Aloha Friday Message – March 25, 2011 – Third Friday in Lent

1112AFC032511 Third Friday of Lent

A blessed Aloha Friday to everyone. Before anything else, please stop for a moment right now and ask God – again – for compassion, wisdom, courage, and strength for the People of Japan as they continue to confront the aftermath of their horrendous tragedy. {{pause}} AMEN.

Today we continue with the traditional readings for the Lenten Season. Here are excerpts from the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 27, 2011

Ex 17:7 – The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Psalm 95:8 – If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Romans 5:8 – But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

John 5:23 – But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

In the first reading from Exodus, the Israelites are having a tough time. They are tired of being in the desert. They are tired of Moses’ leadership. They have been “on the road” for six whole weeks. Rations are running short, the heat is oppressive, and they seem to be getting nowhere fast. The jubilation over their freedom from Pharaoh is wearing thin. Water is one of the main issues. Moses is exasperated and asks God, “What am I supposed to do with this People? They are going to stone me if they don’t get some relief soon.” God has just given them the doves and manna, but they want more; they want water in abundance. God has Moses strike a rock and water gushes forth. “Water from The Rock” is a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Christ is The Rock, and the water is of course the endless flow of grace and mercy, which comes to us through Jesus by the ministry of the Spirit of God.

David refers to this incident in Sunday’s Psalm. Meribah means quarreling, contention, or conflict and Massah means testing as in tempting, or perhaps more like trying God’s patience. Moses names the place Massah where this event occurred to remind God’s people that they stepped out of line here. Nearly forty years later, this is the place where Moses and Aaron get into trouble by making themselves look like the causative agents in restoring the water here which for some reason had stopped flowing. God did not withhold the water from his people, but he did exact a severe punishment on Moses and Aaron for failing to give God full credit for the miracle of water and for failing to follow exactly God’s instructions. (See Numbers 20:1-13) Here, God seems to be testing Israel, the reverse of the previous situation.

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” God was speaking to his people through Aaron and Moses, but even more so by his actions. Out of love, he provided everything they needed, and they not only rejected his gifts, but also his love. The rejection was in the form of disobedience. They had seen what God had done for them and rejected it. It wasn’t good enough for them. It was inconvenient to do things God’s way. No matter how many times he showed them the benefits of listening to him and the joys of accepting his love by being a community of love, they rejected him and rejected his love as well. He let a whole generation perish in the desert before he led the remnant into the Promised Land. So many people today can see the beauty of God’s work, the certainty of his love, but they reject it because it is inconvenient. They cannot replace their love of self with a true love of God. How sad! They make their hearts hard, they quarrel with God, and they test his patience. Their hearts are like the stony desert at Massah and Meribah.

Our hearts are often like that, hearts of contention and strife. We have our own agendas to live by, and when others take away “our” time, “our” choices, “our” religion, “our” faith, “our livelihood” we are quick to rant against that faceless foe we call “THEM.” THEY did this to me. THEY are so wrong. THEY don’t care about me. THEY are causing me worry / concern / fear / anger / loss / grief / pain. Beloved, WE are doing those things! Like the famous line in the Walt Kelly (1971) comic strip POGO, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The sin isn’t outside the walls, outside our minds, or outside our hearts. It is in us. We test God’s patience by ignoring him, denying him, by putting him in our own little boxes, and by ignoring the zillions of ways he shows us his love. “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, …” And yet God is willing to open those hearts and minds and lives of ours to “Streams of Living Water that Come Not From the Well.”

It was at the Well of Jacob in Samaria that Jesus sat down and spoke with a Samaritan woman. In Jesus’ time, that was an unthinkable act. Today we confidently say, “I’d never feel like that!” We feel quite certain that we could overcome those deep-seated prejudices like the people held in his time. Oh, really? How many of us have sent or read “jokes” or denunciations about Muslims, or immigrants, or silently harbored hatred against people of another color, another ethnicity, or another sexual orientation? Those feelings are just as strong as the ones Jesus was confronting through his actions. He was showing the people in Sychar, Samaria just how far love could go. He even stayed there a couple of days ministering to the people his disciples considered heretics, fools, dogs, even enemies. Jesus talked to the woman at the well about the living water which would quench our thirst – for righteousness – forever. And that quenching would come through true worship, worship in Spirit and Truth because God is Spirit, God is Truth, God is Love.

In Galatians 5:22, Paul states “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” God’s unconditional love has always been on public display. How can we NOT see it? Have you ever known someone who is to filled with Christ that s/he radiates that agape love every moment of his/her life? That is visible to you because such a person sees you as Jesus would see you. Love is seen because love is an action, not a feeling. Love does, Love is, and Love is self-evident because Love changes everything and everyone it touches. Love is the Beauty of Jesus. Love is the refreshment of the soul, the water in the desert of our self-imposed solitude in the desert of tribulation. Love is the demolition of contention and strife.

Are we afraid to be a part of the way God shows his love for every living soul? Is it inconvenient to love him even a tiny fraction of the way he loves us? Are you offended by religious zealots who want to convince you that you are a terrible, worthless sinner but God loves you anyway? Well, I have to admit, God loves everyone, but probably prefers “fruits of the spirit” over “religious nuts.” However, God still wants your love, still wants your presence with him for eternity. More importantly, he wants you to recognize, accept, and rejoice in his love. Don’t pass up any chance whatsoever to put aside contention, strife, doubt, and desire. Find peace in God through Jesus, in the Living Water given to us through the Holy Spirit. Pray for a deluge of the Spirit as massive as The Great Flood – a deluge that will save the world and not destroy it. And remember: If you are going to pray for rain, bring an umbrella. If you are going pray for peace, bring your neighbor.

Today I ask you to dust off that Bible and find Psalm 106; or you can read the whole thing here.

Continue to pray for and offer gifts, tithes, and free-will offerings for the people in crisis (including Japan of course) – starting in your backyard and all around to globe from east to west and south to north – who are in such agony. If it breaks your heart to see such suffering, let it also break your wallet, the toes of your shoes and the knees of your jeans, and the hardness of your hearts. If today you hear God saying “Help,” harden not your heart.

Also, please, extra prayers for
MG – After a miraculous improvement, suddenly not feeling well and there are concerns about a relapse of cancer.

JE – also continuing health problems which complicate financial stability and employment

FO – starting to turn the corner in treatments, but weary of the battle at times

DH – feeling lost and alone after the death of spouse. Ask for renewed faith and a will to live.

DB – continued healing and strength for therapy after bilateral knee surgery

CI and TH – good jobs in God’s will that will reunite families

PAB and RT – victory over addictions and depression

CF – The family is distraught over the loss of their two Brittany Spaniels, Kembo and Prince. Please ask for a happy family reunion.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

You know what? I am being told you also need to read 1 John, chapter 3. The whole thing. It’s near the back of your Bible just a few pages before the book of Revelation. Just read it. The Spirit will bless you!

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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