Friday, August 27, 2021

Gazelle Love...



Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Springtime Rhapsody

The voice of my beloved!
    Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
    looking through the lattice.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;
11 for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away.

 

 

A real “Romeo and Juliet” scene this is, isn’t it? Romantic poetry in the Bible. Fundamentalists go crazy with the “Song of Songs,” or the “Song of Solomon,” as many prefer to call it. What in the world IS this thing, anyway?

 

First of all, few would argue that the Song of Songs isn’t beautiful verse. If you have a normal libido, you will get a little hot under the collar in some points of the narrative, as it gets downright lascivious. This book of the Bible resembles Shakespeare more than spirit. As nasty as the prophets get when calling out Israel for its misbehavior, or as harsh as the chronicles of Israel’s history can be for God’s people ignoring or “shelving” God, the Song of Songs is a knee-weakening, love poem. Throughout the history of the canon, there have been those who have wanted to boot it from the Bible, either because it was embarrassingly sensuous, or because their attempts to “redeem” it for puritanical purposes seemed ridiculous, in the end. Thankfully, they failed.

 

Unless King Solomon was some kind of a literary muse, he was probably not the author of this text. He gets credit for it because he was, well, the king. (I must admit, however, that if even of a fraction of his 1,000 wives and concubines were more than a legend, he must have been some kind of lover.) I’m guessing he had a staff of groomers who helped him with his love life, including a few good verse writers. Since believers in the Bible assert that the canonical texts are “God-breathed,” there is a wide acceptance for the spiritual inspiration of scripture. However, the Song of Songs “tests” this holy idea, unless one heavily spiritualizes the meaning of it.

 

And this has been done a lot over the centuries. More conservative commentators have maintained Solomonic authorship, while more serious scholars admit that Solomon’s “signature” is a later addition. The dime store interpretation posits that the Song is a metaphor for God’s love of Israel, or among Christian conservative interpreters, God’s love for humanity that eventually persuades God to send Jesus to save us. It is my belief that this short-changes a powerful text in an attempt to over-spiritualize it, and to “wash” it of its erotic context.

 

So, let’s take a different tack. Let us assume it IS a love poem, and one that is divinely inspired. One partner in the narrative describes her “beloved” as a “gazelle” or a “young stag” staring in through the window at her. Discounting that her “beloved” is a peeping tom, we can assume she sees this eagerness on his part to gaze at her, to be desirable. She invites his sensuous curiosity, and is aroused by it. If you read on, you will find detailed descriptions of erotic and passionate love and desire on the part of both lovers. Legitimate eroticism is not only a divinely-created part of true love between two individuals who commit to love one another, but in the case of male/female relationships, it also becomes the progenitor for the biological process of procreation. It is my believe—and I believe the Bible’s—that procreation is not the main reason for eros, but a convenient, biological “side effect” of it. If God only created human sexuality to continue the species, I doubt we would find the Song of Songs included among Holy writ. No, I think this titillating narrative is in the book to encourage humans to seek these kinds of passionate relationships with another human being. As Judeo-Christian people, we believe in committed, covenantal relationships, and believe that as God’s ultimate plan played out, we were meant to commit to a single loving partner, “as long as we both shall live.” Polyamory, which has become more of “a thing” in our day, unfortunately, is a perversion of the kind of one-on-one love the Bible encourages, especially in this book. Spreading eros around among multiple partners not only waters down the power of its passion, but also erodes its ability to bond two humans in a life-long love. The Song of Songs endorses physical acts of love and properly-placed “lust” as much as it paints beautiful pictures with its erotic imagery. 

 

The sensual words of the Song function best when put alongside other biblical words about covenantal love. It’s not all about sex, but without the erotic, the other acts of committed love would quickly become drudgery. As one who has been married for over 44 years, I can hold my relationship alongside the “encouragements” of the Song of Songs to see my partner in more than just a “domestic” or “pedestrian” reality. I am in awe of her, of her daily care of me and the attention she gives me, but also for the rich heritage she has created as a mother and nurturer. She was primary in birthing and raising two wonderful children into responsible adults who continue to make benevolent contributions to the broader human community. They have also loved others in the way that I love their mother, creating and enjoying deeply meaningful relationships that spanned the spectrum from initial attraction and friendship to the heights of romantic and sexual love. My wife and life partner still makes me “flutter” when she enters the room. When I read the words of the Song of Songs, they make me think of her, the life we have made together, and the undying connection we have made with each other throughout the decades since we made our covenantal commitment over 44 years ago. Because of our commitment to God, to the principles of scripture for embracing the wide breadth of love they describe, and for keeping aflame the sensuality this text so vividly paints, our relationship has not “fallen into disrepair” or been stripped of its playful, hand-holding, embracing, “public displays of affection” more often observed in pubescent teenagers. The Song of Songs may be a too-often ignored balm to the libido and encouragement to all of God’s paired lovers to “keep it fresh.” This is not to say that we have to constantly “jump each other’s bones” or engage in “marital pornography” to have a fully biblical romance, but it does give us permission to admire one another at a level far greater than just “friends” might. Some of the most deeply-loving and sensuous couples I have known are no longer physically able to “have sex,” but they still ring each other’s chimes sexually and find the other profoundly desirable. This is the model of the Song of Songs. Its love is a fire, not merely a friendship. And when nurtured and let run a bit “wild” from time to time, it will grow and grow “until death do us part.”

