Tag Archives: Oneness

Empathy

Living in the Spirit
October 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1Thessalonians 2:1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
–1 Thessalonians 2:1-4

The quote, Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words*, is needed as much now as ever. Our deeds matter and often speak louder than our words. Words are important too. Words can tear down, and words can lift up. Those of us who identify as Christian define Christ to others through our words and deeds just as Paul did. Empathy seems a lost art. In a diverse world we must invest the time to learn how what we do and what we say impacts the other. What might be comforting to me might cause pain to someone else.

When I arrived at an elder Pawnee woman’s home to update her case information many years ago, I found her making the most beautiful beaded baby moccasins. She said they were for her new grandbaby. There were beads across the toes that extended the length of the bottom of the tiny booty. I commented on the quality of her work and wondered if she would make some that I could buy. She was silent for a moment, finally replying, “You do not want moccasins like these. The beads on the bottom tell that my grandson will never walk on the earth. These are for his burial.” She was kind and understanding of my ignorance and she taught me the importance of empathy.

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts to glimpses of the world from the viewpoint of the people we encounter. Help us be conduits of your love as we serve in your name. Amen.

*Often attributed to St. Francis, but the author is unknown. Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/u/unknown109569.html

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.

 

Prosper Our Work

Living in the Spirit
October 25, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

Turn, O Lord! How long?
   Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
   so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
   and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
   and your glorious power to their children.
   and prosper for us the work of our hands—
   O prosper the work of our hands! –Psalm:13-17

“It’s a God thing” is a phrase often used to describe what some would call a coincidence that has a divine conclusion. In a world seemingly in a downward spiral, we hunger for a glimpse of God at work saving us from ourselves as well as from the perils that surround us.

God’s presence manifests most often when God’s people are doing God’s work. Moses leads the Israelites from Egypt. Elijah takes on Ahab and Jezebel. John baptizes Jesus. The tomb is empty, and a new dawn arises. Jesus’ disciples huddled together in grief decide it is time to get on about the business of building the world Jesus envisioned and they experience violent winds and tongues of fire to empower and shepherd them on their journey.

God meets us on our paths to justice and peace. My grade school playground had a merry-go-round that was low to the ground and divided into equal segments by metal tubes that rose from the outer sides and connected in the middle. Each child would grab one of the metal tubes, and we would run as fast as we could to get it started and then jump on for the ride. Smaller children got on at the start; the runners worked together to maintain a constant speed until all were riding.  I think God manifests God’s presence most often when we commit full steam ahead to work in God’s service and join God who adds power to the ride.

Prayer: Let your work be manifest to your servants.
             and your glorious power to their children.
            and prosper for us the work of our hands—
           O prosper the work of our hands!  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.

Intercessory Pray

Living in the Spirit
October 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’ –Exodus 33:12-16

My Bible labels our scripture today as Moses’ Intercession, his prayer for his people. We have a service of intercessory pray each Sunday accompanying the pastor’s prayer where participants are invited to call out the name or names of persons or situations in need of prayer. These are usually brief with no detail, Bill, The Smith Family, those recovering from the hurricane. They are always heartfelt and thus important. After each name or situation is named the congregation responds, “Here our prayer O, Lord,” a community of faith joining together to asked God’s presence in the lives of others. Intercessory prayer is at least as old as the time of Moses while being just as relevant today. God already knows the detail of the need for prayer; we just want to join our prayers together to build the synergy of love that is needed to heal an individual, a family, community, or the world.

The interesting thing about intercessory prayer is that just by naming the ones in need we commit to working harder to bring into fulfillment the type of community and world God envisions for us. It is when we turn our eyes away from God and from our neighbors’ needs that paths open for evil to intervene.

Prayer: Here our prayers O, Lord and in the process of sharing in prayer open our hearts and minds to your service. 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.

Profiting from Addiction

Living in the Spirit
October 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:15-22

 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. –Matthew 22:18-22

Jewish leaders seemed dedicated to disgracing Jesus according to Matthew. Challenging him to address the unpopular issue of paying taxes to Rome was just one attempt. There are a lot of “gotcha” moments played out in our time, too. These appear on regular media and social media some with the bias of the reporter. It is distracting and often not worth our time or energy. Such discourse usually plays on our greatest fears or biases. I think that is rather what Jesus was telling the Pharisees in our scripture today.

