Tag Archives: Loving others

Evil in Sight

Living in the Spirit
November 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-7

The Israelites again 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

When will we ever learn? I wonder how many times the Bible records something similar to The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. While theologians may debate whether God rains punishment down on God’s people, there is no question that we all must suffer the consequences of our own actions even when God forgives us. Are our memories so short that when good times abound we forget what we did to cause the bad times?

God gave us standards from the beginning to understand how to thrive in the world God created. The overall primary standard is to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. God sent prophets to warn us of our misdeeds and ultimately sent Jesus Christ to redeem us. And still, our eyes glass over, only seeing what we want to see and doing only what we want to do. Many of us justify our actions projecting them as God-given. They may be self-righteous but do not meet God’s standard of righteousness. Racism will never pass God’s test of love.

We live in a time when some deep soul searching is needed. Some beautiful examples of sharing God’s love exist, caring for hurricane victims and the victims of recent gun violence, alongside some very ugly rhetoric. We need a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter.

Prayer: Lord, guard our tongues to be uplifting now down-putting. Let the light of our love wash out the dark of hatred and bigotry. 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.

Caring for the Gospel

Living in the Spirit
October 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1Thessalonians 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 gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. –1 Thessalonians 2:4-8

What an interesting example of taking the story of God to others, Paul compares it to a nurse tenderly caring for her gospel of God. I worked as a nurse’s aide in one nursing home when in high school and another in college. Working the day shift, I was responsible for bathing my assigned patients. Frail elderly persons often have dry paper-thin skin that required the gentle touches. For most patients, the feel of the warm washcloth brought them comfort and renewal. Throughout the day, I fed many patients who could not feed themselves. Feeding another is an art, learning to understand what they like and do not like when they cannot tell you. Different from feeding a baby who is learning new taste, the elderly already know what they like and have lost control over their choices of eating unless the person doing the feeding cares enough to grasp the reactions they have to the food offered.

Church experiences earlier in some people’s lives left them scared. Others glean opinions of faith from the diversity of practices they observe from the outside, which in our world today is bound to confuse. Loving the other enough to take the time to get to know them and let them get to know us is crucial as we attempt to share the love of God with them.

Prayer: Lord, make us gentle nurses tenderly caring for the gospel of God as we share it with others. 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.

 

Living Examples

Living in the Spirit
September 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
–Matthew 18:21-22

The Greek word translated here as church in other translations appears as brother. It means coming from the same womb and does refer not only to biological siblings but also people who share the same religious family.  My first reaction is to wonder should this instruction apply to all relationships?  I think it should, but the point may be that our life in Christ calls us to set an example for others to help them see the ways of Christ in action.

I am uncomfortable with the consideration that we are called to deal with our fellow Christian differently than we deal with all people. Granted Peter’s question does not directly deal with the issue of worldview. Perhaps his question arose from a specific incident involving fellow disciples. In any case we cannot escape the fact that how we treat each other is a reflection on how non-Christians perceive Christ.

With all the natural  disasters that have hit the world and particularly the Americas in the last few weeks, those who see God’s justice descending in such calamities are making the case for this system of belief falling back on their primary concerns of sins in our society related to things like no prayer in school and what they consider sexual deviations. I do believe that it rains on the just and the unjust. (See Matthew 5:45) I also think we all must face the consequences of our own actions or lack of actions such as ignoring our responsibility for care of the earth. But I think it is a little too convenient to cast dispersions on what we perceive to be the sins of others, certainly not our own, while we support cutting off millions of people from adequate health care, making profit from warehousing prisoners, and walling out strangers. We might do well to review Jesus’ criteria for judgment found in Matthew 25.

Prayer: Guide us, O God, in living lives worthy of representing you well to those who have not yet encountered you or perhaps were not introduced to you in a positive manner. 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.

Modeling Love

Living in the Spirit
September 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’—Matthew 18:23-35

It is funny, but we waste a lot of time and effort trying to change someone else when the only person over which we have any control to change is ourselves. The paradox is how we respond to others often may result in a shift in their attitude. I worked in a building that housed a separate business from mine, but I met its staff on a regular basis coming and going from the facility. I did not know any of the staff, but we routinely greeted each other except for one woman who never responded to a “Good Morning” or “Have a nice evening.” In fact, she would never even look at me. I did not know what to make of her but just kept smiling and making common greetings when one day she began looking at me and a few days later shyly returned my greeting. Our exchanges continued until she was suddenly not there anymore.

