Tag Archives: Service

The Lord’s Reward

Loaves and fishesEastertide
May 5, 2016

Scripture Reading: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. –Revelation 22:12-14

What do you think would be a meaningful reward to Jesus? Being good to attain some future reward has never really set right with me nor am I a supporter of instant gratification. I prefer to do things that are rewarding in their own accomplishment. Eating right and exercising regularly every day is how I lost weight. I cannot even image what my reaction would have been if two years after all my dieting and exercising I went to bed one night grossly obese and out of shape and awoke the next morning trim and fit. I doubt very seriously that I would have even lasted two months before giving up, if I had seen no results. Jesus’ reward was in loving every day. He delighted in the one leper who returned to thank him for his healing touch; the dedicated service of Mary Magdalene, who after being freed from seven demons devoted the remainder of her life in service to God; and in the little boy who offered his fish and bread to feed the masses.

That said, Abraham was promised outcomes he knew he would never see and the writer of Hebrews encourages us to work for the future of the faith that will continue after we are gone. I hear more and more people longing to provide a better world for their children and grandchildren.

In systems theory we learn about something called throughput, the amount of resources invested in achieving a desired outcome. Being productive as the Body of Christ in the world today is essential in hastening the realization of the Kingdom of God. I think that is the reward Jesus wants for us all.

Prayer: Lord, make our daily walk with you an answer to your call in Micah 6:8: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? It is a reward in and of itself and it is the path to the Kingdom of 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Response

ShelterEastertide
April 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 16:9-15

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
–Acts 16:9-10

When do we trust our guts? When do take a dream or vison seriously? I score very high on the Myers Briggs personality type scale as being intuitive. I also score somewhat high on being a thinking person. Those two types find themselves in conflict at times. I over analyze my intuition. It is thus interesting to me the few times I never question my gut and act immediately upon what it is calling me to do. I sense that is what Paul did regarding his call to Macedonia.

Many years ago I took a sabbatical retreat wandering to and along the east coast in search of myself and my ancestry. In my planning ahead, I booked a stay at a bed and breakfast in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania. This part of my retreat was to be my quiet reflective time. I was definitely not pleased when I was assigned to a huge room with sleeping arrangements for five people, but decided to make the best of it. Then a large multigenerational family checked in across the hall and made the normal noise that any large multigenerational family would make. Thus I might have left the next day anyway. After the family had apparently headed out for an adventure and it was very quiet, I had the most urgent sense that I needed to leave there immediately. The keeper of the B and B was not home. I left a note on her table with a cash payment for the night and left. Driving west on highway 70 without stopping until I realized that it was getting dark, I began to look for a motel, found one, checked in, and then tried to analyze what I had just done. It made no sense to me and still doesn’t but I assure you I would do the same thing again. I think it had more to do with God working with me throughout the whole trip, granting me the peace I needed, and saying now get off your duff and get back to it. We do need to pay attention to those calls.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for being my shelter in the storms of life when shelter is what I need and I thank you for pushing me back out into the wind and the rain when that is what you need. 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.

What’s Next

What-is-nextLent
March 22, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

While the death and resurrection of Jesus is observed and celebrated each year, these events are always followed by the question: What’s next? The scripture lesson above describes the first disciples’ experience of what was next for them and we have the same calling, the same challenge today.

One of the things that we learn from sports, as we find ourselves in March Madness usually during the Lenten season, it is important that a team not get too caught up in a game just won or lost but to learn any lessons they can for the last game as they prepare for the next game. They also often find out the hard way that if they come in thinking they are destined for the championship game, there is a Cinderella team just waiting to prove them wrong no matter how good they are or think they are.

So let us withdraw for this Holy Week, let our injuries heal, nourish our souls and our bodies for the work ahead, and prepare us for the day after Easter to move swiftly forward with all our hearts, minds, strength and spirits to what’s next.

Prayer: Lord, help us incorporate the lessons we have learned from our time of study and meditation through Lent into our work on what is next in your call for our 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Getting in Shape Spiritually

Mind Body Spirit fitnessLent
February 14, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 4:1-13

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
   and serve only him.”’ –Luke 4:5-7

Worship and serve are two active verbs requiring action not lip service. Yet lip service is what I am hearing a lot of lately. I think it would be really hard to be faithful to a commitment to Jesus Christ when one is on the front page of the paper as a politician or sports figure or other celebrity. Some of them are made idols themselves by others. This is particularly true in this season of campaigning where one’s faith becomes a  card used to win voters.

