Tag Archives: Wholeness

Honor, Faithfulness, Wisdom

Ordinary Time
January 24, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 111
Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
   in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
   studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
   and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
   the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
   he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
  in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
   all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
   to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
   he has commanded his covenant forever.
   Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
   all those who practice it have a good understanding.
   His praise endures forever.

The totality of the above scripture could be the bases for a book on the character of God and how we are called to reflect that character in our lives. Today, I will briefly deal with living a life that honors God and ourselves, being faithful, and developing wisdom.

Our culture gives at least lip service to the honor of those in military service, police, and firefighters. I qualify that statement because I believe if we respected what the military does we would pay participants a living wage. The descriptor “honor” regarding other professions has lost its luster. The guys who put a new roof on my house a few years ago after a hail storm obliterated it worked 12 hour-days in 105-degree heat to restore my home. Knowing there were hundreds of other homes awaiting their skills. God sees the work that we do to honor God and respect God’s children. We might work a little harder in emulating that aspect of God’s character also.

After 70+ years of marriage, a husband holds the hand of his wife as she slips away faithful to the end. As my mother aged and lost the capacity to do much of the work she once did in service to God, she never let it stop her from doing something. She was a dedicated card-sender and even after losing the ability to write she dedicated much time to praying for others.

Fear of God recognizes God’s awesomeness exacting reverence in response. Seeking to see the world through the eyes of God better prepares us for serving in the world.

Prayer: God of Love, give us glimpses of your character so we can faithfully honor you through our lives as we grow in wisdom. 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.

Accountability

Ordinary Time
January 23, 2018

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.’ –Deuteronomy 18:19-20

But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’—1 Samuel 16:7

I added the scripture from 1 Samuel to the one provided by the lectionary because it amplifies well the way we are held accountable. If we represent ourselves as being Christ followers, we are responsible for upholding Christ’s name. Our behavior, good or bad, reflects on God. I learned that my behavior reflected on my parents and all the ancestors before me as a child. I had a certain ethic to uphold. Most were basic things: being honest, keeping commitments, working hard, caring for others, being polite, and always doing my best. Not just my outward behavior mattered but doing these things for the right reasons mattered also. The Lord looks at the heart.

We are held to account for doing what Christ calls us to do with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. We may never know the impact that our labors have. We are a part of a great cloud of witnesses whose heart/love work God weaves together into a perfect whole.

I just saw an interview for a new show on PBS, We’ll Meet Again that reunites people significantly impacted in a previous encounter so all involved can better understand the importance of their paths crossing and the interaction that resulted when it did. It looks interesting.

Take a few moments to remember some encounters in your life that made you a better person. Many of the people involved in those situations probably do not know the influence they had in your life just as you may never know whose lives you influenced positively. God knows.

Prayer:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.* Amen.

First verse of Take My Life by Frances Ridley Havergal see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/445

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.

Heeding the Prophet

 

Ordinary Time
January 22, 2018

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: ‘If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.’ Then the Lord replied to me: ‘They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. –Deuteronomy 18:15-18

A follower of Christ cannot read the above scripture without picturing Jesus as this prophet, one the Jewish community still awaits. While we claim the calling and the title of Christ, do we heed this prophet’s teachings? I fear we invest a lot of time at the least putting our words in his mouth, at worst redrawing him in our image. Jesus’ teachings are hard, particularly in the “me first” world in which we find ourselves.

Matthew 5:41: and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

Matthew 7:1-3: ‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:12: ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’

Matthew 18:21-22: Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Matthew 22:39b: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We, of course, are called to follow all of these actions all the time. Sometimes when we are having trouble with one or the other, it might be a good idea to set aside a period of concentration on one of the more difficult teachings. Letting Christ do his job as judge, while my assignment is loving the other is perhaps the toughest. For some reason, we must think we will rise in Christ’s opinion of us if we are better than someone else. The very opposite of that is true throughout Jesus’ teachings. Indeed, he said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40b)

The above review just skims the surface surveying only Matthew for Jesus’ teachings on how to heed the prophet that we know as the Christ. Perhaps we might want to review his teachings one more time.

Prayer:  God, forgive me when I put my words in your mouth. Open my eyes that I may see your truth as I glean the scriptures. 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.

 

Silenc

Ordinary Time
January 17, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-10

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
   for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
   my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor
   my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 

Trust in him at all times, O people;
   pour out your heart before him;
   God is a refuge for us. –Psalm 62:5-8

The final two verses (9 and 10) of this scripture address the problem of greed which I will deal with tomorrow. My gut level reaction, after reading the first eight verses that segued into greed was: I am really tired of greed messing with my life and the lives of everyone else. So I went back and read these first eight verses again, and went for a walk. I believe that is a good prescription for people dedicated to justice, which includes alleviating all the damage caused by greed.

