Tag Archives: Wholeness

Righteous not Self-Righteous

Living in the Spirit
September 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 1:21-30

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. –Philippians 27-30

When we profess to be followers of Christ, how we live and treat one another, good or bad, is interpreted by the other as representing Christ, a responsibility we must take very seriously. How many people turn away from Christianity after being negatively impacted by the behavior of those claiming to be Christian? Much of such behavior appears to be more self-righteous than righteous. If God’s followers are set apart, it is for special service not because they are better than anyone else. White privilege grows from self-righteous seeds and self-righteousness stems from feeling unworthy.

I watched the PBS Program Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World, recently that described Luther’s early life of never feeling he could live up to the expectations of God. He tried everything he could including beating himself and confessing for hours every action he felt was sinful. He finally experienced an epiphany of grace leading him to understand the loving, forgiving nature of God. He went on to usher in the Reformation challenging the status quo of Christianity that had moved away from the basic tenets of Christ.

It is time we examine our ways of being and to ask God for our own moment of grace making us whole so that others can learn of the wondrous love of God through us.

Prayer: Lord make us whole and make us one with 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.

Our Time is God’s Time

Living in the Spirit
September 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 1:21-30

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. –Philippians 1:21-26

Christ calls us to disciplined, purposeful, and productive action. We need never be busy just for the sake of being busy to win favor with God. Brownie points are unnecessary; grace takes care of that. Using our time wisely toward the realization of God’s Kingdom is our thanksgiving for God’s love and our way of telling others of its wonder.

I have about equal doses of Mary and Martha* in my persona. One does not grow up on a farm without learning how to work. Yet, I have no problem at all reading a good book, listening to music, or sitting around talking with friends about faith or whatever. God mysteriously uses us at times always with purpose. We need to be open to those opportunities and not shy away from them even when they may seem out of our comfort zone at the time.

Prayer: Lord, grant us the full measure of your leadership to use our time wisely for our development and our service to others. Amen.

*See the story of Mary and Martha’s dialogue with Jesus at Luke 10:38-42.

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.

 

God’s Perspective

Living in the Spirit
September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 16:2-15

 Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’

 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. –Exodus 16:9-15

Change is hard particularly when the change involves moving from an environment where all one’s decisions are prescribed for them as in slavery. It is human nature to adapt to the situation in which we find ourselves even a bad situation. I remember a foster child whose mother was seriously mentally ill telling me that he assumed all mothers talked to people who were not present and made their children hide from threats that were not real. While the food in Egypt might not have been adequate or good, it was dependable. God provided for the necessities of life while leading the Israelites in becoming self-sufficient and self-sustaining.

While we may not question from where our next meal will come, we live in a frustrating and fragmented world in which we must we work to mold it into Christ’s vision of a Kingdom ruled by love. We, too, may be forced to give up long cherished ways of being as we learn from diverse cultures. Paul knew this well as he traveled about Asia Minor debating issues that seem strange to us today but were very real at the time. Should Christians eat meat offered to idols? Must gentile men be circumcised to become Christian?  Paul’s fall back response was to say he taught Christ crucified and ultimately that was what mattered. When we are getting bent out of shape over today’s issues, we should consider, does it pass the test of love? Christ was crucified because God loved us as we are to love one another.

Prayer: Lord, help us gain your perspective of issues that may go against our way of being but not yours. Help us learn to let you be God, and we be your vessels of 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Owning Responsibility

Living in the Spirit
September 18, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 16:2-15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’ –Exodus 16:2-8

I firmly believe that the government of the United States of America is a very accurate reflection of its population. Only 54.2% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 elections. Anyone who was eligible to vote and did not vote abdicated responsibility for his or her future and the futures of their families and friends. Think about it, just under half the national population who could vote, did not.

I also firmly believe that the USA, perhaps the world, is suffering from an epidemic of greed that will be our downfall as it was for other nations throughout history if we do not get it under control. Government-wise we see that being played out through special interest who control much of our media. We are being groomed to distrust information as we fall in lockstep with half-truths and other misinformation some of which plays on our deepest fears and prejudices.

Most of our ancestors came to this country many for the freedom to worship and to participate in a government of the people, by the people, for the people, not special interest and not selfish gain. It means that truth matters and that we work a little harder at finding the truth. It means we must deal with the fears and prejudices that drive us to put our faith in lesser gods that prevent us from fulfilling our call as followers of Christ. It means that we must individually and collectively share with the diversity of our nation and develop empathy for those in different situations than ours as we work for the Common Good.

