Tag Archives: Loving others

Loving One Another

To die forEastertide
April 24, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 13:31-35

Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ –John 13:33-35

If we are to model our lives after Jesus, we are going to have to rid ourselves of our need to judge others. Sure he castigated religious leaders for their failures in leading the people in the ways of God. Yet he had great compassion, amazing empathy, without condemnation for the people. I take great solace in the breadth of his forgiveness and love. We all need those.

I saw a sign recently that said don’t judge others because they sin differently than you do. The people who have made the most positive difference in my life are the ones who saw something in me that I did not perceive and helped me to develop it. Jesus did a lot of that. I have also been impacted by those who accept me as I am and love me anyway. That’s a Jesus thing too.

Loving others includes a willingness to engage with others even those we do not understand or particularly those we do not understand. Truth is we become more ourselves the more we grow in loving others in spite of perceived differences. I use to sing the old song, Love Lifted Me with the idea that it was God’s love lifting me and I am sure that is true, but If you think about it our loving others lifts us too.

Prayer: Lord enable us love one another. 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.

God’s Great Choir

MusicEastertide
April 14, 2016

Scripture Reading: Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’ –Revelation 7:9-12

Is it our great desire to stand among peoples from every nation tribe and language in communal worship of God? It appears that is God’s great desire. Our actions would indicate that it is not ours. We may be willing to stand before God together with all people when and if they finally learn to conform to our ways of being and doing and faith, but the scripture does not say that. We may be willing to stand before God together with all people as long as we have the best spots to stand. But the scriptures do not say that either. The scriptures say we are to be willing to give up our box seats for the standing room only in the nose bleed section.

Of course as hard as it is for any of us to step out of our self-centered definitions of what is truth about God, if we let them go, we might find it joyous to discovered that all the seats in God’s kingdom are front row, that the joining of all cultures adds flavor and spice to our lives, and that the Body of Christ truly does have many members with differing gifts and all are vital to the world. It is at this point of understanding that we can in one voice, even speaking many languages, sing together.

Prayer: Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! 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.

Called to be the Kingdom of Love

we-are-the-body-of-christLiving in the Spirit
November 19, 2015

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:4b-8

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: 

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. 

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. –Revelation 1:4-6

Beautiful words these, ones we need to hear and breathe into our inmost being. We serve a God of grace and peace. A God who does not cower from terror or fear the terrorist but extends his love to all. I think God especially cares for those innocents caught between the warring factions of the world. We call them refugees. According to the book of Matthew, Jesus and his family were refugees fleeing from the terror of Herod to Egypt after his birth. I wonder what would have happened to him had they been turned away.

The Lord has made us to be a kingdom ruled by love. We who live in Oklahoma City know only too well terrorist can be homegrown and can be extremist Christians. Our overreacting to the terror that is occurring across our world feeds the terrorist sense of control and power. No one wants to go to a concert looking constantly over their shoulder looking for the menace that might be present. No one wants to be blown up on the street or lose loved ones in such a manner. These are hard times. Times that test our faith and times that challenge our hope for a better world but they are not times to give up on God or God’s plan for us to be the Body of Christ in the world today. These are the very times Jesus came to earth to address through the kingdom he fostered and that is us.

I think it is important to remember that Jesus was willing to die for what he lived, and in so doing conquered the world.

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!’ (John 16:33)

Prayer: Lord, strengthen our week knees for such a times as these. 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.

Praying without Ceasing

God's presenceLiving in the Spirit
October 27, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:1-18

No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.’ Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

 So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ –Ruth 1:13b-17

I am sure to Naomi it seemed like God had forsaken her having to immigrate to a foreign land, followed by the death of her husband and both of her sons. She perhaps could not see through all that grief, God had sent her Ruth, a daughter-in-law who would accept Naomi’s God and dedicate her life to the care of Naomi.

I was only five when my father’s mother died so I only have vague memories of her. I remember her telling me that I was not to turn the knobs on the gas range in the kitchen. Funny the things that stick in a kids mind. I remember sitting on the little seat at her “dressing table” and her powdering my back with a big soft puff. I remember her face when my aunt pulled back the cover to show me that she was at peace in death. More than anything else, I remember that she and my mother were best of friends. My mother loved my paternal grandmother like Ruth loved Naomi.

My grandmother buried two husbands both leaving her with young children to raise. Her life was not easy. I also remember her working in the kitchen talking quietly to God many times a day. She practiced the presence of God by praying without ceasing. Naomi apparently did too.

