Sometimes it’s Optics

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 11:12b everything comes from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Doesn’t nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him; 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? This is because her long hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if someone wants to argue about this, we don’t have such a custom, nor do God’s churches.

O (Observation): God has created everything. Sometimes, we take those things and they can mean something good or something bad.

Wearing hats, or not. Long hair, or not. These are the debates of Paul’s day. Kind of like: do I eat food sacrifices to an idol or not? Maybe you can. If it’s just you, it’s likely no big deal…but if one of those who are new to the faith see you eating food to an idol, and they don’t know you, you might cause them to be put into a bad spot.

Same with the hair and coverings. Many believe that other religions and their followers did certain things with head coverings and hair. Paul, I believe, is continuing the conversation about optics. What do you appear to be doing. If you are looking like a prophet or preacher for a false god, you may just wanna avoid that altogether.

A (Application): So what do we do with verses like this? We make ladies wear hats in church. Or, at least we used to…

Reading the Bible can be dangerous business. I appreciate the devotional approach to reading scripture, but questions like this come (regarding the hair and head coverings). We think: we’ll, that’s weird, and move on. But I want you to question what the words are that you are reading. Ask why this is here. Apparently Paul thought it was important.

Perhaps the takeaway is this: We raise up leaders amongst ourselves to know us and guide us. This text seems to be Paul addressing a contemporary issue. Perhaps we can take note and realize the difference between a theological treatise and suggestion about behavior.

We don’t prescribe behavior…instead we must ask ourselves: is this action praising God?

If so, great. If not, re-think it. And ask a friend.

P (Prayer): Lord, we thank you for surrounding us with people who love us and challenge us for good reason. Amen.

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From Head to Heart

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S (Scripture): Matthew 7:28 When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were amazed at his teaching 29 because he was teaching them like someone with authority and not like their legal experts.

O (Observation): Jesus finishes up the Sermon on the Mount. The crowd reacts to Jesus’ message (beginning in Matthew 5). The impact of this message on the people is this:

“He was teaching them like someone with authority and not like their legal experts.”

Jesus speaks in a way that he is not just parroting what God desires. Instead, Jesus fully embodies God’s will and message as he speaks to the crowd.

A (Application): So often, Christians will parrot and repeat messages. This is a good first step in faith formation. One must know the basics of the faith.

Many Lutherans I know that are 50+ years of age recall that Confirmation consisted of much memorization. Some had to memorize the entire Small Catechism, some had to remember parts of it. Or Scripture.

What they are supposed to do with that memorization was up to them.

The move from the head to the heart is the most difficult distance to travel. That is what Jesus has done. He has moved our faith toward its original intent: a law and a Spirit that dwells in our hearts. This is why Jesus seemed to teach with authority, because the Law and Spirit reside in his heart.

As I help our young people prepare for a life in the Christian faith, we focus less on memorization and more on learning how to embody the faith and how to discern what the Spirit is saying. We talk about where we have seen God in our lesson, or in our lives. We share that “kairos” moment and ask one another to give their feedback into the other’s kairos. We discern, together, what God is saying for that person and what God would have that person do. The individual takes the lead, but the surrounding community gives feedback to help the individual decide what God is saying.

Jesus taught with authority, because he and God are one and because Jesus knows the Law in his heart. May we know such union with God that we might speak with gracious and humble authority in our own lives…that we might help others to know our peace and our desire to seek peace and justice throughout the earth.

P (Prayer): God, move our faith from our heads to our hearts. Amen.