When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi that he felt he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses. The poor man began to cry admitting that he feared God’s judgment. At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently, “God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses. God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba”. _ From the Talmud.
This is a song that I heard again this past week and remembered how much I appreciated the lyrics. Listen to it (the lyrics are below) and share with us what your favorite line is.
TAKE TO THE WORLD by Derek Webb
Go in peace to love and to serve
Let your ears ring long with what you’ve heard
And may the bread on your tongue
Leave a trail of crumbs
To lead the hungry back to the place that you are from
And take to the world this love, hope and faith
Take to the world this rare, relentless grace
And like the three in one
Know you must become what you want to save
‘cause that’s still the way
He takes to the world
Go, and go far
Take light deep in the dark
Believe what’s true
He uses all, even you
It is a word that is hard to grasp the depth of its meaning. Many would say shalom means peace and it does but it means so much more. Many would say shalom means freedom and it does but it means so much more. Many would say shalom means health and it does but it means so much more.
Shalom appears some two hundred and fifty times in the Hebrew Scriptures and encompasses the vision for living the kind of life God intends for his children to live. This one word incorporates gratification, justice, liberation, hope, freedom, peace, well-being and fulfillment.
Every life has some degree of suffering and sorrow. Shalom, is about endowing an individual to deal with those moments while at the same time relaxing in the beauty and joy of the Creator. With the help of modern-day preachers that teach health-and-wealth, for many shalom has been reduced to a self-centered, individualistic concept of life focused on “having” all that one desires.
In the time of Jesus, the world was drastically divided up between the “haves” and the “have nots” or the “ins” and the “outs.” To many of that day the surprise was that Jesus came proclaiming that “shalom” was available to all. This threatened many but gave hope to others.
The revolution of the Kingdom is not a bloody, political one but instead a quiet, social and spiritual one. As I recently read, the revolution of the Kingdom “is to be a place of flourishing for the oppressed and marginalized rather than the realm of continual self-interest for the already privileged…It was the ordinary citizens of Israel that Jesus took his message of the in-breaking Kingdom with its accompanying promise that the shalom of God would be theirs.”
It is yours as well. “Shalom.”
While the “hours of prayer” date back before Jesus time, the context in which Jesus found himself was one well accustomed to fixed “hours of prayer.” The Roman Empire was efficient and commerce depended in no small part upon the orderly and organized conduct of each business day. In the cities of the Empire, the forum bell rang the beginning of that day at six o’clock each morning (first hour); noted the day’s progress by striking again at nine o’clock (third hour); sounded the lunch break at noon (sixth hour); called citizens back to work by striking at three o’clock (ninth hour); and closed the day’s markets by sounding again at six o’clock in the afternoon (evening hour).
Every part of daily life within Roman culture eventually came, to some greater or lesser extent, to be ordered by the ringing of the forum bells, including Jewish prayer and, by natural extension, Christian prayer as well. The first detailed miracle of the apostolic Church, the healing of the lame man on the Temple steps by Peter and John (Acts 3 v.1), occurred when and where it did because two devout Jews (who did not yet know they were Christians as such) were on their way to ninth-hour (three o’clock) prayers. Not many years later, one of the great defining events of Christianity – Peter’s vision of the descending sheet filled with both clean and unclean animals – was to occur at noon on a rooftop because he had gone there to observe the sixth-hour prayers.
Since the time of the Apostles, the followers of Jesus have observed the “hours of prayer”. Though the specific number of prayers and the exact hours may have slightly changed over time, the discipline has been passed down from generation to generation.
Let’s join in this discipline by participating in the “hours of prayer” before we go to bed, when we wake up, and sometime between 12:00pm – 5:00 pm daily. What should be prayed? Here is a suggestion for you for each one of those times:
Night: The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11 v.1-4)
Morning: Psalm 23
Mid-Day: Psalm 117
Another option is to pray The Lord’s Prayer at all three times.
Feel free to post your experiences and any question you may have about the “hours of prayer.”
**Our community that gathers on a weekly basis will be taking a Sabbath this Sunday (May 29). Enjoy time with your family and/or friends and we will come back together the following week.
Rabbi Lawerence Kushner wrote a book called, “God was in this Place and I, I did not know.” The title is drawn from the story of Jacob found in Genesis 28. Jacob is running from his brother Esau after stealing the family birth rite from him and comes to a place to rest.
The Text says that Jacob came to a “certain place.” This was not a specially marked place or a place of special significance; it was just a place on Jacob’s journey. It was like just like all the other “places” Jacob past to get here and like all the other “places” Jacob would pass in the future.
It was at this place that Jacob woke up the reality that God was present in this very common place. The worldview at the time was the gods rested in temples, high mountains and altars. Through Jacob’s dream, he realized that his God was present in this “certain place.” He woke up the reality that if God was present in this place, perhaps God was also present in other places and he was just not aware of it.