 

Please note that this high, divinely inspired love is not limited to just couples who are capable of biologically procreating. This level of love is open to any two persons who may be brought together by personal, human initiative, as well as the Spirit of God, and who “find each other” to share a life together.

 

We would be remiss if we did not suggest that this unusual text may also be a blueprint for our relationship with the Divine Presence, as well. If our desire for God and God’s desire for us doesn’t reach beyond “Creator” and the created, would God have made the ultimate sacrifice of God’s offspring in order to save, redeem, and transform the world? God does not only love this world and us, the human creatures in it, like a “father” loves a child, but in a more intimate way, as well. And while God is Spirit, and we are invited to love and worship God in Spirit and in truth, God may, like the longing suitor in the Song of Songs, desire a closer relationship with us. In my own “mountaintop” spiritual moments, I have felt I could “embrace” God, and that God can and does embrace me. I read once that the place in our brain where our “spirituality” resides is immediately adjacent to the part of the brain that is home to our sensuality and sexual self, too. Is this an accident? Or does God love us so much more deeply than just a “heavenly parent”?  And are we capable of loving God with the beautiful  and appropriate sensuality and intimacy we find described in the Song of Songs? 

 

This kind of spiritual exploration may be more worthy of our study and practice. Perhaps this understanding of God’s “deeper love” for humanity could become the harbinger of a greater healing of the human condition and result in the final exorcism of the cancer of hate and bigotry that divide us along the lines of nationality, race, privilege, and religious beliefs? As our Jewish friends say, “From our lips to God’s ears.” Amen.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Welcome Mat Theology...


Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18

The Tribes Renew the Covenant

24 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 

14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve God in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. God protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for Yahweh is our God.”

 

When Dara and I bought our first home—a small, two-bedroom, galley-kitchen, one-small-bath model built in the early 1900s—friends gave us a “Christian” welcome mat with an edited section of Joshua 24:15 on it. So, when you came to visit, the welcome mat made clear we were drawing a “line in the sand,” and challenging you to draw one, too: “Choose this day whom you will serve…but for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” As I look back on those days 40 years ago, I think, “Boy, what a welcome!” In that same spirit, a “welcome” mat today might say, “We’re vaccinated—if you are not, go away.” Even more benign welcome mats, such as one with Steelers emblems all over them, say to guests: “Warning—rabid Steelers fans here. Wear a Cleveland Browns jersey at your own risk!” or “Go Steelers, or Go Home!”

 

Unfortunately, “welcome mat” theology is all around us. More of them appear now as Facebook memes, Instagram posts, or tweets, but if you can’t summarize your entire faith system in less than 144 characters, you just don’t believe. And, as many of the Facebook memes say, “If you don’t repost this, you don’t care.” Imagine if Jesus had been required to state the entire Sermon the Mount in 144 characters:

 

Blessed are the ones who believe like me, and phooey on the rest of you. You are salt and light—figure it out. Laws are good. I’m better. No eye-poking.

Doesn’t quite have the same impact, does it? But please repost it as the sum total of your theology, or bad things may happen to you.

 

Seriously, not many important things can be adequately communicated through humorous cartoons or clever catch-phrases. And even when they sound simple and profound, like this text’s “…chose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house…”, rarely is this the reality.

 

The broader context of today’s scripture is pretty self-explanatory: Israel had been “watered down” by intermarriage with other surrounding cultures and was now devoted to a plethora of gods. I’m sure in some cases they still revered Yahweh, but the “God of Israel” may have been relegated to just a singular place on the mantle with some nicer, more valuable statues, including a few that promised control over things like sunshine, rain, land, and sex, and not necessarily in that order. Joshua is being a leader and doing his “meme-loving” best to make it clear to Israel what they should be doing, and he promises to lead by example—“…as for me and my house…”

 

But let’s take a look at the dynamics behind the three most important phrases in this text: “choose this day,” “as for me and my house,” and “we will serve the Lord.”

