God has been speaking loudly lately. Pastor Carey spoke about it at Staff Chapel this week. God is speaking, telling us to listen. We need to listen. And I would add, we need to respond to what God is telling us.
The week earlier Pastor Jody talked to us, with visual props, about getting trapped – encountering a stumbling block because we take offense at something, like the Disciples did in Matthew 13:57. I can still hear the sound that came when Pastor Jody pulled the mouse trap he was holding. We allow how we FEEL to take over our thoughts, words and deeds and we could find ourselves stuck like in a trap. At the Children’s Pastors’ Conference (CPC) I attended, preacher Bryan Loritts reminded us to “Always let what you know trump how you feel. Truth is more important than feeling.”
I was going through my notes from CPC and there was a word I wanted to look up. I didn’t catch the origin, but Beth Guckenberger was talking about reconciliation. The word she used was Sulha (Sool-ha) and my notes said “hold against no more – no longer stuck by what was done against me.” I researched and went on a wild chase trying to find this word in a Greek or Hebrew Bible (thankful my boss is a theology scholar from Asbury) but we had no luck. Turns out the word is Arabic. This Arabic term, “sulha” comes from the Hebrew word for table, “shulchan”. A sulha, a meal covenant of reconciliation, is a Hebraic principle found throughout Scripture, though not specifically mentioned. This special meal becomes the means for reconciliation not just between people, but also between man and God.
Psalm 23 says….”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (NKJ)
Unless you understand the concept of reconciliation associated with a meal, this verse does not make much sense.
In Hebraic symbolism, God prepares a table before our enemies means that He is making the way possible for us to be “reconciled” to our enemies. That is why our cup overflows (the Hebraic symbol of joy), and surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It is our blessed assurance that God will take care of us and even our enemies, providing the way for reconciliation.
Where do we know an act of reconciliation around a table, sharing a meal? The Lord’s Supper is the ultimate sulha.
How beautiful to see Communion as an act of “no longer stuck by that which has separated me from God.” We are forgiven even for what we don’t deserve to be forgiven, and our identity is made anew in Christ.
Beth explained this so beautifully during the conference, but my notes did not transfer well. So it was like discovering it again when I did some research. A concept that I thought I understood, but explained in a new light and it brings more meaning, understanding and grace.
Then I went to my Financial Peace class and watched the video about debt. I was so enlightened that I vowed to watch the video again with my husband and adult son. Dave Ramsey physically illustrated the chains of debt that pervades our society and how it keeps us from obeying God and being able to fully live according to His will. It feels quite like a mousetrap, actually. At the end of the video, Ramsey tells us that we can get free from debt. But we have to run hard….with intensity of a gazelle. And God is waiting for us, because he loves us so and He is waiting for us. He is not mad at us. He loves us.
And if that is not enough, I just finished listening to a young adult book called “I was Here” by Gayle Forman. It is an intense story of a young woman dealing with the suicide of her best friend. The story winds through her grief and encountering hard emotions. One of the best quotes from the book is “Anything that kills hope is a sin.” That’s a good way of defining sin I think. Another point from the book is that we choose how we spend our time. We can choose to spend our time around negative things that kill hope. Or we can do positive things to move forward in a positive light. This is what God wants for us. To live in His light. Run for it….like a gazelle. Forgive others. Forgive yourself and pursue hope.
A facebook friend asked us to share favorite quotes about hope. I shared one of my favorites from Romans 5:3-5: …..”we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Your servant is listening. Speak Lord to my soul.