Aloha Friday Message – June 29, 2018 – It’s not over yet.

1826AFC062918 – It’s not over yet.

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  Wisdom 1:12-16 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.

16 But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away
and made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his company.

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. These seven books 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. You can find out more about that here. I do not intend to debate that issue here as that is outside the purpose of this message.

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 our 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.

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.

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, 24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it. (See Wisdom 2:21-24)

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. Righteousness is a big part of being “created in the image and likeness of God.”

What, then, is righteousness?

In Proverbs 21:21 we read 21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. Pursuing righteousness, therefore, is not to pursue Death; it is to pursue life and honor. In this verse, another word for “kindness” is “mercy.” Righteousness is thought of virtue, unfailing love, blamelessness, morality, decency, honest, and – yes – justice. The Greek word in the Septuagint is δικαιοσύνης (dikaiosuné) {dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay}, a word which refers to fulfillment of the law, divine righteousness, or the business of a judge. In Hebrew, the word used here is צְדָקָה (tsedaqah) {tse-da-kaw}, and refers to justice and righteousness in government, in a case or cause, and of salvation (among others). Righteousness could be thought of as “always doing the right thing because it is the right thing.” God is always righteous (See Isaiah 54:10), and he provides endless ways for us to be like him in righteousness; yet, we utterly fail to use them.

In Romans 3:10 the Apostle Paul writes, 10 as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one. This is a reference to Psalm 14:1-3 – 1 The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They have corrupted themselves, and become abominable in their devices; there is none that does goodness, there is not even so much as one. 2 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there were any that understood, or sought after god. 3 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become good for nothing, there is none that does good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. The Psalmist and the Apostle both make a universal declaration that “there is not one that is righteous.” What, then, shall we do? Indeed, what can we do?

How can we possibly do what Jesus asks us to do in Matthew 5:48? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. The word used for “perfect” here is a word we’ve had some experience with before; it means to be complete, to be consistent, to be virtuous in all seasons for all persons on all occasions; in other words, be like God. This is the meaning in Matthew. Don’t just be pious by loving just your friends and neighbors, but live out your piety by loving your enemies; imitate God; let your piety be complete, in proportion, and uniform. Every Christian has the capacity to do this. How? We can do this in the Word and in the Spirit:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:30 30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Belovéd, it’s not over yet – For righteousness is immortal. Be complete, be consistent, be virtuous in all seasons for all persons on all occasions. Do it in the Word by Spirit and by Truth.

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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