Tag Archives: Christ

Changing

darkness-miserable-songsLent
February 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-23

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. –1Corinthians 10:1-5

John tells us that Christ was with God at creation. Paul tells us here that Christ was the rock from which our ancestors in the faith drank in the wilderness. God has loved us ever since he created us. God loves us still and will forevermore. We seem to be the ones who take flights of fancy into wildernesses from which we cannot get out. And God even follows us into those dark places of the soul.

It is really, really hard to change. I remember a foster child whose mother was seriously mentally ill. Until he was about ten years old, he thought her behavior was the way all mothers acted. Chaos at home was his norm. As children they hid from attackers that were not present and dodged airplanes in their house that they could neither see nor hear. He had to relearn how to love. He did love his mother and I never questioned that she loved him and the other children. It was not the way they would experience love in the rest of the world and they had to live in the rest of the world and still love their mother as the person that she was. Tough challenge for a child. Tough challenge for anyone.

This child had no control over his world those first ten or so years. Most of us do have the option of making different choices than the ones we make. We can choose to wander around in a wilderness and whine about our situation or we can trust God to walk with us out of the darkness and into God’s light. It is not easy because as bad as our situation might be it is where we have established a level of comfort. Walking away from comfort is never easy. Paul is telling the Corinthians and he is telling us to step out into the light. God is always with us.

Prayer: Lord, we live in times that are viewed as dark and fearful. Reignite us as children of your light and let us show those stuck in darkness your way, your truth, and your life. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

The Power of Christ

we-are-one-body-in-christ-3-728Christmas
January 2, 2016

 Scripture Reading: John 1:(1-9), 10-18

[The Word] was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. –John 1:10-13

John was written with the feel of hindsight. I don’t really know when I learned that the book of John was probably not written until the last decade of the first century, but John has always seemed a retrospective to me. Indeed, the other gospels included in the canonical Bible were all written several years after the events they discuss. I also read a somewhat speculative commentary some years ago that suggested the gospel of John might have been written by the John Mark who wrote the earliest gospel. Now that is an interesting set of bookends. While these two gospels appear to have different sources, the idea does recognize how differently we may experience the world when we are younger and when we are older. The Jesus of John has been transformed into the abstract Christ, the logos. Yet in some of the stories he seems more human, nearer than the teacher of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. As one who perceives that all people are children of God, what is this power that we require to fulfill such a legacy? My Sunday school class has an ongoing dialogue regarding what the scripture I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) means. It is a hard saying. Whose definition of the way, and the truth and the life is to be applied? The meaning interpretations differ greatly among Christ’s proclaimed followers. Is the Judeo-Christian representation of the One we call Messiah or Christ, this being’s only manifestation? What was meant when Jesus said: I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16)? Was he opening the doors to bring in the gentiles or was he saying he is active and engaged in other religions? Is it single-natured or diverse? Is that heresy or is that omnipotence at work?

While I think such discussion is vital to our authenticity in Christ, I also accept that Christ is shaping us as we move and have our being and that is the power we need to humbly recognize and welcome fully into our lives as we love our way closer to God.

Prayer: Lord, continue your work of nurturing us in wholeness so that we may through the power of your spirit become one in you whether in our diversity or our sameness. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Eternal Leadership

christ-priest-000Living in the Spirit
October 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. –Hebrews 7:26-28

The author of the book of Hebrews is referring back to Psalm 110:4 when he talks about the difference between the Levitical priesthood of the law and the priesthood of Christ: The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ The priest appointed per the law is at the least subject to death. Christ’s appointment by God’s own oath is an eternal assignment.

There is something very comforting about knowing who our leader is and always will be and something very challenging. The Oklahoma City Thunder changed coaches this year. I would say they had a pretty good coach and as far as I can tell, this early in the season, they gained a pretty good coach. These coaches have slightly different styles of coaching, run different plays, and have different areas of concern. Some players probably excelled better under the first, some will under the second, and most will take advantage of the change to their benefit by quickly adapting to the new system. We all learned different things from different teachers and if we were wise we adapted to the changes. With Christ we are challenged to adapt our lives to his way of being and loving forever. We do not have to worry about our leader changing unless we wander off and try to find another leader for whom we do not have to make as many adaptations or we at least think we won’t. This is the challenge. The comfort comes in knowing that we are loved forever by Christ and he will always want the very best for us for eternity.

Prayer: God of Eternity, protect me from the temptations to follow the lesser path that looks easier. Make me moldable to your way of being and reshape me to be more and more like you. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Follow the Leader

MosesEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
January 26, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: ‘If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.’ Then the Lord replied to me: ‘They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. — Deuteronomy 18:15-18

 Our scripture today are words shared by Moses as he instructs the Israelites on God’s response to their petition. Moses stipulates that the prophet to come must be like Moses himself. What were the characteristics of Moses?

