Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Unending Kingdom

Advent
December 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ –Luke 1:26-33

My adult, Sunday school class, is studying C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrow guided by Heidi Haverkamp’s book Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season. A group of mostly retired people still can learn a lot from a book designed for youth. Luke rather nicely sums up Lewis’ theme in one phrase, and of his kingdom, there will be no end. Of course, many twist and turns in the plot are required to help us all understand that point.

The book of John addresses this same idea in the words of Jesus to his disciples who are trying to wrap their heads around his pending death. In John 16:31-33, Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming. Indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’

Many events of 2017 did not leave us hopeful as we faced huge hurricanes, mass shootings, world unrest, terrorist attacks, and deadly fires just to name a few. The Advent season is designed to help us ponder the darkness about us as we yearn for the light of Christ. The time is near at hand when we understand once again that God has our backs always has and always will have. This truth is something we can take for granted and it is the good news that we must never take for granted but must share with all the world so that we may all be one in the love of God.

Prayer: Holy One, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus the Christ to dwell among us and to show us the way to your Oneness. 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.

Spiritual Self-Examination

Advent
December 10, 2017

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
 –Mark 1:4-8

What is sin? Would we recognize its presence in our own lives if we saw it? Do we need to know our sins truly to repent of them?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sin as:

a transgression of religious law:  an offense against God
a serious offense:  a violation of propriety
a serious shortcoming:  fault
a vitiated [defective] state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

 We find examples of all of these descriptors of sin in the Bible. The most common Biblical definition is not listed above. Scriptures talk about missing the mark and going astray. Jesus is quoted in Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow, and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had a major retooling of its roster the last couple of years which results in the need for seasoned players to change the way they have trained their bodies and minds to function. Old muscle memory dies hard. Learning to play with new teammates takes time and practice. On top of that rules of the game were changed increasing need for additional adaptation. They are learning to go through a new narrow gate while leaving their old ways behind. I am not suggesting that sin has anything to do with the Thunder’s playing. I am saying I think it is an excellent example of self-examination we all must continually do as we strive to follow God without going astray or missing the mark. These guys have several coaches whose job is to help them see their missteps so they can correct them. They record the change in their brain and keep reminding themselves of it until it becomes new muscle memory.

Our head coach is Jesus Christ who through his life, death, and resurrection shows us the way to life. He provided others to carry on his work through apostles and disciples, prophets and priest. Our task is to take his Word into our hearts and brains and let it infuse our entire being with its wisdom to guide our work and our journey.

Prayer: Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit Divine!** Amen

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/sin

**First verse and chorus of Open My Eyes by Clara H. Scott see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/807

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 Mystery to Behold

mysteryAdvent
December 13, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 7:10-16

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. –Isaiah 7:14-16

It always seems a bit of a cop out to explain God’s acts by calling them mysteries. While many of us like to read a good mystery now and then, we want the ending to tie up all the loose ends. God’s mysteries that bugged those who followed God thousands of years ago remain enigmas today. The word mystery means a religious truth revealed by God that man cannot know by reason alone and that once it has been revealed cannot be completely understood*. I must confess, I did not know that the word mystery had its origin from religion. There is a non-religious definition something that has not been or cannot be explained, that is unknown to all or concealed from some and therefore exciting curiosity or wonder, or that is incomprehensible or uncomprehended*. It Sounds much the same without the religious overtones.

Isaiah’s discussion of Immanuel regarding Isaiah’s time and place could easily stand alone as words of warning to a king or words of comfort to people suffering the ineptitude of a king. Two and a half millennia later, Isaiah’s words speak to us of a Savior, a promised one, God with us whom we know as Jesus, the Christ. That is a mystery implying that there is some entity with a worldview older than time and newer than all tomorrows. Practical, rational being that I am, I take great solace in that.

Prayer: Lord, as we contemplate your coming to us during this Advent season, renew in us the sense of mystery that gives us hope for all that is good, right, and just because you came to be with us in wonder and love. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/mystery

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.

Water into Wine

Water-To-WineEpiphany
January 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 2:1-11

And Jesus said to [his mother], ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. –John 2:4-11

Years ago, when the Oklahoma Christian Home was in Edmond, Oklahoma; local Christian Churches (DOC) took turns holding a worship service in the Home’s chapel each Sunday afternoon. The local church planned the service but the Home provided the Communion elements. The attendance was not high as only the patients that were mobile enough to come to the chapel attended. My church thought it would be nice to take the entire choir to do an anthem at the service. It was close, but there were probably as many of us as there were of them. The Home did not have enough grape juice to fill the cups needed for we extra guest so they improvised and added a little water to what they did have so all could partake. The choir had taken of communion that morning and kept saying that’s ok we don’t need to participate. But that is not the way of faith and so we accepted their hospitality. It may have been the best Communion elements I had ever taken, although the coke and popcorn we had in youth group some years earlier left a positive impression also.

