Aloha Friday Message – August 19, 2016 – Outta Line

1634AFC081916 – Outta Line

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Luke 13:30 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἰσὶν ἔσχατοι οἳ ἔσονται πρῶτοι, καὶ εἰσὶν πρῶτοι οἳ ἔσονται ἔσχατοι.
Kai  idou eisin eschatoi hoi esontai prōtoi,  kai eisin  prōtoi   hoi esontai eschatoi

E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika‘i ‘oe, ʻŌmea! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Beloved!) Don’t let that opening verse intimidate you. I want to show it to you that way so that you can see just how cleverly it is put together so that its meaning is more powerful. As written, ἔσχατοι (eschatoi) and πρῶτοι (prōtoi) are superlatives which mean the absolute first and absolute last.

If you look at the third line, which is called the transliteration, you can see the “English” version of the words – the Greek letters have been “exchanged” for the letters we use in our common alphabet. If you look for pairs of words before and after the middles of the sentences, you will see that the phrases last who will be first and first who will be last are like mirror images of each other – in Greek and English. This is a brilliant way of helping people remember your point. Let me give you some familiar examples of a literary device called antimetaboleAN-ti-mə-TAB-ə-lee

  • “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961.
  • “In America, you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia, Party always finds you!” – Yakov Smirnoff
  • “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
  • “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” — Carl Sagan
  • “We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — Benjamin Franklin
  • “Eat to live, not live to eat.”- Socrates

OK, you’re right, all of that is TMI – too much information and probably overly-technical. Nonetheless, it is important to understand this structure so that when we start analyzing “first” and “last,” the sense of what Jesus says will be clearer. Please take a moment to click on the link for this verse. If you do that, you will see four versions – four translations – of this remarkable teaching text. In the first three, first and last are translated in a way that conveys comparisons in chronological or numerical order. In the fourth version, the translation will convey comparisons in importance. These kinds of lessons in Jesus’ ministry are often accompanied by paradoxical illustrations. In this kind of statement, there are two statements which both sound true but generally can’t be true at the same time. “Give and it will be given to you.” “We are in the world but not of the world.” From the World’s view we are out of line when we line up with God.

We have some additional examples of this type of paradoxical contrast in Jesus’ teaching – the greatest of all is the servant of all, he who loses his life shall save it, the poorest are the richest. Jesus is always telling us that if it makes worldly sense, it is spiritually senseless. Worldly teaching says that we are to be the best, to be Number One. Currently much of The World is caught up in the idea of competition. We want to be the fastest, the strongest, the richest, the most beautiful, the most talented, the most important, and we also want to celebrate those things in others. We identify with our sports teams, our international athletes, or certain of our political leaders or religious leaders. We Americans seem to be by nature highly competitive with an aim to win; however, when our competition is tainted by personal or national greed, we lose big-time (consider what happened to Russian athletes). In fact, if we really think about it, anytime we try to elbow our way to the front, we get pushed to the back. Remember the lunch line at school? What happened if you tried to cut in front of someone? You got sent to the back of the line. What happens in heavy traffic when you see a sign that says LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT, and people in the right lane speed ahead so they and merge farther down the termination lane? People in the left lane often tighten up and block out the hasty driver who is “just trying to butt in line.” Trying to be first can sometimes backfire – especially if you make it clear to others that it’s all about you. That’s out of line.