I am a child of the sixties who invested a lot of time and energy during that decade in stopping what I thought was an unjust war and eliminating racial discrimination. Here I am 50+ later still dealing with unjust war and racism. While I do get discouraged, my faith in God’s infinite justice is even stronger today. Why? I routinely spend time alone with God. God helps me ferret out what is important and what is not, where I can make a difference and where I cannot. I imagine God getting tired of my rantings and ravings. God has heard them over and over again. Once I get them off my chest, I am enabled to wait in silence and silence is the blessing that strengthens me to continue my work.

 Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’ (Psalm 46:10)

One of my favorite classic books is J. B. Phillips’ Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike. Perhaps it is time to dust it off and read it again. Perhaps it would help you too.

Prayer: Dear God, forgive me when I fail to recognize your omnipotence, unlimited power. 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.

Changes to Change

Ordinary Time
January 16, 2018

Scripture Reading: Jonah 3:1-6, 10

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
–Jonah 3:10

We can take great comfort in God who forgives and sends the Spirit to help us out of the muddles, in which we find ourselves.

My favorite movie of all times is The Mission. * Based on the true experiences of a Jesuit priest and a slaver in 1740. The priest was sent to Argentina and the western Paraguayan jungle to bring Christ to that area; the slaver was there to capture natives and sell them for a profit.  It is a complex tale of a corrupt church with a dedicated servant and a scoundrel of a man touched by the Lord through the priest.

My favorite scene in the movie is when the priest forgives the slaver and gives him the penance of climbing a rugged mountainside with all his armor in a sack tied to his body. I am not into penance necessarily, but my experience suggests that at times when someone has sinned in a way in which they cannot forgive themselves, it sometimes helps for them to physically and mentally enact their repentance through some ordeal. My preference is service to others. The slaver realized his forgiveness at the top of the mountain when with his energy spent, he came face to face with a native child holding a hatchet ready to strike. The man was vulnerable to what I am sure he thought was certain death when the child slams the hatchet down with all his might cutting the rope that held the heavy load of armor on the slaver’s back. As the sack and its contents tumble down the mountainside, the child, which the slaver would have formerly viewed as a source of profit, helps the slaver make the last push up and over the mountains edge. The story does not end well for any of the protagonists, but I think the last scene strongly suggests that God eternally planted hope in the hearts of the surviving natives.

We too live in a complex world full of bigotry and sexual harassment, poverty sapping the life out of children and adults, greed and lust for power and on and on. We too worship the same forgiving God who can and will make all things new, if we turn around and follow his Son’s example and message of love.

Prayer: Lord, take away the armor of the world with which we protect ourselves from fully knowing you. Forgive us of our sins, show us your path everlasting and walk with us throughout our lIfe journeys. Amen.

*For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mission_(1986_film),

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.

All of Me

Ordinary Time
January 14, 2018

Scripture Reading: John 1:43-51

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there Ithe fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’—John 1:47-51

My step-grandfather, the only grandfather I ever knew, was a craft carpenter. He did beautify work in wood. Picking the wood for a project was the most important aspect. Even after finding the perfect piece, my grandfather would study it completely learning every unique grain design, where the flaws were he might have to work around, and where the grain was just perfect so he could exploit them to make a good piece great. God knows each of God’s children in the same way. God helps us learn from and overcome our flaws and makes our gifts stronger.

I am a bit unnerved by the thought that God knows me so intimately, but I am probably more comforted by it. I do not have to waste God’s or my time pretending I am not me.  I remember Paul’s account of communing with God about his thorn in the flesh:

but [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God can use our flaws when we open ourselves fully to relationship with God.

One of my college English professors had worked as a public school superintendent. He told my class once that he never hired teachers who only made A’s. He feared they would not know what it feels like to fail and recover. I do not put that much stock in grades, but I got his point and remembered the wisdom of his concern. I also always made C’s in penmanship, so I had nothing to worry about meeting my teacher’s criteria.

Prayer: God of both the Weak and the Strong, help us learn from our flaws and use our strengths 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.

Setting New Norms

Ordinary Time
January 12, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. –1  Corinthians 6:16-20

In my book, Houses Divided, I wrote that I thought it was time to revisit the norms of sexual behavior in our culture. Leviticus was written in a time when people viewed wombs as incubators in which the male deposited the seed for a new life. Children often did not live to adulthood and were an economic necessity to staff the work of an agrarian culture. Even in the last three hundred years, my ancestry lists families with twelve to eighteen children. Most families had two or more mothers, because many died in childbirth. My father’s family was a your’s, mine, and our’s family including eighteen children, one dying at birth when her mother was killed in an accident, one dying at age two, and one at nine both of communicable diseases. While such families exist today, they usually have fewer children and are most often the result of divorce. The advent of stable birth control in the mid-twentieth century changed the world as did the availability of immunizations, women becoming more economically self-sustaining, and divorce becoming less stigmatized. Some view these changes as bad and would like to overturn them while most of society accept them as reality.

