The Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19
Psalm 46
Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-28, (29-31)
Matthew 7:21-29

Is your life any different because you have a “relationship” with God (define “relationship” as you need to)? If so, how?

How is your life different because you believe in Jesus Christ? How is your life different because the Spirit is present with you and for you?

We (Laura & Matt) are on a journey together, and our reflections are often our attempt to share a bit of that journey with you. You see, we seek to know God deeply because we believe, deep in our beings, that God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. That relationship, historically, is based upon a covenant – a promise God made long ago to be faithful to humans. In exchange, we as humans are expected to be faithful to God.

But – Wow – what does it mean to be faithful to God?

In knowing God deeply, we (Laura & Matt) believe that we (humans in relationship with God) are called to live life differently. Differently how? Well, boiling it down to the ancient teachings that shaped Jesus, we are called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and soul and mind and body. And we’re called to love our neighbor. The circles we (Laura & Matt) run in have a fairly generous definition of those two laws (commandments). Loving God is not a Sunday morning pursuit; it’s not a mission project pursuit; it’s not a small group pursuit--it is how we live in society, recognizing God first, and remaining in covenant relationship regardless of our time constraints, the economy, the latest fad, our base desires for the things we see around us. Loving our neighbors? We really are trying to be all-inclusive here. We believe that we are called to love humankind in total – without prejudice, without judgment.

Wow – this is hard stuff to do.

Keep in mind, that list above are the ways we Believe we (Laura & Matt and all humans in relationship with God) should live.

We struggle in conversations about how much a person can do. We struggle with prioritizing our resources of time, energy and money to build the Kingdom. And we struggle to be in relationship with one another and the world in a way that reflects God’s love for creation.

Striving toward something and achieving it are two very different things. They require constant reminders, constant nudges, constant thought. Oh, and let’s not forget Grace. It requires some Grace, too, because we are not perfect.

It can be a little exhausting. It is difficult to honor all of the commitments we choose to make while also living in a world of commitments we may not choose to make.

The season after Pentecost in the Christian Year is known as Ordinary Time. The Hebrew scripture readings during Ordinary Time this year are focused on the book of Genesis and the historical roots of the Tribes of Israel. There is so much material in this set of readings about the nature of God…and as followers of Jesus, it is tempting to read it seeking some support for the New Testament. We like to pay close attention to these readings. This is a good series of texts to read as foundations for faith.

This week, we read the story of Noah and the flood. It’s a story that Jews and Christians alike know from early childhood. But the story raises some deep questions about humankind in relationship with God, about God’s power, and about obedience. The passage this week opens with a grand endorsement of Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” The story goes on to give the detail of God’s instruction and to describe Noah’s obedience. We all know how the story ends, right? The dove reappears with the olive branch, the waters recede, the crowds cheer, and everyone goes on their merry way building a new creation, right? Not quite. Blameless Noah ends up in a drunken, naked heap once things return to “normal.” It seems obedience is hard work and may even have some rough edges to it. Even so, his children become key players in the ancestry of Israel—Abram, Isaac, and Jacob are descended from these sons of Noah.

The Psalmist echoes some of the presence of God that is introduced in the Genesis story. God is “present,” God is in the midst of the holy city, and is with us as our refuge and strength even as the mountains tremble and the seas foam. The writer here seems to have an understanding of the constant presence of God…in good and in bad, in feast and in famine, in chaos and in stillness….maybe even in obedience and disobedience.

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome also tells us something about God’s presence and his nature. God was present in Jesus Christ, in all of God’s righteousness, and through that presence, God renewed relationship with humankind. As in the history of the Israelites, God cannot bear to see humankind stray so far. The letter also suggests a response to God’s presence and righteousness – Faith. But if you read on, Paul isn’t talking about and easy, static faith – “Jesus is my Homeboy” kind of faith. He’s talking about faith that acts. Faith that “upholds the Law” (Love-God-and-your-neighbor-with-all-that-you-are-kind-of-faith).

In Jesus’ teaching from Matthew, we are given a familiar and helpful image of building a house upon the Rock versus a house upon the Sand. It’s not enough to hear the teachings and nod in agreement and go home and ignore the evening news as people starve and die of disease and live in abject poverty. No…you have got to Love your neighbor. Actively.

And so, we’re left wondering, what does it mean to really walk with God as we are told that Noah did? What does it mean to be still and know – to really Know – God? What does it mean in faith to uphold the Law?

Part of the joy of being in community is being in dialogue with others about walking with God. We learn so much from one another. We would like to think that walking with God affects Everything we do – even when we cannot see the immediate impact on the Kingdom. That means that every light switch we turn off is an act of obedience. Every kind word or action shared is an act of obedience. Every piece of “trash” we pick up off the roadside and recycle is an act of obedience. Every offer of help to a stranger (even the strangers we Know) is an act of obedience. Ultimately, every breath we take is an act of obedience.

Wow – this is hard stuff to do.

  • What help do you need to be present with and obedient to God?
  • Are there areas of your life where you feel like you are really obedient? Areas where you feel like you would rather not even look?
  • What is the hardest part of this Walk with God for you?
  • What is the action behind your Faith?

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem* on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

If you will diligently observe this entire commandment that I am commanding you, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and mightier than yourselves.

Deuteronomy 11: 19 – 24 (NRSV)

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