The same often happens with the people who try to be more important than they actually are. If they flaunt their importance by putting others down, they eventually learn that they are despised by all but their brown-nosing, kowtowing flatterers – whose praise is as insincere as the braggart’s boasts of triumph. We all know people who will go to extraordinary lengths to be admired, and in the end, they end up shunned. We all know, or know of, people who seem to have reached the pinnacle of success – perhaps even several times – yet many people loathe them. So whether it is chronological or numerical order or whether it is order of importance, being first for the sake of being first makes one a loser. I think Jesus is telling us this is how it works in the Kingdom of God, too. Sometimes we come across memorable messages about that. Here is one I recall about lining up with God.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a radio program called Searchlight. It featured lessons from Pastor Jon Courson. In several of his lessons he used a little aphorism that went, “Do your best and commit the rest.” In one of his lessons, I remember he made that a three-part saying: “Be at rest. / Do your best. / Commit the rest.” Later I realized that second incidence of REST had a double meaning: REST as in whatever is lacking the Lord will provide, and REST as in give God your period of rest as a gift of faith his ability and willingness to provide for you. You don’t have to worry about resting before doing because God will use your rest to prepare you for the combination of your effort and his help. At that time, I was working a job where the general attitude was, “Do the best you can with what you have and bag the rest.” To “commit the rest” means to turn it over to God. In Proverbs 16:3, we are told Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Perhaps all of us can recall an experience in our lives where we failed to trust the Lord to do his will with, in, and for us. Those are the times we thought we could do it on our own, that we could be first without him, and that our To-Do List was more important than his will. In Luke 13:30, Jesus is telling us that his Father’s will is for us to be servants, not masters; to be weak and meek, not strong and stern; and to be humble, not haughty. When we get out of line with others, others get out of our line. When we get out of line with God, we are way out of line. God is always there, though, to keep us on that storied straight-and-narrow line. He wants us to know Peace, and he delivers it right to us. Remember what Jesus did? He loved us enough to give us his own Peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus tells us he is leaving us his own Peace. Here in today’s passage, John 15:11, Jesus is filling us with his own Joy, a Joy that far exceeds any sense exceptional fulfillment. This is a Joy that is more than exceptional; it is unsurpassable – endless, boundless, perpetual, infinite – it is Divine Joy because it is HIS Joy. He doesn’t just share it with you – he gives it to you! He wants you to carry that with you instead of your pride, your anger, your worries, and your self-importance. He wants you to carry him all the way down the line. What do you say to that?

Simply say “Yes” when God says to you, “Carry me.” It is not a question. It is not a command. It is sort of a request. Most of all, it is an instruction. It is simply, “carry me.” Everything else, anything else, is suddenly secondary. Will you take a moment now, please, and imagine the moment Mary looked out the window a Jesus rough-housing with Joseph. Mary calls out, “All right you ruffians! It’s time for dinner. Come in and wash up.” Joseph rises and takes Jesus by the hand and says, “Come on, Yeshu’a, it smells good in there. Let’s see what your mama’s gotten ready for us.” Jesus runs and skips over to Joseph and tackles him around the knees saying, “Aw, Abba, let’s wrestle one more time!” “No, son, we need to get inside. Come on. Let’s go.” “OK, Abba. Carry me?”

JosephBoyJesusAnd Mary smiles as she turns away from the window. She was the first one ever, in all Eternity, to be asked by God, “Carry me?” She helped carry him to Jerusalem those first six years. Although she did not yet know then, from age seven through age eleven, he would carry himself. At age twelve, he would turn back to the Temple as he began to understand more clearly, “I am here to carry God my Father into the presence of these my brethren.” A little tear touches the corner of Mary’s eye just as Joseph ducks through the low door with Jesus over his right shoulder – the same side upon which Jesus would later carry his cross. But today, for Mary and Joseph, carrying Jesus was just part of living, just part of loving him and loving each other. It is the line they toe daily.

There is nothing else to do. If you carry him, you will have room only for him, strength only for his instructions, love only in his Love. He will become in you The Word of God, and that will be Spirit and Life. It is the only best way to be the first one who is last because it becomes Eternal in God when the world comes to Judgment. With apologies to Mr. Thomas Stearns Elliot ~~

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a …
reward.

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

I can never hear this Bible passage without thinking of this song, (↔ Music Link) especially the last verse. I have been a big fan of Robert Allen Zimmerman for a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng time!

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.


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

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

 

 

 

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About Chick Todd

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

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