Tag Archives: Oneness

Walking with God

Living in the Spirit
November 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
   O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
   look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
   to the hand of her mistress,
   until he has mercy upon us.

 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

Have we as people who identify as God followers lost the ability to walk humbly with our Lord? Have we relegated God to just another strategy to apply as needed to win a political campaign?

I was stunned when I heard someone defending a politician accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl by saying his actions were no different than the actions of Mary and Joseph. The assumption is that God approves the alleged action of the politician. Apparently, the speaker is not well acquainted with the story of the birth of Jesus recorded in Matthew. To the contrary, Joseph went beyond the call of duty by standing by Mary when he had had no sexual relations with Mary saving her from being stoned for becoming pregnant outside of marriage.

It is time for all the people of God to let God be God and for all of us to become the people God created us to be. For most of us that will require repentance and return to God’s leadership.

Prayer: Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

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.

Ready to Play

Living in the Spirit
November 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
–Matthew 25:8-13

First, I would like to point out that the foolish bridesmaid reportedly had the resources necessary to buy more oil. They either did not choose to use it for purchasing the oil, or they were procrastinators. They sound a lot like most of us. Funny how I can ignore something which seriously needs my attention like the slow leak in my shower head. When my hard drive crashed recently, I took it to the Geek Squad, like taking someone who is ill to the emergency room.

Whether we like it or not, God expects us to be purpose driven and intentional in our work related to the coming of the Kingdom of God and everything we do relates to the coming of the Kingdom of God. Being a follower of Christ is not a spectator sport. Players in a basketball game who are taking a rest on the bench during the game never disengage from the game itself. They have to remain diligent to the process for when reinserted they must blend in seamlessly with the rest of the team. The same is true of our service to Christ.

Called as partners in Christ’s service,
    Called to ministries of grace,
    We respond with deep commitment
    Fresh new lines of faith to trace.
    May we learn the art of sharing,
    Side by side and friend with friend,
    Equal partners in our caring
    To fulfill God’s chosen end.*

Prayer:  God, give us the courage to prepare for whatever we face in our service to you, help us stay in good spiritual, physical, and mental health, so our entrance I flawless when sent to do your work. Amen.

*First verse of Called as Partners in Christ’s service, by Jane Parker Huber see at http://worship-organizer.awtrey.com/hymnal/?number=343

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.

Wise or Foolish

Living in the Spirit
November  11, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.
–Matthew 25:1-7

In the parable of the lamps, Jesus clearly delineates the difference between what is wise and what is foolish. Not being prepared for whatever is coming is foolish. In Oklahoma, most people have a storm plan with a designated place to go for safety and a kit of necessities. My kit includes two sources of lighting one battery operated and one that can be power by cranking it. I, like the bridesmaids who came prepared with more fuel for their lamps, value the ability to see in the dark.

Today we tend to complicate what is wise and what is foolish. Our government at this writing is debating a revision of our tax system with widely divergent opinions on what is wise and what is foolish, most tied to who are financial winners and losers. Some see no problem in massively increasing the national debt. Others identify such a move as a deal breaker. What gets lost in the chaos are the values that drive our efforts.

What can we glean from this parable to help us simplify our decisions regarding what is wise and what is foolish? What drives the Common Good? Do we want all our citizens to earn living wages? How can that best be accomplished? Is affordable, accessible, and available health care a right or a privilege? What is the most productive way to protect our populace from harm whether caused by internal threats or external ones? When we take the time to discuss our values, the answers to our tax situation will become clearer.

The parable of the lamps tells us to be ready to serve the Bridegroom who represents Christ. Such service includes our having a good sense of Christ’s values, so we are prepared to respond when called.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for all our elected leaders as they make decisions that will impact the lives of every citizen and ask that you grant them clarity of insight. Guide each of us as citizens to participate as responsible citizens of our nation. Guide us also in our work as citizens of your Kingdom. 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.

 

Who Do We Serve?

