Monthly Archives: June 2022

Our Jewish Heritage

“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures about him.” (Luke 24:13-35)

In Luke’s narrative of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus comes up along-side of them and asks what they are talking about.  Not recognizing him after his resurrection, they describe the astonishing events of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and supposed resurrection. They wonder what it all means.  Jesus gently chastises them for being slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had said about him.     

As Christians, it is tempting for us to focus primarily on the New Testament.  Yet even the gospels in describing the life and words of Jesus, make numerous references to Old Testament events and prophesies.

In Genesis, God tells Abraham that he will be the father of many nations. (Genesis 17:6)  He tells Moses that he will raise up a prophet like him who will teach people everything God commands. (Deut. 18:18)  There are numerous references in Isaiah to the birth of Jesus, along with a description of his character and purpose. (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 40:10-11)  In Isaiah 53, the writer speaks of the suffering servant, Israel, which later becomes a description of Jesus, bringing redemption and salvation to a sinful world. 

Jesus connects us with the Jewish people and their heritage whether we realize it or not.  This heritage, which enriches the understanding of our Christian faith, is not unlike the Christian heritage provided by our parents and grandparents who leave us a legacy of teaching and example.  

Since my mother was Catholic and my father Baptist, growing up in the 1940’s and 50’s, I had the benefit of an ecumenical Christian heritage.  From my father and grandparents, I saw a steady faith with a focus on scripture.  From my mother I saw a special reverence and piety in her prayer and sacramental life.  From them flowed a conscience of right and wrong that carried me until the day I had my own personal encounter with Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit in the context of my Catholic faith.

I will never know how the prayers of my parents and grandparents influenced the course of my life, but now having the vantage point of parent and grandparent myself, I suspect there was a considerable impact. My wife would testify to a similar influence from her parents and grandparents.

Heritage is part of God’s plan for his creation — each generation passing on how they have experienced God and what they have learned from the time of Abraham 3800 years ago to the present day.  We Christians share so much with the Jewish people – the same God and father, the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament prophets, the wisdom literature, and the dignity of life.  May we one day share the same Messiah!

As Christians, do we fully appreciate our Jewish heritage?

“What is Truth?”

“You are right in saying that I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37-38)

It is ironic that Pilate’s response to this statement of Jesus was to ask, “What is truth?” when the embodiment of all truth was standing right in front of him. 

This was not the first time that Jesus spoke of testifying to the truth.  Earlier, he told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)  At the beginning of his gospel, John describes Jesus as, the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, and then adding, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

From the beginning of human existence, people have been seeking the truth about the reason and purpose for their lives.  It is part of our created nature put there by God to facilitate our search for him.  Our souls are restless, but instead of seeking God, we often seek security in the things of this world such as greater wealth, recognition, and pleasure separated from the context of God and his creation. 

God became one of us in the person of Jesus, to help us better understand the truth from his words and example in order to free us from our sins. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)   

Conventional wisdom in today’s culture often runs counter to the truth and the ways of God.  We see the denigration of life through state funded abortion and legalized euthanasia. We see the elimination of nearly all restraints on sexual mores, and a Supreme Court overturning thousands of years of tradition and natural law in redefining marriage. 

We see people confusing tolerance for mercy.  We see increasing relativism on issues of integrity based on personal choice and societal whim instead of God’s revealed truths as set out by Jesus.

Like Jesus, we have opportunities to testify to the truth in our words and actions with the people and circumstances in our daily lives.  The more we regularly read and study God’s Word the better equipped we are to live the truth ourselves and gently represent the truth with others when the opportunity arises. 

In my first year out of law school I agreed to some changes in a contract to purchase a parcel of real estate that cost my company an additional $70,000, a sum equal to more than $500,000 in today’s dollars.  There were some extenuating circumstances, but I told the people involved that I wanted to be the one to personally communicate the mistake to the client manager.  Rather than chastise me, he thanked me for acknowledging the truth of my mistake, which built lasting credibility in our future dealings.  

Think of a time when you have had the opportunity to speak up for the truth? 

God’s Extravagance

How much wine is needed for a wedding? 

