Here are two verses that remind me of my grandma Crawford:
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5:23-24).
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by then; for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matt. 6:1).
Grandma could be stubborn and hard to please but she had a kind heart and took the initiative to do good things and to correct difficulties between her and someone else. Also: she never told this to anyone, I heard about it secondhand, which made her witness all the more effective.
At the other side of the human spectrum, I find the Parable of the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) and recall a relative on another branch of the family tree. I won’t name the relative, who led a less than exemplary life. The person, when dying and fearful, called upon a local pastor and was baptized. Does a deathbed conversion count? If we’ve been hurt by a person, we may not want much leniency for that person. But grace is unearned, God is generous, and God’s opinion of a despised person may be completely different. Those of us with good character and excellent reputation don’t deserve God’s grace any more than a person, like my relative, who repents in late desperation.
On a lighter note, I’ve a host of memories of kinfolk with whom I associate this verse in Colossians:
…when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead (2:12).
My relatives, who belonged to a denomination that practiced only adult baptism-by-immersion, insisted that this text proves the necessity for immersion. After all, when we’re buried, we’re not buried with a little dirt on our heads. We’re buried all the way under!
I disliked that argument but didn’t know why. I was relieved when a Methodist pastor pointed out that the thief on the cross was not baptized by any means and yet was promised salvation. I read a little further in Colossians and read this:
Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence (2:20b-23).
While I wouldn’t call baptism a “human command,” the author worries (in this and the whole section 2:8-23) that we need to hold to Christ alone and not upon any rituals and practices, important as some of them may be. Fulfilling religious requirements is never as important as opening our hearts to God for God’s powers (Gal. 5:16-26, 6:14-15).
But my older relatives are long passed away. I’m not sure I could’ve argued doctrine with them anyway, for they were quite set in their views, and I’m not really a debater.
Some scriptures remind you of people you never met, but you connect with their lives in some way through a Bible passage. I never met a certain pastor, suffering from cancer, but a mutual friend mentioned that the pastor often turned to Psalm 30, with which I wasn’t familiar. Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? The psalmist bargains with God! “Alive, I praise you … Heal me, and I can praise you all the more …” What a wonderfully human response—in a book that is God’s word to us.
Do you associate particular Bible books with churches and study groups to which you’ve belonged? A class to which we belonged tackled Esther, Proverbs, and several other books. I associate this class with the Corinthian letters because we studied them straight through and realized, together, that we’d had enough of Paul’s writing style for the time being, all those tangents and heart-on-his-sleeve defenses!
Ecclesiastes reminds me of a particular church that I served, because I was called upon (at short notice) to teach the senior pastor’s morning study group. We had a nice time. Another enjoyable group that I taught met on certain evenings, following supper. One evening, a couple felt tense concerning the family meal, lasagna, which had turned out less satisfactorily than desired. We were studying the epistle of James, in the old RSV. I read a section aloud and came to 4:1:
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from?
Afflicted with Poe’s “imp of the perverse,” I said, without thinking, “Lasagna!” and everyone roared, including the couple. It was a “you had to be there” moment, but those moments shine in one’s memory.
In fact, I associate James with two or three Bible study groups. The epistle lingers in memory because, among its several incisive teachings, James cautions us about the power of words (James 3:1-12). The teaching is quite clear in Scripture: Jesus teaches the power of our words as barometers for our soul (Matt. 12:33-37), and Ephesians links truth and love, for our words are not true unless they are kind words that build people up (Eph. 4:15, 25-32). Many of us Christians, apparently, have lots of trouble with our big mouths! I recall occasions when my churches friends and I sighed in self-awareness as we read these verses from James and knew, If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? (Ps. 130:3).
In the several churches I’ve served and/or attended, including our current church, this passage is a classic. It's a verse for this morning.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ (Acts 2:5-13).
Why a “classic”? An essential scripture for Pentecost, it’s nevertheless quite difficult to read as Sunday scripture from the pulpit---unless you’ve rehearsed well. All those long names! Woe unto the liturgist who decided to “wing it” that week.
|from Catholic Memes|
And so now the passage reminds me of folk who also heard the Gospel in our own language: Illinoisans and Virginians, residents of Missouri, and Arizona, and parts of Ohio once belonging to Connecticut, and visitors from other churches, and …The faith that you and I share, and all the memories and experiences of church in our respective lives, are built upon that day in Jerusalem and the Spirit's flames, when the church was born.