The Jews did not like being under Roman rule much less paying taxes to them. Jesus caught between unhappy Jews, and the Roman authority called the Jewish leaders out for their attempt to discredit him.

There is a lesson here for us. We must pick our justice battles well. Many distractions are tossed at us sapping us of precious energy and resources while bad policies slide through with ease.

I learned from a New York Times and 60 Minutes report that a law passed in 2011 is enabling the spread of the opioid problem across our country. The law appeared apparently to be innocent but was well crafted to limit the DEA’s ability to oversee the transmission of these drugs to local pharmacies and doctors. There is a lot of money to be made in addictive drugs. Greed is a strong motivation thus the need for strong accountability.

More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids–nearly double in a decade.*

We can do better than that. By the grace of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will.

Prayer: Lord, help us find our way out of the marshes of divisiveness and come together in oneness to find wholeness for all those caught in the folds of addiction. Amen.

*https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

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 the Word

Living in the Spirit
October 20, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

…you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. –1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

The first Christians waited with great expectations for the bodily return of Jesus. He had promised he would come back and they anticipated it would be in their lifetime if not very soon. I wonder when the bodily return became unessential for their everyday work as they experienced his presence in the Holy Spirit.

The church at Thessalonica was a charter church. Its members seemed to come from similar cultures to the other first century churches, but they somehow moved more readily from idol worship to accepting God as monotheistic. They also were apparently able immediately to be doers of the Word and not just believers.

We, today, tend to get hung up on living the Word because of our differences in interpreting the Word. It is no wonder that Congress and state legislatures are unable to get much done. They are mirroring their constituents’ (that is us) lack of ability to live the Word rather than investing our energies in expounding our understanding of what it says. Negotiating solutions is not necessarily compromising our values. One value, for example, is that every child should be raised in a loving home with adequate resources to meet his or her basic needs.  There are many ways to reach that goal that have nothing to do with abortion, welfare, or other divisive issues. Assuring that everyone who works full time earns a living wage would help meet the basic needs requirement. Quality public education where children learn self-respect and respect for one another and gain hope for their futures is known to reduce unwanted pregnancies which reduce abortions. I fear the sad truth is we do not share the common value of quality lives for our children. Wanting to be right in our beliefs drives our values rather than caring about the people impacted by our divisions.  Also, the cynical part of me thinks our values are driven by who has the most financial gain to make from policies. The result is we live in a world of stagnation and stalemate.

There is nothing new here. Amos railed about the same problems in 750 BCE. His answer remains valuable still. We must repent of our greed and use our faith to bring us together in love to make a better world rather than making our faith a stumbling block.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us for getting caught up in divisions and stalemate. Show us how we can learn from each other to live your Word 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.

Known by Our Actions

Living in the Spirit
October 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.” Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’ He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’ –                                                                                                                                                      Exodus 33:12-16

I do not know how many times I have sung the words They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love*. I believe that sentiment to be true. What frightens me is the many ways love seems to be defined by Christians. In some instances, we exclude people by what we consider to be their sins. Does that reflect God’s love?  Other times we set people apart because of the color of their skin, their religion, or their place of origin? Does that reflect God’s love?

In all the devastation we viewed on TV over the past few months, stories of people who risk their lives for others abound. I certainly saw Christ in each of these people,  though I do not know anything about their religious affiliations. Perhaps if we wish to reflect God with us, we need to turn our attention to being in sync with God rather than projecting what we have gleaned from a world that does not know God.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love 

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.*

Prayer: Lord, enable our lives to reflect your love, filtering out the world’s ways we claim as yours. Amen.

*Taken from the song We are One in the Spirit  by Peter Scholtes, see at https://hymnary.org/text/we_are_one_in_the_spirit

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.

Being the Body of Christ

Living in the Spirit
October 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14

Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’ –Matthew 22:8-14

Yesterday we dealt with not accepting God’s invitation. Today, we see the other side of the story—accepting the invitation but not the responsibility that goes with it.  The commitment to God is all or nothing. A sports team fully committed to winning with each player doing his or her part can often beat a team with better players who rely on their native talents.

