That’s Not How Any of This Works!

There’s a brilliantly funny commercial showing an “offline over-sharer.”  She’s created a wall of photos–quite literally a wall with photos taped to it.  And she’s showing them to her two friends.  When she makes a claim about how quickly she saved money on her car insurance, one of her friends claims to have saved more in half the time.  The first lady then “unfriends” the person who argued with her causing her unfriended friend to say, “That’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works.”

It plays on our implicit assumptions that rules get set up and people are supposed to follow them.  Of course, the rules change–as evidenced by the women’s literal interpretations of “posting to your wall” and “unfriending” friends.  Claiming “that’s not how it works” implies that somewhere along the line an agreement was made that things were to work a certain way.  In a much more complete and serious sense, the Bible calls these enduring agreements about how things are to work between God and God’s people–and between them people themselves–covenants.  A covenant is a formal agreement.

Psalm 50 assumes covenantal language and agreements.  The Psalm comes in two parts.  The first part consists of Psalm 50:1-15.  Here the covenant concerns the covenant people have made within the context of ritual sacrifice and worship (Psalm 50:5).  God puts the sacrificial system in perspective reminding the people that God God’s self does not need to eat and if God did, God would consume one of the millions of creatures God has made.  The sacrifice covenant depends on a grateful spirit–there needs to be an alignment of  attitude and practice (Psalm 50:14).  This is the covenant of sacrifice.

The second part of the Psalm–Psalm 50:16-23–becomes more accusatory.  Here, the wicked are called to account.  Psalm 50:16 connects the two parts as God questions the right of the wicked to participate in the worship life.  Having rejected God’s truth with their behavior, they have forfeited their integrity to participate in worship.

They are guilty of four specific sins:

(1) an unwillingness to heed God’s instruction (Psalm 50:17), (2) theft (Psalm 50:18a), (3) adultery (Psalm 50:18b), and (4) slander (Psalm 50:19-21).   Each of these sins is a violated covenant.  The resistance to learning and instruction violates the covenant a person has with one’s self and God.  Theft violates the covenant to respect one’s neighbor.  Adultery violates the covenant of marriage.  Slander violates the covenant we make with truth.  While we may find the harsh tone of Psalm 50:22 uncomfortable, indeed those who tear up these covenants–with God, self, neighbor, family and truth–will find their lives torn apart by the inevitable consequences.  Psalm 50 is a divine, “That’s not how it works; that not how any of this works.”

 

Psalm 34

The superscription identifies Psalm 34 as a Psalm that emerged out of David’s life when he feigned madness before King Abimelech.  The story reaches back for 1 Samuel 21:10–14. During the period of time when Saul was still king but David was rising to power, David fled from Saul into the Philistine region of Gath.  He was recognized in Gath and they detained him (see “in their hands,” 1 Samuel 21:13).  They probably intended to use David as a bargaining tool.  David pretended to be insane and the King dismissed him.  First Samuel calls the King Achish but the superscription calls him Abimelech.  Abimelech was King of Gerar when Abraham and Sarah were alive (Genesis 20). 

It is a personal Psalm with a public purpose.  The Psalm spoken in first person—“I” but is intended for the benefit of others—the humble (Psalm 34:2-3).  The Psalm has an element of wisdom literature introduced by a calling of children to him for instruction (Psalm 34:11-22).  “Fear of the Lord” or reverence, is a common theme in wisdom literature (see Proverbs 1:7-8). Fear of the Lord is a troubling thought to many Christians.  However, notice the relationship between fears—fear of the world vs. fear of the Lord.  If we think of “fear” as the emotion of having one’s attention completely consumed by something, fear of the Lord isn’t so much dread or terror as allowing the awesomeness of God to overwhelm the anxiety we have over stressors in life. A final element in which the Psalm resembles wisdom has to do with speech. Psalm 34:13 says, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”  This resembles the instructions given in Proverbs and James 3:1-12 concerning the proper use of our lips and speech.    

