March 25, 2019

Old Time Religion

My devotions this morning were on Psalm 15. My meditation led me to an interesting place, so I thought I'd cross post this here from over on Psalm Today...
O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15 

Where is God's holy hill? At the time this was written, it was Mount Zion in Jerusalem. For that was where God's dwelling on earth was. In the Christian era, Zion refers not to a place, but to a people. For all the elect are collectively the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is the temple—God's earthly dwelling place.

So just who may dwell in Zion? which is quite the same as asking in whom God may find a welcome (since Zion is now a people). The standards mentioned are no less important today than they were then. First and last, walking blamelessly (or its parallel, doing what is right)—which, lets admit it, is a pretty tall order. What follows are not additions to the list, but the way the psalmist defines what it means to walk blamelessly/do what is right:
  • Tell the truth, not just outwardly but within—in other words don't just act right for appearances' sake, but have integrity.
  • Don't gossip.
  • Don't do hurtful things to friends or neighbors.
  • Despise the doings of wicked people.
  • Honor those who love God.
  • Keep one's word, no matter the cost.
  • Don't take advantage of the poor.
  • Don't pervert justice.
Sticking to these standards is like a rock to cling to in turbulent times. 

What's interesting here is that the standards set by so many Christians today don't include any of the things on this list. They're all about marriage and homosexuality and abortion and birth control and transgender persons and gun rights. One can stick to the current standards of "evangelical" Christianity and literally do none of the things listed in Psalm 15. So sometimes the old time religion is best, and those who claim to have a monopoly on it couldn't be further from it.

Help me to have high standards, O God, and thank you for showing me what those might look like. Thus may your word be my guide, and not the shouts of those around me. The shouts may be wrong; your word will not. I pray in the Name of him who taught me to pray: Our Father...

March 24, 2019

Psalm Today

In order to turn Opossum Screed into more of a personal blog, I'm going to be posting daily devotions based on the psalter on a different site: Psalm Today. The URL is <psalm.today> and it will be exclusively devoted to meditations on the psalms. See you there!

Walking in the Truth

SCRIPTURE READING
The shortest book in the Bible is 2 John, but it does have one thing going for it, and that’s that it comes before 3 John. And it’s 3 John that I’m going to read from this morning.

This little book isn’t divided into chapters, because it’s only got 15 verses in all (two more than 2 John). And it’s really just a personal letter from John to a guy named Gaius. John is thought to be the same John who wrote not only the other two letters of John, but also the Gospel According to John. And that’s why we call him John the Evangelist.

One of the main points of the letter that we know as 3 John is to warn Gaius

A Pastoral Prayer

As we bow before you this morning, O Holy One, we do so in thanksgiving for the week that is past, and imploring you to be with us in the week that is just beginning. Help us to face the tasks and challenges of the days ahead. And give us the blessed assurance that we shall never be called upon to face them alone or in our own strength, but shall at all times be accompanied by your presence and fortified by your grace. Remind us, too, that we are but members of a much larger body, which we think of as the body of Christ Jesus, your Son. Thank you that through all our life together and our lives apart there run the footprints of Christ, who for our sakes was made flesh, and tasted all the changes and temptations common to humanity. We thank you for the spiritual

March 17, 2019

Prayer for Christchurch

The following prayer comes from the statement of the United Church of Christ's national setting condemning the white nationalist terrorist attack on Muslims worshiping in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which at least 50 people were murdered in their place of worship.

Holy One, called by many names,
our hearts are once again touched and broken
by events in our communities.
You created us from love and call us to love you
and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Once again we find ourselves facing the reality