Living in the Spirit
November 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

 Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’ –Joshua 24:14-18

We, of course, are far too sophisticated to worship idols, graven images; or are we?  Cities are passing laws to make it illegal to cross a street while texting or otherwise accessing an electronic device. An opioid epidemic is killing people of all ages across our land. Greed is rampant as we want more and more and seem never to be satisfied. Gaining power over others entices many to sell their souls to the highest bidder.

We are called to Choose this day whom [we] will serve and get our priorities in order as individuals, as communities of faith, as the whole Body of Christ.

As frustrated as I become with the functioning of our government both at the state and federal level, I sincerely believe our government reflects well the desires of our population. We have turned away from our most basic values of assuring the Common Good and are pursuing self-serving gain at the expense of our neighbors. We seem to have grown collectively out of touch with reality apparently similarly to what was happening in Joshua’s day and time.

Joshua’s recommitment to the values that got him and his people to the Promised Land is a good place for us to start rebuilding our states and nation.

Prayer: Create in us clean hearts and right spirits so that we can truly declare but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord, for he is God. 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.

Do Unto Others

Living in the Spirit
November 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.
–1 Thessalonians 2:13

I fear we put a lot of words in God’s mouth. Thank God for the prophets sent to set us straight! It is also comforting to know that not everything depends on us getting it right when we share our faith. The spirit works to support us and more importantly to provide for those whose lives we touch a still small voice to help them ferret out what is of God.

Recently I read where Christians are creating atheist because our attitudes and interpretations of our beliefs are not something many find inviting. We sometimes say one thing and demonstrate through our lives another. It is hard to sell a God of love when we set ourselves apart as being better than others.

An experiment might help. Spend a week writing down the ways you have treated other people. Just simple honest notes. “Held the door for a woman carrying a baby.” “Avoided check out with the store clerk with purple hair and many piercings.” “Locked my car door when stopping at a light where youth of another race were waiting to cross the street.”

The second week observe how others treat you and how it made you feel. “Car cut me off in traffic, scared me.” “Woman in Bible study group spoke with great authority about something with which I disagreed, but I just sat their wish I had said something.” “ I was seated at an empty table when someone asked if they could join me. Made me feel good.”

The third week practice what you learned from the experience. Be intentional about how you treat others.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in our work of serving you more nearly through our interrelationships 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.

Filter Cleaning

Living in the Spirit
November 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
–1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

Why do you suppose Paul felt the need to establish credentials with the Thessalonians by reminding them of things they already observed? Did he think they might lose sight of his work after an absence? Perhaps he knows what he is about to say needs to be tethered to whom they know he is? I must confess reading this brief remark makes me anticipate a follow-up sermon on what I am doing wrong, after all, Paul’s previous hard work. While some of Paul’s letters do go in that direction, his letters to the Thessalonians underline what they are doing right during difficulties.

What we say and what we write matters as we strive to be the Body of Christ in the world today. We all have filters built into our brains by our life experiences and cultures that interpret words and actions. Our filters may be like those of the writer or speaker, but at times they may be different. We see this played out every day regarding white privilege. Our white filters say our norms are the norms and we cannot understand why others have a problem with that. Honestly, most people think their norms are the right ones so for one set of norms to overshadow another’s norms requires adding a dose of power to the equation. At one time in the USA part of that power was sheer population numbers. As a left-handed person, I experience the right-handed norms of our society every day and am forced to accommodate them. Some are easier to adjust to than others. I have never been able to work one of those can openers that is clipped onto a can while twisting a gizmo on top.

Our population has grown more diverse, and we are now developing new sets of norms based on that diversity. Finding a new normal always takes time, energy, and a commitment to make it work. We base our commitment on the charge from Jesus Christ that we all be one. (John 17:21)

The Oklahoma City Thunder is showing us the way by melding together some outstanding players who have never played together before. They seem to be enjoying finding the rhythm needed to be a winning team. They have committed to making it work.

Prayer: Lord, help us review our filters and clean out any that no longer apply, add new ones we can adapt from others, and make us 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.