One doesn’t have to be well known to become caught in this struggle. We all deal with putting God first in our lives. We sometimes reduce God to a being that supports our own viewpoints, thus creating God in our desired image. We, too, can serve God to our own interest. Believing our church activities might look good on a resume’.

Like athletes we need to hone our skills at being God followers before we step onto the playing court or field. We must be so in tune with God that our worship and service is the right automatic response because many times in the game of life we do not have time to ponder situations. Lent is a time designed to prepare us for the game of life with all its challenges. We must devote time in study and prayer getting ourselves in the best spiritual shape possible.

Prayer: Lord, walk with me throughout Lent as I strive to improve my readiness for service to 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

New Beginnings

dirty-dishes-stackedChristmas
December 31, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. –Ephesians 1-6

I think of myself as rather a rare bird seeing the world differently than others. I suppose as unique human beings we all do. In high school and college, I worked as a waitress part of the time in a family-type restaurant well stationed on an interstate highway. The staff had the opportunity to people-watch a vast variety of humans in their various sizes, shapes, colors, and primarily dispositions. Once when we were swamped, a trucker called out to me at the counter saying that he just really needed a cup of coffee and a ticket and he would not bother me again. I poured the cup of coffee and quickly gave him the ticket and returned to the melee of the tables and booths. He left me a tip larger than the cost of the coffee. On a Sunday after church a wealthy family from the surrounding area came for Sunday dinner and filled the booth for eight that I had been assigned. I made numerous trips getting and filling their order, refilling drinks, and serving dessert. They left me with a table only a family with children could provide and a quarter for a tip.

The funny thing about that job was I took great pleasure for some reason in seeing the table set for service. It was always left in a mess of dirty dishes and dropped food on the floor and seat, but then returned to the table set for service. I guess cleaning up the mess gave me a sense of purpose and some semblance of control over the outcomes of what I was doing.

New Years is a similar opportunity to clear out the messes of the previous year and reset our tables for service in the new year. I never meet the test of being holy and blameless before [Christ] in love, but I so appreciate his forgiving grace and the new beginnings it spawns toward another year of learning how to love like him.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us this day our sins and refuel us for the work you have called us to 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 American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

 

Mentored to Serve

maryandelizabeth2Advent
December 18, 2015

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Those of us who have read The Red Tent* from the reading gained better insight into the importance of mentorship among women in the tradition of Abraham’s descendants. People with shared life experiences can help all of us through the valleys of the unknown. I think we “modern” women lost some of that along the way and then perhaps, as often happens, regained it with a great flourish.

Pregnant-too-soon Mary seeks out her elder cousin for help in making sense of the events of Mary’s pregnancy. I have always wondered if word of Elizabeth’s late-life pregnancy had reached Nazareth by the time Mary decided to garner Elizabeth’s wisdom. Don’t know that it mattered in her decision, but the older woman’s unexpected pregnancy might have provided comfort to young Mary whose life had also forever been changed by her impending parenthood.

I wonder how willing I am to have my whole life totally turned around in service to God. On the other hand, how willing am I to invest myself in doing the mundane everyday chores of service to God? Do I like Brother John** approach each pot of coffee I make, lesson I prepare, chairs and tables I set up as if God’s Kingdom depended on it? Do you?

Prayer: Lord, prepare me for whatever service you need me to do. Place mentors in my path when I need their knowledge. Place willingness in my heart when I need to make just one more pot of coffee. Amen.

*The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. St. Martin’s Press, 2014

**Read more about John of the Cross at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_of_the_Cross

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.

Joy in Service

GARDENING-TOOL-facebookLiving in the Spirit
September 14, 2015

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 31:10-31

A capable wife who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
   she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
   and provides food for her household
   and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. –Proverbs 31:10-16

My brother, sister, and I asked that Proverbs 31 be read at my mother’s memorial service. It faithfully describes her. She made most of our clothing including my father’s tailored suits. She was never happier than when she was in a vegetable garden. Most I think thought she grew up on a farm where we lived, but not true, she was a town girl. Her dad worked in the local general store. Later after he suffered a debilitating stroke, her mother worked at a canning factory.

She was also a deaconess in the Methodist church during the Great Depression serving first in south Texas along the border and later in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. She learned to sew and garden as a child; she strengthened those skills facing the abject poverty, racism, and injustice that plagued the people with whom she worked as she became the hands and feet of Christ in her home mission areas. I always thought she preferred to craft a dress for my sister and me from hand-me-downs rather from new cloth. She was educated as a math teacher and she liked the challenge of arranging patterns across odd sizes of material salvaged from those old clothing. I know she mastered the art of quilt making from turning fancy taffeta dresses donated from churches into warm comforters for people who had little or no heat in the winter. She would grin a bit when telling us stories wondering if the original owners of the clothing knew how the clothing had been used.

