Tag Archives: Love

Obedience of Faith

Advent
December 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 16:25-27
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’’—Matthew 17:18-20

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

What does Paul mean by the obedience of faith in the Romans scripture above? Other meanings of the Greek word, hupakoé, translated obedience here are submissiveness and compliance. We are not only called to have faith but are called to live our faith every moment of every day.

We may say in the current world’s chaos that we know God will take care of us, or perhaps note he will win out in the end, but Christ asks us what are we doing about changing the world into a Kingdom ruled by love, ruled by God, right now? Even tiny steps toward wholeness, oneness, and justice make a big difference, if not for others perhaps for ourselves.

This was my church’s week to serve dinner on Monday at a church geared for people living on the street. My family is coming to my house to celebrate Christmas on Saturday. My work as part of the team preparing and serving this meal was solely an act of obedience. We had committed in the summer to serve this week and knew we would all be very busy. We served the easiest but best meal we could prepare.

During the worship, service participants are encouraged to witness something of hope happening in their lives. No one responded for a few minutes finally one man said he was celebrating his eighth year of sobriety that day. A short time later a woman reported after being released from jail a few weeks earlier she found herself homeless with no income. She now has an apartment and a part-time job with the help of the staff of the church and other local services. Finally, one young woman indicated that her drug tests were clean for the past three months and thus she was going to be allowed to see her seven-year-old daughter who was removed from her care some years ago. My hope and faith were renewed as I joined with the Whole congregation in praising God for these miracles of faith.

Prayer: Lord, make us instruments of your peace and love and hope and faith. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/5218.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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Creation’s Care

Living in the Spirit
September 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ –Matthew 16:21-23

Are we setting our minds not on divine things but human? How do we meld the divine and the human into one? My guess, if you are like me, we invest much of our time in very human ventures: eating, sleeping, working, etc. and all of the things that make those activities possible like buying groceries and maintaining a car and cleaning our houses. From where do we derive the values that drive those mundane activities?

I spent the morning gathering up my recycling to take to Goodwill Industries. The result is an amazing car full of plastic, paper, aluminum, cardboard, and glass. I now wonder how many years worth of that stuff, I once tossed in the trash, is in a landfill somewhere and will be for generations to come. God charged us with taking care of the earth in the first book of the Bible.

What we do in every aspect of our lives impacts others. People living on coastlines routinely measure how much of their land is lost to rising waters every year. Just as we cannot separate our humanity from our divinity, we cannot separate our individuality from our interdependence on one another. God’s call to love one another is not just a pleasant platitude. It is the foundation of our existence.

Prayer: God of all Creation, forgive us when we separate ourselves into self-serving compartments of divine and human. Help us realize our responsibilities to ourselves are also responsibilities to all your creation. 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.

 

We Have a Savior

Living in the Spirit
June 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-14

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ –Genesis 22:9-14

‘The Lord will provide.’ The Lord did provide the earth and all that is in it, our very lives, and knowledge and talents to use the resources wisely if we so choose. Some believed over the centuries that after creation God stepped back to observe how we humans handle such gifts. Abraham, I think, felt a partnership with God and  from the beginning, sought and received God’s guidance through all of his life as did Moses, David, and the prophets. Jesus introduced a more particular understanding of God with us. Jesus’ followers seek to fulfill the vision of a Kingdom, the world, ruled by love, as a calling to be a part of his purpose.

‘The Lord will provide.’ Abraham speaks in the future tense. Was this event the point at which Abraham realized that the Lord’s provision is eternal? I must say in times like these when the world teems with fear and hate and divisiveness; we need a touch of such faith. We need the provision of hope when our personal and communal resources feel stretched to the breaking point. We need a Savior. Thank God, almighty, we have one.

Prayer: We thank you God for the gift of Jesus Christ who dwelt among us and dwells with us today and forever. 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.

Vision Quest

Lent
March 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
   and serve only him.”’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. –Matthew 4:8-11

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. *

I tend to think of Jesus’ temptations as his vision quest in the tradition of some American Indian tribes. Young men, and women too, are sent out to be alone with the Spirit to find their calling as they transition to adulthood. At some level, all teenagers make such a quest. The key point is that we are the decisions we make.

