Tag Archives: Jesus

Love Like Jesus

Eastertide
May 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:6-14

So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ –Acts 1:6-11

What does Jesus mean when he says we are to be his witness?  A witness, in general, is one that gives evidence regarding matters of fact under inquiry*. I have testified in court as an eyewitness reporting what I observed directly and as what is called an expert witness as one with knowledge of a subject pertinent to the case. Child abuse and neglect were the subjects about which I provided information. It is rare for two people to report the exact information about an event that leads to a court hearing. As objective as we try to be, we all take in information based on our histories and understandings. Judges and juries make decisions based on the collective information presented to them.

The same is true of people trying to understand this man call Jesus and his impact on the lives he touched in first century Judea and Galilee, throughout subsequent history, and the lives he touches today. Particularly in the USA, most people possess some knowing about Jesus, so we rarely have the opportunity to share our witness about Jesus to someone who has never even heard of him. In some instances, existing ideas are positive in others negative. I believe in most cases our actions speak louder than our words. If we talk about love and live out enmity, we send a double message. The only solution is to become an expert witness through our love, and that takes a lot of study and a lot of practice.

1 John 3:18-20 states it this way:
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Prayer: Teach me to love like you. Amen.

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

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.

Prophetic Voices

overcome-evil-with-goodAdvent
December 11, 2016

Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:2-11

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look those who were soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A Prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom, it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptists; yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he. –Matthew 11:7-11

How do we decide whose messages have credence? The word, the role prophet is not someone with clairvoyance, the ability to foretell the future. A prophet is one who speaks forth by the inspiration of God*. Most often I see the prophets in the Bible accurately reading current ways of doing and being and predicting where our behaviors will lead if not corrected. Prophets also speak to the steps necessary to change our actions and attitudes to avoid chaos and calamity.

John in the role of prophet gives Jesus a strong recommendation as one to be seen and heard and followed. John is throwing the full weight of any influence he might have in support of Jesus.

The sad part about prophets is we never seem to listen to them. We read about their warnings years later and think, “How could the people not listen to the prophets?” And still today we hear and see what we want to hear and see just like our ancestors in faith much to our destruction.

We make it easy for the forces of evil to succeed for we do not learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of our ancestors. The cause of destruction has not changed over the millennia. They are lust for power and greed, and they are counter to everything Jesus and all the prophets who came before him taught. Are we a generation who can change this cycle of destruction?

Prayer: Lord, write your ways on the hearts of all who claim you as a Savior, bring us to the oneness we must have to be sources of justice. Amen.

*http.//biblehub.com/greek/4396.htm

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 Word of God

Light-ShinesLiving in the Spirit
July 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Amos 8:1-12

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
   when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
   but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
   and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
   but they shall not find it. –Amos 8:11-12

 Many associate the “words of God” with the Bible. Statistics tell us we’ve got plenty of Bibles.

 More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) think the nation’s morality is headed downhill, according to a new survey from American Bible Society.

 The survey showed the Bible is still firmly rooted in American soil: 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles*.

The book of John takes the “Word” of God a step further: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

When Amos is talking about hearing the words of God, he is talking about being in full communion with the God of love. Of course, we find God in the Bible, and that is a lifelong pursuit for all. Bibles are not table decorations nor are they offensive weapons with which we can force our understandings on others. Indeed, the Bible is a great source of discernment through dialogue when we can grow together in communities of faith. The Word of God as represented in Jesus, the Christ, requires a deeper commitment to understanding and in sharing with God and with one another. My sense is that Amos is observing that the people of his day turned their backs on this level of communion. Are we mirroring that same behavior today?

Prayer: Lord, darkness lurks just outside our windows. Let your light shine before us marking your path for us to follow. Amen.

*http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/americans-love-the-bible-but-dont-read-it-much_n_3018425.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.