I think of Communion when I read the scripture for today, and I remember partaking of watered-down grape juice, which in its own way was also saving the best for last. The act of wanting the very best for another is an act of love, not an act of ritual. There is much symbolism in this scripture using the jars that were to hold the purification waters. While we all strive to be clean on the outside as well as on the inside, it, in the final analysis, is the love of God that makes us whole.

Prayer: God of Grace, we thank you for sending your Son, to teach us about your 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.

Perspective

tumblr_m7g58wbiHm1rukhkdo1_500Living in the Spirit
July 10, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. –Ephesians 1:3-14

Jesus Christ has been the most important influence in my life ever since I can remember. Raised in a Christian home, I had the examples of parents who were followers of Christ. I have also been under the influence of other followers of Christ from Isaiah, who seemed to know him before he was flesh and blood, to the writers of the gospels, and, of course, a complicated relationship with the writings of our author today, Paul. I am more recently learning that everything attributed to Paul may not have been written by Paul but by one or more of his students, which may help my understanding of this complex disciple’s teachings.

It is difficult, I think for anyone, to pull back and view the landscape of God from a more objective viewpoint when one has been steeped as deeply as I have in Jesus Christ. I take for granted my perception of Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and cannot appreciate that everyone else does not. The fact is, however, that more and more of my fellow Americans do not know this one called Christ. Many have actually turned away from knowing Christ because, I believe, he has been presented to them through the filters of his disciples, me for one, and like Paul’s students, we do not all get it right every time.

I believe it is worth our efforts to pull back and view the landscape of God more objectively as we discern with others God’s work among us particularly in the person and leadership of Jesus Christ. It will enable us to see more clearly the many facets of Christ we perhaps have missed in the past and to clean off the scum that have coated our lenses of insight distorting our perceptions of him. The result will be an enriching of our own relationship with and through him while it opens doors for new or returning seekers like Paul viewed the Ephesians in the snippet of his letter we read today.

Prayer: Lord create in me a clean heart enabling me to see you more clearly and thus share you more perfectly. 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 Life

Be stillEastertide
May 15, 2015

Scripture Reading: 1 John 5:9-13

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. –1 John 5:11-13

Bible commentators are not sure who wrote the three letters of John or even if the same person wrote all three. They do not necessarily believe that the apostle John was the author but these letters have certainly been influenced by the theology of the apostle John. So what is said about eternal life in today’s scripture above follows well these words from John 17:1-3:

 ‘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 do not have a clue what happens after our physical deaths, but I take great solace in the idea that eternal life is tied to knowing God and Jesus Christ. I can grasp the understanding that it will truly take forever and forever to know God and that God’s sending Jesus Christ into the world enhances my knowing. I was privileged to have a mother who dedicated her life to knowing God. I claim to have been introduced to God in the womb as she read scriptures and prayed during her pregnancy. I have also observed the dedication of those who met God at some point later in life and have seen their gratitude and immersion into knowing God more because of the time spent in their life when they did not know God.

I think the important thing we are to remember is that eternity started the moment we met God. We are to live our lives as a reflection of that knowing in our love. When we do that, eternity will take care of itself.

Prayer: Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day*. Amen.

*Prayer of Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253 see at http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/139.html

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.

Fish and Strawberries

Living in the Spirit
July 27, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. — Matthew 13:47-50

I eat a lot of strawberries and have discovered that every box of strawberries contains a diverse assortment of these tasty delicacies from barely ripe to over ripe, from small to very large. I try to eat the ripest first so they do not spoil before I get to them thus I usually finish the box with the not so ripe berries left. This morning I had a combination of both as I finished the last three berries in one box and added three berries from a new box. Refrigeration is the key to maintaining the very ripe as long as possible. Sunshine might encourage the under ripe to mature. Occasionally I find a berry with a bad spot that I cut out and rarely, but sometimes, I find one that is so rotten, I must throw it out. And so goes our example regarding fish from our scripture today.

The first thing I notice about this scripture is that every kind of fish were caught. I take that to mean that God’s desire is for all people to be included in God’s Kingdom. The second thing I notice is that God has assigned angels to separate the evil from the righteous that is not our job.

So if we believe that the Kingdom of God was initiated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, what is our role right now in regard to preparing for the full fruition of God’s Kingdom? I believe, we are called first to stay in synch with God in our own lives. If we are all capable of both good and evil, we need to be intentional in our striving for God’s good that is reflected in our love for God and our love for one another. We are also called to be stewards of the fruits of the Spirit available to everyone, working toward a world where all can experience these fruits in their fullness whether they are mature and ripe or blossoms on the vine. Our goal is to reduce as much as possible the work of those angels assigned to sort out evil.

Prayer: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me*. Amen.

*From Spirit of the Living God by Daniel Iverson

 

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.