 

“Choose this day…” When is the last time you were faced with making a choice, and it was crystal-clear easy to make one? Today, we are faced with a ridiculous variety of choices, whether it is ordering an ice cream cone, buying a car, or deciding how to understand a passage of scripture. I broke my iPhone case a couple of weeks ago, and since we were on the road, I made the rounds of two or three different “discount” department stores (remember that phrase—if you are under 50, you’ve probably never heard it). The first one didn’t even have a case for my model of cell phone, and the second had very expensive cases, but LOTS of them in tons of colors, styles, and materials. Oh, the choices! I was looking for the cheapest “protection” for my phone I could find, as when I got home, I planned to order the exact replacement for the one I had broken, probably through Amazon. (Modern parable: If you are afraid of using a cell phone without a case, you probably shouldn’t even have one.) I must have a case, as my phone acts like a bar of soap without one, and I can’t afford to be replacing the device, so I surround it with a clamshell-like, magnetized sarcophagus that takes the beating when I drop it, but since this shattered (in fairness, protecting the phone) at my latest drop, I was looking for one of those cheap, blobby plastic things as an interim. Finally, the third store had one of these for only $5.00. Adding up the total cost of cases I have purchased for this particular iPhone, I’m guessing that it would have cost half as much to just replace the phone in the first place.

 

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, choices. The world doesn’t make them easy for us today, and if you happen to be partnered with someone who doesn’t like too many options, they will just shut down on you. But woe is you if you intervene and make the choice for them! But choosing is just the first part of this statement. It says “choose THIS DAY”! Now we have a deadline, and it is immediate. This is the ploy of the salesperson—“This is the last one!” or “Someone else is considering this car, so if you don’t buy it now, it may not be available this afternoon.” Let’s call this the “forced choice.” And if we read the scripture carefully, we see that Joshua is suggesting that Israel had already chosen other gods, and he was chiding them that they must pick one of them, but meanwhile, he was going with Yahweh (“the Lord”). He may be employing a bit of psychology here (“YOU don’t HAVE to root for the Steelers—you are free to root for any of those other PITIFUL, LOSERS”). 

 

How about “as for me and my house…”? We get the “me” part, but what about “my house”? There was a time when this phrase was understood to mean that the head of the household set the values and rules for everyone under that roof, but that is as outdated today as Facebook, for most of you. What IS a “household,” anyway? Does it mean those who are part of the same family? And, if so, what kind of family? Single parent? Adopted? “Nuclear?” Even a more modern phrase like “family values” rarely communicates anything clearly today. As a product of the 60s and 70s, I still relate to “family values.” When it came to faith issues, the family I grew up in and the one my wife and I raised were “church going” families. And after I became a pastor, my “family values” included hours and hours attending church events and functions “as a family.” We tried so hard to not “poison” our two children with church culture that was either too restrictive, prescriptive, or prosaic so as to taint their fledgling faith, but now that they are fully-grown adults, we have received feedback from both that, despite our best efforts, the prevailing church culture did dull their spiritual senses quite a bit. And because we parents seemed to “thrive” in it, each of them had to find ways to love us, but build an emotional “moat” around the parts they just couldn’t accept (I wonder if this is that “hedge of protection” so many K-LOVE Christians pray for today?). 

 

Perhaps we need to redefine “my house,” or even “family values” today? Perhaps we parents would do better to keep all of the members of the family—in whatever form “family” takes, in your situation—“in the loop” when it comes to defining any values we feel we should “share.” Maybe “shared values” is the better expression? A modern Joshua may say, “As for me and those of my faith community who have agreed to share our values…” If we were raising our children today, we would engage in far more “feedback” conversations about how our kids were understanding and experiencing their “forced” church culture, and would hope to help them sort out these convictions to make their own choices. At least I would like to think we would do so. However, we have certainly been enriched by the faith conversations we have had with them as adults. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

 

And finally, we come to the “serve the Lord” parcel of this pericope. What does it mean to “serve the Lord”? To keep this message from becoming an even longer tome, let’s assume “the Lord” to be the Judeo-Christian deity, Yahweh, and even Yahweh, as revealed by Jesus Christ, since we are in the context of a community of Christian believers. This doesn’t make it much easier, though, in trying to define what it means to serve Yahweh. 