For the Wedding at Cana described in Chapter 2 of John’s gospel, the wedding party had run out of wine and the mother of Jesus asked Jesus to remedy the problem.   John reports that Jesus instructed the servants to fill six stone jars with water holding 20 to 30 gallons.  He tells them to draw some out and take it to the headwaiter who tells the bridegroom, ”Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10)

This is Jesus’ first miracle, and how extravagant it is!  If we take an average of 25 gallons times six jars, we have 150 gallons of wine.  This would be equivalent to 757 bottles or approximately 63 cases. 

This story reflects the extravagant love of God in many ways.  We begin with Mary, the mother of Jesus, interceding with her son for the first time on behalf of a likely friend to save the friend’s family from embarrassment.  My wife and I have hosted weddings for three daughters, and I can certainly relate to how embarrassing it would be to run out of wine at any of their weddings. 

God’s response to this need was far more generous than required, both in the quality of the wine and its quantity.  This is emblematic of what God has in mind for people who respond to him through his son

Jesus is the new wine, quite distinct in quality to the old wine offered by the prophets that preceded him.  This new wine allows people to experience God in the flesh, up close and in person.  This new wine gives new meaning to the Jewish law, teaching and writings.  This new wine reveals the power of God over demons, illness, and the physical elements of wind, storm and sea.  This new wine demonstrates the love of God for all people by becoming one of us and then enduring torture and death to free us from sin, and leading us to a righteous life through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

My wife and I have been blessed to experience the extravagance of God’s love and this new wine through the Christian heritage of parents and grandparents, through our respective personal encounters with Jesus, and through the presence of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in the daily action of our lives. 

This extravagant love has been manifested through five children, four of whom are now raising Christian families themselves, meaningful work, opportunities in ministry, Christian friends, and a disabled adult daughter who teaches us each day about God’s love and ways.

We will never be able to match the extravagance of God’s love.  We cannot out-give him, out-sacrifice him, or out-love him, but we can return his love and generosity by opening the door of hearts to his gentle invitation. “Here I am,” he says.  “I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with him and he with me.”  (Rev. 3:20)

Have you opened the door of your heart to Jesus’ invitation?

Love Remains

Our daily lives are filled with many actions.  Most of them affect the current moment, some may affect the future for certain period of time, but few remain long term or have an eternal effect. 

We get up each morning, shower, brush our teeth, comb our hair, eat breakfast, go to work, attend meetings, break for lunch, come home in the evening, have dinner, read the paper, watch the news, help our kids with their homework, attend an evening meeting for some civic or church related purpose, watch some television and go to bed with the expectation of restarting a similar cycle the next morning.   On the weekend, our actions may vary to include some household chores, taking children to sporting or school activities, going to church and engaging in some relaxation. 

In the course of all of these many actions which are here today and gone tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to love and serve others. 

St. Paul has a glorious insight in his first letter to the Corinthians when talking about proper worship and the use of the spiritual gifts in chapters 11-13.  After describing how the various spiritual gifts build up the church, he declares that none of them are as important as love.  He then provides a beautiful description of love and concludes that all of these other actions will at some point pass away, but love will remain. (1 Co. 13:1-8) 

He says, “Love never fails.”  Acts of love never die.  They have a lasting quality.  They are remembered and extend into eternity. 

The committed love of a married man and woman that result in children being born in the image and likeness of God; the loving care of those children into faith-filled adults; the encouraging word to a work colleague or friend; the compassion and assistance extended to a person with a disability; being generous to a friend in need; forgiving a loved one who has wronged you – all of these acts of love have a life beyond their occurrence.  They have a ripple effect that just keeps moving outward in infinite 360 degree rings, often having impact and begetting acts of love by others that we may never know about.  

How ironic that God in his love and mercy forgets repented sin, but remembers acts of love forever!

We strive for meaning and purpose in our lives.  We seek achievement and recognition in our work and professions.  All of these actions may be worthwhile for they further God’s assignment that we “work and take care of the garden” of his creation. (Genesis 2:15) Yet, in time the fruit of that work will eventually pass. 

However, the acts of love taking place in the course of those achievements and in the context of all the other actions that make up our daily lives will not pass but will remain in the annuls of God’s kingdom.   

What of your actions have lasting effect?