Tag Archives: Oneness

Applying the Golden Rule

Living in the Spirit
August 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:18-20

We are all Peters called to build Christ’s church. We like Peter struggle to understand everything. Many perhaps are not as decisive as Peter or as bold in our pronouncements. He was born to lead; some are born to support.  Sometimes the roles reverse depending on the situations and the talents and skills we each bring to the building site. We all make mistakes, and from time to time we each get some things right. God is ultimately able to use all we contribute to the fulfillment of our call to build Christ’s church. We learn from our mistakes and gain confidence to continue the journey from the joy of love shared and received.

Raised on a farm, I am well acquainted with the problems that result when animals escape their fences. My brother and father tried to corral a cow once that was so determined to gain her freedom she swam the pond. Once caught, she continued to terrorize barns and milking stanchions and soon returned to the sale barn. Jesus in our scripture today calls us in our work of building the church to be careful what we loose on earth because what we loose on earth is loosed in heaven. It seems to imply that our calling to build Christ’s church is a partnership with God. God will indeed help us deal with the consequences of our actions, but God sure wishes we would consult with him first and carefully weigh our actions so that we are not investing more of our energy in chasing loosed problems than we are in productive outcomes.

We all need to routinely take a good hard look at how we deal with being the church, the Body of Christ in the world today, and apply the test Jesus gave us in Luke 6:31, Do to others as you would have them do to you. How would we feel if someone treated us the way we treat others? As we self-examine our behavior each day, it might be a good idea to role play in our minds how it would feel if we were the ones on the receiving end of that behavior.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see myself as others experience me. Help me to see others as they may need to be understood at certain time and circumstance. Give me the empathy to communion with others in such a way that work gets done as sharing in the task nurtures all involved. 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.

Watch Your Mouth What it Says

Living in the Spirit
August 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:10-28

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’ –Matthew 15:10-20

Words matter. Sometimes how we say something is as important as what we say. Once said words can never be taken back.  We filter everything we say through our own understandings, which our hearers, even our closest relatives or friends can never fully know. I broke my nose in high school playing volley ball resulting in a permanent bump below where my glasses sit. I broke it again in a fall last spring, and my bump got even bigger. I am again a little more self-conscious of it, not as bad as when I was a teenager. Sunday in Sunday school my class watched a DVD with a very handsome actor playing the part of Paul. As we began the discussion, I quipped, “For some reason, I thought Paul was not particularly attractive, had a big crooked nose or something.” I caught just the slightest reaction from one of the participants who was born with a crooked nose. I think she is quite attractive rather regal, but there is nothing I can say to make the results of my comment better now, and I could make it worse. God sent a messenger to redeem some of the damage I did. My friend and I sat together in church. An older gentleman walked by, patted her on her shoulder and said, “It is good to see you, beautiful ladies, today.”

We live in a world where we lay our instant thoughts out for display on social media uncensored. I think it is easier to do because we do not have a person looking back at us. Text messages to be brief may seem curt. There are some uncensored messages meant only for God’s hearing. We might want to take advantage of prayer as a means of cleansing our souls before we communicate with others. God knows us fully, can help us clean our filters, and make our communion with God’s other children more productive in both spirit and truth.

Prayer: Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
             keep watch over the door of my lips*
and my fingers or stylist on a keyboard or screen. Amen.

*Psalm 141:3

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

Living as One

Living in the Spirit
August 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
   when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
   running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
   running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
   which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
   life for evermore.

This Psalm seems to indicate that kindred living together in unity is rare. It is at least as rare as it is to anoint a new chief priest. It is not supposed to be rare; it is what we are called to do. Indeed, as children develop their unique identities, parents often find themselves trying to make teachable moments out of the chaos of everyday life: whose turn was it to take out the trash, who forgot to feed the dog, who is eating more than their fair share of the cake? It is a great hope that those teachable moments will lead to healthy adults who can negotiate their way through the challenges of life. Some parents are better than others at this; some children are more trainable than others. What results when we reach adulthood is a mixture of all kinds of folks at all stages of development that must learn to live together in unity.

When the nuclear family experience gets escalated to a church or the whole body of Christ and other entities at all levels, including governments, we participants as individuals carry with us the lessons, good or bad, that we learned in those training years. At that point, we also include a mixture of cultural norms that dictate what is considered to be harmony or unity. In many cases, we do not carry forward the sibling relationship in our dealings beyond the family.

How thus do we live as the Children of God in harmony without searching for and adapting to the teachable moments of God? While the prophets addressed then well, Jesus probably set forth the most succinct lessons on living with others in what is now called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  Matthew 5:9 is a good place to start, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Prayer:
Teach me your way, O Lord,
   that I may walk in your truth;
   give me an undivided heart to revere your name*. Amen

*Psalm 86:11

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.