  •  Moses was well acquainted with more than one culture before he was called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He knew the Israelites through his birth parents, the Egyptians through his adopted parent, and the Midianites through his wife and her family.
  • Moses was not afraid to approach the unknown.
  • Moses worked well with a team of people. He could lead when he needed to lead, could support when that was called for, and could delegate after receiving some sage advice from his father-in-law.
  • Moses cared deeply about the people over whom he was given leadership.
  • Most importantly, Moses worked at staying in synch with God.

These are just a few characteristics but it is a nice list to consider as we are called to serve in any capacity. Of course, many see Christ as the prophet about which Moses was talking, and we are encouraged to emulate him especially.

Prayer: Lord you have sent many great leaders and prophets into the world to help us find our way to a closer relationship with you and to the furtherance of your Kingdom. Give us the courage to follow their examples. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Satisfied with Enough

EnoughChristmas
December 30, 2014

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
   and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
   and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
   and they shall never languish again.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
   and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
   I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
   and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord. — Jeremiah 31:12-14

During our Christmas Eve service, I sat near the front of the church between dear friends and truly relished rejoicing in the coming of the Christ Child. It is a simple service of lessons and carols. Scriptures long written on our hearts with songs we know so well that everyone sings robustly, at least the first verse. This is perhaps a tiny taste of the joy when the Kingdom of God is fulfilled.

With the memory of the fulfillment I experienced at our Christmas Eve service in the background, I was struck by the last verse of our scripture today. We live in a culture that teaches us to never be satisfied. We are to be always a little hungry for more—more success, more wealth. Yet descriptions of God’s Kingdom seem to suggest that all are to experience the state of having enough.

What is enough? That is the tough question. Enough starts with being in right relationship with God—being whole, which is a life-long quest. As we grow in spirit and truth we shed layers of brokenness, but we accumulate new ones, which we then must also shed. A life centered on our relationship with God enables this quest. As we get closer to finding the meaning of wholeness for ourselves we are drawn into Christ divine plan to be in community with others where we share in a desire that all can be whole and all can have enough and be satisfied with it.

Prayer: Lord, reframe our purpose in life to find your meaning of enough and help us rejoice in the satisfaction that your enough brings. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Bringing Comfort

Syrian RefugeesAdvent
December 1, 2014

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:1-10

Comfort, O comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and cry to her
that she has served her term,
   that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins. — Isaiah 40:1-2

What have we done to deserve this? It is an age old question. One that most of us end up asking at one time or another. For those of us who identify our allegiance with God the Creator and Sustainer of all Life, Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Spirit of Righteousness, the question most often results in a review of our sins. The prophet in our scripture today has conducted such a review for his people and declared that they have paid twice the price than was required for their sins.

I watched interviews on the news recently of Syrian families who had escaped into Jordan because they were being starved to death as a tool of war seeking to return them to the subjugation of their current ruler. I wondered what they could possibly have done that deserved such treatment.

As individuals we are called to invest time in becoming right with God in all ways at all times but it does not stop there. We are called to community with all of God’s children and we all bear responsibility for the well-being of each other. When some chose to prosper at the expense of others, it summons the resources of all the nations to seek justice for God’s children who cannot stand alone against such mistreatment. The greater challenge is: do we allow the perpetrators to draw us into their ways in our response or can we find a better way that heals all nations. And can we find and implement that better way in time that no more children are dying in the sands of a desert as they escape certain death in their own homes.

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come and open our hearts to new ways of being that bring comfort to the oppressed and truth and righteousness to the oppressor. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Spiritual Poverty

povertyLiving in the Spirit
November 20, 2014

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.— Ephesians 1:17-19

This part of our scripture for today seems to be a three point sermon in a prayer. Paul was good at that. He never missed an opportunity to teach about Christ. The three points he wants us to fully grasp are simple:

  1. We are called to hope
  2. We are assured a glorious inheritance along with all the other saints
  3. We serve One with immeasurable power

Paul seems to be speaking from experience as his faith had surely grown as he grew to know Jesus Christ more intimately.

I once heard a wise speaker note that the only difference between being poor and living in poverty was the absence of hope in the latter state. While we most often think of the words “poor” and “poverty” in relationship to economic status, they also apply to spiritual lives. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:3) speaks to the presence of hope in someone caught in situations that seem hopeless. One wonders if economic poverty results from succumbing to spiritual hopelessness.

The inheritance we are promised is the kingdom of heaven when we live with God as the center of our universe in a world where wholeness, oneness, and justice are the norms. Our call as Disciples of Christ is to work in partnership with him toward the realization of that kingdom with every breath we take. And while from time to time that seems very much a pipe dream and thus hopeless, we do indeed serve a risen Savior who empowers and guides us and whose power is mightier than all other powers.