Prayer: Holy One, guide us through this scripture to see ways of being that complement the work of your Son, Jesus, the Christ, and make the completion of this work a joy for us and for 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Intercessory Prayer for our Mission

Intercessory PrayerLiving in the Spirit
August 21, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. –Ephesians 6:18-20

Praying for others keeps them in our minds and hearts as while as resting them securely in each of our relationships with God. Although most of my family lives within a hundred miles of me, I do not see them very often. I know what some of them are doing because they post interesting tidbits on Facebook. I talk to my brother and sister by phone routinely. The time I spend with God about each of them each day keeps me connected to them as we all shuffle through our busy schedules.

The same is true regarding prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ’s service. We practice intercessory prayer each Sunday morning, in perhaps more of a formal manner than some would like, because we only call out the names of people for whom we are asking special prayers or short phrases about situations in our community or our world. While we may not know the particulars of a situation we trust in the faith of the one who does and join in solidarity with them to own their concern without needing to know it. God knows the need. Most of our Sunday school classes follow a practice of taking prayer requests and in these more intimate settings more information can be shared, if that is helpful.

I must confess though that most of these prayer requests relate to ill health or other crises. Ephesians in our scripture today is calling on us to intentional prayer for individual ministries and collective ministries. I must confess I cannot remember many times having anyone ask for prayer for God to enable their service in Christ’s name. We may prayer for the Pastor or the church in general and I have prayer for friends who had expressed fear of speaking in a public service. I wonder what would result if in our times of intercessory prayer, we shared our individual needs for ministering and those hearing such request prayed with as much dedication for ministry concerns as they would for a health concern.

Prayer: Lord, bless each of us as we answer your call to ministry. Grant us courage to follow your will and enable us with the skills and talents we might need to accomplish it. 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.

Deep Roots

Jesus winnowing wheatEastertide
May 13, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 1

Happy are those
   who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
   or sit in the seat of scoffers;
 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
  and on his law they meditate day and night.
 They are like trees
   planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
   and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so,
   but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
   nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
or the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
   but the way of the wicked will perish.

Although Oklahoma has been suffering from the results of a serious draught for a few years now, recently some parts of the state have literally been flooded with too much rain in too little time. In both instances, the depth and the stamina of the roots of plants are what determines whether they continue to grow and bear fruit. It is the depths and the stamina of our roots in Jesus Christ that control whether we bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Jesus used agricultural imagery to describe our work in his service. The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat in Matthew 13 describes his direction to let the weeds sown among the wheat continue to grow and he would deal with them. Our job is to continue to live our lives in the way of Jesus and to share with others Jesus’ teachings about his way. It is a full time job to love as Jesus loved and to share that love with others. We cannot fulfill these obligations if we are investing most of our time and energies condemning others. While God may work through us and our love to reach those who do not know God, the Lord is the one who saves us all when we fail to follow the path.

God’s act of salvation through Jesus Christ is being done in real time now. I believe, God hones us and clears away that which holds us back from full actualization of our love through him every minute of every day we give ourselves over to God’s love. To me, Matthew 3:12, His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ Is not talking about a final sentence to hell as much as it is talking about the work of the Lord to cleanse us and make us whole.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that my roots grow deep and wide into your fertile soil so that my life may be of worth to your purpose now and forever. 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.

The Lord Knows Us

GiftsEastertide
May 12, 2015

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26

Does Matthias represent each of us, called to serve in a vacant slot or perhaps even in a new way? Every Disciple of Christ comes to serve with a unique set of talents. Talents with which we may have been born but also, I believe, instilled in us as good sees the need.

While, I must confess, it is a bit intimidating to realize that the Lord knows all of our hearts. On the other hand that can also be a confidence builder. For if we know that God loves us just exactly as we are, we can be assured that God can mold and make us what we are becoming to be in his service.

The key to being a productive Disciple of Christ is staying in synch with Christ: living the way Jesus taught us to live; communing regularly with God in prayer, study, meditation, and worship; and striving by choice to bear fruit in service to God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Called as Partners in Christ Service

Christ’s example, Christ’s inspiring,
Christ’s clear call to work and worth,
Let us follow, never faltering,
Reconciling folk on earth.
Men and women, richer, poorer,
All God’s people, young and old,
Blending human skills together
Gracious gifts from God unfold.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for knowing me completely and still loving me. Teach me your ways and show me my way in your service. Amen.

*Called as Partners in Christ Service, verse 2, words 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 American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.