Tag Archives: Hope

Being Hope

Being hopeLent February 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:9-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ — Mark 1:14

John’s arrest must have been a bitter blow for Jesus. John was a mentor, cousin, and friend. Perhaps the arrest was the catalyst for the start of Jesus’ ministry. He surely had been working in some capacity with John before the arrest but he now moved onto center stage.

It is hard to watch one’s society imploding, crumbling inside itself as external pressures seem to be insurmountable. John had become an irritant to King Herod, chastising him for his personal misdeeds, and soon Herod would simply have John beheaded as a favor to his wife. Living in such a situation leads to hopelessness and futility. Yet this relative and friend of John’s, this Jesus, responds to the arrest by declaring the good news that the kingdom of God was near.

How do we apply that lesson today in parts of the world where there is little or no hope left? How do we bring hope to our own inner-cities where poverty and lack of opportunities stifle wellbeing? How do we live out being the hands and arms and heart and legs and feet of the Body of Christ in our world today?

Take a few minutes to ponder these questions and then literally write down at least one, maybe two or three, things you can do today that will bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a hurting world. Perhaps it’s checking on someone who is alone and snowed in. Perhaps it is writing and sending a check to an entity bringing hope to the world, perhaps it is gathering all those shoes you no longer wear and taking them to a ministry that distributes shoes to people on the street. Now do it.

Prayer:  Lord, enable me to be that part of the Body of Christ that you have called me to be and to do the tasks that are associated with it. I understand I cannot do everything, help me realize and actualize that I must do something. 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.

Faith, Love, and Hope

suicideRatesByAgeLiving in the Spirit
November 14, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

I heard a radio interview with one of our wounded warriors this week in which he spoke of despair and a close-call with suicide, one of the leading causes of death among returning soldiers in the USA. The chart above illustrates that except for the very young, suicide is no respecter of ages. The young veteran went on to say that with the help of other soldiers, he had gotten his act together. Putting a serious drinking problem in its place, he has been sober for over a year now. With God’s help, he will continue to keep his sobriety one day at a time. It is not easy, but being a soldier was not easy either.

This all ran together for me as I considered Paul’s analogy of putting on the armor of faith, love, and hope with this young man’s interview as background. Indeed, what I heard in his voice was exactly that: faith, love, and hope. He found faith in himself through the supportive love of fellow soldiers and gained hope for the future.

We have been given a precious gift in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A gift we may take for granted at times, but a gift too valuable to hold tight to ourselves and not share with others. In having the courage to tell his story, this young veteran probably saved someone else’s life. I know he gave me a greater sense of faith, love, and hope.

Prayer: God of faith, deepen our faith
               so we may bear witness to Christ in the world;
              God of hope, strengthen our hope
              so we may be signposts to your transforming presence;
              God of love, kindle our love
              so that, in a fragile and divided world,
             we may be signs of the faith, hope, love
             which we share in Jesus Christ. Amen**

*The chart above was copied from https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures
**Bishop Christopher’s Call to Mission, http://www.southwark.anglican.org/FaithHopeLove/fhl-prayer

 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.

 

Shunning Evil

BaalLiving in the Spirit
November 10, 2014

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-7

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly for twenty years. — Judges 4:1-3

We really do not know exactly what the Israelites did again that was evil. Back in chapter three they were charged with forgetting the Lord their God, and worshipping the Baals and the Asherahs. This seems to be the way of human nature. When things are going well we don’t necessarily think a lot about God. We might even seek out the allure of lesser gods that may not have any real power but are tempting in some way. The desire for more and more wealth or power, for example, are probably our 21st Century Baals and Asherahs. Of course, we are far too sophisticated to worship some figure carved from stone, although we can become seriously attached to our gadgets. What the book of Judges tells us over and over is that doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord always ends badly. I think it is also telling us that our relationship with God is a 24/7 proposition. Good times or bad, we are called to be in sync with God.

Speaking of gadgets, I have been using one of those step tracker things that people can wear to tell them how active they are. It works for me, probably because I am rather goal oriented. If it shows I have walked 4.6 miles, I’ll make the extra effort to get it up to five. Our relationship with God is like that. When things are going pretty good it doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels but rather that we are at a point when we can take the next step up in our journey of faith. We know we can always depend on God through the bad times. The question is can God depend on us in the good times.

Prayer: God of the Dance, help me to keep on moving toward the fulfillment of your will and your way through the good times and the bad times. Help me to know evil when in crosses my path and to shun it in favor of faith, hope, and love. 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.

Worthy of God

Enough for allLiving in the Spirit
November 6, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. — 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

On November 4, 2014, the majority of eligible Oklahoma voters cast their votes by their absence. Oklahoma’s voter turnout for the 2014 midterm election has been estimated at about 39.5 percent, right around the national rate of 40 percent.”* Following the reporting of the election results, I heard speeches about how the vote was a reflection of the great economy in Oklahoma and that is probably true. Because I think the vote also reflects the hopelessness of much of the state’s population who did not feel their vote mattered. While we have such a “wonderful economy”, 16.6% of the population live on incomes below the poverty level. The poverty level for the US as a whole is 14.4%**. The poverty rate for Oklahoma children (24.1 per-cent) is higher than that of working-age adults (16.1 percent) or seniors (9.9).** This is a particularly significant fact because it is we seniors who vote. The reason there are fewer seniors living below the poverty level is largely because Social Security payments are indexed to the poverty level.

