Tag Archives: Oneness

Gifts Differing

Ordinary Time
January 21, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:14-20

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. –Mark 1:16-20

A friend and I were planning a trip recently.  I had left our last conversation thinking we had reached a decision on our plans and just needed to finalize the reservations and so forth. The first words out of her mouth when we met were that she had received an ad in the mail about a meeting on Sunday where several travel agencies would explore various ideas on vacations. My first response was to say I could not attend because I had a conflict, which was true, but my gut was reacting with thoughts that we did not need any more input. At that point, it dawned on me that her process orientation and my goal orientation were bumping heads. One is not better than the other; both are necessary for good decision making. I am referring to Myers Briggs personality types*. In a nutshell, these types include 16 combinations of eight opposite traits: Introvert/extrovert, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling, and goal oriented/process oriented. The idea is that all of these types are necessary for our world but by their very nature they can cause confusion and misunderstanding. Learning about the types builds better understanding of communication.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus selected the twelve disciples that he did? Why Paul carefully taught that there are different gifts and all are important? God created an interdependent world. Synergy ** results when two or more are gathered together to go about the business of doing God’s work. Our investment in learning from one another and learning how to work with one another is directly related to the success of our work in God’s service

Prayer: Creator God, give us insight and wisdom to complement each others talents and skills so they may be used to your glory. Amen.

*For more information see http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm?bhcp=1

**Briefly the total equals more than the sum of the parts.

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.

Clarity of Expression

Ordinary Time
January 19, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I follow the lectionary in writing these daily devotions because it challenges me to read scriptures to which I might not otherwise pay attention. Some, like the one above, leave me wondering what is, in this case, Paul trying to say? I consulted the NRSV commentary and found that the scripture is included with other suggestions (?) Paul has for the Corinthians and us too today, for how to live in the world but not of the world. Now the commentary did say that Paul left out some verbiage probably making it difficult to translate. Does he mean when he says let those who have wives be as though they had none that they should play the single man with other women or avoid intimate relationships with their wives? I will confess that I have reviewed some of my writing and in hindsight wondered what I meant by what I wrote. I hope that has not happened too often regarding anything that was read by others. One can see why strange interpretations can arise from Biblical texts at times though.

I say that only to caution us to search for deeper meanings when we come across something that is not clear at least to us. My final action in such instances is to determine whether my understanding of the text passes what I like to call the test of love. Does my interpretation of this scripture pass the test of love? Perhaps reading Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 would guide such discernment.

Prayer: Lord, help us to communicate your word and your way so that they are blessings to others and not stumbling blocks. 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.

What’s in a Town?

Ordinary Time
January 13, 2018

Scripture Reading: John 1:43-51

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ –John 1:43-49

I grew up on a farm near three small towns located about equal distance from where we lived. We did business in all three towns at one time or another. My dentist was in one, my doctor in another. I do not know why my parents chose which town to visit. As a teenager, I was cautioned not to frequent one of these towns after dark when I was on my own or with friends as it was dangerous. I never knew what that meant, and I did go there with friends occasionally. Nothing bad ever happened. I wonder if the caution came from something that happened in that town when my dad was a teenager some 30 years earlier. It was the closets of the three towns, but more boring than the other two. There was not much to do except drive around the square and see who else was there.

I do think that caution caused me to wonder if anything good could come from that town. Funny, how our minds associate things to make us assume something, not in evidence. Such transference is the bases of much bigotry.

Perhaps having to live with people judging Jesus by his hometown gave him a greater understanding of the importance of inclusiveness. He selected a broad sweep of disciples to train. I worked in an office once with all primarily white women. Don’t ever want to do it again. Give me diversity. One must work a little harder to understand or create the environment for success in such an environment, but the creativity from diverse experiences and training makes for far better outcomes.

Prayer: God, equip us to appreciate the value of learning from each other. 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.

Finding Common Ground

Christmas
January 5, 2018

Scripture Reading: Acts 19:1-7
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.

