Eve’s “No” verses Mary’s “Yes”

“i imagine that yes is the only living thing.”
E.E. Cummings


(Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden / Masaccio / 1425 / Florence )



(Bicci di Lorenzo / 1433-1434 / The Annunciation panels / private collection)

Please enjoy the Christmas Eve Homily offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden.
Bishop Ashenden raises an interesting observation…

That in Eve’s having said “no” to God—in her refusal to His obedience,
man then fell victim to the addiction to sin and disobedience.

Mary in turn counters that sinfulness no by offering her simple “yes”….

And in Mary’s yes…she brings us all to God’s saving Grace.
Of which brings to all of humankind, through the birth of her son Yeshua,
the freedom from this never-ending cycle of disobedient addiction…

Obedience

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all
that He says.
There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you
would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself
over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him.
But trying in a new way, a less worried way.
Not doing these things in order to be saved,
but because He has begun to save you already.
Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions,
but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint
gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(a wandering coon in the middle of nowhere west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Obedience
o·be·di·ence
əˈbēdēəns,ōˈbēdēəns/
noun
noun: obedience
compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.
“children were taught to show their parents obedience”
synonyms: compliance, acquiescence, tractability, amenability; More
antonyms: disobedience, rebellion

observance of a monastic rule.
“vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience”

Oooooo….don’t you just shutter when you hear that word?

It’s a burdensome sort of word for it requires things of us as well as from us….
and more times than not, the majority of us don’t like to have to be
“required” to do much of anything–anything we consider to be out of our circle of comfortable, happy living.

Because isn’t that what obey and obedience really mean, that we are required to do,
or not do, certain things….?

And yet our news has been rife with just that very thing.

“No it hasn’t” you counter “because this latest rushing of falling dominos,
we’ve been currently witnessing regarding improprieties, harassment and out right
full fledged advantage taking, doesn’t have anything to do with obedience….”

And then I simply remind you that “yes”….yes,it really does because the base
of all that we are watching and witnessing is exactly that….
obedience…or more accurately the lack of….”

Next I’ll then remind you just how much you had hated the very notion of obedience
that you even wrote it out of the traditional marriage vows eons ago…
because there was just something about that word, that notion,
that act that has been akin to rubbing the fur
of an animal in the wrong direction—it’s uncomfortable and seemingly,
well, unnatural.

Human beings, by their very nature, do not like to be nor do they want to be obedient.
It is an act of the will to do such. And to exert that will is hard, difficult,
taxing and tiring.
Yet be it because we want to be law abiding, a nice person, a good person, a cooperative
person, even a loving person… we tend to lean toward obedience—
And if we’re not careful, we can just as quickly be disobedient.

Ask any parent of a toddler, teenager or the owner of a young pet…they will tell
you right fast that the nature of obedience vs disobedience is truly a very
fine line….

I’ve thought a lot about obedience as of late with each new tale of the rich
and infamous falling flat on their faces.

Us commoners have been doing it for eons,
falling on our faces in utter disobedience,
Yet the media seems to think the scions of all things political, newsy,
entertaining and even ministerial have somehow been exempt all these years….

And so now with these tales of the sick, twisted and powerful being just that,
the media outlets are in pandemonium, panic stricken to make sense of it
all while assuming some new disease has simply befallen mankind.

And yet those of us in the know just call that sin.

Sin.

Man’s age old nemesis.

Ego
Pride
Arrogance
Greed
Lust
Want…

The list is endless…and the root lies in our disobedience.

I can say this because I know what it is to have been disobedient and sinful…
just like anyone else really…it’s just that as a Christian, I am more
keenly aware of my errors and of the healing Grace that has brought healing and
reconciliation to the God of whom I disobeyed.

Doesn’t make me any better than the next person.
Doesn’t make me anything ever being perfect…
And to top it all, I’m still very much susceptible to the ways
of disobedience and its ugly repercussions…

But as C.S. Lewis so eloquently reminds us in our day’s quote,
‘that the reason behind our seeking or desire to be obedient…is not because
of anything we may be getting in the end but rather because there is now
a faint glimmer of the Divine burning in
our being….'(paraphrased)

We seek Him not because of anything about us or in us or from us,
as none of this is about us, as we so often egotistically assume…
but rather we seek, we obey because of Him and Him alone—
because He has first sought us…
And once that has happened, there grows a thirst and unquenchable yearning
within our beings to seek Him out—along with the desire to “want” to be
in communion with Him and Him alone.