Jesus modeled a way of being in the short time he walked the earth. In the parable today he calls us to forgive as he has forgiven us. It is, of course, futile to send someone to prison to make them pay a debt. If one cannot work, how can he or she earn any money? What difference do you think it would have made in the life of the second slave had the first slave said to him, “The master has forgiven me my debt, so I forgive you the debt you own me?” What difference would it make in the life of one we judge to be a sinner if we simply loved them for who he or she was anyway?

Prayer: God of Grace, give us each the self-confidence to love as you love. Enable loving behavior to be like yeast throughout our land. 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.

Washing Feet

Living in the Spirit
September 7, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. –Romans 13:8-10

The lead into our scripture today is a much-debated segment advising Christ’s followers to obey authorities and pay their taxes among other things. The people Paul targeted did not live in a democracy; most had no input about laws or taxes. While the Romans tolerated various religious sects when they did not cause problems, Roman expected obedience to its laws and financial support of its governance.

Paul takes his instruction further in this scripture where he says we should owe no one anything but love and we owe love to everyone. We owe love because we receive and know the love of God through Jesus Christ. How are we to make a positive difference in the world, if we follow the same paths as the world? I recently watched with keen interest the clergy arm in arm forming a wall of love in Charlottesville standing against hate and violence. I watched a white man carrying two black children out of the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey. I watched our Mexican neighbors bring much-needed supplies and help to Texas in response to the hurricane. They simply loved their neighbors. I saw no fear in any of these faces only determination.

1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love cast out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

Jesu, Jesu fill us with your love,
Show us how to love the neighbors we have from you.

Silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.

Jesu, Jesu fill us with your love,
Show us how to love the neighbors we have from you*.

Prayer: Lord, let your love free us from our fears enabling us to love like you. Amen.

*Chorus and first verse of Jesu, Jesu, words by Tom Colvin see at https://hymnary.org/text/kneels_at_the_feet_of_his_friends

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.

O Love that Will Not Let Me Go

Eastertide
April 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. –1 Peter 1:17-20

If God is an impartial judge what are God’s expectations for us? Are our ways in sync with God’s? Do we ascribe high priorities to the same things God does? The Hebrew Bible tells us that the Israelites routinely fell into bad habits of placing priorities on things that did not matter while letting slip the things that did. Idol worship was offensive to God where God’s people were putting their trust in carved images. We think we are way past that sort of nonsense, but are we really? Where do we place our trust? Certainly, accumulation of wealth seems a source of salvation in our society. Power is another. Neither are guaranteed even in our own time much less for eternity.

God apparently thought we needed help in sorting out our priorities and sent Jesus to live among us, one human being modeling being human for the rest of us. He simplified priorities by having only two: loving God and loving each other with no strings attached, no tests for us to administer to determine who deserves either God’s love or ours. The job of judging was reserved for God only.

Loving God and loving each other is an impossible task for humans unless we are plugged into our relationship with God. We might tiptoe around the edges of truly loving another but all others, I doubt it. The potential for loving all others is in every human as we are each made in the image of God who is love. God can and will enable our ability to love like Jesus, when we open ourselves to the fullness of God’s love.  Let it be so.

Prayer:
O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.* Amen

*First verse of O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go by George Matheson (1882) see at http://hymnary.org/text/o_love_that_wilt_not_let_me_go

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.

Jesus Wept

Lent
April 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 11:1-45

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ –John 11:28-37

I loved The Waltons TV show. One Christmas show is still seared in my mind. The wife of the local mercantile owner organized a charity to help the poor little children in the village. She gathered donations of toys and announced the date and time when the families could come and get their gifts. If you remember the show, you know that she thought she was a cut above her neighbors. A rather ridged woman, she required each child to recite a Bible verse before they could get a toy. The older children did well but the younger they got the less likely they were to know a verse. John Boy, the lead character, standing in the background started whispering short verses that the young ones could remember just long enough to get their toy. For the youngest and the last, he saved the shortest verse taken from our scripture above, Jesus wept (King James Version).  It was most appropriate for after proving their worthiness by reciting a verse, the children opened gifts of broken and worn out toys.

