Aloha Friday Message – March 2, 2018 – Wise Choice

1809AFC030218 – Wise Choice

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1 Corinthians 1:25 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

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!) For the next three weeks I will be using passages from Cycle B in the Lectionary. Our RCIA/C students will be studying Cycle A’s readings, because this is the period of The Scrutinies in their training for the Sacraments of Initiation. In the Cycle B readings, the passage from the Old Testament is from Exodus 20 – the Ten Commandments. Here are links to all of the readings: Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19:8-11, 1 Corinthians 1:22-25, and John 2:13-25.

I wish to begin by showing you The Ten Commandments from a version of the Bible not often cited in these lessons, The New Jerusalem Bible. You’ll note that British spellings are used (neighbour for example). Verse 21 is somehow clearer to me in this version.

The 10 Commandments from the New Jerusalem Bible ~~ Exodus 20:1-17

NJB Deuteronomy 5:6 ‘ “I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the place of slave-labour. 7 ‘ “You will have no gods other than me. 8 ‘ “You must not make yourselves any image or any likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; 9 you must not bow down to these gods or serve them. For I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God and I punish the parents’ fault in the children, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, among those who hate me; 10 but I show faithful love to thousands, to those who love me and keep my commandments. 11 ‘ “You must not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who uses his name for what is false. 12 ‘ “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as Yahweh your God has commanded you. 13 Labour for six days, doing all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath for Yahweh your God. You must not do any work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servants — male or female — nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your animals, nor the foreigner who has made his home with you; 15 so that your servants, male and female, may rest, as you do. Remember that you were once a slave in Egypt, and that Yahweh your God brought you out of there with mighty hand and outstretched arm; this is why Yahweh your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. 16 ‘ “Honour your father and your mother, as Yahweh your God has commanded you, so that you may have long life and may prosper in the country which Yahweh your God is giving you. 17 ‘ “You must not kill. 18 ‘ “You must not commit adultery. 19 ‘ “You must not steal. 20 ‘ “You must not give false evidence against your fellow. 21 ‘ “You must not set your heart on your neighbour’s spouse, you must not set your heart on your neighbour’s house, or field, or servant-man or woman — or ox, or donkey or any of your neighbour’s possessions.”

Henry Wansbrough, ed., The New Jerusalem Bible. New York; London: Doubleday; Darton, Longman & Todd, 1985. ISBN: 0385142641

Also, before I continue, I will state clearly that what I write today is from my own heart and is not intended to be anything near being an exhaustive study of this passage. I’m not a Torah Scholar, trained theologian, or any other sort of expert. I just want to share with you what little I know and understand about the wisdom behind this excerpt from the Bible. At times you may think to yourself “Well, that’s obvious,” and so it may be. If you can tell it’s obvious, that means you can discern the difference between obscure and obvious. Here is an example:

A certain man was perplexed about his two horses. He just couldn’t tell them apart. He spoke to the local Pastor about this and the Pastor advised him to do several things to increase the differences between the two. As instructed, the man first trimmed two inches from one horse’s tail, but still they looked alike to him. The pastor said to try trimming the mane of the other horse instead. Of course, both tail and mane grew back, so he was still unable to tell the difference. The Pastor was frustrated with the man’s ineptness, so he scolded him and told him to just measure the height of the horse at the shoulder. The man returned jubilantly praising the Pastor’s wisdom. “Pastor, it was brilliant what you said! The black horse is exactly two-inches taller than the white one!”

Well, Belovéd, what can we learn from this story? I am reminded of something from Tom Peters and Bob Waterman’s book, In Search of Excellence: “Obviously the obvious isn’t so obvious anymore.” I mean, who can’t tell the difference between a black horse and a white horse? If the man was blind, we could understand that; but he is not. He knows one horse is white and one is black, and he could see the tape measure. What is his problem?!? If he can discern the colors and the size, can he not discern that they belong to separate horses?

Ah. Discernment. The ability to distinguish one thing from another. A white horse from a black horse, a red shirt from a green shirt, a good choice from a bad choice – all of these could be called mirrored dichotomies – paired-opposites that are obviously dissimilar. Well, except for maybe the part about good and bad choices. We seem to have a difficult time with discernment there. Sometimes it may seem that the difference between a good choice and a bad choice is hard to discern. I mean, what is the basis for discernment? And why do some people seem to have that process mastered and some people haven’t a clue? How does one choose between good and bad? Do we have the power to choose for ourselves which is which?

