Tag Archives: Body of Christ

Being the Body of Christ

Living in the Spirit
October 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14

Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’ –Matthew 22:8-14

Yesterday we dealt with not accepting God’s invitation. Today, we see the other side of the story—accepting the invitation but not the responsibility that goes with it.  The commitment to God is all or nothing. A sports team fully committed to winning with each player doing his or her part can often beat a team with better players who rely on their native talents.

Christ called his followers to be his Body from the time of his Ascension to today. Our primary tasks are first to love God and love one another as we go into all the world spreading that love and doing justice until the whole world in one in God’s love. While this is a full-time job, carrying out these tasks are best accomplished and most successful when we weave them through our everyday experiences of work and play, being a family, and being a community.

Prayer: Lord, walk with us each step of the way so that being the Body of Christ is second nature in everything we do. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Becoming One

Living in the Spirit
October 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. –Philippians 4:8-9

I sat at the symphony recently and listened to an exquisite Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber that just made me feel good all over. The scripture above elicits in me a similar feeling of peace and wellbeing. I think that is what Paul intended to do. In the face of all the world aims at us we have the confidence of faith that the God of peace is with us. One of my favorite scriptures is John 16:33, I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’

Our challenge is not getting dragged into the chaos that surrounds us and still doing all we can to carry out our calling. The advantage of working as the Body of Christ is the synergy that derives from working one with the other. None of us has all the answers. The problems we face demands all the skills and efforts we can muster with the sure and certain knowledge that Christ is with us even when the occasion arises that we mess up. God created lemons and the person who figured out how to make lemonade.

Part of our task is to be inclusive of those who might do us harm for they are God’s children too. Pray for your enemies is not an empty command. Seeking to understand others and offering them opportunities for positive output exploring common ground may be our greatest work.

 Prayer: God of Might and Miracles move among us and make us one as you are one. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Be of the Same Mind

Living in the Spirit
October 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. –Philippians 2-3

Apparently, Euodia and Syntyche were not of the same mind. There is a lot of that going around today. I mused to a friend recently that I could not understand how people could interpret the same behavior so very differently. It makes one wonder if evil spirits like Screwtape and Wormwood from C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters exists. There seems to be some evil trying desperately to separate God’s children from forming the world that God envisioned for us all. Who benefits from a dearth of love in the world? Warmongers might be one group as they make a lot of money from the carnage of battlefields. I suppose anyone who values money more than love benefit. What about all the folks who are missing out on an abundant life because others are reaping benefits they did not sow. Refocusing the disenfranchised on blaming each other for their situations contributes to the mayhem.  Carefully making minority groups of all kinds scapegoats keeps the wheels of fortune moving. History tells us over and over again that such behavior comes to a bad end. Israel fell to Assyria, Judah fell to Babylon, Rome just fell apart failing to hold a workable government together. Sound familiar?

I must confess I want to run away from all the disarray, but God calls us to create a world of love, to be a part of the solution. The starting point is finding the things on which we can become of the same mind and making them work. It also requires us to see beyond our lives and gain perspective from the ways others must face the world. We must be able to set aside the things that distract us that in the grand scheme of things matter only to those interested in causing division.

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Prayer: Lord, train us in the way we should go. Help us find the same mind and not be distracted from attaining your vision. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

In Times Like These

Living in the Spirit
October 7, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”? Matthew 21:42

The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes. –Psalm 118:22-23

Cornerstone: the event, fact, or thing that forms the principal foundation or support upon which an achievement is based or from which a development makes its beginning*

Christ is the chief cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. The end we work for is not a shallow promise without substance. God wrote a vision of a just and good world on the heart of Jesus who came to earth to share it with us and invite us to join in becoming part of his very Body to make God’s vision real for all God’s children.

I turned on the news this morning to hear of another senseless shooting, the worst in the country’s history. We seem to compete for beating our worst. We are still recovering from some of the worst hurricanes in modern times and hear of the people of Puerto Rico caught in catastrophe with little food and water and no electricity. While our governmental leaders seem to be under the impression that if we cut our income, we will have more money to spend while recent and past experience tells us that is not true.

In times like these, you need a Savior,
In times like these, you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

CHORUS: The Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One,
The Rock is Jesus, The only One
Be very sure, be very sure, Your anchor holds,
And grips the Solid Rock.**

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength and courage to continue our work toward your Kingdom in times like these. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/cornerstone

**First verse and chorus of In Times Like These by Ruth Caye Jones see at http://www.namethathymn.com/christian-hymns/in-times-like-these-lyrics.html

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Kingdom Building

Living in the Spirit
October 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:12-14

Paul cuts us some slack recognizing how hard it is to change habits of the heart. We must face the fact that what is good for us and others will in many cases be hard for us to effect. In 1991, I staffed a legislative study regarding child care which entailed holding public hearing all around the state. I drove the State Senator who was the sponsor of the project to a public hearing in Tulsa. It lasted longer than expected, was contentious, and sapped both of us of energy. We had neither one eaten before the meeting which ran well past the dinner hour. We stopped at a fast food place to grab a sandwich on our way out of town. The Senator walked in front of me to the counter. The teen behind the counter met my eyes as second in line asking what I wanted. I said she was before me. She said go ahead. He said to me what can I get for you. Clueless, and thinking do you know who she is, I said I need to look at the menu a little longer, and he finally took her order. At that point, I realized what was happening. She is black, and I am white. Why was I so slow to understand? It takes intentionality to live and love like Jesus.

Ushering in the Kingdom of God is a fulltime, full-life project. It involves every aspect of how we function in the world from reducing our carbon footprint to feeding the hungry to working toward God’s justice for all. We must press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
   Give us this day our daily bread.
   And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one. * Amen.

*Matthew 6:9–13

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Serving God More Nearly

Living in the Spirit
September 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross.

 Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father. –Philippians 2:5-11

We have a great role model in Jesus Christ. We must study his words and his ways and incorporate them into our lives. Too often, I fear, we skim the surface of his teaching, picking and choosing the ones that already are part of our natural selves or are easy to master. We let go of the challenging ones.

Remember the story of the rich young ruler? (Matthew19:16-22) He asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, and Jesus told him to follow the commandments. To which the young man said that he had always done that what else should he do. Jesus replied, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

No armchair quarterbacks needed here. We are called to participate fully investing all our skills and resources on Jesus’ team. All of our efforts are needed to build a world ruled by God’s love.

Prayer: Grant us the courage to step out in faith and serve you more nearly. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

The Good We Can Do

Living in the Spirit
September 25, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ –Exodus 17:1-3

Think of a time when you felt you were at the end of your rope. You have tried every possible solution to a vexing problem or issue and there just seems no way out. The Israelites seem to be at that point in our scripture today. We have no idea of any actions they had taken to find water. We enter the story where they demand that Moses save them from dying of dehydration, a very real fear in an arid land. Because the scripture does not describe whether the Israelites searched for water or not, the story leaves us with the impression the Israelites were dependent on Moses to solve their problem and also to approach God for help. The later seems strange to people of faith who from childhood are taught to pray directly to God.

While I believe we need to be in constant communion with God, I also believe we, as part of the Body of Christ, are to engage with God to fulfill God’s purpose in the world today. John Wesley stated it this way: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. When I hear this quote, I think of the little boy bringing his five loaves and two fishes to Jesus as a source of nourishing 5,000 people. *

Our all too human need to fix blame and vent anger is not helpful in problem-solving. Taking an inventory of available resources and skills is a good place to start like bringing forth five loaves and two fishes.

Prayer: Lord, help us focus on the good we can do in all situations as we approach troublesome issues in our world. Amen.