Christ called his followers to be his Body from the time of his Ascension to today. Our primary tasks are first to love God and love one another as we go into all the world spreading that love and doing justice until the whole world in one in God’s love. While this is a full-time job, carrying out these tasks are best accomplished and most successful when we weave them through our everyday experiences of work and play, being a family, and being a community.

Prayer: Lord, walk with us each step of the way so that being the Body of Christ is second nature in everything we 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.

Becoming One

Living in the Spirit
October 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. –Philippians 4:8-9

I sat at the symphony recently and listened to an exquisite Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber that just made me feel good all over. The scripture above elicits in me a similar feeling of peace and wellbeing. I think that is what Paul intended to do. In the face of all the world aims at us we have the confidence of faith that the God of peace is with us. One of my favorite scriptures is John 16:33, 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!’

Our challenge is not getting dragged into the chaos that surrounds us and still doing all we can to carry out our calling. The advantage of working as the Body of Christ is the synergy that derives from working one with the other. None of us has all the answers. The problems we face demands all the skills and efforts we can muster with the sure and certain knowledge that Christ is with us even when the occasion arises that we mess up. God created lemons and the person who figured out how to make lemonade.

Part of our task is to be inclusive of those who might do us harm for they are God’s children too. Pray for your enemies is not an empty command. Seeking to understand others and offering them opportunities for positive output exploring common ground may be our greatest work.

 Prayer: God of Might and Miracles move among us and make us one as you are 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.

Be of the Same Mind

Living in the Spirit
October 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. –Philippians 2-3

Apparently, Euodia and Syntyche were not of the same mind. There is a lot of that going around today. I mused to a friend recently that I could not understand how people could interpret the same behavior so very differently. It makes one wonder if evil spirits like Screwtape and Wormwood from C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters exists. There seems to be some evil trying desperately to separate God’s children from forming the world that God envisioned for us all. Who benefits from a dearth of love in the world? Warmongers might be one group as they make a lot of money from the carnage of battlefields. I suppose anyone who values money more than love benefit. What about all the folks who are missing out on an abundant life because others are reaping benefits they did not sow. Refocusing the disenfranchised on blaming each other for their situations contributes to the mayhem.  Carefully making minority groups of all kinds scapegoats keeps the wheels of fortune moving. History tells us over and over again that such behavior comes to a bad end. Israel fell to Assyria, Judah fell to Babylon, Rome just fell apart failing to hold a workable government together. Sound familiar?

I must confess I want to run away from all the disarray, but God calls us to create a world of love, to be a part of the solution. The starting point is finding the things on which we can become of the same mind and making them work. It also requires us to see beyond our lives and gain perspective from the ways others must face the world. We must be able to set aside the things that distract us that in the grand scheme of things matter only to those interested in causing division.

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. –1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Prayer: Lord, train us in the way we should go. Help us find the same mind and not be distracted from attaining your vision. 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.

Kingdom Building

Living in the Spirit
October 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:12-14

Paul cuts us some slack recognizing how hard it is to change habits of the heart. We must face the fact that what is good for us and others will in many cases be hard for us to effect. In 1991, I staffed a legislative study regarding child care which entailed holding public hearing all around the state. I drove the State Senator who was the sponsor of the project to a public hearing in Tulsa. It lasted longer than expected, was contentious, and sapped both of us of energy. We had neither one eaten before the meeting which ran well past the dinner hour. We stopped at a fast food place to grab a sandwich on our way out of town. The Senator walked in front of me to the counter. The teen behind the counter met my eyes as second in line asking what I wanted. I said she was before me. She said go ahead. He said to me what can I get for you. Clueless, and thinking do you know who she is, I said I need to look at the menu a little longer, and he finally took her order. At that point, I realized what was happening. She is black, and I am white. Why was I so slow to understand? It takes intentionality to live and love like Jesus.

Ushering in the Kingdom of God is a fulltime, full-life project. It involves every aspect of how we function in the world from reducing our carbon footprint to feeding the hungry to working toward God’s justice for all. We must press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
   Your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
   Give us this day our daily bread.
   And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial,
     but rescue us from the evil one. * Amen.

*Matthew 6:9–13

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.