Listening to Bishop Ashenden’s Morning Prayer podcast yesterday morning,
I was keen upon hearing his offering from a reading by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
It was taken from Bonhoeffer’s book Discipleship…
The good Bishop explained that the obedience of an individual, as to the call
of Jesus, has nothing to do with some psychological reasoning on the part of said
individual but simply because of Jesus himself.
A Jesus only sort of thing.
As in He is the authority.
He calls.
We, as disciples, follow….
and that is Grace….

Pure and simple.

It is because we “hear Jesus loving us…and thus respond….”

“Hear Jesus loving us….”
That notion resonated deeply within me as I was listening.

Not because of anything I’ve done or even not done…but He loves, is loving, me
none the less.

There is such a peace in that.

And it is in that Peace, that Love, that calls me to Obedience…
He offers and I readily accept.

As we see Obedience acting as Healer…

May we seek and heed the call to obedience rather than the crying out
and call to sin…

“If you love me, keep my commands.”
John 14:15

disbelief and consequence

“But again He is equally present in sudden unexpected moments,
and it is the neglect of these moments that is the most fruitful source
of disbelief in Him.”

Charles Williams


(a hidden squirrel enjoys supper / Julie Cook / 2017)

the following is a question posed by a novice to his master teacher,
Elder St. Paisios the Athonite….

Q. Geronda (common name referring to a Greek Orthodox monk),
why was Moses deprived of the Promised Land for a minor fault?

A. It was not a minor fault; it was disbelief.

God had provided for the Israelites’ passage across the Red Sea [ Exodus 14:1-31],
and provided water for them at Sinai [Exodus 15:22-25; 17:1-7],
nourished them with manna [Exodus 16:1-36].
He had shown them so many marvels.
And yet, when they were once again without water, they complained.
And when God told Moses to strike the rock to get water, he doubted Him:
‘Is it possible for water to come out from the rock’ [ Numbers 1-13]?

That is why God later gave him that rule:
‘As punishment, you will see the Promised Land only from a distance
[ Deuteronomy 32:48-52].

Now if God had not provided water for them before in such a miraculous manner,
then Moses could have been somewhat justified for his disbelief.
At this point, however, there was no justification for his disbelief,
which is why God did not permit him to enter the Promised Land.”

— From the book Passions and Virtues:
Counsels of Elder St. Paisios the Athonite, vol. 5.

“This is what the Lord says:
‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words,
who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods
to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!
For as a belt is bound around the waist,
so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’
declares the Lord,
‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.
But they have not listened.’

Jeremiah 13:9-11

root of the matter

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand. We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand. We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.
C.H. Spurgeon


(root vegetables / beets/ courtesy HGTV )

“I believe that we begin by learning literally to repent and to obey.
The English word “repent” in Scripture translates the Greek word metanoia,
or “change one’s mind (or heart).”
According to our faith, to grow into the fullness of being means an eternity
of such change and growth from the fallen human nature we inherit into
participation in the fullness of God’s own nature.
This was the first call of Christ when He began to preach:
“Repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

In this Biblical sense, repentance and true obedience go hand in hand.
We must “listen” in order to hear the word of repentance.

(excerpt from an essay Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery)

Down through the ages a great deal has been written about the will of man—-
along with the concept of obedience and it’s evil twin, disobedience…

It is the age old tug of war…with obedience tugging while disobedience is pulling.

If you have ever dealt with or have lived through a child navigating the waters of the
“terrible twos” then you have a small snapshot into what the will of man is all
about.

There is a constant state of flux between the act of defiance as well as the exertion
of authority— as said little one attempts to chart his or her’s own path.

The problem lies in the lack of acquired experience and hindsight…
both of which the wee one has none of.
Add to that a developing sense of the greater world at large and the
the parent must therefore act as guide helping the small one along the fine line of balancing the tight rope of safety, wisdom and proper choice.

