Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 126:5-6’

Reflecting on ordination and more

August 11, 2017

Ephesians 4--1

I begin this day, August 11, 2017, reflecting on an event of supreme significance occurring forty-three years ago, when I was ordained to the Christian ministry. Biblical scholar, E.W. Bullinger discusses the symbolic significance of the number 43, which is a combination of forty and three:

The number 40 is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8).This is certainly the case where forty relates to a period of evident probation. . . . A period of testing.

Now the number three stands for that which is solid, real, substantial, complete, and entire. . . All things that are specially complete are stamped with this number three, representing divine completeness or perfection.

Many times periods of reflection result in a poetic output, as Wordsworth observes, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Today’s occasion brought to mind three poems written related to my calling to the ministry:

Although my ordination was the public recognition of my individual response to the call of God to serve, this recognition of my inner prompting to be of greater service transpired long before my actual ordination ceremony on August 11, 1974. I recall as a child being aware of the presence of God, and as I grew older and was introduced to the Bible, I remember reading the passage in Isaiah 6 where the glory of God overwhelms the Prophet, who responds to the question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answers saying, “Here am I, send me.” This simple response resonated within me for years, and I continue to respond to God whereby I first heard His voice and answered:

The Call

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,

beseech you to walk worthy of the calling

with which you were called,

Ephesians 4:1

 

The call resounds like a repeated name

From the lips of a dear friend who knows you.

I clearly hear my name and see the flame

That lights the path of those whom God foreknew

Would hear and heed a higher destiny.

This calling only God can verify.

My ear cannot hear; my eye cannot see;

Yet within my heart I cannot deny

That I have heard and seen what few will know.

I must arise and strive to reach the place

Where the rivers of understanding flow1

And never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.

I stand in the unbroken line of all

Those who, having heard, rise to heed the call.

Another related poem is “This Year of My Jubilee.”  To understand some of the references in this poem, one must first be familiar with the Old Testament concept of the Sabbath Year observed every seven years. Also known as the “Year of Release,” during this period no farming nor manual labor was to take place. In addition, all debt payments were remitted. At the end of every seven Sabbath Years, a special Sabbatical Year, The Year of Jubilee, was observed, during which time bond-slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants, however, could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established.

As it turns out, some have calculated 2017 will be another Jubilee Year in the Hebrew calendar, so that this poem is even more significant in that light.

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17

 

I stand alone clothed only with the wind

At the end of another seventh Sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bond-slave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as You command,

Pierce my ear, place Your brand upon my soul;

Enlighten me so that I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of Your ways

And renew my vows to serve You all my days.

A year ago, I posted a blog entry entitled “Reflections on a convergence of events,” as my heart overflowed with gratitude to God for being alive to celebrate not only my ordination, but most providentially my wife, Brenda, and I were present to share in the birth of our first grandchild, Kingston Edward Simkins, who made his grand entrance at 5:45 p.m. on August 11, 2016, weighing in at 6 pounds 14 ounces with a 20 and three-quarter inch frame. Later in the day while trying to take in the magnitude of the moment, I recognized that these two events had occurred during August which has been designated as “What will be your legacy month?”

The closing piece in this series of celebratory poems makes reference to the importance of the legacy that one leaves behind:

To Serve and To Sow

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.

He who continually goes forth weeping,

Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again

with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5, 6

 

I learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,

To pour from the fountain of my soul and to give

All my strength to the Lord’s work and to do my part

To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,

For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.

The legacy to fulfill God’s will lives beyond

The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain,

This precious token of our covenant, the bond

Of devotion to the Master, perfected love

Shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in His peace

That passes understanding, flowing from above.

As I plant and water, our God gives the increase.

Freely I have received that I might come to know

The love of Christ, as I learn to serve and to sow.

I closed my blog post last year with these comments and a music video which still apply today:

Overall, my desire is to leave a legacy of a man called to serve and to minister to the people of God, a legacy that will touch eternity. Indeed, the example that we leave for others to follow is part of our legacy, which should be of concern to everyone, not just during August but every day of our lives. We close with “Find Us Faithful” which reminds Christian believers of the importance of the legacies that they leave:

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To serve

May 22, 2016

Galatians-5-13

The Verse of the Day for May 22, 2016 brings to mind one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Bible, an extraordinary paradox that continues to baffle all those who encounter the duality of freedom and servanthood, the distinction between “bond and free.” One of the scriptures that highlights the paradox of being free yet choosing to serve is found in Galatians 5:13 (AMP):

For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another.

The New Living Translation offers this rendering:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

In discussing the two concepts of freedom and serving one another, one encounters a most provocative, related term translated from the Greek word doulos, meaning “servant”, “bond servant,” or “bond-slave,” or “slave.” In fact, the verb “to serve” in Galatians 5:13 is derived from the Greek word doulos and has been translated “to be a slave, to serve or render service or serving.”
Paul reiterates the message that though as a believer he is free in Christ, yet he chooses to serve others:

1 Corinthians 9:19 (AMP):

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ].