Jesus’ final days were filled with the irony of one whose only desire in life was to love and enable others to love caught in a world where everyone must prove their worth based on human judgment. I do not know why Jesus wept at Lazarus tomb. Perhaps it was because Mary and Martha were in such grief, perhaps he deeply regretted the pain and suffering that Lazarus had experienced in his final days. Both are probably true but I also think he wept for all those who were missing out on the fullness of God’s love by chasing after lesser gods of pride or greed or whatever.

Lent is our time to examine ourselves and see if we have any of those lesser gods distracting us from the love that passes all understanding.

Prayer: God of Mercy and of Grace, help us to see ourselves more clearly. Free us from the chains of idolatry, great or small. Fill our lives with your love so that we can be conduits of love to all your children. 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.

Sharing the Love of God with Us

prophetsAdvent
December 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
 and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. –Matthew 1:22-25

The message conveyed by the consistent referral to the prophets of old in the New Testament tells us today that God is God, has always been, and will always be. Simple as this statement is to make, it is the most comforting message we can receive. Running around crying out the sky is falling is not helpful. The prophets in much more poetic language tell us to keep being God’s people no matter what.

Just like the ancient Israelites when times seem good, we too get lulled into states of complacency. We do not want anyone to rock the boat but that is not the way of progress. Such attitudes slow the development of a society to follow God’s plan of love and reconciliation.

As we deepen our spiritual quest toward fuller appreciation of “God with Us” let us consider how God is leading us to greater love for all God’s children so that each human on this earth can attain the full measure of God-based contentment.

Prayer: Lover of all Souls, as we celebrate your coming in human form, grant us the courage to step out in faith to demonstrate your love in action to the world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, by permission. All rights reserved.

Do Not Fear

rock-that-is-higher-than-iLiving in the Spirit
October 31, 2016

Scripture Reading: Haggai 2:1-9

Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. –Haggai 2:3-5

Democracy is messy. Trying to negotiate agreement on best practices is difficult. Change is hard. We live in a challenging world, and as members of that world, we choose to function within a system of governance that requires our full participation. It gets uglier at some times than at other. In history, we read of the scandals of Tammany Hall in the 1780’s recurring in the 1920’s and muckraking of the 1890’s. Not having experienced them, they are not as real to us as the current political situations. They were probably just as bad.

The week before the general election in the USA is a good time to be reminded that we serve an awesome God who abides among us. God created this earth out of chaos and can surely rescue us from our self-created calamity if we abide in God. Being in a relationship with God does require self-introspection. Some, perhaps much, of our fretting and fears comes from our clinging to things of this world that have little or no relevance in God’s Kingdom. Parsing out what is of God and discerning what kind of nation we want to be is important . Not forcing our beliefs on others but letting God’s plan for our lives direct our way of being are reflected in our actions as citizens.

Prayer: Lord, cleanse me of all that inhibits my living your love in all that I do including my role as a citizen of this nation. 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.

Living Cloud of Witnesses

befunky_love-like-jesus-bible-quoteLiving in the Spirit
October 27, 2016

Scripture Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4; 11-12

We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring. –2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

I sat down with several women from my church recently and said and meant, “What a wonderful crowd of witnesses!” To which one replied, “I’m not dead yet!” I think that rather proved my point as she is obviously a Bible student. The reference was to Hebrews 12:1 referring to all the saints who had died and paved the way for our service today. I think the writer of 2 Thessalonians, using Paul’s standard salutation in our scripture today, would agree that we also should equally praise those actively serving God in real time and that they too are a great crowd of witnesses.

Everyday Christians go about the business of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, helping the sick, and welcoming the stranger as a normal part of their lives. Most Sunday mornings, I see a 90+-year-old man drop a sack of canned goods in the cart at the entrance of our church for distribution at a food closet with whom we partner. Every Thursday volunteers cook and deliver with love mobile meals to 30 or so homebound elderly and disabled people. The school for which we have been providing mittens, gloves, and hats each year let us know they have enough from last year to meet their needs. This year we will be targeting our donations toward gloves and hats for the homeless at a local shelter that we already help with steel-toed boots to enable their participants to work. Join with me in being thankful for these acts of love engrained in these witnesses’ faith DNA.

Prayer: Lord, when we as your followers each do our part in your service, all have an opportunity to experience your abundant life. Thank you for the gift of service. 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.