Aloha Friday Message – August 31, 2018 – What’d ya get?

1835AFC083118 – What’d ya get?

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   Mark 7:18-23 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions* come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (See also Matthew 15:16-20)

*In the Old Testament, God often refers to these as imaginations, the wicked inclinations of our hearts, and the malevolent plots we make against each other – and HIM!

James 1:17-18 17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! In the readings for this weekend, we once again hear from the Apostle James. I think that epistle is one of my favorite Inspirations Stations. There are so many wonderful bits of advice. Nearly every sentence is worth a homily. The verses I chose from James today appear frequently in these lessons. When we talk about gifts, or stewardship, or God’s generosity, or God’s undeniable Power and Might, we are talking about how he gives us gifts. When we accept his gifts, open them, and use them, God is happy, and we are happier for having made use of his gifts – that is, if we use his gifts properly. There is one particular gift we manage to use improperly way too often: Imagination. Here’s an example:

Genesis 6:5 (Maftir) Adonai saw that the people on earth were very wicked, that all the imaginings of their hearts were always of evil only. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.

If you click on that link, you’ll also see this verse in the Authorized King James version. That’s the Bible I grew up with. I remember studying this verse – along with others where “imagin*” was used. Imagination, the gift of thought, is one of God’s greatest gifts. It must have been in us even before the Fall, because Eve and Adam were able to imagine what it would be like to be more like God. That was the first instance where earthlings misused the gift of thought and instead of thinking up something good, something evil entered the heart and mind of humanity. The Hebrew word root used here is יֵ֫צֶר (yetser) {yay’-tser} – thought, the forming of ideas in the mind, imagination, mind, frame / framework. It is also translated as inclination of the human heart; for example we have this from the ending of the Great Flood Story:

Genesis 8:20-22 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” We have a propensity – a natural tendency – to use our imagination for things that are contrary to God’s nature and will. When we do that, we contaminate our lives with “fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.” In the passage from Matthew (Matthew 15:16-20) the list goes For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. We are given the gift of thought – imagination – to help us appreciate God’s Grace and Generosity. We also have a gift that we can employ to make turning thought into actions that are holy: Free Will. This is another gift we frequently do not use well. What do you get when you use these gifts? As it does will all of God’s gifts, it depends on how you use them. How we use them depends on how we understand them. What is a gift?

A gift is something that is transferred from one person to another. It is “paid for” by the giver and not by the person who receives. Yet if the gift is given and received, the one who receives give honor to the giver by accepting the gift, and so we exchange gifts by giving and receiving. If a gift is given but not accepted, then the giver is demeaned. A gift cannot be a gift if it is not accepted freely without sense of obligation to return a gift or payment. Nor is a received gift meant to be horded. This especially applies to gifts from God. They’re not much use if you do something with them!

   All of God’s gifts come as a kit. The gift and everything you need to be able to use it effectively come together in one package. Not only that, but he also gave us an instruction manual. Remember “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”? Yep. The B-I-B-L-E. He also gives us living examples of how to share and appreciate his gifts – Tradition and the Lives of His Holy Ones. You don’t have to be canonized to be a Saint. You just have to accept and to use God’s gifts. You use them by giving them away. In the image shown, what part is the part that has been given? What is the part that has been lost? How much more is there to give? And does giving it away mean we get emptier or fuller? Think about these things as you enumerate the gifts that have been given to you: Have you accepted all of them? How do you know what they are? Are there some more out there or in there that you have not yet accepted? How much have you given? Is that enough? What about the gift of LOVE? You know you have it – how do you use it?

When we love another, we try to please that person. We find out what the other likes, what pleases them, and strive to provide whatever it is at whatever the cost. Such is love; the deeper the love, the deeper the cost. No one can outdo God’s generosity, and it is foolish to try, even foolish to believe we can somehow repay him. How then can we please him?

There’s the ultimate Bonus Question! “If I could answer that, I’d make millions!” Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know the answer isn’t that hard. Why? Because God seems to never tire of telling us what it takes to make him happy. Here’s what HE says:

  • Don’t make anyone or anything else more important to you than I AM.
  • Do what I tell you to do and do that all the time
  • Don’t be afraid of me; I love you and you are mine. (↔ Music Link)
  • Take care of yourself and your neighbors.
  • Be kind to widows, orphans, prisoners, and foreigners.
  • Don’t hurt anyone, but don’t be a wimp either. You can be humble and still be strong.
  • Honor me by accepting and using all the gifts I give you
  • Be like me. I AM Light. I AM Love. I AM justice tempered with mercy. I AM righteousness. I AM in integral part of you.
  • Wake up! Stop dying in the Darkness and start living in the Light!
  • All I need from you is a humble and contrite heart so there is plenty of room for me to fill up your life with countless blessings.

