Aloha Friday Message – June 26, 2015 – The Power of Life and Death

1526AFC062615 – Power of Life and Death

Read it online here, please.

Wisdom 1:12-15, 2:23-24

12 Do not invite death by the error of your life, or bring on destruction by the works of your hands; 13 because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. 14 For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. 15 For righteousness is immortal.

23 […] God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, f24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

NB: The links I provide in the Aloha Friday Message are included so that you can see the scripture I reference in context. The whole point of these essays is to open the Scriptures so that more people feed on the Word. The link above will take you to a full presentation of the first and second chapters of the Book of Wisdom so that you can see these selected verses in context. I sincerely hope that in this essay and in all the Aloha Friday Messages you will take advantage of these links to become further acquainted with Holy Scripture.

Aloha pumehana ʻŌmea! Aloha ʽoe! Today marks a bit of a departure from my usual choices for scripture. Today’s passage is from the Book of Wisdom. You won’t find it in your Bible if you use anything based on the Authorized King James Version. It is part of what some Christians call “The Apocrypha.” They do not believe the Book of Wisdom, and six other books, meet the “canonical standard” as being the inspired Word of God. The Catholic Church accepts the books a canonical. They are included in the Catholic Bible: 1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon), Baruch, Tobit, Judith, and additions to Daniel and Esther. We won’t get into the apologetics of that today, but I will take just a moment and explain that term: Apologetics.

It comes from the Greek root word ἀπολογία (appologia) {ap-o-LOH-gia} which means “to present a verbal defense.” It is – was – actually a legal term in Grecian courts. The prosecutor presented the list of charges called the κατηγορία (katagoria) {kat-e-GOR-ia} and the defense presented the ἀπολογία. There are some instances in the New Testament where this concept is expressed. For example in 1 Peter 3:14-15 we read – 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. The Apostle Paul uses this legal term at least a couple of times in the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.”

Acts 26:2 I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews

And again in Philippians 1:7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

Apologetics deals with defending something in which one believes and the defense is based on the premise that the belief held is worthy of trust, rational, not against human wisdom, and is in no way harmful spiritually or socially. This can be a little confusing to English-speaking persons because our word “apology” comes from the same Greek word but has a nearly opposite meaning. An apology is based on an admission of guilt and the intent to reform is implicit in that admission. It is not a defense of right but an admission of wrong. Today we will use the correct understanding of apologetics as we look at this set of verses from the Book of Wisdom.

The passage starts with a wise warning to all earthlings: Don’t be stupid. It could kill you. We know this well enough; it’s what are parents told us over and over while we were growing up – and then we preached the same thing to our kids. “Use your head. Think it over. Don’t do something that you know can hurt you or others. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP!” This certainly is wisdom, and common wisdom at that; in fact, it falls into the category of what we usually call “common sense.” What comes next, though, is a little surprising.

The passage goes on to say, “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living.” This seems a little counterintuitive. Death is such an integral part of our “world-view” that we seem sometimes to worship Death. We have been reminded in the past couple of decades that we live in a Culture of Death. Our movie heroes tell us it’s just part of the journey, a way of living in a different set of circumstances. We are often reminded not to fear death, and yet we seem never to take that advice and instead worry about dying. Death is the ultimate chaos, the dissolution of everything we gain through living to the fullest. We fear it so much that we say “Rest in Peace,” and “s/he’s in a better place now.” We are afraid of death, but somehow hold the irrational belief that it is better than being alive. That is where the apologetics come in.

Christians believe there is life – LIFE – after death. Our spirit or soul lives on and will eventually (or in some cases immediately) be reunited with God and then – later according to God’s Will – we will be given a resurrected, glorified body, too. We believe this principally because God told us so – over and over and over. In fact, in our passage for today, the writer goes on to explain why death came to be and what God did about it: 14 For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. 15 For righteousness is immortal. God did not make things and people for the purpose of death corruption. God did not make junk. God gave earthlings a perfect world with perfect Peace and then let them choose to accept or decline that gift. Part of the Gift of Life was the Paradise in which grew the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The fruit of that second tree is what changed Paradise. The fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (or the Tree of All Knowledge) made them aware of a “dualism.” There is good and there is evil; once they realized there was a difference, they had to make another – a second – choice. Their first choice was to disobey. Their second choice was deciding what to do about their first choice. You know the rest of the story; they hid, they tried to blame each other, and then they blamed the serpent. Adam, Eve, and the serpent each received a curse for the choices they made, but only Adam and Eve also received a covenant blessing. An apologist would point to that blessing as a defense of God’s Omnibenevolence, Omnipotence, and Omniscience.

So how did Death get into the world and why is it such a frightening thing? The writer of Wisdom continues: God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, f24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

God started Creation with the intent of sharing eternal unity with everything he created; nonetheless, he did not impose that intent on humankind. He gave us a choice – Free Will is what we call it. From God’s point of view it’s more like Common Sense; pretty basic stuff really – you can have paradise forever with me or opt out at any time and lose it all. Who wouldn’t chose “paradise forever?” Well, Adam and Eve, for starters, and all of us traipse right along in their footsteps every time we make the selfish decision to be our own god. But why is it through the devil’s envy? HE – Satan – wanted to be God and learned it was impossible, so – out of envy and spite – he did (and continues to do) everything he can to spoil God’s handiwork. Part of the dualistic reality that came with Free Will was the end of eternal life with God – death. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

There certainly are days when it seems that life is nothing but dust. The dust – death – we experience flits into every nook and cranny, every passing second, and every waking thought of our day-to-day lives. In this passage, death is the word Θάνατον (than’-a-ton) from Θάνατος (thanatos) {than’-at-os} in the Septuagint. Death is the wage we earn by sinning. We are eternally invited to accept the freely given Gift of Eternal Life. In this Book of Wisdom, God tells us not to seek death by the error of your life, or bring on destruction by the works of your hands because he does not delight in the death of the living. 14 For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. 15 For righteousness is immortal. We are immortal when we are righteous.

Power_of_God.smrThe fear of death we have is the antithesis of the Peace we desire. Perhaps it is not the physical cessation of life that is the object of this passage, but rather the fear and sorrow we associate with losing our earthly existence. Dying in fear is a horrible way to go. Dying in Peace is like only sleeping. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we listen to the account of the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter. When Jesus gets to Jairus’ house, the crowd is carrying on hysterically because the child has died. Jesus knows she is at Peace and says, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” (see Mark 5:21-43) Death is, of course, inevitable for all earthlings – even Jesus; but we were made for better things, and it is for those things that we should live and hope in all the days of our earthly lives. God wants us to live – forever – in and with HIM. What’s stopping us? When you find out, do not fear it or invite it to take over your eternity! What   gives us the power over life and death is the Salvation of our God in Christ Jesus. We have nothing to fear. Death has its power, but LIFE is an even greater Power, the Power of God!

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

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) http://biblehub.com

 

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About Chick Todd

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

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