It is not an easy task.

Patience is often exasperated as the wee one hears none of rational thought or
common sense. With experience often stepping in as the better, yet,
harrowing teacher.

And even though we all eventually outgrow this trying and most difficult time of
defiance and growth…we never ever really lose that assertion of the will.

And then slides in the notion of obedience…or it that disobedience.

Obedience and disobedience are each a willed act of choice.

We either choose to obey or we choose to disobey….

And despite the popular thought, there is no in between.

The other day I was in the bank.
I was seated at the desk talking with a banker about a safety deposit box when all
of a sudden a young man bounds into the chair right next to me,
across from the now surprised banker, and loudly proclaims for all to hear–
“you don’t remember me do you?”

When you live in a town the size of mine that has two very large high schools within
a mile radius of one another, with one being a county school while the other being
a city school and you are a retired teacher, the odds are that you, at some point or another, taught half the town….are very good odds.
And I did just so happen to have taught this precocious young man.

Never mind that I was obviously in the midst of a conversation
with a banker, this young man saw me and proceeded to remind me as to why I’m so
happy to be a retired educator….

With the poor banker woman now exasperatingly staring in bewilderment, this young man proceeds to tell me that he is now “living the dream.”

“So you graduated college?” I ask.
He never answered that but said that he now had two kids and a house with some land out
in the country. “The bucolic dream” he continues…

“Oh you got married, who did you marry” I ask.
“Oh we’re not married—but we’ve been together a couple of years….we’re planning
on getting married however…..

He then proceeds to tell me his younger brother is now expecting his first child but
is also not married….but does hope to eventually marry…

Finally just as abruptly as he popped in, this young man pops up out of the chair
and bids me farewell as he makes for the teller since the line is now non existent, allowing me and the now aggravated banker to resume our conversation…

So the standard worldly thought would be “oh isn’t that all nice”
with the rationale being that this couple, all be they not married, they are
somewhat together, while living this “dream” out in the countryside with two kids,
and I’m even assuming a dog…which all sounds great, right?
The proverbial American dream….

Well if you’re of the world, then yeah, this all just sounds really nice…
warm and fuzzy.
Because there’s a rationalizing going on that since these two “kids” love one another
and now have two kids of their own, that all that matters…

But if you are one who lives under the conviction of man’s will while
opting to live a life under God’s will, then this “dream” is just that,
a dream, a facade.

The world would say that I am being judgmental in this assessment.
Old fashioned, right winged, and given long enough, someone would come
up with some sort of idea of racism or that I was just being a Nazi…
hence the lunacy of our times….

But what I see is a falsehood lost in an assumed obedience.
Which in actuality smacks of disobedience.

To live one’s life as one so chooses, going about it as one so chooses
is but to live with one’s own will—living in willfulness.

Many of us have learned, most often the hard way, that to live in
one’s own willfulness is simply waiting for havoc to ensue while
living with the repercussions and fallout.

Our willful choices will always effect many others than ourselves…
Yet we are too caught up in our own little worlds of willfulness to actually realize
that anyone else would or could be effected.

And so to live in obedience, there must be repentance.
For there to be repentance there must be a bending of the will.
For a bending of the will there must be a desire to obey…
and so it goes…

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions
of your former ignorance,

1 Peter 1:14

you just might get what you want

“The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded
and are therefore self-enslaved.”

C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain


(pretty little dahlia, not mine however—Julie Cook / 2017)

There it is again…
another quote from C.S. Lewis, each from the same book I referenced the other day—
Two random quotes that just so happened my way…???
Each from the same source???!!!…
Coincidence?????
I should think not….

So yes, I’ve ordered the book.

This morning I actually did something I would not have normally done.
I carved out time to sit and listen…
For you see I am a hit the ground running sort of individual—
a morning person who does her best work, thinking, cleaning, sorting, writing…
in the morning….
So for me to stop, sit and listen is a pretty big deal…
this as I often equate my sitting with wasting time…
as in I need to be about the task of doing whatever it is I need to be doing….