I do not believe in coincidences, but my Sunday school class discussed Acts 19 this week. I enjoined hearing others describe interacting with people with viewpoints different from theirs. We talked about the diverse ways Christians perceive Christ even today. And we talked about finding common ground on which we can strive for oneness. I think it is time we set our disagreements aside and identify the things on which we can agree working on them with all our hearts, souls, strengths and minds. There may be instances when we agree on the problem but not the solution. My guess is we need all the solutions possible to deal with some of the major issues of our day. Poverty, for example,  may be addressed by .clothing, and shelter; ending discrimination in all forms. Surely we could all identify our niche among such a diversity of responses that are all desperately needed.

I wonder whether we disagree because it is easier to differ than to deal with the differences. I wonder if we struggle with divergences in faith because our faith is thinly based on what we perceive to be right rather than on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, show us how to love one another and grow together in our love for you and 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.

 

The Holy Spirit

Christmas
January 4, 2018

Scripture Reading: Acts 19:1-7
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— altogether there were about twelve of them.

Most of us today have at least heard of the Holy Spirit, but I think the Spirit remains a mystery as a part of our life of faith. I worked with a woman who attributed something being a God-Thing to explain a right result for which there was no explanation. I picked up that language. I welcome the glimpses of the Spirit at work particularly when we have done our very best, and it just was not enough, but good came from it anyway.

We are called to do our very best as part of the Body of Christ in partnership with our advocate and counselor, the Holy Spirit. I am very thankful for the counseling; I need all the help I can get. Having a full-time advocate is a special blessing. We can all get down on ourselves at times. Advocates by definition speak in support of another. We envision our Advocate speaking to God on our behalf when we fall short of the glory of God. Advocates might also plant seeds of support in the hearts of our perceived enemies opening the door for reconciliation.

I recently watched the documentary The Sultan and the Saint on PBS that explores how Saint Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt risked it all to end the Crusades. I am sure much holy counseling and advocacy took place in that amazing encounter within the hearts and minds of both these uncommon people.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your constant presence with all your children. Make us each whole and make us all one. 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.

Generations

Christmas
December 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:22-40

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.’ –Luke 2:25-40

One of the challenges of our society is bringing the various generations together for not only the Common Good of various nations but also for the successful work of the Body of Christ. Differing influences in our lifetimes prepared us in a variety of ways to address issues. What one age group may see as normal another may identify as sin. If 20 years equals a generation, we now have five generations of adults vying for supremacy in our culture. Religious organizations are some of few that have a natural field for working out these differences. It is not easy.

Care of the earth is one of my congregation’s goals strongly supported particularly by millennials. When we switched from using Styrofoam cups to ceramic cups that had to be washed for our after-church coffee, one of our octogenarian was very upset. She informed me that getting away from washing dishes was important and she thought the Styrofoam kept the coffee hotter anyway. From that Sunday forward she brings her own Styrofoam cup each week. What was viewed as progress 50 years ago is now part of a new problem. This event happened a few years ago. We moved to biodegradable cups and now have gone full circle using a trash pickup company that recycles among many other things Styrofoam.

How do we communicate with one another sharing our fears and our goals? How do we bridge the gap between generations to mine wisdom while dispelling past realities that no longer exist? Simeon sets a great example for the mature generations. He was a future thinker wanting to leave the world a better place as he rejoiced in the birth of a long-expected Savior.

Prayer: Lord, enable us to glean wisdom from others as we work o dispel fears. 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

Abba Father

Christmas
December 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Galatians 4:4-7.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Several years ago at a Bible study, I said something to the effect that I like the image of God represented by the name Abba since learning the name was a term of endearment perhaps spoken by a small child like our Daddy. I was quickly and strongly corrected by another woman in the group who assured me it did not mean Daddy that the Almighty  God should not be considered in such a familiar way. The whole group was silent for a moment. I certainly had no intentions of arguing with her she has a right to her opinion just as I was stating mine. The leader finally moved on to the next topic of discussion.

I am neither a Hebrew or Greek linguist so I cannot say how far afield I was from what Abba means. I could make the case that for a baby, parents are pretty omnipotent. It is still my opinion that the image of God as a parent, not just my parent but everybody’s parent, is an important theological imperative particularly in our world today.