 

For some, it simply means keeping God’s “commandments,” although often in dispute is what areGod’s commandments? Does this include ones from the “Old” Testament (Hebrew Bible), and if so, which ones? The danger here is in “cherry-picking” favorites while leaving more inclusive ones, such as “welcoming the stranger” or “leave some gleanings for the poor” because they set a broader agenda than with which we are comfortable. Others believe that “serving” God means doing what Jesus taught us to do, and that is a harder assignment. “Loving our neighbor as ourselves” has had libraries written about what it may mean, while “becoming the servant of all” and “the last shall be first” are even more intriguing. What if we go back to “shared values,” and at least agree to have conversations with our faith community to see if we can arrive at a few “servant goals” to work on, supporting one another while trying, and employing regular “recalculating” when making a few wrong turns? I have found that if I become the “God of my own choosing,” my personal faith values run the risk of becoming horribly self-centered, almost narcissistic ones that I will use to judge others instead of using them to collaborate and cooperate with the broader community. I am not even free to engage in biblical interpretation without consulting the others in the “cloud of witnesses,” in this shared-values model.

 

I confess to being too regularly “turned off” by the “servant ministry” typology. If this phrase is used to describe a willingness to “lose myself” in the faith mob, or put every aspect of my identity and my journey into subservience to what that “mob” has defined as “servant ministry,” then I will opt out, most often. However, if we think about servant ministry as a vision of what Jesus modeled, then I am more interested in going along. Again, we need each other, as well as the respectful, informed work of the scholars to help us ferret out what this “model” may look like. AND it will need to be put into a context that is able to be lived out by the faith community AND will speak to our contemporary “target audience,” or it will grow quickly just as irrelevant as denominational expressions have. Does anyone out there really believe that the current war raging within United Methodism is viewed by our “target audience” as a good witness? Or that either faction in the battle has the “right words” that will “transform the world”? 

 

So, as you see, understanding and acting on “Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” is a lot harder than it looks. We would have to look at the longer and broader ministry of Joshua to be adequately enlightened, but as members of the Christian faith community, maybe we just take Joshua’s challenge and let it point us toward Jesus the “author and finisher” of our faith? Oh, and Jesus invites us to serve ALONGSIDE of him, “taking up our cross” to follow. But remember, this “cross-bearing” is not something we do in solitude or in silence. It is a collaborative task and a shared value among all of us people of faith. 

 

But if that doesn’t work for you, here’s the “Sermon on the Mount” tweet again:

 

Blessed are the ones who believe like me, and phooey on the rest of you. You are salt and light—figure it out. Laws are good. I’m better. No eye-poking.

 

Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Solomon of Wisdom...

 

I Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

 

It’s been said that history is written by the winners. Does the phrase “the wisdom of Solomon” come to mind? David’s son is considered by history to be a great and wise king, despite a possibly exaggerated largess of “concubines” and egotistical behaviors more befitting a modern, power-drunk politician. 

 

If today’s text is an accurate rendering of Solomon’s original intent as king, he should be considered a great man, as we seek to understand the “ideals” of a narrative which we will explore in today’s message. But what we have here is probably more of an apocryphal story than an historical account. Solomon is TOO humble and subservient, and God is TOO easily persuaded to grant Solomon “the farm.” If I could have so easily convinced my dad of my noble intentions, I could have had the family car every weekend. But my attempts at persuading were nearly as juvenile as this narrative indicates Solomon was, and my dad was smarter than the Divine Presence, as related in this text.

 

So, what’s the skinny on what happened in that day, and what does it have to do with us today? Let’s look at a few things.

 

First of all, the narrative is a bit of a fantasy, as alluded to earlier. Richard Nelson, commenting on the text in the Interpretation series, calls this a “dream narrative,” likening it to Genesis 28, where Jacob “dreams” about the great ladder reaching to heaven, upon which angels were running up and down. Solomon is “given” a “classic petitionary prayer” to speak:

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”


Think of this as a panel in a comic book, one that captures a lot of action in one fell-swoop. In it the following landmark actions are described:

 

·      David is gone

·      Solomon is “only a little child” and pretty clueless, at that

·      Israel has become a “great people,” and there are a LOT of them

·      Solomon asks God for a “good brain,” lots of discernment of what is good and what is evil (wouldn’t it be nice if OUR leaders today would ask for this?)

·      And God’s direct help, for “who can govern this your great people?”

 

Then “God” responds:

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”


Well, we don’t really know if it pleased GOD, but it certainly pleased the author of this narrative, who seems to be putting words in God’s mouth in yet another comic book panel:

 

·      God is pleased (what does that really mean, anyway?)

·      In conditional language, an unconditional God says that because Solomon did not ask for a lot of stuff for himself, and to puff his ego, God is going to GIVE HIM ALL OF THAT STUFF as a reward(?)

