Tag Archives: Following Christ

Taking Up Our Crosses

Living in the Spirit
September 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’ –Matthew 16:24-28

Our lives stream with choices some simple some complex. We forget that choosing not to choose is a choice. I love the scene in the Jungle Book movie where vultures perched on naked tree branches are caught in a circular conversation, “What do you want to do tonight?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” How many times have we had similar conversations? Choosing to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus is a life altering decision touching every aspect of who we are and what we do with our lives. We no longer can sit on the fence and watch the world go by saying “isn’t it a shame, somebody ought to do something about that.” We are the somebody.

The world often casts love as a role we simply fall into; make no mistake, love is a choice, as is indifference and hate. Choosing to love is a commitment that takes all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength leaving no room for indifference or hate. I fear our gravest departure from Jesus’ example comes in the form of indifference. How we act as we present ourselves as followers of Christ is how others who observe us understand Jesus. If we project an attitude of indifference, we present an inaccurate picture of Christ. If we caste hate-filled judgment on others in the name of re-creating them in our image, we may drive a wedge between them and the One in whose image they were created.

We have a choice right now in our society whether to live God’s love completely for all of God’s children. When the world tells any they are not welcomed, we must welcome them in the name of God just as they are. If they are hungry, we feed them if they have no clothing we dress them, if they are sick we work toward their healing, if they are in prison, we restore them, and if they are strangers, we recognize them as strangers no more but as our brothers and sisters in Christ. And if any of these realities are the result of systemic injustice, we do justice.

Prayer: God of All, make us whole, make us 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.

Right Our Compass

Eastertide
May 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 10:1-10

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. –John 10:1-6

Beware the false prophet! Many Christians seem to be confounded if not lost in the maize of discord among peoples of faith and the political rhetoric resulting from it, perhaps causing it, or at the very least benefiting from it. Houses divided do fall. I believe a review of history will show that all the great nations that eventually failed dissolved first from within. Greed and lust for unlimited power seem to be the primary drivers in our society, both sins. Our compass appears to be drawn by the wrong magnet.

How do we regain our focus, right our compass? We listen for Jesus Christ’s voice gently leading us down the path of justice, what the Bible also calls righteousness. Jesus never railed at regular people along the byways. Certainly, he never tried to scare them to death. He saved his ranting for the religious leaders of the day whose compasses were not working well either.

Jesus fixed things. He healed the sick, including those mentally ill; fed the physically hungry; quenched spiritual thirsts; forgave criminals restoring them to wholeness even as they are being executed; and welcomed strangers in his midst. These activities would seem to be a great place for us to focus.

A lot of refocusing is letting go of wrong or outdated visions that block our ability to find those things on which we can agree and on which our combined efforts multiply greatly without the need to disagree.

Prayer: Lord, fix us too. Make us whole, guide our journey, enhance our ability to love 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Customizing Christ

Epiphany
January 20, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? –1 Corinthians 1:12-13

The phrase, ‘I belong to Christ’ bothers me as it is included in a laundry list of leaders in the church apparently caught in the middle of a game of my preacher is better than yours. Are we not all called to belong to Christ? As I ponder that phrase, I wonder if Paul was trying to say we don’t get to customize Christ—build a Christ based on our values not the other way around. I fear we may all get caught up in creating our own Christ occasionally.

Jesus taught a radically different way of being than was the common practice among the faithful of the first century. He invested his life in standing behind the principles that he taught. I do not think he was bringing a new message as much as he was making the age-old message clearer in more human terms. Loving God, loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, being a blessing to all nations are recorded in some of the earliest writings. So why was it deemed unacceptable in the first century even to the faith community? Why is it still hard for us to live like Jesus today?

Prayer: Lord, just as you opened Saul’s heart and mind on his road to Damascus, open our lives to living through your love on our journeys. 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.

Following Christ’s Game Plan

stay-the-courseLiving in the Spirit
September 19, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, ‘Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; –Jeremiah 32:1-3a

Today’s scripture is a rather ominous reading in the face of people on all sides of the political system in the USA thinking catastrophe will result if one of the other sides win. Outside forces reigning terror on Jerusalem surely resulted in internal divisions. We, too, are under the influence of fear from outside forces, and not just external political foes. Our world is changing quicker than we can buy new cell phones. The world gets smaller and smaller as we know where every earthquake or bombing occurs.  What role does a follower of Christ have in such a time as this? Jeremiah knew if Judah continued its current course it would fall.

Jesus commanded us to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18b-20)

I watched a football game yesterday where the offense of one team played in such a way that the defense of the other team lost track of the action opening gaps for running backs to shoot through and score. The defensive coach advised his players that even if staying in their position went against their best instincts, they should not follow the action; they needed to stay the course, play the planned scheme. They heard his advice, and they won.

If I may take the metaphor a bit further even if you are not into football, we must remember that Christ is our coach, and we need to follow his plan.

Prayer: Lord, grant us your peace to enable us to take in your ways and make them our ways no matter what. 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 Image of the Invisible God

Jesus image of invisible GodLiving in the Spirit
July 14, 2016

Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:15-28

 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. –Colossians 1:15-20

I heard an interview with Alton Sterling’s son, Cameron, this morning. Alton Sterling was the man killed by police recently in Louisiana. Cameron was talking about breaking down in tears while his mother was interviewed. He said that when he placed his arm around his mother to comfort her, he felt another’s arm on top of his. When he looked, he saw no one and realized that it was his father’s unseen arm. Knowing that his dad would be with him in spirit, if not physically, was an amazing revelation. His tears expressed gratitude for the love that surpasses physical life. This teenager expressed empathy for the children of the slain police in Dallas, and he begged that we all just try to get along. This young man knows the love of Christ, the image of the invisible God, Paul describes in our scripture today.

We need to invest some time and energy in reconnecting with this Christ. Spend some time with him on the mountain reacquainting ourselves with the beatitudes. (Matthew 5). Hear his call to discipleship again by the sea of Galilee. Renew our commitment to leave our comfort zones and work to make the whole world a comfort zone of love for all one neighbor at a time.

We need to learn for a teenager with a broken heart.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we get so caught up in the busyness of our lives that we forget who we serve and why we serve you. Renew our faith, O, Lord. 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.

Playing without a Shoe

ShoelessAdvent
December 10, 2015

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Wouldn’t you just love to know the situation that resulted in the formation of these forever meaningful words scribed by Paul. Truth is this scripture has uniform application to all peoples of faith at all times. When we realize the first century time delay between letter receipt and a corresponding answer, the original issue may have been solved and others had taken its place by the time this message arrived.

I was reading a diagnosis of the problems the Oklahoma City Thunder are working on to move to a higher level of success and the word consistency crept into each issue. The fact is the Thunder is made up of really good players and coaches. When in their “A” game they are very hard to beat. Problems occur when they slack off, like not transitioning quickly to the other end after making a spectacular basket. They do not have time to bask in their glory, or be peeved that a foul was not called, or even to replace a shoe that popped off.

This is an example that Paul emulated and encourages us to follow. Keep implementing the game plan. For us that means keep loving even when justice has not prevailed, even when we felt we had really accomplished something big and could rest for a while on our laurels, even when we don’t have all the resources we might need. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

Prayer: We do rejoice in you, O Lord, and pray that we will be consistent in implementing your game plan. 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.