When I first began my career, I noticed that many of the women with whom I worked were there not by the choice of pursuing a career but by the necessity of meeting their basic needs and often the basic needs of children. Some felt caught in a no win situation, doing whatever they were told for fear of losing their children’s livelihood. (A member of the Oklahoma state legislature recently was forced to resign because of sexual harassment. Among other things, he required his administrative assistant to supply him with nude pictures of herself.) I was working in pursuit of a career, single and with no children, and able early on to make the decision that I never wanted to ever be in a situation when I could not walk away from my job at any point. That decision influenced many later decisions I made about handling my finances mainly, but also being able to stand my ground for doing what was right.

Playing the game of power is a heady business and can become our god. Jesus possessed ultimate power but his task on earth, his vision, was to enable others to use their power to God’s glory advancing the influence of love throughout the world. He made three major decisions on his vision quest that set the values for his ministry: not letting the thirst for greed rule his life, not testing God, and not letting a hunger for power supersede his primary purpose. His example is a good one to follow.

Prayer: Lord help us understand that the power of love is stronger than all other forms of power, guide us in loving like Jesus. Amen.

*John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

h

Love Will Work

Epiphany
January 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. –Matthew 5:8-12

Jesus warns in the beatitudes that we must be very careful what we do in the name of God. What happens when we ascribe our actions as God’s plan when they relate more to self-interest? There may or may not be a problem with one’s self-interest. If self-interest takes away from the wellbeing of another, it is not of God. God created us to succeed; gave us a multitude of positive choices with which we might apply our talents and skills. I think God’s ultimate plan is that our talents and skills mesh well with our heart’s desires. The first rule of order in God’s world is that all our activities grace others with love. Anything we do in the name of God that does not grace with love is not of God. God is the ultimate judge of our behavior.

All people are children of God, created in God’s image. We cannot pick and choose among the world’s populations regarding who we are to love. We are even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), a tough assignment in a world caught up in terrorism and oppression. These Beatitudes make it clear that our task is not easy, but I am very sure love is the only way that will ultimately work.

Prayer: Lord, grant us strength and courage for the facing of this hour*. Amen.

*Derived from hymn God of Grace and God of Glory by Harry E. Fosdick see at http://www.hymnary.org/text/god_of_grace_and_god_of_glory

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.

Fear Not and Sing a New Song

sing-a-new-songAdvent
December 21, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 96

O sing to the Lord a new song;
   sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
   tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
   his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
   but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
   strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. –Psalm 96:1-6

Can pure love feel pain? I wonder how God feels when God sees his creation in chaos with people doing horrible things in God’s name. How do we sing at all much less a new song when the whole world seems to be crumbling under our feet? We are all so caught up in our image of God that we cannot tolerate another perspective. Though we are called to work toward perfection, can any human fully comprehend God? How much is our image of God based on our idols? How do we know the difference?

Advent brings lots of questions. World events that dash hope add questions. Human life has become an expendable commodity to some. Fear is epidemic. How do we sing a new song in such circumstances? Perhaps we should consider that the very circumstances that make us lose hope are writing the melody and the words to a new song. The new song we need to sing is an ancient song apparently lost to some over the years. God created the world out of chaos. Is God calling us to be creators of love out of the chaos that surrounds us? How would that look? What role must each of us play in making God’s love real to all?

Prayer: Lord, in many situations through the Bible your messengers tell us to fear not. Help us hear those words and make our fears catalyst for loving even more. 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.

Repent

matthew-25-40Living in the Spirit
October 14, 2016

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
–2 Timothy 4:3-5

Does it seem like the time of not putting up with sound doctrine is now? We want to hear what we want to hear and if what we want is not being spoken we tune out. What causes this moral decay in our society? Why are we so intent on worshipping empty vessels? At least part of the problem is the co-opting of voices of faith. Some by divide and conquer processes shredded the oneness for which Christ longed. Some did it by identifying righteousness with wealth rather than justice. Both practices, as old as time itself, stem from evil, not love.

