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Growth, Challenge, Blessings

By The Rev. James D. Findlay

James FindlayTake a look around your physical setting.  Now, take a look at your Scripture.  In both are found both challenge, and blessing, calling us to deeper spiritual growth, awareness, and care.  Having passed the high point of the Solstice, the days gradually shorten and night’s darkness grows.  The heat and humidity of Northern Hemisphere summer remain steady and strong.   The California drought continues.  We live with greater awareness of Earth-Care.  The plants in gardens and flower beds yet flourish, moisture rolls off the ocean, and the sun and stars shed their light on us.  Savoring these elements of Divine Love for us and our Planet Home, we see parallels in God’s Word.

In 2 Samuel, we read of triumphs for David:  his choice as king by both Judah and Israel after Saul’s death; the entry of the Ark into Jerusalem, with liturgies of dance, music, food, prayers, and incense; and the sealing of a covenant between YHWH, Israel, and David which is eternal and unbreakable (2 Sam. 7:16).  However, though God’s promise is permanent and unfailing, David’s faithfulness is not: he claims Bathsheba for his own pleasure while soldiers risk their lives, designs a way for her husband Uriah to be killed in battle, and has his sins exposed by the prophet Nathan.

These stories are well-known to many of us; taken together they offer us guidance for our spiritual journeys.  God chooses us for love and blessing.   Celebration with food, drink, and dance are sacred acts of response to Divine Grace.  God’s promises of protection and care will never be shaken.  Although we make choices in our inward and outward lives which are unwise and selfish, God continues to guide and bless us, forgiving us our mistakes and providing lessons for us from our errant ways.

In Ephesians, Paul describes God’s blessings.  He notes that spiritual gifts come from heaven (Eph 1:3).  God chooses us for redemption, insight, wisdom, and inheritance, all so we can live for God’s divine purposes.  In Eph. 2, the separation between social groups is removed by Christ’s presence and power, and all “have access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18).  In ch. 3, prayers are offered in praise to God’s glory, asking that we might be strengthened in our inner being through God’s Spirit.  Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, as we are rooted and grounded in love.  These words and images are worthy of prayer and contemplation, as we seek growth from the soil of love, with the Spirit being both our guide and the substance of God’s gifts.

The Gospel readings, too, offer narratives of challenge and blessing.  In Mark 6:14-29, John the Baptist is beheaded due to the whims of powerful people.  Later in Mark 6, Jesus heals and teaches on both sides of the Sea of Galilee.  In John 6, Jesus feeds 5000 persons from the barley loaves and fish of a child, walks on the water during a storm, and speaks to the crowd seeking ongoing food of the bread of heaven. This final discourse is an offering and challenge to all who seek nourishment from the Divine.  We do not receive blessings from human beings, but from God (6:32).  We learn that earthly things are impermanent, and we must seek the enduring and the eternal (6:27).  We learn that the realms of the heavenly and the spiritual are the true source of physical life (6:33).  Finally, we learn that Christ’s presence, in us and among us gives us all we need, within and without (6:35).

Psalm 78:24-25 also notes these things, with an even deeper insight.  When we see life’s blessings for what they really are, we experience heaven itself on earth:  “God rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.  Mortals ate the bread of angels; God sent them food in abundance.”

As we continue our journeys, experiencing our own limitations and the oppressive realities of the political realm, may we cherish God’s unfailing and constant blessings.  Together, the cultivation of God’s blessings and the Spirit’s guidance enrich our physical lives and deepen our inward spiritual growth

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Note from author: Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at sleight_of_time@yahoo.com .  I wish to engender a conversation among us about how the Word and Spirit are active in our lives, and how we might nurture these gifts further. I also am happy to work with groups and individuals on how to nurture the Word and Spirit among us. Please visit my Facebook Page at   www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Accompaniment-Services/219750211459838  as another way of being in this sacred conversation. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon!

 

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