Prayer: Omnipresent God, we lift our hearts in praise for your relentless accompanying us through all our hardships and all our joys. 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 Lasts

1-under-the-shadow-of-his-wings-gladiola-sotomayorLiving in the Spirit
October 5, 2015

Scripture Reading: Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Then Job answered:
 ‘Today also my complaint is bitter;
   his hand is heavy despite my groaning.
O that I knew where I might find him,
   that I might come even to his dwelling!
I would lay my case before him,
   and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what he would answer me,
   and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
   No; but he would give heed to me.
There an upright person could reason with him,
   and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. –Job 23:1-9

Feeling separated from God is painful. Job had lost everything including his own health, and he felt he had also lost God. O that I knew where I might find him. Job probably was wondering what he might have done to have suffered such loss. O that I knew where I might find him.

Years ago I placed a little four year old boy in a wonderful foster home with a father that instantly took the little guy under his wings. The boy had been through a lot and needed the powerful love of this man. After living with the family for several months, the father was very critically injured in a work related accident and it was determined that the couples’ returning home to another state to the nurture and care of extended family was needed. They wanted to take the boy with them but his court status would not allow it. When I picked him up to move him to another foster home as we drove away from the house, he said, “Marilynn, I have just thought and thought of ways to talk you out of this and I just can’t.” I thought of that when I read from Job: I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

God is always there even when we are so bent over with mental, emotional, or even physical pain we do not sense God. My prayer for the little boy was having known such wonderful and unconditional love from his foster father, the boy carried a powerful witness to his own worth throughout his life. God’s love is like that every day.

Prayer: Lord, let us experience your love as fully as we are capable of doing and let your love move through us to help others experience it. 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.

Diverse Love

ChristLiving in the Spirit
October 1, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. –Hebrews 1:1-4

High Christology is how the theologians would describe Hebrews. I must admit I stumble about when I am writing trying the find the right name when referring to God. I like to use Jesus when remembering the stories of the time he walked the earth and shared his teachings and his love. I use the name God primarily when talking about creation or the idea of Parent. Christ, which is actually a title, or Jesus Christ is who I perceive to be leading us toward the Kingdom of God. Holy Spirit appears most often in my work when I am touching on issues of guidance and constant communion. Lord, however, is my fall back when I cannot decide and that is the same High Christology the writer of Hebrews develops.

This Son by which God has spoken to us is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. We were all created in God’s image but the word we would probably use today to describe what Hebrews is trying to describe is clone. The idea of a clone makes most of us a little uncomfortable, I think, but I am moved by the thought of God being willing to experience humanness in order to grasp God’s world from the human perspective.

Each of us experience the world differently, including identical twins, and thus how we respond to the world differs. Learning to love in the midst of such diversity is a challenge. If loving another means wanting the very best for the other, we are required to accept that we may not know what that best is. The Lord does know and that three sided relationship of the Lord, ourselves, and the other must work together for love to succeed. We must trust in the Lord’s wisdom.

Prayer: Lord, it is hard to let go of applying our own ideas of what joins us to you and what separates us from you to others but it can get in the way of our loving them and thus helping them experience you in their own way in keeping with your relationship with them. Give us the strength to entrust them to you and the faith that you will guide us in our role with them. 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.

Wandering from the Truth

judging-others-blue_designLiving in the Spirit
September 27, 2015

Scripture Reading: James 5:13-20

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. –James 5:19-20

How do we bring someone back from wandering from the truth? The crux of much of the dialogue in our society today rests in the answer to this questions. The question, first works from the assumption that we can readily identify when someone has indeed wandered. We know that is shaky ground upon which to walk because of the examples of Jesus being condemned by religious leaders from wandering from their ideas of wandering from God’s ways. We are clearly chastised not to judge others without being able to stand in judgment by others. (Matt, 7:1) John 5:22 states that Jesus is the only one who can judge.

I fear we stand in need of judgment when we take on the role of judging others based on our own perceptions of what we has determined is the right way for ourselves. Is their only one way of loving God and loving one another and how can we be sure that the way we have found to be in synch with God is that only way?

On the other hand, there always seems to be another hand, what is our responsibility to a fellow traveler on God’s journey who seems to be struggling, in pain, feeling a lack of grace or so caught up in the worship of lesser God’s they could care less about the one God? We are challenged to love them to the point that they can see a glimpse of the one God’s love in us. When we stand in condemnation of people we most likely will never have the opportunity for them to experience our love. We can only love in this dimension when we are ourselves as fully in synch with God as we can be and through prayer rely totally upon God’s love, the example of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Lord, help me remove the beam from own eye before I ever attempt to take help another take the speck from his or her eyes. Amen.

