Reading Psalm 71... In this Psalm, the king of Israel's purpose includes to receive from God His judgments and His righteousness, and then in turn judge God's people with righteousness and bring about abundance of peace... and to have compassion on the poor and needy and afflicted, rescuing them from oppression and violence, delivering and saving them from the oppressor, vindicating them ... so all the people will fear God forever, and the righteous will flourish.
Anyway, I was thinking about this... over and over in both the Old Testament and New Testament, there is this constant theme of justice, righteousness, peaces, crushing of oppression, delivering the poor, the needy, the afflicted. And that reminded me that that is the theme/ reason of the kind of fasting God wants from us, as well. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the "salvation" that God has provided is not just a "ticket to heaven" or even simply "spiritual salvation now and in eternity" ... but it also includes the practical, lived-out character and purposes of God, constantly, in all areas of the lives of His people... love, justic, peace, an end to oppression, caring for the poor, and so on.
It seems to me that the "gospel message" I have heard most of my life has rightly proclaimed salvation by the blood of Jesus... but has too often neglected the rest... Not meaning to, I hope... but then I think of the "scorn" from "evangelical churches" that I have witnessed toward the "liberal" churches and their "social gospel"... It reminds me of Jesus warning the Pharisees, who tithed even the herbs in their garden... but ignored justice and mercy and faithfulness, that "these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." (Mt 23:23)
Yesterday at "church in the park" breakfast time I admit I felt kind of nervous... ___ was the only other woman there (except for one other who arrived just as we were leaving), and she is so quiet (and peaceful!). Me, when I get nervous, tend to motor-mouth... and then I'm embarrassed. I wasn't nervous about the people themselves - as hubby says, they are "real people!"
But I think I am struggling with all my thoughts about "church" ... and end up feeling like I should be "doing something" to "make it church" instead of just letting You lead in Your own way... which is totally where I do NOT want to be, but 50 plus years of that kind of experience is hard to shake...
Anyway, then we didn't "go to our church" morning service, and as the day went on I ended up with my tummy hurting bad... which it hasn't done at all in the past week as You've released me! Oddly enough, I can't stop thinking about what "other people... church people" are thinking. Of course, no one has called me to see why I've been away from "church services" lately.... so I'm thinking they can't be very worried about it! I guess that all my life, "going to church" has been one of the biggest RULES of my existence.
I even remember years ago when I was in my heavy drinking and partying stage, and hardly ever went near a church, that I would be sitting there on Sunday mornings, hung over with a beer in my hand, watching people go to church, and feeling guilty, and wanting to go myself (and it wasn't just "guilt" though that was part of it; and it wasn't just "habit" though that was also part of it; but the thing is, even then I wanted to be near - with - You and Your people...
I do believe it is important - crucial, even - to be part of a church - of a group of believers who gather regularly (even daily!) with You in their midst... to take part in Your body, Your family, Your work (in whatever ways of gathering that You lead them to be part of).
But at the same time I'm totally skittish about being dragged back into programs and structures, into that scaffolding that obscures and interferes with Your relationship with Your people, and with Your work in them and through them, as You really intend.
I want, at the same time, to get beyond this... well, what is beginning to feel like an "obsession with the whole church question" which I sometimes feel lately has been kind of taking over my life, obscuring my view of Your working, and obscuring my relationship with You and with Your family. I see the enemy taking a good work You are doing in my life, and trying to turn it into a distraction, so that I lose sight of, and relationship with, You! I must be vigilant! I do not want to lose sight of You no matter what! I want my heart to be always one with You.
It is a beautiful sun-shiny day (though quite breezy-chilled!) and I long to go out walk-about and see if there isn't something I can do to share Your love with others... but it seems so often I can't find anyone to talk with or whatever (though there are lots of people hurrying about... and yes, I am shy!).. Also, I long to spend time with others in Your Word, and in sharing Your life together and reaching out.
I was thinking how when I lived in really small towns, almost any time I went outside I would run into people I knew or recognized... or even if I didn't know them, they didn't mind at all if I was friendly or helpful... but it seems like the bigger the place, the more people just steer clear of any "stranger" who tries to be friendly toward them.
It seems hard to build relationships with the believers you know are scattered all over a large community (which is generally the rule in our "churches"). Of all the people in "our church" in the nearly 8 full years I've gone there, there hasn't really been anyone in "my neighborhood" (and my efforts to befriend my neighbors have not been successful, either... they're busy, or have their own "group," or whatever). There was a young couple a few blocks away, the girl started to "attend our church" and I tried to befriend them, but they didn't seem to be interested; maybe they thought I was too old? And the closest that others have been are probably over a kilometer away... many of them a lot of kilometers... not "walking distance" like where I used to live in small towns.
Also, in the small towns, people walk a lot, but here most people seem to drive. And in small towns, "jobs" are limited (so there is more chance of some people being at home), and there aren't a lot of sports teams and clubs and lessons for the kids and such, so people have more time for each other, while in bigger towns everyone seems to be so busy. And in big towns, people seem a lot more "bought into" the whole idea of hanging out with people who are "just like me" in terms of age, interests, whatever. Even churches tend to be like that - churches for certain beliefs or worship styles, churches for young adults or young families or seniors (or clearly delineated programs that woe-be-tied-you if you don't stay where you belong!) ... while in small towns there might be only one or two "churches" anywhere, and not enough people to have much in the way of "programs"... so it's much more "family" ....
But maybe this is just another "pet peeve" obscuring my vision, too, trying to distract me from knowing You, loving You and loving Your people, and hearing Your voice, seeing You working among Your family and out in the world... and just BEING with You and Yours! Eh?