40 precious minutes afforded to listening to a sermon that was delivered Sunday at a
church in Scotland.
Now granted I would have much rather been in Scotland at the Church in person,
but an audio link in a blog post was as close as I was going to be getting any time soon.

It was a sermon delivered by Pastor David Robertson,
pastor of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland
and author of the Wee Flea Blog—a blog I’ve referenced before.

Pastor Robertson delivered a sermon on Romans 1:24-27.
A passage that just so happens to encapsulate Paul’s relaying of God’s thoughts of
human sexuality.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual
impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the
truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather
than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were
inflamed with lust for one another.
Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the
due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:24-27

Now I won’t rehash the sermon as I’ve provided a link if you’d like to either read
Pastor Robertson’s overview or actually listen to his sermon…
What the Bible Really Says About Sex and Sexuality

And it certainly was not my intent today to write a post on human sexuality but rather the
hand of God in our oh so screwed up world.
Of which I will do shortly, sexuality aside.

Yet I was struck by several quotes and remarks made by the good pastor as he actually
delivered this sermon before the world experienced Manchester’s horror.

His delivering of a sermon on such a topic was just happenstance as the passage was
just what came next in the study he had been presenting to his parish.
But it also came on the forefront of an important vote this week by the Church of
Scotland regarding its stance on same sex unions /marriages….
as in it, the Church, wishes to “keep” up with Scottish Law on the issue…
…oh if our Churches didn’t feel such a need….

(http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/archive/articles/general_assembly_allows_ministers_and_deacons_in_same-sex_marriages)

Yet I think a key statement in all of the sermon was, for me, that
“God is handing us over to what we want and what we have chosen”

Not that He is abandoning us or inflicting upon us but rather He is giving us over, freely,
to what it is we have wanted and chosen….
With that being a life of blatant disregard for His word.
For “we have exchanged God’s word for a lie.”

Yep, a lie.

As in now we’ve turned everything into something other than His word,
as is no longer His word but rather our restructuring, rewriting, redirecting.
Our word in order to make things fit all nice and neat for ourselves.
Fitting the rules for living into what we feel are these changing times…

And Heaven forbid that The Word of God should stand the test of time because obviously
anyone can see that He meant for us to switch things up as we culturally saw fit…
Meaning… as our culture changes and our desires and acceptance all change, then surely
God meant to be fluid…moving with said times.
As surely He would need to modernize that Word of His in order to accommodate our new
acceptances and beliefs in what is now right but once was oh so wrong….
so yeah, we best come up with a new translation, a refutation or a new interpretation to that
tired old Word of His.

Yeah, right…..
as I think we call that progressivism….
and God calls that disobedience….

One thing Pastor Robertson noted was that Jesus did not come to earth in order to confuse us.
He didn’t come to rewrite scripture.. to make it more applicable to the times—
quite the contrary—He came to fulfill the scripture.

So on this little thought, I will leave us today…
Leaving us all to ponder the notion of what it is that we have wanted and
what it is we have chosen…
And just so we can be clear as to what it is we’ve been handed over to…
as somehow I think it just might be related to living a life of being
freely left to our own devices…

But they say,
“It is no use! We will follow our own plans,
and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of our evil will.”

Jeremiah 18:12

Well seasoned

“Accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”

― Kahlil Gibran

“What an abundant harvest has been collected in autumn! The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time. Thus nature is continually employed during the greatest part of the year: even in her rest she is active: and in silence prepares a new creation.”
― Christoph Christian Sturm

DSCN1702
(bits of the remains of a farm in Teileann, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is a rhythm and certain cadence to life,
as well as to living that life.
Divided amongst the four seasons…
A time to reap and a time to sow
A time to make merry and a time to grow…

In December, the weather is to be cold.
The trees, both twiggy and dormant, are to stand as Winter’s lone sentinels.
Yet what an odd sight when those sleeping trees, which are to wake up and bud in March, are alarmingly budding now.
Odder still…a single remaining tomato plant continues to persevere offering up small ripening fruit.

Where are the freezing temps, the chilly days and colder nights?
Forthcoming they say…
Why do the crickets still sing at dusk,
when they should be fast asleep for the winter?
Ode to our seasons being out of sync and out of step.

