Archive for April 12th, 2019

2 Maccabees 5:10: Holy Place and Holy People

Friday, April 12, 2019

Image from “Places of the Spirit” published by Lake Placid Institute

But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation.

So many times we get things backwards.  We forget that we become weak in order to be made strong, that we serve in order to lead, and that we die that we may live in Christ.  We have looked at the books of Maccabees many times before and just last spring we spent time with this chapter reflecting on the stark difference between mystery and problem, impatience and trust, pride and humility, anxiety versus openness to God’s awesome power, sedition versus fidelity.  Here is some of what we were thinking.

We need to relax into the mystery of life more.  We need to adapt a humble stance with our Creator and a willingness of heart to do as we are bidden.  We need to immerse ourselves in God who is always with us . . . rather than trying to swim upstream or downstream with him.  We need to move away from sedition, death and the slandering and killing of fellow pilgrims.  We need to move toward the light, toward the mystery . . . and allow it to embrace us.

We can view the mysterious way that God moves in our lives with awe or with skepticism.  We can choose to believe or to disbelieve that Christ overcomes the barrier that death presents to the rest of us.  We can choose to be faithful to our covenant agreement and call, or we can strike out on our own to find another God to worship . . . or we can even choose to worship ourselves and our own ideas.  But none of this will satisfy because we will be making holy places where there is no holiness.  We will be creating holy communions where there are none with whom to commune, for nothing can be made holy without God’s presence.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us several times in the opening chapters do you not know that you are living temples of God, members of the body of the living Christ?  He echoes this on his other letters when he asks us to step away from immorality, from idolatry and to turn to the one true source of life: God the creator, God the redeemer, and God the love that exists in an inscrutable way deep within the mystery of each of us.

Mount Agung, Bali

This is all that we are asked to do . . . yet we so often make life much more complicated than it really is.  We are a holy people who come together when God calls us and thus we make holy places in which the Spirit will abide.  And in so doing we will rise even amidst the worst of circumstances, even above the pillaging of the temple . . .  to be sheltered in God, to live eternally in the Spirit, to be renewed in hope and forged in fidelity . . . to remain of and in Christ.  For we are his holy people . . . and he is our holy place.

A re-post from February 26, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/exhibits/2004/izzy-places/index.html 

To see and read about the top ten sacred mountains, go to National Geographic’s Ten Sacred Mountains page, click on the image above, or go to: http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/books-excerpts/ten-sacred-mountains-text

You may also be interested in Sacred Places of a Lifetime at: http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/coupon.jsp?code=MR35082&URL=%2Fjump.jsp%3FitemID%3D4464%26itemType%3DPRODUCT or Places of the Spirit at: http://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/exhibits/2004/izzy-places/book.html

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2 Maccabees 4: Hellenization

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Girl Friends

The definition of Hellenization in conjunction with scripture refers to the time when the Jewish people were lured into imitating the Greeks who placed much importance on transacting business in the gymnasium.  When Jews entered this place were nudity was the norm, circumcision suddenly took on new meaning.  This outward sign of fidelity to Yahweh sometimes became a stumbling block to transacting business and some Jewish men went to the extreme of enduring a painful surgical reversal of this mark of Abraham in order to hide this mark from others.  The important point for us today is this: how do we allow ourselves to become Hellenized?  What small places in our lives that have been places of constancy to God become inconvenient?  What small steps entice us to give up God in small ways?  What small detours become major deviations from the truth?

Not long ago I asked some of the girls we teach what they do when they feel embarrassed by “doing what is right” when they are with friends rather than going along with the crowd?  They looked at me in an odd way and then said: “Those people would not be my friends”.  How simple.  How true.

In today’s reading we read about laws put in force and also abolished.  We read about intrigue and sedition, the lure of power and money, about violence and deceit.  This is a bloody time in Jewish history which we have visited often.  We usually come away with the same truth: When we find ourselves embroiled in schemes and complex schemes . . . the only way out is to revert to simple truths that bring true satisfaction and joy.  We remember that we find our power in our willingness to empty self and listen for God’s voice.  We recall that we find our strength in our eagerness to put aside any personal agenda so that we might listen for God’s agenda.  When we reflect and turn to God in this way, the tension, the anxiety, and the pain that had been paralyzing us begin to melt away.

When we have a sense that we have entered into our own Hellenization, it is time to assess and re-evaluate.  When the world intrudes and asks us to forfeit our intimacy with God, we know for certain that these will be the first small steps away from God rather than steps toward God.  When this happens, we know what we must do . . . and we remember the simple statement: Those people would not be my friends.

A re-post from February 27, 2012.

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