Little Children, my Belovéd, let us seek the Light and only the Light for that is what best pleases the Father of Lights. See James 1:17. If we use our imagination to spur us into the actions of Love, we will be helping one another love each other. Try this on for size: Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. When we use our gift of thought to guide and inform our gift of Love, we make Love grow. When we use our gift of thought to manipulate and re-form our gift of love, we make Love corrupt, toxic, and filled with fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. If we think we are “owed” love, we are thinking wrongly! Love and thought are gifts – gifts among thousands and thousands of blessings every single earthling receives throughout every single life.

They are gifts, not rewards. They are a matter of grace and not of merit. Such are all the favors which God bestows on sinners including forgiveness, peace, joy, holiness, and eternal life. It is an invitation (κλῆσις – klēsis in Greek), not a command; a beckoning rather than an imperative – and it is always with the intent of bestowing “grace beyond measure.” In this passage the gifts are things that make up the very core of all of us. They are gifts that allow us to more fully live our lives as he intended. They are not gifts that can be taken away. Are you in a ministry? That can be lost. We’ve certainly seen that before. Have you refused a calling to serve in the capacity for which you were created? You could miss out on a happy life because of it. No, these external gifts can be lost or refused, damaged or ignored. God’s deepest, oldest, and most wonderful gifts are part of us from the moment of creation and come to us by God’s perfect will for us. The Apostle Paul told us in Romans 11:29 29 … the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. And it is God’s will that we shall not be deprived of those gifts – no one can take them away from us; BUT we can use them wrongly, we can squander them on things that are ungodly, we can dishonor the Giver by dishonoring the Gift.

God gives us so many gifts! Life and health, faith and love and certainly hope, prosperity or poverty, shelter and peace, and all things of earthly life. All of these, if you think about it, can pass from our possession; but the calling to him and his righteousness, and the gifts of salvation are irrevocable. Everybody has them. Not all accept them. But let’s look at one man who did.

God has called you, and you will know constant joy and peace in your earthly life when you accept that call because that call guarantees you will receive all of his abundant love and grace here and in eternity with him. God has called you, and you will know unmanageable sorrow and conflict in your earthly life when you ignore that call because while that refusal guarantees you may perhaps receive some of the blessings give to all people of good will, you will not partake in all of the abundant love and grace – not because he withholds it, but only because you refuse it. Do you remember Diana Ross’ big hit, “I’m going to make you love me?” God would never sing that song! He will never force you to accept his love, his protection, his eternal life, or his forgiveness. He will, however, allow you to wallow in the discomforts caused by self-righteousness, obstinacy, and arrogant proclamations of self-sufficiency. To put it bluntly, you’ll be left twisting in the wind.

However, if you heard the call and accepted the gifts, you are happy with your life because “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (See Romans 8:28) And what is his purpose? Belovéd, it is simply to be able to spend all eternity with you – yes! YOU! – for you are one of his all-time favorite bits of creation, so that your Joy will be complete. (See John 15:11) You have the gift of thought; think about this: Try to list the very BEST gifts you’ve gotten. What’d ya get? God can give you what you can imagine; after all, he is God! Jeremiah 32:27 27 “Look, I am Adonai, the God of every living creature; is there anything too hard for me? Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. What do you imagine he’d like you to have and to use?

Make a list of all the things [1] you’re good at that [2] you really love to do and that [3] other people tell you they notice. Anything that makes all three of those criteria is a gift you are sharing. Then, continue the list with the things you’re good at and really love to do, but nobody ever notices you can do those things. Those are gifts you have been given but have not shared. Time to get busy heapin’ those gifts on everyone you can find! Then make a list of those things that you’re really good at, but don’t really enjoy all that much. Those are the gifts you stuck on the mantel or hid in the attic. It is time to open them up, take them out for a spin, and make better use of them.

One of the very-best gifts I got was that I was burned! Please follow that link for a look into the mind of an 11 year-old geek! Another of the very-best gifts I got is

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

Please pray with us here.

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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