Tag Archives: Love of God

Following to Lead

jesuschrist_mary_marymagaleneandthedisciples_20130319Living in the Spirit
October 18, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:25-35

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’ –Mark 10:25-35

In reading this scripture I flashed back on the times I have been on tours following a guide through places I have never been before in countries with languages I did not speak.  The guide in Turkey last year carried a large maroon and white umbrella, which he would hold high in the air when we walked through thick throngs of people. We were responsible for keeping our eye on that umbrella.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for a reality they are not yet able to comprehend. Denial is often the first stage of grief. Their reported fear indicates they understood his words but there is a difference in understanding words and responding to them appropriately. Most people understand what they are being told about not texting while driving; it may take a close call or a friend’s accident for them to internalize the lesson and curb their behavior. But what were the disciples to do anyway? Jesus’ death was a done deal and he was walking straight toward it.

Jesus’ words were most important to them after the fact. So important that they recorded them for us to read and apply to our lives. We are blessed by their stories as we struggle to make the kingdom of God real in our world today. Jesus’ lesson is important. We are called to walk forward with our eyes on his umbrella and all will be well.

Prayer: Jesus our Lord and Savior, nurture us until we fully comprehend the depth of your love and in that comprehension empower us to follow in your path as we lead in the world today. 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.

Seeing through a Glass Darkly

APTOPIX IRAQ RAIDLiving in the Spirit
July 27, 2015

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

…and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’ –2 Samuel 12:1-6

While we humans each feel we are totally objective in our viewpoints, base them on facts, and are very open minded, I fear for the most part we are not. We all see through a glass darkly.* However we label ourselves—liberal, conservative, progressive—we cannot escape the filters of our experiences or our culture when attempting to understand what is actually happening in our fast-paced world. The problem is that our filters may have been formed by realities that no longer exists and certainly do not take into consideration the realities of others.

By all accounts David was intelligent, intuitive, and cared about his people, but our scripture today explores his blindside. Nathan sets David’s sin in allegory where outside his own situation David readily sees the fallacy of the logic. Yet, he does not make the connection between the story and his own life.

Our political sector is filled with people on all sides who are emulating David by being unable to clean their filters and deal with the problems within our society in positive ways. Each side keeps pushing against the other with the same solutions that may or may not have worked in the past but are not working now. Our tenacity in holding on to what we sincerely believe is right is limiting our creativity in finding what works.

Much of Jesus’ ministry on earth was targeted at just this issue. For example he said, ‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42) We would do well to follow his lead now.

Prayer: Lord, clear our insight so that we can take in the concerns of others, combine their good ideas with ours and form a better way. Amen.

*Borrowed from 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV, the NRSV reads: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
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.

Didn’t See that Coming

out of darknessLent March 15, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 3:14-21 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’ — John 3:19-21

Have I mentioned that I am an NCIS fan? There is an episode of that show where a child caught up in the drama of his father’s life, helps his dad evade Gibbs and his team. The boy knows what he did was wrong but his love for his father overruled following the law. Gibbs walks into the break room to interview the boy and hands him an ice cream treat and the boy says, “I didn’t see that coming—ice cream as a punishment.” Gibbs says something to the effect that the boy loved his dad and there is nothing wrong with loving your dad. And then they set about solving the issue at hand.

We live in a world that does not expect the gift of the abundant love of God as a response to sin. We stumble around in darkness trying to survive the struggles that we face and never turn around to the light that clarifies the scary things for what they really are and illuminates the path or paths to wholeness.

Of course, turning around is just a first step. It takes all of God’s love and our dedication to it to keep us heading done the right path. We usually want to run back to the comfort of the pain we know rather than to move forward toward the unknown we have not experienced.  God often sends a Gibbs to help us set about solving the issue at hand. We need to keep an eye out for God’s messengers and let them help us.

Prayer: O Lord, there are plenty offering their solutions to the problems that I face. Help me discern rightly that which is of you and that which is not and be willing to seek help when help is what I need. 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.

Made in God’s Image

BigotryLent March 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Some were sick through their sinful ways,
   and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them,
   and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
   and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. — Psalm 107:17-22

I believe that sin is separation from God. The Greek word often used by Jesus in regard to sin essentially means missing the mark*. In modern language we might talk about being out of synch with God. The word “iniquities” used here seems to relate to guilt and punishment*. These words are being used in this Psalm to describe actions of one against oneself. Apparently those being addressed had lost all hope and were starving themselves to death. Most of us probably do not relate care-of-ourselves or lack of care-of-ourselves to sin. Yet Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:31) Now Jesus is not talking about having an overinflated ego. I think he is calling our attention to the fact that all our neighbors are made in the image of God as are we. We should not take that lightly.

The United States has experienced a flood of racial bigotry recently, with people using words that kill the hearts and souls of our neighbors and setting horrific words to music they probably learned in Sunday school. It is enough to make Jesus weep. I wonder how much of this need to be better than another is a result of people not recognizing that they do not have to be better than anybody else to receive the full love of God. In fact their lives will be so much richer in love when they share fully in the love of God and the love of all of God’s children.

Prayer: O God, forgive us for not loving with dignity and worth all your children made in your image including ourselves. Amen.

* http://biblehub.com/greek/264.htm
**http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5771.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.

Nurse’s Hand

Nurse's HandLiving in the Spirit
October 24, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. —1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

I had major surgery ten years ago. My first memory waking in the middle of the night was seeing a strong, beautiful ebony hand reaching across tubes and blankets to caress my untethered arm saying in a sweet, sweet voice, “You are all right, everything is all right. Can I help you with anything?” I don’t remember if I even replied to her as I drifted back to sleep with the trust that I was in good hands. Paul’s words in this scripture flashed me back to that moment. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.

 When I do yoga at home, I usually play a recording of The Priest* which includes the traditional gaelic blessing, May the Road Rise up to Meet You that closes with the phrase may God hold you in the palm of his hand. The first time I did the combination of this song and my yoga exercises, I experienced the most profound sense of God’s hand cupping around my whole being. Now when the busyness of my life crowds in on my times of meditation, my mind can go in many different directions, but when this point is reached in the recording,  I immediately remember whose I am.

In order for us to be the one that tenderly cares for others we must know what that feels like. We need to filter out all those life experiences that may have jaded our understanding of love and reestablish our understanding of the pure and holy love of God. God can and will heal our wounds and can convert those wounds into wonderfully lifesaving empathy for the neighbors who come our way.

Prayer: May the road rise up to meet you.
              May the wind be always at your back.
              May the sun shine warm upon your face;
              the rains fall soft upon your fields
              and until we meet again,
             may God hold you in the palm of His hand. (traditional gaelic blessing)

*The Priest CD, RCA label, 2008 (The Priest is the Title of their first CD and the name of the trio. Most of the songs on this CD are sung in Latin)

 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.