People of faith do need to repent, turn around. Those of us who call ourselves Christian need to recognize that the answers to our issues are available to us in the life and example of Jesus Christ. We seem to leave him out of our paradigms of life. The gospels never record Jesus as even addressing the major issues that divide us. He does admonish us about greed and the misuse of power.

Perhaps if we simplified our purpose for the next several years limiting our work only to those items Jesus named in Matthew 25, we could find Christ’s way again.

  • Feed the hungry
  • Provide clean water for the thirsty
  • Welcome the stranger
  • Cloth the naked
  • Care for the sick
  • Restore those in prison to productive lives

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for our foolish ways. Guide us to be your Body active in this 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.

Purpose

loveisthepurposeLiving in the Spirit
October 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:97-104

Oh, how I love your law!
   It is my meditation all day long.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
   for it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
   for your decrees are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
   for I keep your precepts. –Psalm 119:97-100

On first reading, I thought the writer of this Psalm was pretty full of himself, rather audacious in self-righteousness. He at least gives credit to God as the source of the writer’s perfection. Jesus encounters a similar attitude when confronted by the one dubbed the Rich Young Ruler. (Mark 10:17-27) I think Jesus saw great potential in the young man. Jesus did not roll his eyes at the man and walk away. Jesus seemed to hone in on what salvation, redemption could make of the one who stood before him no matter what. Such redemption is a source of great hope.

I recognize that all the ways of being and living described in our scripture today are good. We need to study the scriptures, we must learn to deal with enemies, most teachers hope that their students will succeed and exceed their mentors, and elders hope their descendants have enough sense to learn from some of the elder’s mistakes and not repeat them. But does the writer understand the ultimate purpose of his accomplishments?

For some, I suppose, being good is an end in itself. Jesus called us to so much more. Our gifts and talents serve as a witness to God’s love. It takes every ounce of our beings to live into the vision of a world ruled by love. God created us for this purpose.

Prayer: Lord, when you were made flesh and dwelt among us, you forever changed the trajectory of our lives. Please mold our behavior to help us more productively attain your goal of a world ruled by 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.

Love vs. Fear

perfect-loveLiving in the Spirit
September 21, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.’
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday. –Psalm 91:1-6

Truth cries out in our scripture today. We do serve an awesome God who loves us and thus wants the very best for us. We do live in a scary world where bullies try to bring us to our knees. The bullies do not realize that the best place for God-lovers in times of stress is literally or figuratively on our knees humbling ourselves before God. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) This truth particularly resonates in our lives when evil seems to be all about us.

Our world is complex. Hate and fear beget hate and fear. What we must remember and grasp is love overcomes hate and fear. God never promised it would be easy. God does promise that our love exponentially increases as it joins with God’s love. The love of God combined with the love of all God-lovers far exceeds the power manifested by hate and fear. The question, the challenge is when will we ever have the faith to let love do its work through us as God seems to will?

Prayer: Strengthen us to humble ourselves enough to be your conduit of 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.

Perfect Power is Love

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear!Living in the Spirit
August 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:18-29

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. –Hebrews 12:22-24

The other side of this statement of God’s all-powerful nature is recorded by the Psalmist Chapter 8: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals that you care for them?

 Perfect power is love. One of my kindergarten-teacher nieces, I have two, forwarded a Facebook message at the start of the school year that simply said something to the effect that children with special needs want the same outcomes in life as anyone else and simply want to be treated with that in mind. What may be perceived by some as imperfect attains perfection in love. Christ desires the perfection of our love and enables it through his love.

This human has a long way to go toward perfect love and takes great solace in knowing that the very source of love has my back as I engage a world, God’s world, struggling to love like Jesus loves. When lesser gods try to entice me with instant gratification or personal gain or attaining power, I can be transformed by God’s perfect love as can all humans.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for sending Jesus as a perfect example of love and for sustaining his work through the gift of the Spirit. Hold fast to we leafs on your vine who need such nourishment each day. 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.