Tag Archives: Body of Christ

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.

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.