How do people of faith define the Greek love called Eros (erotic love) and Philios (sibling love) today? How do they intersect with Agape (God’s) love? Paul gives us a great place to start in I Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

We need to be less concerned with how the world defines or advertises love and more concern about God’s love as it intersects with all our relationships.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for sending Jesus to model love for us. The world is too much with us in our relationships. Free us from its tangles and open our hearts and minds to learning to love in all aspects of love as Jesus loved. 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.

Love of Self

Ordinary Time
January 11, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! –1 Corinthians 6:12-15

Here comes free will again. In this instance Paul, I think, is saying God expects us to take care of ourselves. Is this a part of Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself? (Matthew 22:39) It is interesting that Paul starts his comments on fornication with a short essay on food. We probably all fail to eat properly and in general fail to take care of our bodies: exercise, get adequate sleep, drink enough water. He is saying that food is necessary for life and food can be misused. The same can be said for sex. While Paul is often sourced for being critical of homosexual behavior, a careful review of his mention of it will show he lumps it in with heterosexuality when either is being misapplied. In our society fornication including adultery is a norm for many. Overeating and eating unhealthily too are norms.

What is interesting is that both eating and sex are drivers of our economy. Would we have an obesity epidemic or widespread venereal disease, if not for greed? Both cross all our advertising senses continuously.

My Facebook account routinely carries a report of some young girl being suspended from school for wearing inappropriate clothing to school. Clothing that does not comply with the school dress code for decency. I do think females, as well as males, should dress in good taste. I also agree with those who are critical of schools for laying all the blame on girls dressing outside the code being the problem because boys just are not capable of controlling their raging hormones. Paul is saying in our scripture today that we need to control our behavior and not let the world’s interest entice us to do what is not good for us.

Prayer: Lord, at the start of a new year, enable us to care for ourselves lovingly and to love our neighbors in the same way. Amen.

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

Here I Am, Lord

Ordinary Time
January 8, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-20

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ and he said, ‘Here I am!’ and ran to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call; lie down again.’ So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, ‘Samuel!’ Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ But he said, ‘I did not call, my son; lie down again.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me.’ Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” ’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. –1 Samuel 3:1-9

There is a difference in hearing the call and responding to the call. One thing is sure God calls all of God’s followers. When I first participated in my church, a  90-something woman in my church prepared the communion trays each week filling little individual glass cups with grape juice before worship and carefully washing them and storing them after worship for the next use. She lived four or five blocks from the church and, rain or shine would walk to the church on Fridays to prepare communion and return on Mondays to clean those cups. It was her calling, and she did it faithfully for years. We had to switch to plastic throw-away cups when she died. No one else was willing to do the tedious cleaning. I doubt her call was very dramatic, but it was something she could do at that age and stage of her life, and so she did.

Samuel’s call was more dramatic than our cup washer’s as was Paul’s, both callings so outstanding they merited Biblical documentation. Our callings are more likely to be similar to the cup washer’s. We may have a shining outstanding moment in our faith history, but most of our work is the persistent pursuit of the will of God whether supporting weekly worship or ministering to the whole nation of Israel or taking the Good News of Christ to the gentile world.  One of Eli’s last responses to God enabled God’s new servant to hear and respond to his call.

Prayer: Here I am, Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.* Amen

Refrain from Here I am, Lord words by Dan Schutte see at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-here-i-am-lord

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.

Help is on the Way

Epiphany
January 6, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
–Mark 1:4-8

“Help is on the way!” are precious words to those who are in distress with seemingly no control of what life is dishing out to them. Most of us know the feeling. I wonder what it was about the first century that made God decide humans needed more knowledge/awareness of the consistent, constant help God offers. Is that why God came to us in human form?

God created a very complex world capable of working well together like a fine-tuned instrument and capable of chaos. Parents know what that is like watching an infant striving to move across the floor on hands and tummies and knees until one day they lift themselves up on hands and knees and crawl. Next, they take that first tentative step. Parents are torn between letting them develop and protecting them from the dangers of their development. At times we all need a hand to hold whether we are learning to walk, learning to work, learning to love, or learning to die. Immanuel, God with us, came among us for just such a purpose.

John the Baptist suggests that people particularly need fresh starts recognizing when the path they chose was not the right path. He could help them by guiding them to confess their sins and start again, but he foresaw one coming who could lead them, us to the path of righteousness for God needs all God’s children to work and love together to actualize God’s plan.  Jesus Christ came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)

Prayer: Thank you God for sharing yourself with us through Jesus Christ. Help us grow in your wisdom and truth. 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.