Spreading Good News

Living in the Spirit
August 11, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 10:5-15

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ –Romans 10:14-15

There is a big difference between bringing good news and assaulting people with my personal beliefs. Working together with diverse viewpoints to find the best way to the Common Good is not the same as working to legislate my perception of morality for everyone. Religious freedom is not the same as religious privilege.

As I walked through the ruins of Ephesus, I could almost feel Paul’s presence. Our guide indicated a worn pillar standing in front of the ruins of a building. He explained that the writings circling the pillar were the names of the elites who followed one of the many gods worshipped by the Ephesians. Not included were any names of people who followed Jesus Christ. Following Jesus Christ was the reason for their names’ exclusion. The guide suggested that perhaps the experience of facing such cultural scorn was the reason the writer of Revelation made reassuring references to the names of followers of Christ written in the book of life.

Followers of Christ do not present an accurate picture of him when we use oppressive techniques or assume elitist attitudes. We make him appear like the idols of old for whom we have such disdain. The truth is we can do nothing to improve or protect God or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. God is omnipotent—all-powerful, omnificent—unlimited, omnipresent—always present. We need to let God be God and work with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength to share the good news that God loves us—all of us and wants us to love one another.

Prayer: God of Love, help us follow the teaching of St. Francis of Assisi who said Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.  Let our love reflect your good news. 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.

Sowing Love

Living in the Spirit
July 29, 2017

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ –Matthew 13:31-33

Are our churches packages of seeds not sown or yeast not blended? These two parables speak to the gradual transitioning of seed and yeast from inert materials to life giving produce in plants and bread. Jesus seems to be suggesting that his way of being spreads throughout the world best in a similar process requiring us to sow and grow God’s love with and among all of God’s children throughout the world.

I have some pesky ground cover that could easily take over my backyard if I let it. I do not know what kind of plant it is, but it is sturdy almost indestructible. It must have great DNA. The weather shifts of Oklahoma do not seem to phase these plants as they reproduce at an amazing rate. Weed killer does not phase them. Similarly, we are called to develop our interior strength and love in and through our communities of faith which enables us to go into the world and spread the love of God in very much the same way as seeds turn into plants and yeasts makes inert ingredients active. We waste seeds and yeast of love stored in packages on shelves.

Living as Christ modeled for us suggests a contagious spreading of love in our everyday interactions with others as well as the loving we do by design feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, tutoring children, working for justice, assuring that needed services are available in our communities and on and on. The greatest thing is the minute we sow or add our love God’s love strengthens us and strengthens those whom we love exponentially.

Prayer: God who is Love, enable us to love like Jesus. 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.

Not Conquerors

Living in the Spirit
July 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:26-39

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:31-39

Christ assured us we do not do anything by ourselves, and we are called to do everything we possibly can to actualize the Kingdom of God to full fruition. When I think of conquerors, I think of folks like Attila the Hun who swoop down and win through war and oppression. What does it mean to be more than conquerors?

Several years ago, I swam at the Y most week days. After getting out of the pool and showering, I would join the crowd in the locker room each of us in various stages of preparing for the day ahead. I could not help overhearing the conversations particularly of the young women talking about how great their workout was, what athletic shoes were best for jogging vs. running, etc. Their enthusiasm was amazing. I remember thinking  that is evangelism—telling the good news about something that had improved their lives. Fred Craddock wrote a book about Overhearing the Gospel. Cramming something down someone else’s throat is conquering without regard to how it might hurt. Sharing good news—life nurturing information is beyond conquering.

What better news exist than the confidence that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?

Prayer: Lord, teach us to share your Good News not as conquerors but as one’s who are continuously nurtured by 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Blindfold of Privilege

Living in the Spirit
July 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
                                                                                                                                    –Matthew 13:36-43

*Eschatology is a branch of philosophy or theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind*. I must confess studying the end of time is not my favorite subject primarily because I do not know what difference it makes figuring out when and how the end will come. The fact that the type of end we experience results from how we live today and every day makes a difference to me. I can do something about how I live. Growing up doing nuclear bomb drills sitting under our school desks with or hands over our heads helped me understand fearing the end of the world as a self-inflicted reality in my lifetime.

Jesus came to show us the way to live into the Kingdom of God, a kingdom ruled by love. He described an interdependent world where all are responsible for the well-being of each. The weeds of the word work toward the opposite idea. Greed and individual or “my group” power drive our lives.

The problem is the weeds are subtle. They creep into our lives as norms. In 1984, Oklahoma experienced a county commissioner scandal that reached almost every county. The older commissioners trained the new ones in how to cheat and get away with it. The magnitude of the corruption was stunning. Graft had become the norm so much so that some of the commissioners involved did not understand the outrage of their constituents. For some, it was the way they had always worked.

The privileged because of their perceived status have more trouble seeing the weeds in their life. Weeds become their status symbols in some instances. Wheelers and dealers gain the awe of those who want what the wheelers and dealers have.