 

Joy in Service

GARDENING-TOOL-facebookLiving in the Spirit
September 14, 2015

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 31:10-31

A capable wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
   she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
   and provides food for her household
   and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. –Proverbs 31:10-16

My brother, sister, and I asked that Proverbs 31 be read at my mother’s memorial service. It faithfully describes her. She made most of our clothing including my father’s tailored suits. She was never happier than when she was in a vegetable garden. Most I think thought she grew up on a farm where we lived, but not true, she was a town girl. Her dad worked in the local general store. Later after he suffered a debilitating stroke, her mother worked at a canning factory.

She was also a deaconess in the Methodist church during the Great Depression serving first in south Texas along the border and later in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. She learned to sew and garden as a child; she strengthened those skills facing the abject poverty, racism, and injustice that plagued the people with whom she worked as she became the hands and feet of Christ in her home mission areas. I always thought she preferred to craft a dress for my sister and me from hand-me-downs rather from new cloth. She was educated as a math teacher and she liked the challenge of arranging patterns across odd sizes of material salvaged from those old clothing. I know she mastered the art of quilt making from turning fancy taffeta dresses donated from churches into warm comforters for people who had little or no heat in the winter. She would grin a bit when telling us stories wondering if the original owners of the clothing knew how the clothing had been used.

Prayer: Holy One, guide us through this scripture to see ways of being that complement the work of your Son, Jesus, the Christ, and make the completion of this work a joy for us and for you. 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.

The Good Shepherd

Good ShepherdEastertide
April 25, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 10:11-16

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.—John 10:11-15

The confidence and comfort in knowing that God through Jesus Christ, knows me and loves me completely, just as I am and as I am becoming through his love, enables everything that I do in Jesus’ name. To be known completely by God is a gift of grace that allows me to instantly come to God in prayer and be reformed. That is a gift we need to share with others but we must meet them where they are to share that gift.

 Do sheep all look the same to you? Could you readily tell one from another if you walked through a meadow where they were grazing?  What about their personalities: do you know the leaders, the aggressive ones, the sick ones? We should all be able to tell the black ones from white ones or spotted ones. Most I think could figure out which were males and which were females. A good shepherd would know all of these things and more.

Does it make a difference to you when you know someone when a prayer request is made for them as opposed to a stranger? I do pray for those whom I do not know, but when I hear a request for prayer for someone I do know, but did not know they were in trouble or ill, my concern level increases. I make the extra effort to inquire further, learn more, and perhaps offer assistance.

It is possible to live in a city and have one’s life tucked neatly into silos of isolation where we move and have our being among our home, work, church, and school, and never interact in any meaningful way with the multitudes we pass but about whom we know nothing. We are called to love these—love them enough to make sure they know the Good Shepherd, too.

Prayer: Lord, open opportunities for me to meet others who need to know you love them. 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.

Grace

Living in the Spirit
June 19, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Romans 6:1-11 

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  – Romans 6:1-4

Paul had quite a challenge bringing the gentiles into the Body of Christ. Coming from a markedly different culture than the Jewish one, they worshipped many different gods or none at all. Their lifestyles among other things included eating foods that were taboo for Jews as well as worshipping various effigies. Paul had to walk a fine line with them and the Jews who had become followers of Christ who still found meaning from their culture related to their Jewish faith. Paul had to help them all identify what was culture and what was sin, what was of God and what was not.

Our scripture today deals with another of those challenges, I call it fuzzy logic. If God’s love and forgiveness were somehow tied in with grace then the more we sin the more grace we would receive, right? These Roman Christian were having a hard time understanding that God’s grace is a gift freely given with no strings attached. In actuality the gift of grace frees us from the bounds of sin allowing us to develop habits of loving ourselves and others that we could never have done without grace.

We still struggle with this issue today. We sometimes even have the need to prove ourselves more righteous than another because we cannot accept that God’s grace and love have no strings for us or for anyone else. We are never closer to God because we perceive that someone else is further from God than we are. On the contrary we are actually turning our backs on God anytime we turn our backs on another. Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.—Matthew 25:45

Prayer: God of Grace, create in me a clean heart and a right spirit so that I may love more fully. 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.