God’s Steadfast Love

Living in the Spirit
November 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
   those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
   from the east and from the west,
   from the north and from the south. –Psalm 107:1-3

In small groups or Bible studies, we are often encouraged to share what God has done for us. Psalm 107 implores us to do so. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, I think it is as important for us to say what the lord has done for us to ourselves as it is to share it with others.  Particularly living in a world fraught with divisiveness and the questioning of formally trustworthy entities, understanding what one’s real priorities are grows more important. Our focus needs to turn more on the endurance of the steadfast love of God and how that plays out in our everyday living.

Listening to what others are saying is important also. I grow weary of hearing or reading viewpoints that are foreign to me about how we are to be as a society. I must admit I sometimes need to turn it off and retreat from the constant barrage of hate-filled rhetoric. In my heart, My guess is those with differing opinions feel the same about me. I know I need to listen to the backstory in what others are saying. From where do those ideas derive? How can we bridge the gulfs that divide us and find the common ground etched in God’s Word?

Desperate people get caught in desperate responses. Greedy people do not care who they hurt to garner wealth. How do we seek out those living lives of desperation and work alongside them to ease their suffering? How do we awaken those caught in the addiction of greed to the wealth of God’s love that overshadow all worldly riches? How do we keep the principalities and powers of the world at bay as we grow a Kingdom ruled by God’s love?

A good starting point is identifying and rejoicing in the everyday instances of God with Us.

Prayer: Lord, open doors of opportunities for us to share your steadfast love in our 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

God is Always at Work

Living in the Spirit
October 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:7-17

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. –Joshua 14-17

Many of us read with skepticism stories recorded in the Bible of extraordinary events saving people. Some even invest time and energy trying to explain them as naturally occurring events. Some like me think it may be a little of both. The Battle of Dunkirk in World War II perhaps involved both. German soldiers had Allied troops backed up to the waters’ edge with no place to go when the German commander decided to slow their push down until supplies could catch up with them. I wonder how much this commander felt the sting of killing enemy soldiers as if they were sitting ducks. A still small voice perhaps peaked his conscience.

The small break in action coincided with the allies’ desperate attempt to rescue their soldiers by way of the sea. The main problem was the Germans had superior air power that could destroy the rescue ships either coming or going. The allies decided to proceed, and as they headed for the beaches of France, it rained so hard the German planes could not take off, and the fog over the water was so dense the ships were not readily visible. While many gave their lives in this rescue, the people on those ships and boats saved 330,000 soldiers.

What strikes me about both stories, the Israelites crossing the Jordan and the Battle of Dunkirk, is God’s presence among God’s people who seek solutions to the situations in which they find themselves. While God calls us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God  (Micah 6:8b), God is present with us and supports us as we seek to do God’s will.

Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Lord, send Your spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to Your children praying,
Send us love, send us pow’r, send us grace!**

Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to step out in faith and act when needed and the faith to accept your guidance in our actions. Amen.

*https://www.deedsofgod.com/index.php/31-1940-ad–gods-weather-the-evacuation-of-dunkirk-mainmenu-169
*Chorus of Lord, Listen to the Children Praying by Ken Madema see at http://crossingsmusic.wikidot.com/lord-listen-to-your-children-praying

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.

Making Disciples or Not

Living in the Spirit
October 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-46

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. –Matthew 22:41-46

Those of us who center on Jesus’ commandments to love God and love one another might want to take a deeper dip into how Jesus dealt with his fellow believers. Throughout the gospels, the Pharisees challenged Jesus trying to catch him up in what they deemed “bad theology” apparently in the hope of discrediting him. He challenged them right back and knew his faith’s history and scriptures as well as they did. Do we?

I just read a blog* by John Pavlovitz where he asserts that some Christians are doing a better job of creating atheists than they are making disciples. Are we driving people out of the church because we may say the right words but do not live them or because we pick and choose our Biblical quotes as a means of supporting our bigotry and privilege?

Soul-searching, a quest for greater understanding of the ways of Jesus, and repentance of our ways that may differ from his all are indicated in such a time as these. Follow-up actions may include learning to dialogue across Christianity to try to understand how such divisiveness in our faith has occurred and how it can be healed.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us if our actions have driven anyone away from knowing you. Help us find ways to build bridges of understanding rather than putting up roadblocks. Amen.

*https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/06/04/the-christians-making-atheists/

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.