As believers the state or condition whereby we have been called to salvation is liberty or freedom: freedom from the yoke of bondage, freedom from the chains that bind us in sin. We are, however, not to use our freedom as an occasion for the flesh or as an excuse or pretext for indulging our selfish desires. Instead, we are to be servants, those bound by love to serve one another.
In the midst of our times that preclude a super-abundant harvest season, we must learn

To Serve and To Sow

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5, 6

We learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,
To pour from the fountain of our souls and to give
All our strength to the Lord’s work and to do our part
To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,
For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.
The legacy that fulfills God’s will lives beyond
The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain.
This precious token of our covenant, the bond
Of devotion to the Master, perfected love
Is shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in peace
That passes understanding, flowing from above.
As we plant and water, our God gives the increase.
Freely we have received that we might come to know
The love of God, as we learn to serve and to sow.

The Verse of the Day brought to mind once more the significance of the metaphor of the “servant” or “bond-slave” as revealed in the Scriptures. The portrayal of this Biblical figure has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America. In the early 1970s or thereabout, I was introduced to the previously mentioned Greek term “doulos.” In 1975 I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave.” In 1978 while completing my Master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. A year ago, I re-posted a blog here at “Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe” which also featured the original article along with poetry and music videos related to the term “doulos.” Click here to access a link to that entry that might be of interest.

Without question, “to serve” is one of the most powerful verbs in the English language. Listen to this excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct,” unforgettable sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, who unfolds the beauty and simplicity in the words “To serve.”

Sowing and reaping

January 21, 2016

Galatians-6-7-9

The Verse of the Day for January 21, 2016 discusses one of the immutable principles of life: sowing and reaping:

Galatians 6: 7-8 (NKJV):

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

2 Corinthians 9:6 reiterates this same principle:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The original expression of this principle is known as “Seedtime and Harvest” which goes back to Jehovah’s words to Noah following the flood in Genesis 8:22:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.”

This concept is expressed another way in terms of “giving and receiving,” particularly within the context of financially contributing to the work of the ministry within the Church, as revealed in Philippians 4:15 (NKJV):

15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 9 also makes reference to giving following the mentioning of sowing and reaping:

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Giving is another expression of the universal principle whose application reaches far beyond an agricultural context, as revealed in Luke 6:38(NKJV)

38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Whether we refer to the principle of “seedtime and harvest” or “giving and receiving” or as the Verse of the Day indicates, “sowing & reaping,” we are reminded that each individual on earth determines his or her own destiny: whatever an individual sows that individual shall also reap. Think about this: “Thoughts are seeds to your words and deeds.” With this in mind, we are always sowing and reaping, in thought, in word, and in deed.” Our discussion also brings to mind to mind this poem:

To Serve and To Sow

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5-6

We learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,
To pour from the fountain of our soul and to give
All our strength to the Lord’s work and to do our part
To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,
For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.
The legacy of God’s will fulfilled lives beyond
The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain,
This precious token of our covenant, the bond
Of devotion to the Master, perfected love
Shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in His peace
That passes understanding, flowing from above.
As we plant and water, our God gives the increase.
Freely we have received that we might come to know
The love of God, as we learn to serve and to sow.

Listen to “Those Who Sow in Tears Shall Reap in Joy” by Esther Mui, Christian Praise Worship Song based on Psalm 126, source of the introductory passage of “To Sow and to Serve.”

Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep

May 28, 2014

Romans_12-15

The Verse of the Day for May 28, 2014 is taken from Romans 12:15 which tells us to  “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 in the New Living Testament also remind us:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.   A time to grieve and a time to dance.

One of the times when we “weep with them that weep” occurs with the death of a family member, a friend or loved one. During such times we may experience deep sorrow and great loss, as we look to the Word of God to find the comfort and strength to overcome the sense of anguish that can be overwhelming. Because of the hope of Christ’s return, the Scriptures indicate that believers should not sorrow as others who have no hope, but the Bible does not state that we should not sorrow at all. Indeed, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.

When it comes to “weeping with them that weep,” from time to time someone expresses the misguided notion that “a man ain’t supposed to cry.” On the contrary, the greatest man who ever lived, a real “man’s man,” a man for all seasons, openly displayed his emotions in the John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” We also see that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. In the hours prior to his crucifixion, Jesus Christ experienced great sorrow, as Matthew 26:37-38 (NLT) reveal:

37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.

38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Jesus Christ before his departure from this life was forewarning his disciples that they would likewise experience great sorrow in John 16:20-22 (NLT):

20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.

22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.

As believers when we experience great loss, we are reminded that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. The essence of the message regarding sorrow and loss is expressed in this poem:

Ain’t No Harm to Moan Sometime

a blues sonnet of sorts

 

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 3:4

 

Jesus, the Savior said, “Blessed are they that mourn.”

Yes, sir, the Master said, “Blessed are they that mourn.”

Think about that the next time you’re sad and forlorn.

 

Though you be a witness, proclaiming the gospel news.

Yes, you may be a witness, proclaiming the gospel news.

Yet and still, all God’s children gotta taste the blues.

 

Hard times come–some folk have few, and some have many.

Hard times come–some folk have few, and some have many.

Don’t forget, even Jesus had His Gethsemane.

 

Though dark clouds hang so low you don’t know what to do,

Though dark clouds hang so low you don’t know what to do,

Remember, the sun shines on the other side of “through.”

 

Don’t matter how low you go, how high you climb,

I declare, “Ain’t no harm to moan. . . sometime.”

 

Though our hearts may be heavy during times of sorrow and loss, we rejoice, knowing that God will turn our mourning into joy, and will comfort us, and make us rejoice from our sorrow. Psalm 126:5-6 (NLT) remind us:

Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

The Sons of Korah provide this musical rendition of Psalm 126: