Tag Archives: Body of Christ

Riding Out the Storm

Living in the Spirit
July 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:12-25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
–Romans 8:18-25

Christ’s calls us to make a positive difference in our world today. While we study to learn from the past and prepare for the future, our focus is on the here and now. A wise and experienced person once told me that it takes at least ten years of persistent hard work to initiate a new government program. For example, in the USA we have worked since the 1960’s on health care for all. The more complex the issue, the harder it is to make change. The wise person likened it to turning a giant ship around in a turbulent ocean and taking it in a different direction straight into the storm. In a similar thought, the scripture above speaks to Paul’s experiences at the beginning of the Christian era in the process of initiating the Kingdom of God following Christ’s resurrection.

Humans seek every way possible to have the abundant life Jesus promised without following God’s path to attain it. In so doing, we turn to lower tier gods such as greed and power and never experience satisfaction. Greed and power demand more and more greed and power and always end in a futile waste of energy.

God created an interdependent world, which requires all to participate fully sharing and caring for resources so that all God’s creation works together in love. Love always begets more love.

Prayer: Spirit of God, shine a bright light on the path to wholeness, oneness, and justice that we may one day see your Kingdom of love ruling our world. Grant us the gift of patience in large measure when we enter troubled waters on this journey. 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.

There is no Such Thing as Acidic Love

Living in the Spirit
July 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’ –Matthew 13:1-9

I grew up on a farm and hated working in the garden. I did develop a great appreciation of fresh vegetables which remains. When I bought my house in Oklahoma City and transitioned from apartment living to a home with a yard, I decided to plant just a few things primarily tomatoes. My plants grew strong and well flowered. Soon little green tomatoes appeared that grew bigger as they turn red. It was with great expectations that I plucked the first fruit of my endeavor, washed it and took a big juicy bite from it, only to spit it out as quickly as I could. The tomato was so acidic; it burned my mouth. It seemed my soil’s pH* balance was not conducive to producing quality tomatoes. Thus, my gardening adventure ended, and I located the closest farmers’ market.

Our scripture today is often used to describe what results when bringing in new followers of Christ, but it also may draw our attention to the ongoing process of being the Body of Christ engaged in the world today. We all have experienced such things as the observation that 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result**. Something more seems to be going on in our world today. There is too much acid in our quest to love. Hate speech is common and hurtful. Outright discrimination exists. Groups of people find it harder and harder to conduct civil discourse. Those of us who claim to be the Body of Christ are some of the worst perpetrators. If we do not set a good example, who will?

The balance of love comes from its very source, God. Our love is the outward projection of our being in sync with God’s love.

Prayer: God of Mercy and Justice, forgive us when we slip away from your nurture. Restore our souls so that our love reflects Yours. Amen.

*Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soils.

**Known as the Pareto Principle, it is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. See more at https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/

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.

A Tapestry of Love

Living in the Spirit
July 14, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:1-11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.                                                                                                                                                  –Romans 8:1-5

What does it mean to be in Christ Jesus? I think to explore this question; we must delve into why God sent Jesus in the first place.  Was Jesus sent for humans to interact more closely with God? Was Jesus sent as a model of humanness demonstrating our potential to create a world ruled by love? Was he sent to lay out a plan to attain such a world, if we learned to work together and share our diverse gifts becoming one? Paul talks about being a part of the Body of Christ. Is this what it means to be in Christ Jesus?

What is freeing about being in Christ Jesus? Having purpose is freeing. Knowing what we are and whose we are give us the courage to pursue the vision set before us without fear and with the full assurance that we have our Creator’s support. Living free of condemnation opens doors to exploration and development. A life filled with learning from our mistakes as well as our successes is crucial for progress.

Two thousand years ago Jesus charged us with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, restoring people to wholeness in both health and behavior, and welcoming the stranger. God’s Kingdom when fulfilled is a place of abundance where all have food and clothing, all experience wholeness, and all are welcomed. We have come a long way; we have a long way to go. We are promised the freedom to make such a world as we work together as one toward God’s righteousness.

Prayer:
Weave, weave, weave us together.
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together.
Weave us together, together in love*. Amen.

*Weave by Rosemary Crow, 1979, Chalice Hymnal page 495, Copyright Chalice Press 1995, St. Louis, Missouri

Gifts Differing

Living in the Spirit
July 10, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 25:19-34

Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

‘Two nations are in your womb,
   and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
one shall be stronger than the other,
   the elder shall serve the younger.’

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterwards his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. –Genesis 25: 21-26

My sister and I, while close all our lives, are very different people. I do not do money; she is a bookkeeper. She is an excellent seamstress, re-attaching a button taxes my sewing limits. She plays the piano, and while I love music and sing, I am not an instrumentalist. I love genealogy; it is no big deal to her. We need all kinds of people in the world for the world to be one. It takes a little effort to bring people differing together to maximize their gifts creating wholeness from oneness and oneness from wholeness.

Things did not start out well for Isaac’s family. It rarely does when parents pick favorites and pit them against one another. Parents and their children are like siblings as they are drawn together by common interest. My sister became a seamstress because my mother was an excellent one. They loved to sew together. I inherited my interest in genealogy from that same mother.

In families as well as within the Body of Christ and all human interactions, before we build walls with people because they have different gifts or different ways of perceiving the world, we need to take a few minutes to examine the relationship and find the source of our frustration. Open dialogue helps. Using “I” language works better than “You” language: “I don’t get what your are saying.” as opposed to “You are not making yourself clear.”

Loving one another requires us to take the time to try to understand one another.

Prayer: Lord, help us to understand one another so that we can grow together in loving all our neighbors as we love ourselves. 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.

Weak and Strong

Living in the Spirit
June 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. –Romans 5:6-8

The word weak* used here means without strength perhaps even ill. I know weak. My grip is not good. The small lids on salad dressing bottles are my enemy. Someone gave me a pair of adjustable pliers that I leave set in the groove for removing the lids from my salad dressing. It works amazingly well after I discovered its utility, I try once to open a lid, which occasionally works, but then I grab my trusty pliers. The thing about weakness is we must know and accept it before we find a way to the end we desire.

As much as we humans, particularly Americans, like to think and act individually we were created to live and breathe and have our being** in community as we are called to be the Body of Christ on earth today. We could all make long lists of outstanding individuals who have accomplished amazing things. Not a single one of them can take credit alone for their accomplishments. They each had a mother, father, teacher mentor, soulmate who enabled his or her work. We as the Body of Christ cannot take credit alone for anything we accomplish as Christ formed and commissioned us and dwells with us in all that we do.

Love does not require credits. I heard once again a policeman being interviewed on the news about saving someone’s life. He risks his life to save the other. His response was “It’s my job.” Loving is just our job. We do it better when our love impacts others to love. When we all love one another, the entire world will know wholeness. That is God’s love.

Prayer: Lord, we each have weaknesses and strengths. Enable us to work together so that all become strong in your service. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/772.htm
**See Acts 17:28

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.

Brotherly Love

Eastertide
May 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 17:1-11

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
–John 17:6-11

Brotherly love meets agape love. Jesus’ concern for those whom you gave me weaves through this scripture. I get a sense Jesus is saying “I am really going to miss these guys—and gals. I have been glorified in them.” Jesus gained value from his interactions with his disciples. The love of God is mutually synergistic. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20)

As Christ’s disciples, we are called to continue melding brotherly love and agape love as we strive to be the Body of Christ in the world today. We close our Congregational Council meeting each month with prayer including updates on member-related issues. Most often this list of concerns relates to health concerns. Someone is in the hospital, someone just moved to assisted living, someone was able to return to church for the first time in two and a half years. Sometimes we celebrate a new birth, and sometimes we mourn the loss of a dear friend.

For Christ’s disciples, the coming together of brotherly love and agape love extends beyond the local congregation. It takes us just down the street to a school where we fill backpacks with food for 14% of the students to take home for the weekend because the school lunch program is believed to be their only source of nourishment. It takes us to the City Rescue Mission where we provide steel-toed boots for job seekers who must have these shoes to work at construction sites where day jobs are available. It takes us to the halls of the state legislature and Congress to help assure that the least of these are not disenfranchised. It takes us to the Dominican Republic where children learn skills that lead to employment removing them from exploitation.

Where does brotherly love and agape love come together for you?

Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the opportunities to share the wealth of your affection with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. 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.

Glorified?

Eastertide
May 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 17:1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. –John 17:1-5

What connotation do we give to the word “glorify”? Do we turn it into condescending slang? When we use the word glorified are we saying someone or something is overrated? The Greek word translated glorify, doxazó* means to ascribe weight by recognizing real substance (value).  It seems what Jesus is saying here is that he is ready to fulfill his calling come what may. Hebrews 5:5 describes this phenomenon, So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’.

 I think the disciples knew Jesus was special; I doubt they knew he was who he was before the resurrection. Some I am sure wondered, and others like Peter turned hot and cold. The disciples often did not understand him, but they knew they wanted to be around him. He had charisma. We are even jaded in that department. We encounter folks with charisma who use it for selfish gain.

Why is he saying this in the presence of his disciples? Why was it retained for us to read today? Jesus promises eternal life and says that eternal life is knowing God and is available through an encounter with Jesus. Jesus is setting the example for us to follow. He is glorifying us through our relationship with him so that we can pass on to others the real substance of the God who is love.

.Prayer: Lord make us worthy of your trusting us to carry forth your mission as the Body of Christ in the world today. 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.

Persecute or Privileged

Eastertide
May 25, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. –1 Peter 4:12-14

We USA citizens of the first quarter of the 21st century can hardly compare our lives to those who lived in Rome during the last quarter of the 1st century. Christians were a minority in Rome when 1 Peter was written. In the 1st century, dictatorial emperors ruled Rome and fostered the Pax of Rome’s peace through victory, victory through violence. Except for Nero’s tyranny in 64 CE when Rome burned, the widespread persecution of Christians by Rome came later in history. 1 Peter is speaking to persecution related to being a minority and being a minority group who described its leader using the same descriptors demanded by the Emperor: Lord, Son of God, etc. Peter and Paul were both most likely executed in Rome under Nero’s reign. Even though the worst was yet to come, the Christians of  1st Century Rome faced great peril. It seems to me what we call persecution today is more akin to angst because we do not always get our way. We have become the privileged.

While we in the USA live in a representative democracy, not an empire, we are now in the role of being citizens of one of the most powerful nations on earth, if not the most powerful nation.  This role reversal demands consideration as we try to make sense of our roles as witnesses to the love of God through Jesus Christ. How do we mesh our faith with our responsibilities as citizens in a democracy? Do we force our beliefs on our fellow citizens by incorporating them into civil law? Do we demand exceptions, resulting from our beliefs, be made by the government from requirements everyone else must obey? Most difficult of all, whose “Christian” beliefs are the “Christian” beliefs when Christians are seriously divided on what is justice?

Do we practice the art of discernment among our diverse peoples? Do we dust off the act of negotiation and give it a try? Do we place our challenges before God and seek clarity regarding what it means to be the Body of Christ in the 21st Century?

Prayer: Lord, you have brought us to this place and this time to carry out your work, give us the tools and talents we need and the power of your Spirit to guide us. 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.

Being the Body of Christ

Eastertide
April 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35

Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
–Luke 24:18-21

Leaders are important as are followers. The people attracted to Jesus were longing for another Moses. They wanted a savior, but then what? The story of Moses is full of “What have you done for me now?” segments. “You bought us out into this desert and now we are starving.” “You climbed up a mountain and left us to our own devices so we turned to a golden calf.” Jesus knew well the adventures of the Israelites. From the beginning of his ministry, he worked to prepare them for the day when he would not be there and his work would continue. In the shock that accompanies grief, Cleopas was dealing with how to go on without our leader who fully expects us to continue his work.

Perhaps the single most important aspect of the Resurrection is the truth of Jesus’ continuing leadership through the enabling of each of his followers in their roles as part of the Body of Christ active and engaged in the world.

Prayer: Lord, here am I send me wherever and whenever you need me. Continue to prepare me for my next assignment. 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.

Discerning Christ among Us

Eastertide
April 24, 2017

Scripture Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’

 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. –Acts 2:36-38

Hindsight often abbreviates memory. Acts was probably written in the 80’s CE following the fall of the temple around 70 CE. Some 20 to 30 years earlier Paul wrote extensively about his work mediating the issues of integrating the idea of Jesus as Messiah into the mainstream of Judaism while taking on the task of spreading that same news to the gentile world. By the time of the writing of Acts, Christianity was a separate religion with strong reliance on Judaism as its parent faith. Paul seemed to remain a good practicing Jew throughout his life. The writer of Acts, presumed to be Luke as identified, was Christian. With one sentence, one verse, Luke sums up several years of history with, as he states, certainty. Peter is the speaker in our scripture today. He was most likely martyred about the same time as Paul in the early 60’s CE. In this presentation, Peter appears to have transitioned to the new faith by the Pentecost immediately following the resurrection.

As we struggle with being church today, we should remember that since its beginning, leaders and followers met barriers or cultural norms that had to be addressed to fulfill the calling to be the Body of Christ in the world. These are normal in all aspects of life and our most important task is keeping our purpose of being the Body of Christ foremost so that dealing with issues remain means to the end rather than the end itself. I fear we get so caught up in what divides us, we, at times, lose the bigger picture.

Prayer: Lord, help us as the church universal identify the things on which we can agree and work diligently toward their fulfillment. Where we disagree, guide our discernment to find common ground. 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.