The 2014 election is now over and we can get back to our normal routines of life but I think we need to seriously consider that living a life worthy of God requires us to be concerned about all of God’s children. If Jesus did nothing else he gave people hope. If we truly believe that we are called to do justice in this world, we must care about all God’s children not just our peer groups. We must work to make any success our economy is experiencing be shared throughout the population. We now must hold whomever was elected accountable to do justice within our government. Our elected representatives will not be standing in our place when we come before Christ and are judged by how we treated the “least of these” (Matthew 25). The prophets foretold that the Israelites greed would come back to bite them. The same could be said to us.

Prayer: Lord, make us seekers of justice not just for ourselves but especially for those who feel they have no voice in this land. Amen.

*http://kgou.org/post/republican-gains-few-surprises-real-time-recap-oklahomas-midterm-election-results
**http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/40000.html
***http://okpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Oklahoma-Poverty-Profile-2012.pdf 

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.

 

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Life

Wedding feastLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
October 11, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14

 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. — Matthew 22:1-3

Why do you suppose the guest would not come to the wedding? Clearly they are not concerned about how the King would react to such a snub. They have an uncanny lack of political correctness. This group of guest may even have no regard for their own safety or future in the kingdom. Perhaps they feel unworthy to be in the King’s presence or perhaps they worry that they do not have the right clothes to wear. My guess is that, if they are like those of us today, they were so self-absorbed in the everyday routines of life that there was no room left to worry about their neighbor even if the neighbor is a king.

What has set us today at such a frantic pace of ennui—emptiness of spirit? Is it technology pollution or over stimulation from mass communications? Have we lost our sense of hope? Jesus in telling us in this parable that our lack of engagement with God, running our own show doing life our way, is not the answer. Being in sync with God orders all of life so that we can celebrate when it is time to celebrate and love when it is time to love and trust that our future is in God’s hands.

Our challenge is to live our faith such that we are enabling all to come into sync with God. When that happens, the things of this world will not overwhelm us.

Oklahoma Fact: 7% of youth ages 12 to 17 years of age participate in binge alcohol drinking. For young adults 18 to 25 years of age the percentage increases to 38%.*

Prayer: God of Hope, save us from the pitfalls of life that impair our judgment and destroy our potential. Amen.

*http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/38-binge-alcohol-drinking-among-youths-by-age-group?loc=38&loct=2#detailed/2/38/false/909,857,105,118,104/30,31/14407,315

 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.

 

Hope

Living in the Spirit
July 18, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Romans 8:12-25 

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 8:22-25

Hope* has two definitions: the current one, to cherish a desire with expectation and an archaic one, to place confidence or trust — usually used with in. The second is most likely the one Paul is using in our scripture today. It is the confidence and trust we have in Jesus Christ that sustains us. The first, though has meaning for Christians, too, as we usher in the Kingdom of God and wait with great expectation for its fruition.

The phrase “Ugly Americans”**, which I had not thought of in years, popped into my head as I watched on the news some US citizens turning back in anger the buses of refugee children being transported to the US citizens town for safe keeping. It is perhaps not a correct descriptor. Millions of US citizens are frustrated as they cannot find work or work hard and do not get ahead. They think these new people will compete for their sources of wellbeing. Actually our country’s economy is doing quite well for a few. The stock market is breaking records, unemployment is down to where it was at the beginning of the recession, but wages are stagnant and the masses are feeling the pinch. Our economy in general may be doing well but it is upside down.

While it is easy to lash out at the “other” whoever they may be, we might want to take a moment to look at the gifts they bring us. I once heard a wise man say that the difference in being poor and living in poverty is hope. These refugee children or their parents or somebody surely have hope or they would not be putting children in harm’s way to get them to the USA. Although we are not much of a shining light for ourselves, we apparently are to some.

Our country has always grown and thrived when we welcome the stranger. Most of us have ancestors who were those strangers once. God knew what God was doing when guiding the writing of our Holy Scriptures peppering welcome the stranger as a command from the first book and throughout the rest of the Bible. Rather than lash out at the “other” let us open our arms to them and invest our energies is making our nation work the way it should through constructive actions like voting wisely and letting our representatives know what we thing is important.

Prayer: Lord, make us good neighbors and good citizens as we live in this world and serve in your Kingdom. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/hope
**From Wikipedia: The term was used as the title of a 1948 photograph of an American tourist in Havana by the Cuban photographer Constantino Arias (see infobox above),ikipedia but seems to have entered popular culture as the title of a 1958 book by authors William Lederer and Eugene Burdick. In 1963, the book was made into a movie directed by George Englund and starring Marlon Brando.

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