You bet we do! All of us have the power of discernment. It is part of our genetic and spiritual heritage as humans. Recall the incident in Eden. Eve and then Adam consumed “The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” What is that fruit? Not an apple, that’s pretty certain. The fruit from that root – the knowledge of good and evil – is the ability to tell good from evil. The sin that separated Adam and Eve from the presence of God was graced by the gift of free will, the ability to choose between good and evil. Some fruit! Sin brings evil into the world – and vice versa – and right along with evil comes the ability to tell the difference between good and evil, black and white, and light and darkness. With that ability, the ability of discernment, also comes the responsibility to make a choice, to resolve a dichotomy, to make a choice between two mutually-exclusive things. In everything in our lives we face the same kind of dichotomy – the conflict between good and evil, between carnal and spiritual, between conscience and consciousness of the effect of our choices. How do we choose?

Hopefully we choose wisely. To choose, one must have at least some basic knowledge of the nature of things such as which plants are good for food and which are poisonous. We need to know a least a little about music or art or any and all other phenomena in our lives to be able to tell one from the other. We received from God the gift of intelligence, and despite some recent and very observable incidents of failure to use intelligence, we use that gift to accrue knowledge. This little logo is something I’d like to see on the rear windows and bumpers of cars. It comes from Proverbs 9:10 10 The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight [understanding]. Jehovah wants us to know him so that we can show The World what a good God he is.

Just how can we know him? Look at Deuteronomy 10:12-14, Deuteronomy 30:19-20, and (my favorite) Micah 6:8 and you will see God wants us to know him, to honor him, to love him, and obey him. And to trust him, to serve him, to worship him, and to seek him, we need to know, honor, love, and obey him. But how do we know God? He’s … well, AWESOME! AND HE IS GREAT, BREATHTAKING, WONDERFUL, OVERWHELMING, TREMENDOUS, STUPENDOUS, MAGNIFICENT, MAJESTIC, OMNIPOTENT, OMNIPRESENT, OMNISCIENT, SUPERLATIVE, ETERNAL, FEARSOME, AND KIND, LOVING, FORGIVING, GENTLE, SAVING, A PROTECTOR, A LEADER, A REFUGE, AND ABSOLUTELY DIVINE BECAUSE HE IS LORD-ALMIGHTY-GOD! And he is Spirit and Truth and for most of us that means he is invisible. That is a stumbling block for many. If they do not see God, they cannot be sure he is real. Paul addressed that issue when writing to the Romans. In Romans 1:20 he says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

He does amazing things so that we will remember that the Lord is kind and merciful.

In my little world, certainly one of the most amazing things God does is to love me. Sinful as I am, he still leads me, speaks to me, hears me, and never abandons me. By Worldly standards, that would be foolish. I am grateful God is not bound by Worldly standards; nor should we be. Here in Hawaiʻi, we are shuddering over the possibility of yet another attempt at a Death With Dignity Bill. It just might pass this time! It is another attempt to legislate immorality. Exodus 20:13 says “You shall not kill.” The Hebrew word here is תִּֿרְצָֽ֖ח׃ (trə-ṣāh) from the verb רָצַח (ratsach){ raw-tsakh’} meaning to slay, to murder, “manslayer.” I can discern that murder is wrong, no matter what the circumstance, without knowing The Ten Commandments. I can discern this because I can see quite clearly that life is better than death, even a life of suffering. Others see it differently, and claim that they should not – indeed cannot – be forced to see Life as an eternal gift from God (YOLO-F). This is the “wisdom” of humankind based on the understanding that we have the Gift of Free Will, a result of gaining knowledge of the difference between Good and Evil. Their argument is fallacious. And by breaking one Commandment, they break the whole law. They are not the 10 Suggestions, or the 10 Options; they are The One Law with ten requirements. They are The Universal Law upon which everything in human life is founded.

It is truly true that there is no foolishness or weakness in God. The message of the Cross, the story of Salvation, the knowledge of the Law, the Goodness of God – all of these are confounding to The World because all of these are things that are spiritually discerend. If one begins by rejecting the very concept of the Spirit of God moving over the waters (Genesis 1:1-2), if one’s gathering of knowledge relies only on what is visible and “provable,” then that one’s knowledge is incomplete and will not – again indeed cannot – progress to understanding or wisdom. If one neglects or rejects the Divine, that one has only half a life or less. There is but one fundamentally wise choice. Chose that one. It comes to this:

Some have problems for God and some have problems with God.

Those who have problems for God need to work with God.

Those who have problems with God need to work for God.

Chose wisely Belovéd. Begin by revering the LORD.

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

  • Pray for our leaders – all leaders everywhere – to lead with morality, compassion, integrity, wisdom, and justice so we can all live together in Peace.
  • Pray for loved-ones everywhere with chronic illness.
  • Pray for victims of violence everywhere – at home, at war, at work or school, and in the hearts of perpetrators.

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.

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

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About Chick Todd

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

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