We seem to have past the phase of sibling rivalry and are a society of some groups who truly believe they have exclusive rights to God as God’s only heirs. Do all of us fall into that pattern at one time or another? How can we learn to live together as the loving Family of God?

Prayer: Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Abba enfold us in your loving arms until we are empowered by your love to open our hearts to all your children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright od1989, 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.

Powered by the Spirit

Advent 
December 24, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. –Luke 1:34-38

Mary mirrors most of us in her response to the angel’s message. Our assignments may differ markedly, but her response is most likely similar to ours: How can this be since I am so young, so old, so tongue-tied like Moses, or not a trained soldier like Gideon called to lead an army? Do we have the courage to say Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word?

Each of us and all of us, created with unique skills and talents, are needed for God’s Kingdom coming to fruition. I worked at a large city teaching hospital some time ago where highly skilled surgeons performed many surgeries each day. The success of their work was dependent on the dedication of the crews that cleaned the operating theaters before and after each procedure to assure a safe and sterile environment. All members of any team must be fully committed to their duties as all other members are. All members of any team also must be willing to stretch their skills and talents when working for excellence in outcomes.

There is nothing more vital in our world today than moving toward a Kingdom ruled by love. When we are the one expected to take a courageous role in building that Kingdom, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will be with us each step of the way. When we are called to clear the way for the courageous work the Spirit is with us also.

Prayer: Lord, lead me to do your work whatever you are calling me to do. Help me accept the Spirits guidance in all that I do. 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.

Unending Kingdom

Advent
December 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ –Luke 1:26-33

My adult, Sunday school class, is studying C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrow guided by Heidi Haverkamp’s book Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season. A group of mostly retired people still can learn a lot from a book designed for youth. Luke rather nicely sums up Lewis’ theme in one phrase, and of his kingdom, there will be no end. Of course, many twist and turns in the plot are required to help us all understand that point.

The book of John addresses this same idea in the words of Jesus to his disciples who are trying to wrap their heads around his pending death. In John 16:31-33, Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming. Indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 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!’

Many events of 2017 did not leave us hopeful as we faced huge hurricanes, mass shootings, world unrest, terrorist attacks, and deadly fires just to name a few. The Advent season is designed to help us ponder the darkness about us as we yearn for the light of Christ. The time is near at hand when we understand once again that God has our backs always has and always will have. This truth is something we can take for granted and it is the good news that we must never take for granted but must share with all the world so that we may all be one in the love of God.

Prayer: Holy One, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus the Christ to dwell among us and to show us the way to your Oneness. 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.

This Land is God’s

Advent
December 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. –2 Samuel 7:10-16

I like the American Indian concept of the land that the land including animals and vegetation are available for our use but not to be owned by anyone. This tenet was a major cultural difference from the viewpoint of the European explorers who first settled in what they called the New World. To the American Indian, the European name for the indigenous people here, the earth and all that it includes was as old as time. I think God’s words to Nathan speak more closely to the American Indian sense of the world than the European sense. Indeed, in the Hebrew tradition, God made the world for the benefit of the humans God also created. 2 Samuel attests to the ongoing nature of that arrangement.

Now I do not take this scripture to mean that the only place we can feel close to God is in a tent or a house or a great temple. God is present to us everywhere. Our energies are not to be vested in structures but our love for God and others. I do think God wants all people to be able to live at peace in a warm and safe place and that is the promise he extends in this scripture. We were given the assignment by God to take good care of the earth, which we sometimes seem to forget.

With this background, it is heartbreaking to see the offspring of Abraham fighting regarding who owns Jerusalem and some followers of Christ egging it on in the hopes of hastening Armageddon. God sets the standards for the use of God’s land. I do not believe humans can manipulate God into doing their will and I know God’s greatest joy flows from the love we have for God and one another not who wins battles over ownership of any part of what God provides for us.

Prayer: Lord, enable us to be good stewards of your earth. Groom us in the art of sharing and help us appreciate the diversity of ways we each can show our love for you and each other. 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