The Psalm looks back at times of distress.  Unlike a simple Psalm of praise, the Psalmist remembers the fears.  However, unlike a lament, the Psalmist’s deliverance has come and he praises the Lord.  Notice the contrast between vs. 15 and vs. 19. David does not suggest that the righteous never experience affliction.  Instead they experience deliverance.  The reward of righteousness during times of trouble is felt in the nearness of God through adversity.

Hurricane Clean-Up Buckets

First Christian Church in Arlington–the Church I currently serve–has been collecting, sorting, and transporting donated materials this week.  We have moved about six full truckloads, two 6’X12′ trailer loads, and two flatbed trailer loads in three trips this week.  We sent everything we had on Friday.  Thankfully, Carter Jr. High sent us a couple of PE classes to help us load.  When that was done, we said to ourselves, that we’d probably not need to take a trip on Saturday.

Then stuff started coming in.  One of our members has a lot of international contacts through his work.  This week he’s been running a go-fund-me account and raised $1500.  He used that to buy push brooms and the stuff for clean up buckets.  It was all there when I got back from lunch.  As were a couple of my members who went shopping for items.  Two more volunteers from the church showed up about 1:45 and then two more showed up with items they had collected at work.  I left them in the gym to sort things out and about 2:30 in the afternoon, my friend Kennedy Jones, pastor of Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church rang the doorbell.

He brought 100 clean-up buckets and about 60 hygiene kits.  Thankfully he also brought some volunteers to help unload.  because the buckets kept coming and coming and coming.

In the conversation and fellowship, Kennedy very quietly expressed his concern that we have an equitable distribution of resources.  Rather clumsily I asked if he wanted me to earmark these for areas that were predominantly African-American.  No, he said.  We–Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church–are part of the whole church and want these to go to whoever.  We just want to remind the whole church not to forget about some of the people we tend to forget about.

I agree and think this is about two concerns.  (1) Getting Resources into less affluent areas; and (2) Getting resources to the areas outside of Greater Houston—Corpus Christi/Rockport area to the Southwest of Greater Houston and the Golden Triangle of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur to the East.

Grace Crossing

We delivered the 100 buckets from Greater Community and the supplies that came on on Friday to Grace Crossing–a community Church of Christ–in Conre.  You can get their official information hereGrace Crossing is known for proactive community service and intentional efforts to bridge cultural divisions.
Work
They are doing several things, but right now they are working on gathering and distributing supplies.  The place people can connect immediately is with the Hurricane Bucket Challenge. I don’t know if the 100 buckets donated by Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church that we delivered today puts them in the lead, but we made sure to credit them to Grace Crossing.   They are the top donating congregation in our little pool.
The buckets given through this challenge will go out in a few ways:  (1) They will supply their ministry partners with buckets and the other supplies they have collected.  Grace Crossing has been helping affected families in Conroe but they have also been sending truckloads of supplies to an Inner-city ministry, a non-profit that helps women who are pregnant, and a company that put its salesforce to work distributing donated items throughout greater Houston, and a couple of local schools where a large portion of the student body lives in home that were flooded. 
(2) They are doing bucket brigades on Sundays for the next month.  Their members will enter affected areas and offer buckets, prayer, and information about working with FEMA and insurance.
Boundaries
Grace Crossing is committed to sharing with whomever without distinction based on race, religion or any other category that we use to divide people.  That said, they do have some geographic boundaries.  As Doug sees it, there are three areas of need–the Corpus Christi/Rockport area (southwest of Greater Houston); Greater Houston (The Woodlands to Galveston); and the Golden Triangle/Southeast Texas.  Their focus will be on Greater Houston.  Hopefully other churches will rise to the challenge the way grace crossing has and serve the affected areas around Houston.
Please pray for Grace Crossing’s work.  Please look at their website.  If you’d be willing to help facilitate getting stuff to him, please do.  The email for this ministry is icanhelp@gracecrossing.net