Not What We Want to Hear

Make Crooked StraightEpiphany
January 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 4:21-30

Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” –Luke 4:21-23

Jesus was not sent by God to say what the people wanted to hear, he was not sent to bring fame to his fellow citizens, or take sides in their disagreements. Truth be told, he should not have needed to have been sent at all. Jesus was sent to make the crooked straight (Isaiah 45:2), to clean up the messes that seemed to be beyond the people’s control. We still long for a superhero to come and make everything the way we want it to be today. I think we would be as surprised or disappointed or angry as Jesus’ neighbors were, if he walked in the door right now. Jesus came to change the hearts of God’s people, to restore our souls.

Thank God for the gift of grace Jesus provided, for we still find ourselves unable to walk the walk even with a straight path to follow. We try to bend God’s way to our own conventions. It is time for us to open our hearts, minds, and souls to God and welcome God’s mercy. Until we each and all allow God’s love to rule our lives and our interactions we will continue to spiral downward as a society.

I believe the political fiasco in the USA today is a mirror reflection of the attitudes of the collective American population. We are getting exactly what we want. Until we deal with our own sins of greed and entitlement we will lose ground as a nation. A reading of the Bible book of Amos might be a good Lenten observance. I think it will sound familiar.

Prayer: Lord convict us of our sins, forgive us of our sins, and journey with us as we strive to follow the path you have set before us. 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.

No Needy Among Us

EastertidePOverty keep working
April 7, 2015

Scripture Reading: Acts 4:32-35

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. –Acts 4:34-35

Much of the injustice in the world directly relates to the distribution of wealth. Poverty has a direct relationship to crime and crime has a direct relationship to poverty. It is a vicious circle, which the mass incarcerations of recent years have made worse.* Women are routinely paid less for the same jobs than men. In 2010 in the United States the female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.81.** In 2012, CEO’s made 380 times more than the average salaries of their workers.***

I do not envision a world where everyone is paid the same. I don’t think Jesus did either, but I do think the inclusion of assuring that no one was needy at the beginning of the church was crucial to Jesus and that is why the disciples move to make it so. Everyone deserves to earn a living wage. Everyone.

My mother would describe what we do here in the United States as cutting off our nose to spite our face. The vast majority of adults receiving food stamps work. If you want to cut the number of people receiving food stamps, increase the wages of the recipients. Increased wages are directly related to decreased crime, which would cut the heavy costs of the mass incarceration we are practicing today. Putting people in prison who have families increases the number of people who live in poverty back home.

While Jesus never talked about many of the behaviors that we identify as sin, he did talk often about greed and the miss use of power as being factors that separate us from God. God loves all of God’s children and all people are God’s children. We are called to love them too. We are called to work toward a world where there is not a needy person among us.

Prayer: Lord make us a society that lives your love among those who are needy by standing with them as we seek justice for all. Amen.

*http://www.poverties.org/poverty-and-crime.html
**U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009. Report 1025, June 2010
***http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/19/news/economy/ceo-pay/
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 Victory Ride

Triumphal entryLent
March 25, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
   We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
   and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God, I will extol you.  

 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures for ever. — Psalm 118: 26-29

 All four gospels* record the story of what we now call the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and all four gospels quote the line from this Psalm: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. The quotes are exact except in Luke where the word “king” is substituted for “one”. All four surely intended the connection between this poem of victory and Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. All four most likely recognized the reference back to King David. Most of the participants and onlookers were acquainted with the Psalms, perhaps even the Roman soldiers, whose security alert level might have been raised when one entered the city like returning Roman troops. They might even have been offended by the caricature of a victorious king riding on a donkey.

Up to this point as we have journeyed through the gospels, we have seen a man who wished to remain in the shadows: “tell no one”, “he withdrew”, “Let us go to the other side.” On this day, he takes his victory ride straight into the arms of danger. Who is this man called Jesus anyway?

Prayer: Lord as we prepare to follow you from your victory ride to Golgotha open our hearts and minds to know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly**. Amen.

*Matthew 21-22, Mark 11-12, Luke 19-20, John 12
**from prayer of Richard, Bishop of Chichester  –1283
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.