·      The God of unconditional love makes the condition that Solomon must “walk in my ways…” like David (who had that little “thing” with Bathsheba that also led to murdering Uriah), and God will lengthen [his] life! Now THAT’S an incredible promise, actually. “Be good and you’ll live long”—pretty much what my doctor tells me every year when I have my physical.

·      God is going to do according to your [Solomon’s] word! Again, impressive. We modern Christian believers spend a lot of time trying to do according to GOD’S Word, and here, God takes his marching orders from Solomon, just because Solomon speaks a humble prayer (which was probably not even his own).

·      God promises to use Solomon to make Israel great again, and the king along with it.

 

If this all sounds like a Pollyanna-ish fantasy, it is, at least as we read in this narrative. So, back to the original question: what are we to see here? Let me try to suggest a few things:

 

·      Solomon had issues, like his dad, but Jewish history records that he was a pretty great king.

·      God fed his ego because he appeared willing to set it aside for the good of Israel. (To a degree, both Solomon and David were a little like the recently resigned Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York—he did a lot of good for his people, so many were willing to ignore his sexual harassment, and even defend him.)

·      Follow God’s laws and commandments, and you’ll live longer.

 

Let’s set aside the Jewish history of this, and look for the moral lessons we may learn from it.

 

First of all, if we adopt the actual posture of humility—let’s call that self-awareness—having a sober view of what our gifts are, and offering them to help the greater good (whether we view that as the Kingdom of God, or just our church and/or community), God may just “partner” with us to get the job done. 

 

The Holy Spirit was sent to give us wisdom and discernment—the two things Solomon asks for—and to empower us to use them, along with our own gifts, for the good of all. We grieve the Spirit if we try to use these “aids” to just feather our own beds, like many of the TV evangelists do. Why do you think so many of them blow up?

 

If we focus all of this, including our major life priorities, on fulfilling God’s commandments—especially those of Jesus, the “pioneer of our faith,” to love God and others as we love ourselves, God may darn well bless our efforts, our lives, and even give us more days to do good things. I have learned, by the way, that it is really refreshing to do good things, and to eschew selfishness. I think this lesson is central to this narrative from I Kings.

 

Nelson, again commenting in the interpretation series for I Kings, says, “The Christian is comforted by the unconditional and challenged by the conditional.” He may have stated the key to understanding the Solomon/God “fantasy” we study today. The “unconditional” is both the love of God, and what appears to be God’s unwavering believe that humanity can be redeemed—that Eden may be able to be re-gentrified in our midst. The “conditional” is our willingness to give up more of “self,” yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to love God, neighbor, and even ourselves at a healthy, self-aware, and self-actualized level (Notice how I just summarized the whole body/mind/spirit thing there? The “comic book” author of today’s narrative would be so proud.)

 

Let me try it another way: God likes people who respect themselves, but who realize that they are put here on Earth to do more than acquire stuff, power, and pleasure. God may use people like this to reclaim the original intent for Planet Earth, its creatures, and the “pursuit of happiness” of all. God’s joy in this, when it works, is not to be discounted! AND, God will use people with the “right heart,” even in spite of their missteps and occasional outbreaks of idiocy, which seems to be part of the human condition.

 

And what of all of this for the Christian, who is not “covered” by the text we read today? Most of this still applies (obeying commandments, humility, and an aim that includes all and not just “The Big ‘I’”). However, in Jesus, God offers us all a clean slate to begin the redemptive process, gives us lots of “crib notes” (i.e. the Sermon on the Mount, the parables, and the “object lessons” of the disciples) to guide us on our journey toward others-ness. In Jesus, God offers us hope, as well, as God sent the Son into the world because God “so loved the world,” and God wishes NONE of us to perish. That’s an even better mission statement than Solomon got! And finally, God sent the Holy Spirit as both a connection and a tool to provide as much of the Divine Presence as we need or can handle, in our task. Again, a pretty good deal.

 

So, you see why I entitled this message the “Solomon of Wisdom?” It’s really a process message, and not about King Solomon as some kind of “superhero” example. The best thing that Solomon did was model the humility, resignation to God’s “everyone” mission statement, and willingness to follow God’s commandments so as not to make a mess of things. He still made a mess of some stuff (what ABOUT those hundreds of concubines?), but God stuck with him.

 

Dear Ones, in Jesus, God offers to stick with us, and never leave us in the lurch. Can we set our overly-inflated egos (usually fed by the popular culture, and occasionally by our bank statement) on “low,” while cranking up the heat on fixing the world—what our Jewish friends call tikkun olam.

 

So, may the Solomon of Wisdom go with you on your journey today! Grace and peace… 

 

 

What's Next?

  What’s Next?   2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 6:2 David and all the people...