For we are rhythmic beings.
Our bodies
Our seasons
Our time
Our earth
Our universe

We have been created to live a seasonal and rhythmic life.
Our very breath rises and falls as our heart beats rhythmically along—both in sync
Any glitch, such as an illness or accident, creates havoc to life’s ebb and flow.
And when one component of our being falls out of tempo with the rest, everything within and without, seems to follow suit.

Disruption
Distraction
Disjunction
Disconnection
Disorder…

We are also spiritual beings.
Who are inextricably linked to the One who set all that is into motion…
Linked endlessly to the One who has given us our being, our rhythm, our life.
Yet long ago, having chosen disobedience over obedience, chaos over order, darkness over light, we placed into jeopardy the very essence of that rhythmic relationship.
The harmony of Life’s seasons was turned upside down and despite our best efforts, remains hopelessly out of sync and out of balance to this day.

So as we find ourselves in the waning days of yet another year,
in the midst the final season of a time which was…
A time of transition…
from cool to cold,
from colorful to bland,
from bright to bleak,
from life to death,
from light to dark….
a time and a season of longing and expectation…
A time that has us wondering, watching, waiting…

A time that is to offer renewing Light…
As in a living Light.
A Light which will bring life giving warmth as it banishes the darkness of colorless death…

There will be those who we will long for this light…
as there will be others who will remain unaware, dismissive and stubbornly unaccepting.
Yet this living Light thankfully comes regardless of the wants and whims of man…
It comes despite the poor choices and refusals…
It comes to offer both Hope and Redemption for any and all…as it will finally set the captives free, as the blind will finally see and those who have been silenced will find their long awaited song.
The Light which will restore the very cadence and rhythm…
to our relationship of One…

Defining Definitions

For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.
(Deuteronomy 4:31 NIV)

DSCN3156
(a cold puffed up Mockingbird perched in the barberry bush / Julie Cook / 2014)

Covenant: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement

Law: a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or
formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority

Ten Commandements: A covenant document

Testament: Latin for Covenant

Oath: a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of
what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says

Rebellious: showing a desire to resist authority, control, or convention.

Disobedience: refusal or failure to obey rules, laws

Willful: obstinately and often perversely self-willed, refusing to change your ideas
or opinions or to stop doing something

Obstinance: the trait of refusing to repent

Adonai / Yahweah: Lord. Used in Judaism as a spoken substitute for the ineffable
name of God.
A name of the Hebrew God, represented in Hebrew by the tetragrammaton (“four
letters”) יהוה (Yod Heh Vav Heh), transliterated into Roman script Y H W H.
Because it was considered blasphemous to utter the name of God it was only written
and never spoken. This resulted in the original pronunciation being lost. The name
may have originally been derived from the old Semitic root הוה (hawah) meaning “to
be” or “to become”.

Child: An offspring. A member of a tribe; descendant

I / Me: Metaphysics– the ego.

Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

Mercy: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender

Savior: one that saves from danger or destruction

Deliverance: the action of being rescued or set free.

Jesus: The name “Jesus” is an Anglicized form of the Greek name Yesous found in the
New Testament, which represented the Hebrew Bible name Yeshua (“Jeshua” in
English Bibles; Ezra 2:2; Neh 7:7). Yeshua, in turn, was a shortened form of
the name Yehoshua (“Joshua” in English Bibles).

“Yehoshua”
“Yehoshua” is a compound name consisting of two elements.

(1) The prefix “Yeho–” is an abbreviation of the Tetragrammaton, God’s Four-
Letter Name: Yod-He-Vav-He or YHVH.

In the Hebrew Bible “Yeho-” is used at the beginning of certain proper names:
Jehoshaphat, Jehoiachin, Jehonathan (the “J” was pronounced as “Y” in Medieval
English). The suffix form of the Tetragrammaton is “-yah” (“-iah” in Greek,
as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, or Halleluiah).

(2) The second element is a form of the Hebrew verb yasha which means to
deliver, save, or rescue.

Thus, linguistically, the name Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus conveys the idea that God (YHVH) delivers (his people).

What defines you?