The Word of God alive and active

Farmville Enterprise March 20, 2019

Greenville’s Community Bible Study women are studying the Gospel of Matthew. A recent lesson covered the Seven Woes which Jesus outlined regarding the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Entrenched in their hyper-legalism, they could not see that they completely had missed God’s intention. These men were so intent on keeping the letter of the law to the most minute detail that they even counted out and gave God one out of 10 cumin seeds or mint leaves in order to keep their tithes. Jesus said, “But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see.” (Matthew 23:3b-5) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:23-26)

While discussing this red-letter passage in Core Group my thoughts immediately went back to a childhood memory. When I was 11 or 12 my mother took me to see the Colonial Players of Annapolis’ rendition of Godspell. A rock opera based primarily based on the Gospel of Matthew, some of the songs were almost entirely Scripture verses. “Alas for You,” based on Matthew 23, was one such song. “Blind guides, blind fools, the blood you spilt on you will fall. This nation, this generation will bear the guilt of it all.” After seeing the play my mom purchased the Godspell album and for weeks, if not months, I listened to it and memorized the lyrics.

Erik, a neighbor who was a year younger and who spent a lot of time with our family, really enjoyed listening to that album with me. For the time that I knew him well, into the early college years, God did not seem like a top priority in Erik’s life. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he and his wife were expecting their second son. At the beginning of his brutal fight with the disease he became connected with a United Methodist pastor and congregation because of a neighbor. Several people have told me that through those relationships Erik’s life was changed. He made a commitment to Christ and wanted others to know it. At age 34 Erik died. At his funeral Bibles were given out per his request.

In each of our lives there are thousands of recognized and unrecognized influences that shape us. How we are treated, what we hear, what we read and what we observe are all components of how we develop. Hearing and reading Scripture and seeing it lived out well can have a tremendous influence. I thank God for this congregation and minister who loved Erik enough to share with him the Bible, the living Word, in order for him to be drawn closer to Jesus, the living Word.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)  “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

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