In Exodus 3 we find the story of Moses encountering the burning bush as he shepherds his sheep. This story has often been presented as the miracle of the burning bush but the fact that a bush was burning was not what got Moses attention. Had he seen other burning bushes? Was a burning bush considered something common? What got Moses’ attention was the fact that the bush was not being consumed.
Could the burning bush experience have been a test for Moses? For wood to be consumed, even dry wood, it takes awhile. Moses would have had to stare at the bush for some time to realize it was not being consumed. Instead of being a miracle, perhaps God was testing Moses to see if he had the attention span to notice something special in the common.
Later on in the story of Moses, when we find him about to journey to the top of Mt. Sinai, we find an interesting verse that carries this same theme. In Exodus 24 we find God saying to Moses, “Come up to me into the mount, and be there” (v. 12, ASV). And be there? If Moses climbed the mountain to be with God, wouldn’t he be there? Many people exert a tremendous amount of energy to climb “mountains” but once on top they simply are not there. God was telling Moses to be wholly present.
Much of life is spent in what is considered “the common.” We take these moments for granted but the truth is the sacred is found in the common. God is at work in every moment, every relationship, every person, and every interaction (John 5 v.17). As we continue to live in this time of resurrection, we must live in such a way we are aware of God’s presence all around us and not take for granted the common. We must be concerned with how what we do affects God and how what God does affects us.”
Holy week, the final week of Lent, commemorates the events of Christ’s last week before his death. For many of Christ’s followers, it was a roller coaster ride, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his death on the cross.
On the Sunday before Passover (Palm Sunday), Jesus came out of the wilderness on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives (just as the prophecy said the Messiah would come).
People spread cloaks and branches on the road before him. Then the disciples began, joyfully, to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen? (Luke 19:37) The crowd began shouting, “Hosanna,” a slogan of the ultra-nationalistic Zealots, which meant, “Please save us! Give us freedom! We’re sick of these Romans!”
The people also waved palm branches, a symbol that had once been placed on Jewish coins when the Jewish nation was free. Thus the palm branches were not a symbol of peace and love, as Christians usually assume; they were a symbol of Jewish nationalism, an expression of the people’s desire for political freedom.
Yet Jesus came to the people as the Lamb of God. Jesus, the sinless Messiah who would die on humankind’s behalf, appeared on the very day that people chose their spotless Passover lambs!
It’s almost as if God said to the world, “Here’s my Lamb. Will you chose him?” But instead of turning to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the crowds misunderstood his proclamation that he was the Messiah. They wanted him to be their political-military deliverer.
In response, Jesus wept. The tears Jesus shed as the people cried out their political “Hosannas” were tears of grief for the hearts of his people.
Jesus foresaw the terrible devastation of Jerusalem that would result because the people did not recognize him as God’s Messiah. The people were looking for a messiah who offered political deliverance and a political kingdom. However they would have nothing to do with the Messiah who offered forgiveness and deliverance from sin. In his grief over their distorted beliefs, Jesus wept out loud.
This final week before Easter, will we chose the Lamb of God? Will we leave the things of this life that hold us in bondage and cause us to misunderstand who Jesus is, for the best kind of life that only comes in the life of Jesus?
“Americans by and large work together, shop together, and play together, but they do not worship together. If we are at our core spiritual, then the fact that we seem unable and unwilling to relate to one another elbow-to-elbow in the pews of the local congregation reveals how fragile the integrity of the church is.” – Jin Kim
It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in our Christian life. Race, age, economic class, denominational affiliation, and theological perspectives segregate us. We gravitate towards those who think and worship in the same way we do. Often, instead of living together in unity and love, we are separated by prejudice and intolerance. Yet the golden rule of Christianity, what James calls “the royal law,” (James 2:8) is “love your neighbor as you do yourself.”
At a recent conference, Pakistani theologian Charles Amjad Ali reminded us that we are all prejudiced. What changes in dialogue with others is the focus of our prejudice. He then challenged those in attendance to consider, “Can we be prejudiced towards justice, equality, and respect, or do we always live primarily with the prejudices of exclusion?”
God is much bigger than our culturally bound viewpoint. All people are created in God’s image and worthy of being treated with respect and understanding. We will not fully understand who God is or appreciate the incredible sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, until we learn to see these events through the eyes of others who come from very different viewpoints than our own.
“How good and how pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
– Plan to get together with someone in your community who has a different theological perspective than your own. Make this specifically a time to listen to their ideas and learn from their understanding of
– Stop by a local church of another denomination or ethnic background than you are use to and thank them for being in the community and for serving the people. Before leaving ask if you can offer a word of prayer for them.
– Visit the web and check out the theological discussions of indigenous peoples in other countries.