Tag Archives: Oneness

A Cup of Cold Water

Living in the Spirit
July 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:40-42
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

I jut received an alert on my telephone that Oklahoma City is under an excessive heat warning, one of the first of what might be a long hot summer. Such alerts come when the combined temperature and humidity is expected to reach a level that could prove life threatening if one is in it too long without adequate water. These conditions are especially dangerous for the elderly, who do not feel the heat as much as younger people, and for the homeless who must seek both shelter and water to survive. I suspect the people of Galilee and Judea were well acquainted with the problem in the first century sans air-conditioning and electric fans. Many were dependent on others willing to share life-essential water.

Love, too, is life-essential. Jesus encourages us to share our love in very ordinary ways without question and without judgment. Children absorb everything happening around them. Our attitudes and actions toward them plant seeds of hope or fear or love or lost self-esteem. It does take a village to raise a child.

Prayer: Lord, help us to love each other as you love us and particularly help us be good role models for the children we encounter along the way. 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.

Good Spirits, Good Health

Living in the Spirit
June 18, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:23

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. –Matthew 10:1-4

Jesus called his disciples and gave them the power to cast out unclean spirits, and cure every disease and sickness. Does this call still apply to disciples today or just that laundry list of disciples? If you were one of them, how would you react? What would the world be like without any unclean spirits and no disease or sickness?

Spirit is the essence of life—breath. Unclean describes something that is properly, not pure (because mixed), i.e. adulterated with “a wrong mix” and hence “unclean” (because tainted by sin).* Recently, I find myself being disturbed by all the derogatory adjectives that people seem to need to say about others with whom they disagree. Those adjectives usually stop my reading or listening. I form more of an opinion about the author than the subject. They do not allow me to make a decision about the story or the exploration of ideology or theology. These adjectives, sometimes adverbs, are most prevalent in political dialogue. Their source gives the words a wrong mix. There are a lot of unclean spirits to cast out. We might start by casting them out of ourselves with God’s help. How otherwise do we discourage unclean spirits?

Medicaid and Medicare created in the 1960’s were baby steps to addressing health care for all. I attended meetings from 1970’s forward, designed to address this issue. We may be the only developed country in the world without some universal health care. Why? Health markedly impacts one’s ability to be self-supporting and self-sufficient. I believe adequate, accessible, and affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Jesus seems to teach something like that in our scripture today. He calls us all to be a part of the solution. For more information about worldwide healthcare see the WHO** website referenced below.

Prayer: O Great Healer, enable us as healers too. Some of us are professional healers bless us in our work. Help the rest of us find and do our part to make the world whole and healed. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/169.htm
**http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs395/en/

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.

Weak and Strong

Living in the Spirit
June 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. –Romans 5:6-8

The word weak* used here means without strength perhaps even ill. I know weak. My grip is not good. The small lids on salad dressing bottles are my enemy. Someone gave me a pair of adjustable pliers that I leave set in the groove for removing the lids from my salad dressing. It works amazingly well after I discovered its utility, I try once to open a lid, which occasionally works, but then I grab my trusty pliers. The thing about weakness is we must know and accept it before we find a way to the end we desire.

As much as we humans, particularly Americans, like to think and act individually we were created to live and breathe and have our being** in community as we are called to be the Body of Christ on earth today. We could all make long lists of outstanding individuals who have accomplished amazing things. Not a single one of them can take credit alone for their accomplishments. They each had a mother, father, teacher mentor, soulmate who enabled his or her work. We as the Body of Christ cannot take credit alone for anything we accomplish as Christ formed and commissioned us and dwells with us in all that we do.

Love does not require credits. I heard once again a policeman being interviewed on the news about saving someone’s life. He risks his life to save the other. His response was “It’s my job.” Loving is just our job. We do it better when our love impacts others to love. When we all love one another, the entire world will know wholeness. That is God’s love.

Prayer: Lord, we each have weaknesses and strengths. Enable us to work together so that all become strong in your service. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/772.htm
**See Acts 17:28

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.

Emptiness of Spirit

Living in the Spirit
June 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5

I personally want to thank God for inspiring Paul to write the book of Romans and Paul’s following through on the task. I know of no scripture dealing with discipleship that is more practical and thus helpful to answering our calling than the words quoted above. Paul is challenging us to follow through on our call of Kingdom building no matter what obstacles we encounter.

