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The Way



The Way Psalm 1 Jeremiah 17:5-10 Luke 6:17-26 Maybe you’ve heard of the “Didache.” It’s an early, first century Christian manuscript... a document... written about the same time as the Gospels... that was basically used as an early catechism... instructions on Christian life and faith for Jewish Christians. It covered everything from baptism, to prayer... communion... fasting. Things like that. The “Didache” begins with a statement that should be very recognizable, very familiar, to our 21st Century ears... "There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two..." That statement sets the context in which the rest of the Didache’s teachings of Jesus and His church are framed. There are two ways, two paths, two possible directions in life. One way leads to death, destruction... The other leads to life and peace. Of course, Jesus himself declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” I think, sometimes, truth be told... we all lose sight of the simple truths of our faith. We try to make things harder than they really are, or harder than they need to be. We’re so busy trying to apply the Gospel; and make the Gospel appealing to modern life that we forget the truth that’s right in front of us. And the truth, has always been the truth: There are two ways in life. Of course the "Didache" is not the Bible... but it’s based on the Bible... and the Bible says the same thing... over and over again. From the Proverbs (14:12... “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” - two ways - to the New Testament... Jesus said (Matthew 7), “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Two ways. Jeremiah (my favorite of the prophets) said the same thing by speaking of the “cursed” and the “blessed.” “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals.” They are cursed because they trusted in their own abilities, their own strength. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet to the nation of Israel. He prophesied God’s truth to the King... to the leaders of his day. And much like today (our time)... Jeremiah’s world was dominated by a political and social class that trusted in the ways of the world MORE than it’s covenant with God. And that trust and reliance in the things of this world would sometimes lead to the worship of false gods; and tolerating the worship of false gods by the Israelites. By “rooting” their hopes and future in the things of this world... the Israelites were planting themselves in a waterless - lifeless - place. Their hopes would shrivel up and die like a bush in the desert. Of course, later Jeremiah said, "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord." Those who trust in the Lord have found the way that leads to life. They’re like trees planted by a stream. If Israel, as a nation, would put their trust in God they would find the waters of life. From our Call to Worship: the Psalmist also spoke of the two ways. There’s a reason why Psalm 1 is Psalm #1 (as in the first of the Psalms). It, like the first line of the Didache, frames all that follows. It puts the rest of the Book into perspective. "Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked." Their delight is in the law of the Lord. They meditate on it day and night. As Jeremiah said they are like trees planted by a stream. Not only do they find water but they bear fruit. On the other hand, "The wicked are not so." They’re like chaff that the wind blows away. They’re useless and without substance. And when the winds of judgment blow they will be blown away. Of course, Psalm 1 adds some depth to the two ways. Jeremiah speaks in terms of the nation... but Psalm 1 is more personal and individual - adding a personal moral dimension to the equation. The way of life’s not just trusting God, corporately... but actively seeking to do God’s will, individually. It requires personal meditation of God’s will and law. It means seeking understanding so that “we” (or me, myself and I) can live right before God. The way of the world is NOT just about putting “faith” in the world... it’s the way of wickedness - because it scoffs at God's law. Jesus spoke of these two ways also... in terms of “blessings” and “woes.” It’s the beginning of the sermon on the plain. It is the context in which Jesus and Luke frame all of the teachings that follow. Jesus said, "Blessed are you poor," "Blessed are you hungry," "blessed are you who weep." Then he ends with "blessed are you when people hate you and revile you because of the son of Man." Why? Because God will give you the Kingdom of heaven. God will satisfy your hunger. God will give you Joy. God will reward you. Right on the heels of those “blessings” Jesus says, "Woe to you rich," "woe to you who are full," "woe to you who laugh." "Woe to you when people speak well of you." Woe to you... because you will be poor and hungry and weeping and suffer at the judgment. You see, Jesus was coming at the issue from a different angle. In our day everyone is rich. We all have food and clothes and homes... but in Jesus’ day things were radically different. There were those who were rich, and everyone else... which meant the poor were truly destitute. The poor could only depend on God (so-to-speak)... God was their only hope. Not so the rich! Those who are rich and full and spoken well of are those who have put their trust in the world. They will face judgment. Jesus adds a deeper dimension to these two ways. Because, not only is the way of life (for Jesus) about trusting in God and following God’s laws... it’s about living our lives sacrificially... with the needs of others first in our hearts. Some of Jesus’ toughest teachings flow from this deeper dimension. When someone demands you go a mile, go two. When someone slaps your cheek, offer the other. When someone takes your coat, give em’ your shirt. And, for Jesus, not only is the way of death about trusting the ways of the world... and rejecting God's will... it’s about living materialistically and self serving-ly. The way of the world is the way of self-centered-ness. There are two ways: one that leads to life and the other that leads to death. The way of life is the way of Jesus. It’s about placing our trust in God... seeking God's will and trying to live it. It means following him sacrificially, giving of ones self. It is the way that leads to eternal life. Which way are you & I going? Which path are we following? I hope and pray that those who come to church on Sunday are striving with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, to walk on the narrow road... walking in the light... the way that leads to life... But, ultimately, only you and I can answer that question for ourselves.

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