 

 

Near to the Heart of God

Near to GodLent
March 20, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 5:5-10

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. — Hebrews 5:7-10

And he was heard. Ever feel when you pray that you are just saying words that are bouncing back toward you off the ceiling? One of my friends described the scene in the delivery room when her first child was born. She was accustomed, shall we say, to using very foul language when she was among friends that were accepting of it, perhaps they even encouraged it. She was fairly good at guarding her mouth in company that would have been offended, although occasionally she slipped up. In the delivery room she reverted to what came naturally, embarrassing her husband mightily as her expletive deleted language was mixing with the prayerful cries of “God help me” from other women. I assured her that God hears God’s children’s cries even when they are not prayers. I believe that God not only hears more importantly God listens, understanding the depth and breadth of the concern being voiced.

The great comfort Jesus had was knowing God intimately. Jesus knew the unconditional nature of God’s love and knew he was not alone in his suffering. He also knew that his suffering would lead to something more important like the birth of a baby. Jesus’ suffering led to his death and his resurrection that led to the spread of the good news of God’s love from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It led to our commissioning as the Body of Christ in the world today sharing God’s love so that all of God’s children might know God intimately when they cry out for help and find that there are people in the world today that are trying to love like Jesus and are willing to try to provide the help needed.

My favorite hymn since I was a small child is Near to the Heart of God. It is consider old fashioned now, we do not sing it much but it is true but I will share it with you here:

 Near to the Heart of God
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.

Refrain
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of comfort sweet,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where we our Savior meet,
Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where all is joy and peace,
Near to the heart of God.

Prayer: Hold us who wait before Thee near to your heart and empower us to share that gift with others. Amen.

*Words and Music by Cleland B. McAfee, 1903, see at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/neartoth.htm

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.

Love like Jesus

MelchizedekLent March 19, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 5:5-10 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’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest for ever,    according to the order of Melchizedek.’ — Hebrews 5:5-6

Hebrews 5:5-6 is a cautionary tale for the church today. We do not serve God for self-aggrandizement. It chills me when I hear people, particularly politicians and others trying to profit financially, wrapping God around themselves like an endorsement from on high.

Melchizedeck is noted as the King of Salem and priest of God Most High (Genesis 4:18) when he blesses Abraham. Hebrews 5:5-6 also bring the two roles together quoting from Psalms 2:7 and 110:4. The name Melchizedeck itself may mean King of Justice.* Even if it doesn’t mean that, it seems to me it is an apt descriptor of Jesus and his ministry.

Jesus was a servant leader. He welcomed all, loved all. He saw injustice and interpreted it for want it was, responding not by kingly edict, but by the way he loved. In so doing he demonstrated for us the way we are to love.

Churches need to invest their energies in developing disciples that love like Jesus. Who knows if that happened we might find ourselves living in a country that welcomed all, and loved all.

Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to the ways of Jesus’ love. Give us the courage to love like he loves. Amen.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek 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.

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.

Beginnings

BeginningsEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
January 11, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11
[John] 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.’

  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ — Mark 1:7-11

 Baby dedications or christenings, baptisms, weddings, initiations, commissionings, ordinations all are rituals of beginnings. These are momentous occasions where something comes to fruition and starts something new. The baptism that John practiced acknowledged the end of slavery to sin and the beginning of living into forgiveness.

Now Jesus stands before John and asked for baptism. Why? He by all accounts is not in need of forgiveness. He had been dedicated appropriately at birth and made his trip to the temple at the age of 12, but we know little else about him until this moment as he asks to be baptized. In a very real sense, he is witnessing to his being fully human, fully capable of sin. In another sense he is setting an example for future followers of the need to turn around from their way of being and follow a new way, his way. But it also serves to mark the beginning of his ministry, transferring the mantle of leadership from John to Jesus.

I thank God for God’s plan of new beginnings because I have experienced them in my life sometimes by choice but other times due to situations beyond my control. I have mourned the loss of what was and feared the future of what was to be and I can attest that God can make all things new and clean and good.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the richness of your renewal to wholeness. Keep me ever in the palm of your hand in all my future beginnings. 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.