"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
"For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." (ESV)
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St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus
19 March 2015
|While teaching an adult instruction class for membership in the church a woman asked me if I could recommend good DVDs that depict the Bible. I was a bit taken aback by the question, because I don't watch that much television and so had seen very few of such productions. Of course, I have seen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," but beyond that I hadn't really watched much of the genre of Bible video. However, even if I had the time to watch such productions, I might not watch them even then. I am fully convinced that the genre of video actually changes how we think, how we judge and perceive the truth, and how we express ourselves. The pervasiveness of the video is a powerful game changer in our culture. Because people get their news from the television, it shapes their thought about everything, it even shapes how they think. Marshall McLuhan's dictum: "The medium is the message," remains deadly true.|
When the woman looked disappointed because I couldn't recommend a bunch of biblical videos, I explained that the truth of God's Word is much deeper and interconnected than could ever be depicted on a screen. I pointed out to her it was far better for her to be in a community where God's Word was shared by people who loved her and could talk about the Word of God and how it applied in their daily lives together. Learning the Word of God and putting it to use in daily life is a discursive enterprise.
The First Commandment presumes discursive thought, and therefore relationship between us and God that is a conversation not a picture or entertainment. The corollary of the first commandment is that there may be no graven images. Why? Because God expected to be talked about, considered, ruminated over, prayed to and related to as a Father, a friend, and a redeemer. None of these relations could ever be reduced to image or mere symbolism. Ask someone whose father has died whether their collection of pictures or home movies of him is a sufficient replacement for him. Absolutely not.
Educator and social critic, Neil Postman, in his wonderful book Amusing Ourselves to Death says, "The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking." Such thinking and considering and relation with God is not supported by the image. No image of God is sufficient in itself. When confronted by God we may not say, "Hey God, could you just show me the video, I don't have time for the book." We must say, "Speak, Lord! Your servant is listening." He must speak and we must listen to His Word.
That Word by itself puts us in the universe of meaning in which we are the fellows of the Prophets, Patriarchs, Apostles, and Christ Himself. The spiritual words of holy Scripture are words that re-present what is stated in them. They are more than explanations or information about God. They build a relationship with the God who gives Himself in them. What was written was written for us. Scripture puts us into God's self revelation as we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (1Co 11:26). "Speak, Lord. We are listening."
"After saying many great things about Abraham, his faith, righteousness, and honor before God, lest the hearer should say, 'What good is it to us that Abraham himself was justified?' Paul places us close to the Patriarch again. So great is the power of spiritual words. For about a Gentile, who has recently come near and done no work, he not only says that he is in no way inferior to the Jew who believes, but not even inferior to the Patriarch. Rather, if one must give utterance to the wondrous truth, he is even much greater than the Patriarch. For our birth is so noble that his faith is but the type of ours.
"He does not say, 'If it was reckoned to Abraham, it would probably also be to us,' that he might not make it a matter of logical reasoning. But he speaks in authentic words of the divine rule, and makes the whole a declaration of the Scripture. For why was it written, he says, except to make us see that we also were justified in this way? For it is the same God whom we have believed. We have believed the same things, even if it is not in the case of the same persons. And after speaking of our faith, he also mentions God's unspeakable love toward man, which he presents at every opportunity, bearing the cross among us."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 9.1
Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Help us believe it is a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to life that, as You have promised, Your Word may accomplish Your purpose, and succeed in the thing for which You sent it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For Walter Friend, who will be undergoing surgery, that the Lord would grant Him health and healing
For Carol Feuerhahn and all who mourn the passing of Ronald Feuerhahn, that they might be comforted by the promises of the good Shepherd, who tends his sheep with tender care
For all who are suffering from an auto-immune disease, that the Lord's care would be lavished upon them
For the pleasant spring weather, that we would be grateful to God for the gifts of His seasons
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015