Tag Archives: Redemption

In the Wilderness

Advent
December 4, 2017

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:1-11

Comfort, O comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and cry to her
that she has served her term,
   that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins. 

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
   make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
   and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
   and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
   and all people shall see it together,
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ –Isaiah 40:1-5

I probably listen to too much news resulting in my occasionally reacting by wanting to run away and hide hoping all the craziness in our world will just go away. The irony is that the only thing I have to run away from is me. We are responsible for our current state of being. As Isaiah is saying in the scripture quoted above, like the Israelites of his day, we are paying the price for our sins, but thanks be to God forgiveness and redemption are available.

We are indeed wandering in a wilderness where we like to identify the sins of others defined by us but are not too interested in seeing our wrongdoings as set forth by God. Greed and lust for power are traits of successful people in our vernacular, the antithesis of loving God and loving one another. We have a few voices crying in this wilderness to whom we need to listen. The Reverend Doctor William Barber is one (See https://www.breachrepairers.org/). Jim Wallis is another (see https://sojo.net/about-us). These prophets, a progressive and an evangelical, share the same call and the same love. Oneness comes from God.

Advent is a good time to examine ourselves, let God cleanse us of anything that is holding us back from loving as Jesus loves, and to do the justice we are called to do.

Prayer: Lord, search us and cleanse us of anything that is separating us from 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.

Purpose

loveisthepurposeLiving in the Spirit
October 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:97-104

Oh, how I love your law!
   It is my meditation all day long.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
   for it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
   for your decrees are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
   for I keep your precepts. –Psalm 119:97-100

On first reading, I thought the writer of this Psalm was pretty full of himself, rather audacious in self-righteousness. He at least gives credit to God as the source of the writer’s perfection. Jesus encounters a similar attitude when confronted by the one dubbed the Rich Young Ruler. (Mark 10:17-27) I think Jesus saw great potential in the young man. Jesus did not roll his eyes at the man and walk away. Jesus seemed to hone in on what salvation, redemption could make of the one who stood before him no matter what. Such redemption is a source of great hope.

I recognize that all the ways of being and living described in our scripture today are good. We need to study the scriptures, we must learn to deal with enemies, most teachers hope that their students will succeed and exceed their mentors, and elders hope their descendants have enough sense to learn from some of the elder’s mistakes and not repeat them. But does the writer understand the ultimate purpose of his accomplishments?

For some, I suppose, being good is an end in itself. Jesus called us to so much more. Our gifts and talents serve as a witness to God’s love. It takes every ounce of our beings to live into the vision of a world ruled by love. God created us for this purpose.

Prayer: Lord, when you were made flesh and dwelt among us, you forever changed the trajectory of our lives. Please mold our behavior to help us more productively attain your goal of a world ruled by love. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Redeemed

CircumcismLent
March 1, 2016

Scripture Reading: Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. –Joshua 5:9

The scripture preceding this pronouncement describes that while in slavery in Egypt, the Israelites continued the practice of circumcision. During the forty years wandering in the wilderness the practice had been stopped. It does not say why. Perhaps it was deemed a health risks under such difficult situations or the Israelites had grown disillusioned with the sacred. Caring for an infant was, I am sure, a great challenge under such circumstances. Not performing the ritual act might have saved the extra efforts of care required.

Crossing into the promise land, finally reaching their destination and winning their right to claim it, Joshua reinstituted the rite. The response from God was powerful, God erased the disgrace of living in slavery.

Slavery has reared its evil head in recent years in our own country with sex trafficking. Young people are stolen and sold to wealthy buyers for their personal amusement. As a result, programs have been developed to help those being recovered to begin their lives over again. We have experienced once again the challenge of returning slave victims to wholeness. They too want to leave behind their shame from living a life for which they were not responsible.

As we work for justice for the victims of sex trafficking, we would do well to remember this proclamation of God to the Israelites for those who have been forced into slavery now are in great need of this same loving mercy that only God can provide.

Prayer: Lord, we place before you today those whose lives have been forever altered by forced slavery. We asked you to bless them and to renew their souls through your love. Bless us all in our work to put an end to this terrible practice. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Redemption

Christs-redemptionChristmas
December 28, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-14

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
   and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
   and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
   and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. –Jeremiah 31:10-11

Now what? We, too once again with the advent of Christmas, have been amply reminded who we are, by whose we are. God came and dwelt among us, experience humanness first hand, shared in joy and in sorrow, and remained steadfast in a vision of justice and mercy for all. And we, who have chosen to follow this One who was human and dwelt among us, have been called to make such a vision real.

Redemption does not count, if we fail to claim its prize, but we must understand what that prize is. I routinely shop at a chain drugstore that offers good service and reasonable prices. I even accepted a card that makes me eligible for special discounts and I faithfully let them scan it with each purchase. I am often given literally what seems to be yards of these discounts in my payment receipts each time I check out. I almost never use them. They are often for things I do not use or need, and frankly it is just too much trouble to clip them and remember to use them at the appropriate time. As far as I am concerned the issuance of these coupons is a waste of both of our time and money. I would prefer that they just lower the price on the goods I am buying.

We were not given redemption by God to waste it. God saved us for a purpose: God’s purpose. I believe the heart of that purpose is to establish a world where justice and love rule. God’s redemption is not enticements to keep us in the fold. Accepting God’s redemption is our call to introduce the world to God’s love.

Prayer: Lord, help us to love each other as you love us. 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Whistleblowers and Tattle Tells

Living in the Spirit
August 4, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. 

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.* But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. — Genesis 37:1-4

Thou shalt not tattle is one of the most sacred of childhood’s codes. Chronic tattle tellers are shunned and sometimes banned from the play group. I suppose the same could be said for what we adults call whistleblowers. Usually associated with the work place, both private sector and governmental, these are the people who report what they perceive to be less than acceptable work, or lack thereof, occurring on the job. Part of the problem is discerning whether the tattler or whistleblower is truly concerned about what has transpired or if they are trying to raise their own status at the expense of others. My hunch with Joseph is that his motivation was a little of both. As one of the younger brother, he was already envisioning himself as an equal to his father and thus saw the need for work to be productive. He had visions of ruling his brothers. At seventeen and younger, he did not have the good sense to not flaunt his superior talents and skills.  He soon got a lesson in humility in an empty cistern.

If nothing else the story of Joseph is a story of redemption. We could all take sides as to who was right and who was wrong in this situation. Rueben obviously knew what the brothers were doing was wrong. He even tried to intervene but failed. How many times have we wished we had stopped something or started something and did not? And when the dust has settled, how often would things had been better if we had implemented our wishes?

I personally have prayed many times, “God guard my tongue”. Those are usually times when what I wanted to say was more a shot back at something rather than addressing a problem. Shots back usually cause more problems, I have discovered. However, as far as regrets go, I have had deeper senses of failure when I have not spoken. It takes courage to tattle or to whistle blow when one’s motivation is spot on right and one knows it to the depths of that still small voice of God whispering in his or her ear. I still need to pray for God to guard my tongue. I also need to pray for God to loosen it when it is God’s will that I speak.

Prayer: Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) but help me also remember when you said if these were silent, the stones would shout out. (Luke 19:40) Give me the courage to speak out in your service. (Luke 19:40) 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.