IMPOTUS and the 10 Commandments

He lies at least 23 times a day

ten commandments
From HERE 
It is an article of faith that no one knows what is truly in another person’s heart. Still, one can certainly infer certain things.

At a rally in Michigan in 2015, a Republican candidate for President “asked a crowd how many had read his own book The Art of the Deal. ‘It’s my second favorite book of all time,’ he said. ‘Do you know what my first is? The Bible!’ Nothing beats the Bible!”

“Not long after, the then-candidate was asked during an interview with Bloomberg to expound on one of his favorite chapters from his favorite book and he demurred. ‘I wouldn’t want to get into it. Because to me, that’s very personal,’ he said. “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.’

“Asked if he could at least choose between the New and Old Testaments, he again passed. ‘Probably equal. I think it’s just incredible.'”

So it is interesting that Robert Hendrickson, Rector, Saint Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, recently noted this. “This is an awful man, waving a book he hasn’t read, in front of a church he doesn’t attend, invoking laws he doesn’t understand, against fellow Americans he sees as enemies, wielding a military he dodged serving, to protect power he gained via accepting foreign interference, exploiting fear and anger he loves to stoke, after failing to address a pandemic he was warned about, and building it all on a bed of constant lies and childish insanity.”

“A book he hasn’t read”? As someone who has read the Bible regularly, including all the way through at least thrice, I do find it odd that there isn’t something that stands out for him. The stories, such as Joseph in Egypt, or Noah and the flood, or Danel in the lion’s den. Some Jesus story or maybe the Beatitudes. How about a Psalm or two?

A few of his favorite commandments?

Did he read it, but not understand? I’m thinking about for example the 10 Commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me.” What does that mean today? “An idol is anything or anyone other than God that we allow to drive our lives.” I nominate Twitter as his god.

“You shall not make for yourself a graven image.” He has always erecting altars to himself. “His name, emblazoned on every building he builds, reminds all who see it what Donald Trump thinks of himself.”

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” My wife’s favorite scripture is Micah 6:8. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” He does none of those things. And he’s a vulgarian to boot.

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” He demands houses of worship be opened, then goes golfing.

“Honor your father and your mother.” He reveres his father, but his mother, not so much. His “immigration ban and border security measures fly in the face of the freedom that his own mother celebrated by immigrating to the United States. He dishonors her memory when he attempts to shut down immigration, belittle and bully those who clean and cook for his hotels and withhold wages from those who perform vital work for his projects.”

And a few more…

“You shall not kill.” He famously said he could stand in the middle Of Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody, and not lose any voters. Moreover, his lawyer claimed he would not be prosecuted. Worse, though, has been his response to the environment, COVID-19, racism, plus his general corruption is killing people.

“You shall not commit adultery.” He seems pleased of his marital infidelity and blatantly sexist tendencies.

“You shall not steal.” From his phony charities to his violation of the emoluments clause, he’s always ripping off others. This goes back to when he would burn subcontractors on building contracts.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” He lies at least 23 times a day. And ” he seems impervious to the threat of detection or harsh public opinion.”

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, nor his wife, his man-servant, his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” He seems to crave the power that dictators have. But he also preoccupied with Barack Obama. He wants his inaugural crowd size, his popular vote victory, and so much more.

I recommend that he actual DO the reading he claims.

The theology of physical distancing

a false witness who pours out lies

physical distancingSomeone wondered what I thought of those churches that violate physical distancing by gathering. The folks tick me off. Not only do they put the congregants at risk, they put the greater community in peril as well.

The Pentecostal preacher in Louisiana, Tony Spell, said, “The Bible teaches us to be absent from our bodies as to be present with the Lord.” “Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.”

Conversely, the rejection of social distancing is far from mainstream among religious leaders. “‘That’s dumb, unbiblical and it doesn’t make sense,’ Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, said. Warren and his wife, Kay, started the Saddleback Church about 40 years ago, and it now has 30,000 Sunday congregants around the world. They have moved their ministry online.”

Yup, I’m agreeing with Rick Warren.

“‘God gave you a brain,’ Warren said. ‘And much of what God wants to do with your life, he’s not going to write in the sky. He gave you a brain, and he expects you to use the intelligence that you were given.” These other people obviously never heard the famous God Will Save Me story, which I’ve known for a half-century.

Quoting Scripture

The fine artist Mr. Brunelle cited Leviticus 14:43-45 Modern English Version (MEV) on his Facebook page:
If the disease comes again and breaks out in the house after he has taken away the stones and after he has scraped the house and after it is plastered, then the priest shall come and examine and see if the disease has spread in the house. If the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprosy in the house; it is unclean. He shall break down the house, the stones and the timber, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city into an unclean place.

I’m rather fond of Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV), directed not just for those addled pastors but for certain nimrods as well:
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

The Gospel lesson

When Jesus was in the wilderness, starving and parched, this from Matthew 4:5-7 (NIV)
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

It’s my opinion that Tony Spell and pastors of his ilk are trying to put God to the test. It is an arrogant thelogy that, as Rick Warren said, is unbiblical and makes no sense.

1 Corinthians in Handel’s Messiah

Behold, I tell you a mystery

1 Corinthians 15-55One of the few things I have added to my list of things to do is attending a weekly Bible study at my church. The group was in the midst of reading the Koran in the first part of the sessions; interesting stuff.

