Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

James 2:8

"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well."

The first statement of this Royal Law happens in Leviticus 19:17-18
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."

This is going to become an important parallel passage as we work through the next several verses. And isn't it interesting that it appears no where else in the Old Testament? I think we also need to look briefly at Jesus' own take on this Royal Law. He brings it up specifically 3 times:

In Matthew 19:17-19: "And he said to him, Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments. He said to him, Which ones? And Jesus said, You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Matthew 22:35-40: "And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?
And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

And Mark 12:28-31: "And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, Which commandment is the most important of all? Jesus answered, The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these."

So there is a clear appeal to what is called the Shema Israel (literally, "HEAR, Israel").   As John says in his first letter, "No one who hates his brother whom he HAS seen can love God whom he has NOT seen."   

We live in a country of laws.  How strange that the civilization that holds up the idea of personal freedom the highest should end its days as the country with the largest number of laws on the books.  Imagine what would happen if the country's entire legal code were reduced to ONE law: "love your neighbor as yourself."  What would my life entail?  On the highway I'd be more concerned about making room for my neighbor in the next car than about getting where I wanted to go.  In a job interview I'd be more concerned about what was BEST for the company rather than about whether I got the job.   In marriage I'd be more concerned about my spouse and children than about whether I get my needs met.  REAL freedom IS real commitment to my neighbor's greatest good.  Oh, I know this only happens fully in the Kingdom after time itself has ceased, but think about how freeing this principle really is.  All that emotional 'baggage' you are carrying because your father doesn't love you the way you want to be loved?  It would all go away if you could just say, "What does my father need?"  Sure this is idealistic.  But wouldn't it be an awesome exercise?

Jon

Monday, April 7, 2008

A lesson in mid-flight

This weekend I was on a flight from Detroit to Denver on my way to an International Mentoring Conference at Denver Seminary.   It was near the end of the flight and the turbulence coming into Denver was a bit unnerving.  I had been finishing up watching a movie on my laptop and was just putting my self-centered upper-income technology away when I glanced up to see one of the stewardesses walking down the aisle carrying a huge bag of garbage from all the other affluent travelers and with several discarded newspapers under her arm.

At this juncture I should mention that, for me, air travel is always like being put on a conveyer belt on an assembly line.  You get "worked on" and "assembled" by a great many "machines".  None of these machines has a name.  None of these machines goes home at night or even has a home or a family to consider.  I know this because no matter what time of the day or night I happen to fly the machines and the assembly line are still in operation.  So these machines are of little concern to me.  They are there for one purpose: to get me to the end of the assembly line and cause as little discomfort to my affluence as possible.  At the end of my trip down the assembly line there will be a nice warm bed and wide-screen TV in the hotel which itself is populated by so many more of these convenience makers who also exist merely for the whim of my pleasure.

Anyway, I glanced up to see this particular machine walking down the aisle.  She was struggling to stay upright in the turbulence of our decent into Denver and yet I noticed she had a smile on her face and was saying "thank you" to every affluent American that unthinkingly handed her their garbage.   I'm sure none of them thanked her.   As I handed her my own stash of stuff I happened to notice her name badge:  "A. Person".  No joke.  "A. Person" is what it said.  

I will never view the travel experience the same way again.  Thank you, Lord, for your gentle rebuke.