantly, that this symbolic death of sin is a transformation. That is, however dead our sinful past, we are still flesh and blood, and, while hopefully abated, our sinfulness is still, due to no fault of our own, a persistent interruption to our existence.
The sins of Adam die hard. While God’s Grace is free, it can only be for naught if we do not strive to live up to the ideals we profess, or have professed for us at our baptism, whether by water. or by the fire of our own reckless pasts. This means work. This means striving to keep our mortal bodies from occasionally being the instruments, (if not the seats) of sin. This means prayer.
Paul’s conclusions are obvious. Of course Grace will not abound by the persistence of sin. But why? Simply because liberty from sin is not license to sin. Our transformation from our old, sinful selves which began with the crucifixion of Jesus is, for each of us, a work in progress. Paul reminds us that we have to “think of” ourselves as living for God. God can’t do that for us. It takes effort and energy. It is a lot to acknowledge, but with the Holy Spirit in play, we will always have the upper hand on the Devil.
(keep Mr. Newton’s tune in mind as you read the following):
A Metamorphosis in Grace.
My sins died on that ruddy cross
With our God’s only Son,
How strange that His death paid for sin,
When of sin he had none.
And as I ponder this sweet Grace
This priceless treasure pure
I find the strength and will to face
The next temptation’s lure.
For I’m forgiven, but not free
From Satan’s clever ways
And I must live so God can see
His Son in all my days.
I must be steady; strong and brave
I must not His Grace test.
And I refuse to be a slave
To sin He put to rest.
Though I’m not what I wish I was
Nor what I ought to be,
I live my life in hope, because
I’m not who I used to be.
It seems like just last month or so I posted my last anniversary honorarium to the woman I love. It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone and that the leaves on the huge silver maple in the back yard are beginning their change to autumn’s glory.
And, as I sit in wonder and awe over the rapid elapsing of another year, it dawns on me that, like a roller-coaster ride, or a long, slow dance to a favorite ballad, the celerity of my existence is due to the joy I partake of daily in being in and around my home. My Jennifer, as noted last year, has made this home that place on ‘God’s Little Acre‘ known as Dreamsville, Ohio.
However small your plot of land, however quickly you can walk from the ‘north forty’ to the ‘south forty’, what is essential is your signature on the scenery. Beauty, and obvious care and attention to the landscaping, can both beautify the neighborhood, and,…when striking enough to the eye of the casual passer-by, can evoke a respect for and appreciation of the tenants that no fence can afford. The time I spend on the swing in the back yard; the reading I do on the front porch; even the chore of mowing the grass, is a comfort and a joy because of the love she puts into this estate.
I write these annual missives for our anniversary and for her birthday for her love. What I sometimes fail to appreciate is that her labor; time and attention to our home is done, at least in part, out of her love for me. I pray that I can continue to merit its’ splendor.
A Lease Renewed.
They married one October day
Their souls united,
They began their way
The moon was honey,
And their laughter gay
Their bond was based in Love.
Through times of trouble,
And times of bliss
Their constant strength, a nightly kiss.
To rise each new day
To hit or miss,
Their strength was in their Love.
Life is just
A lease on God’s time
Only His Grace can renew.
And while it runs, the key’s to share
The rent; the work,….the view.
And as they go through
The blur of years
And share their sorrows; hopes and fears
They share their laughter, and they share their tears.
They do it out of Love.
God smiles on their True Love.
Happy 17th Anniversary, Darling.
I will always love you.
Well, my work here is done. My time this afternoon and evening before leaving for my overnight shift tonight will be walking the lanes of our palatial estate in Dreamsville, Ohio…….where the women are strong; the men are good-looking, and the bowling scores are all above-average.