It is funny what I remember from my high school education. One pithy saying that has stuck with me is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  Fred Craddock in a sermon some years ago called the church to task for its lack of enthusiasm. I learned a new word hearing him speak. He introduced me to the French word ennui*, which like many other borrowed foreign words is now appearing in our English dictionaries. It means a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction:  languor or emptiness of spirit:  tedium, boredom* Have we lost the spirit of our faith? Have we lost the Spirit of our faith?

What is holding us back from being the people of God, assigned to be a blessing to all other peoples, assigned to love God above all else, and to demonstrate that love through our love of others? A couple of weeks ago I cried with a young woman interviewed on the evening news. She and her Muslim friend were saved from harm by three men who intervened when a white supremacist attached the two. The attacker turned on the men killing two of them and injuring the third. In the interview,   the young woman said through her tears, “They died for me.”

We followers of Christ should be able to relate to that. Has our individualizing of our faith divorced us from the pain and suffering of others? Have we gotten so caught up in trying to whitewash the essence of Jesus’ ministry that we have forgotten his suffering, endurance, character, and hope? Everything he did as God Incarnate, he did for others. Everything.

Prayer: Lord,
 Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and sustain in me a willing spirit. Amen (Psalm 51:11-12)

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.

Relationships

Living in the Spirit
June 8, 2017

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Paul was not acquainted with “Yours truly” or “Sincerely.” He ended his letters with extended admonishments and blessings. General in nature, his closings are good for most of us at any time. I particularly like his phrase Put things in order. A lot of our problems today result from us blowing things out of proportion. How much time do we spend trying to soothe ruffled feathers because we may not have communicated something well? How often do we ignore a small sore point letting it fester until it becomes a major issue? Barney Fife put it well; we need to nip those things in the bud.

I concur that we need to work on finding agreement with one another, and sometimes I think it is important we learn to agree to disagree deciding to work together on things about which we do agree. We certainly need to live in peace with one another.

When we do disagree or are even angry with another, we need to practice the art of praying for them and our relationship with them. Inviting God into any relationship eventually, brings healing and wholeness even when it may result in a parting of ways. Paul’s closing prayer is a good model to follow.

Prayer: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

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.

Continuum of Caring

Eastertide
June 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 7:37-39
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Yom Kippur, also called the Day of Atonement, is the high holy day in the Jewish faith a day of repentance, a day of forgiveness. The day Jesus chooses to speak of living water flowing out of believer’s hearts. If we get nothing else from reading the Gospels, we get the message that we are called to nourish the whole world. Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19) Go into all the world (Mark 16:15) Love your neighbor (Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 10; John 13)  Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10) there was a Samaritan (Luke 10) Serving the least of these (Matthew 25)

I think there is a need for a Continuum of Caring to address the needs of the world. I spent many years working in government based human services. Though there are those that like to denigrate anything done by the government, it is the most productive means of meeting the Common Good from building and maintaining roads, to protecting our nation, to meeting basic needs when necessary. The government is not good at providing one-on-one loving support to individuals and families caught in the challenges of life. Loving one’s neighbor is a God thing. There are many other players between these two points of my continuum, both for-profits and not-for-profits some, religious others not who fill the gaps between the broad brush approach of government and the one-on-one of loving our neighbors. All are important and need to work together in positive ways to create a world where justice prevails for all and charity is no longer necessary*. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God.

Prayer: Lord, help us to find the tiniest areas on which we can agree, work together on them, and like the mustard seed let them grow and spread to reshape our world in your oneness. Amen.

*While we do our good works, let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary. -Chinua Achebe, Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic

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.

Race

Eastertide
June 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-13

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
–1 Corinthians 12:12-13

One body including all people was the world view followed by Paul. He picked it up from the teachings of Jesus. Paul’s list of groups differing included Jews/Greeks and slaves/free.The first two came from tribes. The latter two resulted from cultural distinctions sometimes resulting from tribal discord. One tribe would steal members of another tribe whom they enslaved. Slaves referred to as servants or bonded also were created within the Hebrew tribe often the result of impoverishment. Such practices are recorded early in the Hebrew Bible* and continued into at least the 18th century among Christians. My five generations back English grandfather at the age of 15 was indentured by his father in 1783 for seven years to learn how to operate a forge. Also during that period his master, also English, was to teach him how to read, write, and cipher. Apparently, it worked. My grandfather labored successfully at a forge for many years and signed his will so I know he could write his name. His younger brother signed his will with an X witnessed by others.