*See John 6:1-14

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved

Thanksgiving leads Progress

Living in the Spirit
September 20, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 105;1-6, 37-45

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
   make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
   tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
   his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
   children of Jacob, his chosen ones. —Psalm 105;1-6

We are reminded regularly by Psalmist and others to give thanks to God for God’s fidelity in love and fulfilling all that the Lord has promised. Why do we say or sing praises to God in the short term while quickly moving to an attitude of “What have you done for me lately?’ Those of us who claim to be partners as the Body of Christ in effecting the Kingdom of God are particularly vexing when we get caught up in such an attitude. Shouldn’t our perspective be “We have reach a plateau where do you want us to go next.” Until the Kingdom is complete our work is not finished.

I love Romans 8:28:  We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. There was certainly nothing good about the Oklahoma City bombing but the good this city has experienced since then is amazing. The bombing helped us see what was important. Helped us get our priorities straight. We have a lot more work to do and we must continually remind ourselves of what is important.

The same is true of our work toward the Kingdom of God. We should not rely on tragedies or natural disasters to bring us together to find the oneness we need to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. There is no place in the world for greed or lust for power. There is a place for wise investment of resources and skills, and leadership through servanthood targeted at God’s vision for God’s creation.

Prayer: We do give thanks to you, O Lord, for your steadfast love as we take the next steps to further your vision for all. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved

Awakening

Living in the Spirit
August 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’ –Exodus 3:7-12

The above scripture is preceded by the story of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush, what I consider to be an awakening experience. How long had Moses chewed on his earlier life and what was happening to his people before the dawn broke and he felt the call to make a difference? Do we all experience moments in our lives when we too understand an issue but ask the question “Who and I to go and address this problem?” The answer in Moses case was self-evident. He knew well the workings of the Egyptian government; he knew well the oppression of his people. No one had greater motivation or was better prepared than he. God did not answer his question with this sort of logic. God said I will be with you and furthermore when you complete the task and are worshiping me back here on this mountain hindsight will tell you that it was I who sent you.

How many of us are feeling the tug of God to get on with the business of being the Body of Christ in the world today and not be distracted by principalities and powers tossing our way of being about like rag dolls? Who are we to go and address the problems of our world?  We serve a risen Savior who is in the world today working in and through us as God worked in and through Moses and Miriam and Peter and Mary Magdalene, and Paul and Pheobe and all of God’s other children who share God’s vision of a world ruled by love. If not us who?

What life experiences do we bring to the table? Are we retired teachers; can we tutor? Are we working in health care; what solutions do we see to cut costs and continue to provide quality care? Are we scientist; can we find ways to curb global warming? Are we citizens; can we remind our elected officials that they work for us, not the lobbyist?

Prayer: Lord, if our backs are to the burning bush, turn us around. Awaken us to your call for oneness and justice throughout our lands. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Finding Our Niches

Living in the Spirit
August 25, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. –Romans 12:3-8

God created each of us with a unique set of skills and abilities. I view the Body of Christ as an organic jigsaw puzzle with each piece differing, and all pieces being essential to reveal the whole picture. We have at least a three-fold mission as the Body of Christ, one to find all the pieces, two to welcome them as a part of the picture, and three to help them find their niche while nurturing their growth in fulfilling it. For an individual, a niche is a position suitable for the capabilities or merits of a person*.

My church a few years ago started posting the newsletter online and emailing it to those with an email address who request it. We have some people who prefer a hard copy, and they pick it up at the church. Others, primarily shut-ins and some who have moved away but like to keep up with our work, are mailed a copy through the postal system. One retired gentleman takes very good care of those who get copies mailed. I think it brings him joy, and I know it fills an empty spot in the lives of the recipients. He has found a great niche in the ninth decade of his life. There is not enough space to list all the other niches he has filled over the years. The one I hear the most about is sponsoring youth events. I’ll bet he is even surprised at some of the things he has done that brought great joy.

Be open to the leading of God and try some new things in your service to God. You might be very surprised at some of the gifts you discover.

Of course, the final results is the Kingdom of God vibrant in love across the whole earth. Let it be so.

Prayer: Lord, open windows of opportunity for all who seek you as we commit to being your Body in the world today. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/niche

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.