The Good Old Days?

After reading chapters 6 & 7 of Ecclesiastes, this is what stood out for me:

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10”

It seems that I hear many people my age bemoaning the present, and longing for the past.  Things were better then;  people were more courteous;  more people went to church;  children were not so spoiled, and so on. Some of these things may be true, but bad things are always going on (I talked about this in a previous post– Hoping for Something New?. It also depends upon your particular situation and perspective.  For example, somebody recently who is a bit older than I am said she grew up in the best of times — however, if you were a person of color during that era, you probably wouldn’t look back on those days so fondly.  Jim Crow laws, segregation, and discrimination were widespread.

God calls us to look forward, not back.  When He punished His Old Testament people by exiling them to Babylon, they were told by the prophet Jeremiah:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5-7

 

In other words, make the best of things in the place and time where God has placed you.  He has work for you to do. Stop complaining and concentrate on being a blessing to others.

In the New Testament Paul echoes the same sentiment:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Yearning for the good old days is not helpful or God-pleasing.  It is not wise.  It is not even realistic!  Instead  look forward to the future God has prepared for you.

 

 

 

For more posts about the book of Ecclesiastes see:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Two Are Better Than One

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 3

Now the important question for us to answer on this night concerns the Lord’s command that we do this eating and drinking until He returns. It is not stated as a suggestion but it is presented by Jesus as a new responsibility for His people. Some describe it as an ordinance or a law, but I find that somewhat troubling. It is ordinance in that we are told to do it, but it is so much more than that, for it is indeed a great gift of life for all who believe. Believers are told to commune, but in communing we receive that which strengthens us and prepares us to go forth into the world as living examples of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In a sense, the Sacrament is medicine for a sin sick soul.

All of us are physical creatures. We experience the world physically. If we burn ourselves it hurts. If we dive into a pool we become wet. If we walk out on a bright spring day we feel the sun on our faces and the breeze in our hair. We are not created to be simply minds carried about by bodies, but discreet from the body. God created mankind to be this way because this is how He wants us to be.

When I read about Jesus I have a mental experience of Jesus, sometimes even a soul experience of Jesus, but I do not have a physical experience of Jesus and His presence in my life and in the world. As important as Scripture is to our faith, and it would be hard to overstate how important it is, it cannot give us that physical experience we as physical beings crave and need. Let me give you a personal example. Our youngest granddaughter lives 500 miles away from us. We get to see pictures of her and even brief little “films” of her activities and that keeps us up to date on her growth. What we don’t often get is the opportunity to hold her or kiss her or even to change her diapers. Our general experience of Hailey is more in our minds than in our bodies. Anyone who has ever been separated from someone they love will understand why you want to hug and kiss that person the first chance you get.

As God who became incarnate, Jesus understood this as well as you and I do. And He knew how important it would be for us to be refreshed and strengthened by His true presence as we face the adversities of life and the persecutions large and small that can confront a true follower of the Risen Lord. So He instituted this Sacrament where He truly comes to us and where we truly experience Him in the most intimate way imaginable. When we receive the elements of the Sacrament we are deeply and personally and physically engaged with God. Trying to explain this is fruitless, but accepting the words, “This is my Body given for you”, “This is my blood shed for many for the forgiveness of sins”, is the pearl of great price for us. It is a taste of what heaven will be like.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that at the heart of God’s restoration of His people there would be a new covenant that would be grounded in a new relationship of knowing God and in the forgiving and forgetting of our sins. This is the promise kept, this is the Word fulfilled each time we come to the chancel rail and take a wafer and a tiny bit of wine.

Maundy Thursday is sometimes called Holy Thursday. It is indeed, friends, it is indeed. Amen.

For parts one and two see:

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 2

 

The Weeping Prophet

As I write this, I’ve just read that the coming week may be the worst one so far for the United States during this pandemic.  The prophet, Jeremiah had also seen the worst of things happen.  In fact, he is known as the “weeping prophet.”  Jerusalem, the city of David, the city of God, had fallen.  Many people were killed, and others were carried off into exile. The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s mourning cry for the glory that is gone.  It is written in the style of an ancient, Jewish funeral song.

“How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!

How like a widow is she, who once was great among nations!”  Lamentations 1:1

Sound a lot like what’s going on now.  Few people are venturing out.  Businesses are closed.  People are wondering if our economy can withstand this blow.  Many are wondering where God is in all this.  Well, Jeremiah wondered, too.

“I have been deprived of peace;  I have forgotten what prosperity is.

So, I say, ‘My splendor is gone, and all that I had hoped from God’.”  Lamentations 3:17-18

Sad as this book is, it also offers comfort. Jeremiah, though depressed and discouraged, does not lose faith in God.

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;  therefore I will wait for him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24

Bad things happen to people, even God’s people. The Gospel does not promise us wealth, permanent good health or perpetual happiness.  It does not promise that our country will always be the number one power in the world.  It does promise eternal life for those who believe in the Savior.  It does promise that God will be with us, and will lead us through all of our trials.  He has compassion, and when we trust in Him we experience His peace — a peace the world does not understand.  A peace that we can have even now.  God will always triumph over evil.  Even this evil will end.  Trust in Him.