Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dec 3, Tues in the wk of Advent 1, 2007 John of Damascus

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 Nativity Fast Great-Martyr Barbara and
John of Damascus
1st Vespers, Martyr: Isaiah 43:9-14 Epistle: Galatians
3:23-4:5 Gospel: St. Mark 5:24-34

Witnesses: Isaiah 43:9-14 LXX, especially vs. 10: "Be ye My witnesses,
and I too Am a witness, says the Lord God, and My Servant Whom I have
chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I Am He:
before Me there was no other god, and after Me there shall be none."
Nativity scenes in parks or the word Christmas in advertisements stir up
lobbyists, court actions, and protests; but these contests are mere
symptoms of a deep social question: Is the Lord of the Church really
this world's ultimate God and King? The present passage from Isaiah
discloses that this issue is ages old, as well as pertinent for
countless decisions that Christians have to make every day. In the
courtroom of this world, Truth is on trial, and, as God declares in
these verses, "ye are My witnesses" (vs. 12). Do you count yourself as
a Christian? Notice, then, that God's declaration comes after His
earlier command to you and me: "be ye My witnesses" (vs. 10).

Are you ready to be God's witness? Think about the purpose of witnesses
- to establish a truth being challenged. Witnesses provide evidence to
support one view or another of what the truth is on the basis of their
experience, belief, and understanding (vs. 10). The present trial is
unique, for everyone is a witness on one side or the other, as the Lord
Jesus says, "He who is not with Me is against me" (Lk. 11:23). Thus,
being Christian is to be in God's witness pool. Notice, God speaks to
us corporately, as His Church - "ye...My witnesses," including Himself
among the witnesses: "I too Am a witness...and My Servant Whom I have
chosen" (Is. 43:10).

How serious is the presence and activity of God in this world versus
whomever or whatever else may compete for allegiance, obedience, and
solutions? "Before Me there was no other god, and after Me there shall
be none. I Am God" (vss. 10,11). The God revealed in Jesus Christ
gives no ground to competitors at the absolute end of the scale. His
testimony is that, in rank order, allegiance to Him stands above all
created powers, entities, and persons. Currently, truths are peddled to
coddle buyers, pander to interest groups, or curry favors or money or
power with the effect of ignoring or qualifying God's first-rank
position. The Lord challenges such: "let them bring forth their
witnesses, and be justified; and let them hear, and declare the truth"
(vs. 9).

In the mental health arena many panaceas and pills are offered for
sleeplessness, anxiety, tension, nerves - and mostly these treat
symptoms and not deep, root causes. The Pharmaceutical companies hawk
their wares on television. How do you witness to the Source of health?
One should not discount the counsel, prescriptions, and therapies
offered by doctors, but do evaluate your behavior and their choices as
God's witness from the context of prayer and not of panic.

National security in the face of ideological and religious claims from
"strange gods" (vs. 12) must not be treated flippantly. There are
devotees of gods-who-are-not-God who are frantic and fanatic to prove
they are right. God challenges them to stand up against His testimony
and that of His witness pool, the Church (vs. 9). The solutions are
complex and elusive in this fallen world; but a Christian starts at the
high end of the scale, knowing that human solutions are ultimately
limited. What science, technology, warcraft, or political treaty
ultimately "can deliver out of [God's] hands: [He] will work, and who
shall turn it back?" (vs. 13). Act from His peace.

We serve a God Who offers deliverance and salvation, not on a temporal
scale but on an eternal one. The redemption (vs. 14), the salvation
(vs. 12), that the True God brings is not of this world. The Babylons
from which He frees (vs. 14) are sin, evil, Satan, and the deaths that
stretch across time into eternity. In the Lord, you witness to the
Kingdom of God above all and in all.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil.

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