How do we find wholeness in such a fragmented world? How do we understand the nature of being a child of God establishes our worth from our birth? How do we learn to love as Jesus loved? We do that by humbly accepting the love of God and allow it to permeate our beings until we see others as God’s children without the blindfold of privilege.

Prayer: God, forgive us when we let the weeds of privilege choak out our ability to love like Jesus.  Make us whole; make us one. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Eschatology

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.

 

Riding Out the Storm

Living in the Spirit
July 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:12-25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
–Romans 8:18-25

Christ’s calls us to make a positive difference in our world today. While we study to learn from the past and prepare for the future, our focus is on the here and now. A wise and experienced person once told me that it takes at least ten years of persistent hard work to initiate a new government program. For example, in the USA we have worked since the 1960’s on health care for all. The more complex the issue, the harder it is to make change. The wise person likened it to turning a giant ship around in a turbulent ocean and taking it in a different direction straight into the storm. In a similar thought, the scripture above speaks to Paul’s experiences at the beginning of the Christian era in the process of initiating the Kingdom of God following Christ’s resurrection.

Humans seek every way possible to have the abundant life Jesus promised without following God’s path to attain it. In so doing, we turn to lower tier gods such as greed and power and never experience satisfaction. Greed and power demand more and more greed and power and always end in a futile waste of energy.

God created an interdependent world, which requires all to participate fully sharing and caring for resources so that all God’s creation works together in love. Love always begets more love.

Prayer: Spirit of God, shine a bright light on the path to wholeness, oneness, and justice that we may one day see your Kingdom of love ruling our world. Grant us the gift of patience in large measure when we enter troubled waters on this journey. 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.

There is no Such Thing as Acidic Love

Living in the Spirit
July 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’ –Matthew 13:1-9

I grew up on a farm and hated working in the garden. I did develop a great appreciation of fresh vegetables which remains. When I bought my house in Oklahoma City and transitioned from apartment living to a home with a yard, I decided to plant just a few things primarily tomatoes. My plants grew strong and well flowered. Soon little green tomatoes appeared that grew bigger as they turn red. It was with great expectations that I plucked the first fruit of my endeavor, washed it and took a big juicy bite from it, only to spit it out as quickly as I could. The tomato was so acidic; it burned my mouth. It seemed my soil’s pH* balance was not conducive to producing quality tomatoes. Thus, my gardening adventure ended, and I located the closest farmers’ market.

Our scripture today is often used to describe what results when bringing in new followers of Christ, but it also may draw our attention to the ongoing process of being the Body of Christ engaged in the world today. We all have experienced such things as the observation that 20% of the workers produce 80% of the result**. Something more seems to be going on in our world today. There is too much acid in our quest to love. Hate speech is common and hurtful. Outright discrimination exists. Groups of people find it harder and harder to conduct civil discourse. Those of us who claim to be the Body of Christ are some of the worst perpetrators. If we do not set a good example, who will?

The balance of love comes from its very source, God. Our love is the outward projection of our being in sync with God’s love.

Prayer: God of Mercy and Justice, forgive us when we slip away from your nurture. Restore our souls so that our love reflects Yours. Amen.

*Soil pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity in soils.

**Known as the Pareto Principle, it is the observation (not law) that most things in life are not distributed evenly. See more at https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/

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.

A Tapestry of Love

Living in the Spirit
July 14, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:1-11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.                                                                                                                                                  –Romans 8:1-5

What does it mean to be in Christ Jesus? I think to explore this question; we must delve into why God sent Jesus in the first place.  Was Jesus sent for humans to interact more closely with God? Was Jesus sent as a model of humanness demonstrating our potential to create a world ruled by love? Was he sent to lay out a plan to attain such a world, if we learned to work together and share our diverse gifts becoming one? Paul talks about being a part of the Body of Christ. Is this what it means to be in Christ Jesus?

What is freeing about being in Christ Jesus? Having purpose is freeing. Knowing what we are and whose we are give us the courage to pursue the vision set before us without fear and with the full assurance that we have our Creator’s support. Living free of condemnation opens doors to exploration and development. A life filled with learning from our mistakes as well as our successes is crucial for progress.

Two thousand years ago Jesus charged us with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, restoring people to wholeness in both health and behavior, and welcoming the stranger. God’s Kingdom when fulfilled is a place of abundance where all have food and clothing, all experience wholeness, and all are welcomed. We have come a long way; we have a long way to go. We are promised the freedom to make such a world as we work together as one toward God’s righteousness.

Prayer:
Weave, weave, weave us together.
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together.
Weave us together, together in love*. Amen.

*Weave by Rosemary Crow, 1979, Chalice Hymnal page 495, Copyright Chalice Press 1995, St. Louis, Missouri