Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Prayer TIME

"One day Peter & John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon..."
(Acts 3:1)

Aiea UMC has Sunday worship at 8am and 9:30am.  Other congregations worship a bit later in the morning.  Some even worship on Friday nights, Saturday nights, Sunday nights & Wednesday nights.  There's no uniform worship/prayer time in Christendom (unlike our Muslim brothers & sisters).

So it has always intrigued me whenever I read Acts 3, as Peter & John head to the temple "at the hour of prayer, at 3 o'clock."  Was that just the time of services that day or every day?

My Oxford Study Bible notes two scripture passages: Exodus 29:39 and Leviticus 6:20... saying it was the time of day sacrifices were offered with prayer (it also lists Jewish historian, Josephus, as confirming this practice).  I look up the passages and they both talk about 2 times of sacrifice each day: once in the morning & once in the evening.  So 3pm must have been the "evening" service.

But then I was drawn to another passage... Matthew 27:46 - "And about 3 o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?'"  That quote of Psalm 22 was uttered by Jesus while on the cross... just moments before he died.  Is it a coincidence that the "Lamb of God" gave up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity precisely during the afternoon "hour of prayer/sacrifice" in the Jewish community?  I don't think so.

Did this become a "teaching point" for the early church?  I'm not sure  But it's another reminder to me of God's completeness.  God used the Jewish worship service time table to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Jesus' words, " didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it" gain even greater meaning.


(Guess what I'll be doing at 3pm today?  Offering up a prayer of Thanksgiving.  It is the hour of prayer, you know!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Influencing the Present...

"Joseph said to his father, 'No so, my Father! Since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.'  But (Jacob) refused, and said, 'I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great.  Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.'"
(Genesis 48:18-19)

Jacob (the Trickster) is nearing the end of his life.  He and his 11 sons have been reunited with Joseph - the son who'd he assumed was dead (but was actually sold off into slavery by his other brothers).  Joseph had, by the grace of God, become a very powerful man in Egypt, and was able to provide for his entire family during a severe drought.  Now he brings his two sons to Jacob for a blessing.

Jacob, of course, is the subject of the other "memorable" blessing story in Genesis - for he is the one who tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was supposed to be for his older brother, Esau.  Now with his grandsons before him, Jacob does the very same thing - gives a greater blessing to the younger!  When Joseph protests, Jacob tells him that he knows what he's doing.

Does Jacob see something in his grandson, Ephraim (the younger) that he doesn't see in Manasseh (the older), which will lead to greatness?  Or is Jacob still a champion of "younger brothers," whomever they may be?  It's hard to say.  But it's clear that Jacob's past continues to influence his present.

What even from YOUR PAST (positive or negative) continues to influence your present?  Have you given it to God to become a blessing in your life & others' yet?  God can take anything you've gone through and use it for good... the question is, will we let Him?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Not so) choice pick!

"Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well-watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD... so Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward."
(Genesis 13:10-11)

God calls Abe at the ripe young age of 75.  "Go to the land that I will show you," God says.  So Abe goes.  He takes his beloved bride, Sarai (age 60), and his nephew, Lot.  Both men had more than their share of livestock and workers.  Too much, actually, to get along together.  So Abe gives his nephew first pick of the new land.  "Chose one side and I'll take the other.  No questions asked."

Lot, probably in his mid-40's to early-50's, was no dummy.  He quickly assessed the situation, saw the fertile plains to the east, and made his decision.  Real estate investors would have applauded his choice ("It's all about location, location, location!").  Lot took the "better land."  Or so it seemed.

There was one problem, however... the better land housed some very "unsavory" characters.  You see, the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah were in the east.  Although Lot didn't know it at the time, his entire life would be devastated by his "choice pick."  The Bible tells us that God would eventually destroy those two cities because of their rampant, vile, & incessant sin.

So what's the "moral" of the story today?  Choose wisely?  Maybe.  Don't pick "Sin City"?  Possibly.  But it could be even simpler than that.  Looks can be deceiving.  What appears at first to be "a sure thing" may actually have deeper issues at work.  Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to choose what WE THINK will be the best for us... and instead, seek God's direction & guidance in our lives.  God may know (quite a bit) more than we.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bum Rap

"At the end of 40 days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made & sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth."
(Genesis 8:6-7)

Perception is often reality.  Consider the raven in the story of Noah's Ark.  Anyone with a cursory familiarity of the story remembers two birds: the raven & the dove.  One bird has come be to known as a hero, the other a goat (figuratively speaking, of course).  One became a symbol of purity & peace, the other a pest.  One returned to Noah, one didn't.  One brought back reconnaissance intel, the other was selfish.  At least... that's the perception, isn't it?

But is the raven getting a fair shake in this story (or our understanding of it)?  It was, indeed, the first bird released by Noah after the flood.  It flew & flew & flew... until it eventually found a place to land.  That's all we know about it.

The dove, on the other hand, gets much more press.  It is sent out (some non-descript time after the raven)... cannot find a place to land... and subsequently returns to the ark.  I sit really more loyal to Noah than the raven?  Or just not as physically fit?  Maybe doves aren't strong endurance fliers?  Well, a week later it gets sent back out... and this time returns with an olive branch (oops, no, it's a LEAF!).  A week later, Expedition III is launched... and this time the dove NEVER returns.

Now maybe Noah briefed the dove prior to each expedition, explaining in "dove-talk" what was expected (bring me a branch/leaf, scout us out a new home, go on your merry way, etc.).  But I doubt it (Dr. Doolittle is not a biblical story).  More likely, the dove was just acting like any other bird.  Just like the raven, the dove eventually flew away when it had the chance.  Because that's what birds do.

Why blog about this?  (Good question)  I think I was reminded this morning that there are always 2 sides to every story (or reputation!).  And a person's (or creature's) rep may or may not be reality.  I should take the time to get to know for myself... then form an opinion.

(And how about a shoutout to all those misunderstood ravens out there today!?!?)