What is not present in that discussion is race. Race is a relatively new cultural classification appearing first in the same century my ancestor was indentured**. Was it created to support the economic need for relatively free labor? I find myself more and more identifying greed and lust for power as the primary sin-drivers in our world. We justify both by projecting them into other more exploitable issues like race. Race is one thing I do not think we can justify by Biblical quotes as it did not exist at the compiling of the Bible.

If we drink of the same Spirit of God, we cannot uphold such distinctions. After years of being carefully taught, it is hard to erase its stain from our beings. I doubt that we can without the power of that same Spirit to heal our souls. Let us drink deeply until we are cleansed.

Prayer: Lord, renew our hearts so that we can be one with all your children. Amen.

*Leviticus 25:39-40
**http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-09.htm
***Picture above is Greek painting of three Chaldeans with captive Hebrews see at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrews

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.

Spiritual Gifts

Eastertide
June 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-13

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. –1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Similar to the fact that many of us do not know what to make of the Holy Spirit, we are also confused about the gifts of the Spirit. Some flaunt their gifts, “I am the world’s greatest athlete, movie star, doctor, lawyer, mother, dad, truck driver, or whatever.” Some hide them under a basket*. I like Russell Westbrook’s approach. I know of no one who questions his gifts, and his goals are personally to get better every day and to help each of his team members improve. Personal accolades do not mean as much to him as team wins. These are good aspirations for the whole Body of Christ.

Do you know what your gifts are? Books and other tools exist to help us identify our gifts. While they are helpful, learning to know ourselves is just as important. I think seeking justice is in my DNA, but I was surely also influenced by my egalitarian mother. Anymore, I exercise that gift using a keyboard rather than my feet and posters because I now accept that I am more an introvert than extrovert and I have bad knees.

It is important that we take the time to identify what brings us joy or any of the other fruit of the Spirit. The fruit or produce of the Spirit as spelled out in Galatians 5:22-23 is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. Backtracking from an experience of joy, for example, you may be surprised to find its source. Most likely it stems from one of your gifts. I am talking true joy, and it most likely occurs after a lot of hard work and perhaps meeting many challenges. I felt it when I heard the Governor of Oklahoma had vetoed an onerous bill designed to increase the interest rate on payday loans in our state.

Prayer: Lord, help us to trace our gifts and to hone our crafts together with all our fellow members of your Body engaged in the world today. Amen.

*See Matthew 5:15

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.

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Eastertide
May 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 104:24-35

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
   may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
   who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
   for I rejoice in the Lord. –Psalm 104:31-34

Do we take God for granted? Yes and we should but we also should not. I believe that God is eternal, always present, all powerful, and all knowing.  The Psalmists prays May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; may the Lord rejoice in his works in acknowledgment of and reference to the favor we receive from God’s love and to pledge our love to God and all of God’s creation.

What meditations are pleasing to God? I must confess I probably spend more time ranting and raving to God about the injustices I see and cannot change and the complexities of solving problems working for and with others who share a diversity of understandings of the issues and ideas for addressing them. I do not think God minds. It is when I can put words to what I am experiencing/feeling; I am pliable to God’s amazing ability to reshape and refocus my responses.

When something finally works, when good things happen, when love rains on parched lands and lives, including God in our rejoicing, brings God joy too. God’s sustaining grace and love makes all things possible.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for loving us so much you accept us as we are and work to make us love like you each day. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Breath, Wind, Spirit

Eastertide
May 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Numbers 11:24-30

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. –Numbers 11:24-25

The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, which is used interchangeably for breath and wind. In Biblical literature, the Spirit of God is as ancient as the creation stories. The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.(Genesis 2:1). We should not be surprised to find it in the book of Numbers. The mysteries of the nature of God abides with us always.

I fear we Christians may limit the beginning of the history of the Spirit of God to Pentecost or the book of John’s report of Jesus breathing the Spirit on the disciples after the resurrection. The book of Hebrews (13:8) proclaims Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Surely this description includes the Spirit.

What does the foreverness of the Spirit mean to us today? What does a relationship with the Spirt mean? I write this to a symphony of wind gales in the background the aftermath of damaging winds and tornados that ravaged the Plains about 100 miles west of my home last night. Many homes were destroyed, people were injured, and one man was killed. We do not take wind lightly in Oklahoma. We should not take the Spirit of God lightly either. A power able to form the earth from chaos can shape us into a powerful Body carrying out the work of Christ in the world today. Let it be so.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, move among us making us each whole, together one, and advocates for your justice. 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.