Prayer: Lord of Hope and Power, feed our hope and undergird us with your strength as we serve as your partners in bringing wholeness, oneness, and justice into reality. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Christian Nation or Not

Reflecting GodLiving in the Spirit
October 28, 2014

Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:7-17

While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. — Joshua 3:17

When our hearts and minds are in sync with God, amazing things can happen. When entire nations’ hearts and minds are in sync with God, amazing things can happen, also. There has been much debate recently about whether the United States of America is a Christian nation. I really do not know what that means. Does it mean that if we took a vote on what kind of nation we are, those who identify themselves as Christians won or lost? Voting outcomes do not mean much in our country anymore. Less than half the eligible voters actually even vote in most elections. We are a democracy, so being a Christian nation surely does not mean that people of other faiths or no faith at all have no say in our system of government. Does being a Christian nation mean that as a nation we reflect the values of Jesus Christ? We cannot agree on what those values are among the various churches that identify as Christian. How could we expect a nation as diverse as ours to identify its values in that chaos?

On the other hand, if all people are created by one God then surely we have the capacity for creating the common good, the purpose of government, in the midst of our diversity. If we, as individuals, are each striving to be in sync with God then shouldn’t that shine forth from our governmental system whether we intend for it to or not? What I see happening in the USA today is government at all levels placing too much emphasis on what can only be classified as personal behavior. I do have faith that I will have to account to God at some point for being out of sync regarding my personal behaviors as will we all, but my government is not accountable for my personal behaviors unless they impinge on the rights of others. Thus, citizens have the right to smoke all they want but they cannot do it in places where others will reap its dangerous results. The first is a privacy issues the second is about the common good and justice. However, our failure to provide for the common good is often the result of the common sins from which most of us can be found guilty at one time or another: greed and miss use of power. I haven’t seen legislation about either of those recently?

Our country was founded on the basis of freedom of religion. This is a precious right that we should never take for granted. It does not mean that our faith should not shape how we vote. It also does not mean that our vote should take away the freedom of religion of another person. Jesus never, ever instructed us to force anyone to follow him or to behave in any way that does not embody love. It is not important whether we identify ourselves as a Christian nation. What matters is whether God does and God judges by our love, our justice, and our humility.

 

Prayer: O Lord, help us be protector of justice and purveyors of love as we fulfill our civic responsibly. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Binding and Loosing

 bindingloosingLiving in the Spirit
September 7, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:15-20 

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ —Matthew 18:18-20

The above saying should scare the daylights out of us. Do we realize the responsibility it entails? Read it again and think about it. When I was a little girl, and thus my memory may be somewhat limited, my dad brought home a new cow. I think he had bought her from a relative. We milked several cows every day and sold milk and cream so it was not unusual to get a new cow now and then. I seem to remember somebody saying something about the cow being wild, maybe the word untamable may have even been used. My brother and my dad got her unloaded from the truck without a lot of difficulty but that marked the end of any appropriate cow behavior. She ran zigzagging all over the pasture, swam the pond, and may have jumped a fence before her first nightfall with us. I really don’t remember what happened to that cow. I don’t think she lived with us for very long. For a while though she was definitely “loosed on earth” and I don’t think anybody would want to spend a single day with her in heaven. Binding could have equally distressful results. We have passed some pretty crazy laws that we are now bound to follow.

What I glean from this is that we better be getting our act together loving God and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves right now and take as much advantage as we can of having the Holy Spirit with us to guide us for we are right now living into our eternity.

Prayer:  Creator God, Jesus, Christ, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove guide us in all that we bind and in all that we loose so that your Kingdom comes and your will is done. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stumbling-Blocks

Stumpling blockLiving in the Spirit
August 30, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ — Matthew 16:21-23

What are your stumbling-blocks? What are the things in your life that set your mind not on divine things but on human things?

 It is a practice at my church to give a small token of remembrance when someone is baptized. Each year during Lent we offer a Pastor’s Class for those considering to become a follower of Christ and being baptized. Several years ago I found a wonderful potter who made some individual chalices for this gift. The potter lived several miles from where I lived but he was going to have a booth at a large outdoor annual festival soon to be held in a suburb near me and we agreed that I would pick up the pottery at his booth.  I actually knew a parade was part of the festival but in my hurry to find the booth amid a huge crowd of people, I guess I forgot. Seeing some open space to my right I excused myself and stepped into it not realizing that the empty space was the street. The crowd was standing at the edge of the parade viewing space. The edge was the curb and the first step past the curb was about four to six inches lower than the curb. If an ugly picture of a short women falling all over herself into the middle of a parade flashed through your mind at this point, you have the right picture. The people on the curb were very gracious. I assured them I was fine as I limped quickly away. My stumbling-blocks had been impatience and pride. I had been guilty of placing a stumbling-block in my own path.

There are instances when others out of fear or greed or prejudice or for whatever reason place stumbling–blocks in our paths. Peter was doing that to Jesus in our scripture today. Our society does it with racism, sexism, poverty just to name a few.

When we place stumbling-blocks in our own way it reflects our need for wholeness. When a stumbling-block is placed in another’s path it most likely reflects a need for justice. God through Jesus Christ is our best source of finding personal wholeness. We may be God’s best resource for bringing about justice in our world.

Prayer: Help me to see my self-imposed stumbling-blocks and help me remove them from my being. Help me see the stumbling-blocks of injustice in this world, use me as you choose to help remove them from your sight. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.