The second half was reading the Bible, specifically, when I started, 1 Corinthians. This is the book that contains that reading of Chapter 13 that is used so often at weddings, though the King James Version ends with “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” But the Revised Standard Version and most later translations conclude with “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Chapter 15 is quite familiar as well. “The center of Part III [of Handel’s Messiah] is a sequence of six movements based on a passage from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians on the resurrection of the dead, a passage that Brahms also chose for Ein deutsches Requiem.”

As I happen to be the reader in Bible study,

it was VERY difficult NOT to break into song!

46 Since by man came death (Chorus) 1 Corinthians 15:21–22
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

47 Behold, I tell you a mystery (Acc. B) 1 Corinthians 15:51–52 Resurrection of the dead
48 The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be rais’d (Air B) 15:52–53
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

49 Then shall be brought to pass (Rec. A) 1 Corinthians 15:54 Victory over death
50 O death, where is thy sting? (Duet A) 15:55–56
51 But thanks be to God (Chorus) 15:57
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s the entire Part III of Handel Messiah, including 45. I know that my Redeemer liveth (Air S) from Job 19:25–26; 52. If God be for us, who can be against us (Air S) from Romans 8:31,33–34; and 53. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain/Amen (Chorus) from Revelation 5:12–13.

LISTEN to:
Various artists
The Bach Choir & Orchestra of the Netherlands, Pieter Jan Leusink

Jesus Sought Me: Luke 19

Come down from that tree!

Zacchaeus tree.Palestine_Jericho
Zacchaeus tree in Jericho, Palestine
Now it’s the second day of Triennium, so it’s Tuesday. No, wait, it’s Wednesday. We left on Monday, got here on Tuesday. It WAS Wednesday.

The scripture of the day was Luke 19, specifically the first ten verses, and the theme of the day is Jesus Sought Me. After breakfast, there are discussions with our group of 18. We were joined by a couple of women from Connecticut, who were their entire delegation.

Jerry, the pastor, led the discussion about Zacchaeus, the tax collector. It was a despised profession because they only made a real profit when they overcharged those who owed money. And he was the chief tax collector in the area, so he was particularly loathed

Verse 3: He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. The first “he” was Zacchaeus. But Jerry opined that the second he was NOT Zaccheus but Jesus and that Jesus was short.

Ha! That dovetails with my working theory that Jesus was not only height-challenged but homely as well, which I shared with one of our visitors afterward.

The broader message was that Jesus picked that unlikely guy, deciding he needed to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that night. The crowd grumbled, “Why is Jesus hanging out with THAT dude?” Zacchaeus declared he’d give up half of his possessions to the poor, and if he cheated anybody, he’d pay them back four times the amount.

The message continued later that morning in the small group discussions. I was probably older than the instructor and there was only one other person over 40. The rest appeared to be older teens or in their early twenties. I enjoyed the intergenerational interaction.

I should explain the worship services. It’s in a hall that holds most of the 5000 people attending the conference.

The session started, always, with what they called “The Energizer”, doing various exercises to pop music from a variety of artists, including Taylor Swift and BTS, the latter which thrilled my daughter. I thought it was, in the words of Frank Zappa, “enforced recreation,” but I was clearly in the minority.

Our group showed up closer to the start time of the worship services, but the Energizers started slightly before the scheduled time. The kids in our group would try to get there early.

There was a band who sang and played a folk/gospel/rock amalgam. They were quite good. The lyrics to the songs, all but one of which were unfamiliar to me, were shown on a couple of screens. It’s usually not my cuppa, but most of the songs were pretty good.

The sermons during the week, from five diverse speakers, were good across the board. They spoke of an inclusive, rather than exclusionary God, a God that would welcome even a tax collector.

While no specific political statements were made, it was clear that the speakers were cognizant of a certain rhetorical disconnect out of the District of Columbia.

Go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized

FOCUS volunteers also sacrifice their time to do advocacy.

Hebrews 13.16I took on this assignment to write something for the FOCUS Churches of Albany’s Advent devotional. This was my submitted copy, which may or may not be what shows up.

Text: Hebrews 13:7-17. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As Christ was killed outside the city gate, let us also go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized and risk “the abuse he endured.”
In gratitude, “let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…”

Quite a few of my friends are apathetic or even antagonistic towards the church. I totally get that. I’d been there myself some years ago.

My friends often see some elements of the church favoring those who have, the insiders. “Send money” so the pastor can have a bigger house, a better plane. I actually heard one of these guys say that if Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century, rather than the first, he’d be riding around in the newest and fanciest airbus.

That’s not the Jesus I’m seeing in this passage. He is instead a sacrificial Lord. While He is learned enough to swap scripture with the scribes and elders, he’s spending most of His time tending to the marginalized.

I’ve been a member of a FOCUS church since 1984. What inspires me about service to others is that doesn’t end at the sanctuary door. It goes “outside the camp” (v. 13), meeting the needs of the broader community.

Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, and FOCUS does that with food pantries, a breakfast club, and other services. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others.” (v. 16)

But FOCUS volunteers also sacrifice their time to do advocacy, trying to address the root causes that require a food pantry that was designed as a temporary activity to be in place for nearly five decades.

Just as Jesus brought people together to express God’s will, occasionally turning over a table or two, FOCUS mobilizes “individuals and other community organizations to work for systemic and structural change to address issues including poverty, social and racial injustice.”

Prayer: When people come to Advent services, they see the lighted candles and hear the familiar hymns. May they also see the love in our hearts that comes from caring for others, even those ragged people outside the door, per the example of Jesus.
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Yes, There is a War on Christianity