Prayer: Lord, help us learn from the stories of our ancestors in faith how you were always willing to guide them through troubled waters as well as arid deserts. 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.

The Wonder of God

Living in the Spirit
September 13, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 114
When Israel went out from Egypt,
   the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
   Israel his dominion. 

The sea looked and fled;
   Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
   the hills like lambs.

 Why is it, O sea, that you flee?
   O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?
   O hills, like lambs?

 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
   at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,
   the flint into a spring of water.

I thought of Pippa’s Song by Robert Browning when I read Psalm 114. Poetry or other artistic forms may be the only way even to begin to express the power and majesty and, yes, love of God.

THE year ‘s at the spring,
And day ‘s at the morn;
Morning ‘s at seven;
The hill-side ‘s dew-pearl’d;
The lark ‘s on the wing;
The snail ‘s on the thorn;
God ‘s in His heaven—
All ‘s right with the world!

The people recently rescued from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey might begin to understand the wonder of the Israelites as they stood on the safe side of the Red Sea. Cecil B. Demille’s notwithstanding, we have no clue what really happened as the Israelites fled the oppression of the Egyptians. Getting the facts right is not nearly as important as understanding God love them, desired for them to be freed, and they were.

What we need to comprehend is that God loves us, desires the very best for us, and is actively engaged in working with us when we are willing to work with God.

Prayer: Thank you for poets who give us a glimpse of your wonder. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your continuing presence. 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.

Called to Heal

Living in the Spirit
September 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:19-31

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’ –Exodus 14:21-25

The stories of God’s actions passed to us from history and still being documented today always include a partnership of interaction with a person, or more often with people.  I love Margaret Mead whose famous quotes stand the test of time and amplify the importance of our interdependence and our individuality.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

 Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

I always think of twelve ragamuffin disciples from the first century when I read the first quote. It applies to Moses with his brother and sister, too and Martin Luther five hundred years ago and Martin Luther King Jr. 60 years ago and someone today standing on the brink of Kingdom building ready to say “let’s go.”

Each of us must hear and respond to the call bringing our unique gifts all of which are necessary for the transitioning of the world from its current fractured state to a world powered by love. In such a world everyone is respected for the individual they are and for the unique part of interdependence they serve.

If we seem to be experiencing brokenness more than wholeness, perhaps we need to listen to the still small voice crying  “I am with you, let’s go” following our ancestors in faith to do the justice needed to heal brokenness and make the wounded whole*.

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul*.

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, open our ears to hear your call, enable our spirits to response. Amen.

*First verse of There is a Balm in Gilead a traditional African American Spiritual see at http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/hs889.htm

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.

Modeling Love

Living in the Spirit
September 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’—Matthew 18:23-35

It is funny, but we waste a lot of time and effort trying to change someone else when the only person over which we have any control to change is ourselves. The paradox is how we respond to others often may result in a shift in their attitude. I worked in a building that housed a separate business from mine, but I met its staff on a regular basis coming and going from the facility. I did not know any of the staff, but we routinely greeted each other except for one woman who never responded to a “Good Morning” or “Have a nice evening.” In fact, she would never even look at me. I did not know what to make of her but just kept smiling and making common greetings when one day she began looking at me and a few days later shyly returned my greeting. Our exchanges continued until she was suddenly not there anymore.

Jesus modeled a way of being in the short time he walked the earth. In the parable today he calls us to forgive as he has forgiven us. It is, of course, futile to send someone to prison to make them pay a debt. If one cannot work, how can he or she earn any money? What difference do you think it would have made in the life of the second slave had the first slave said to him, “The master has forgiven me my debt, so I forgive you the debt you own me?” What difference would it make in the life of one we judge to be a sinner if we simply loved them for who he or she was anyway?

Prayer: God of Grace, give us each the self-confidence to love as you love. Enable loving behavior to be like yeast throughout our land. 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.

Christ with Me

Living in the Spirit
September 11, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:19-31

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. –Exodus 14:19-20

There are times in all our lives when we are forced to rely on God totally. When the Israelites left Egypt was one such time.  The angel led them out and then the pillar of cloud moved behind them to protect them from the Egyptian Army. Saint Patrick wrote the following prayer that is an apt description of the faithfulness of God.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

What we need to understand is this is true all the time not just when we are at a breaking point. In fact, we would many times avoid reaching our wit’s end, if we walked in faith with God continuously. God is not only an emergency call center. God wants us to live and move and have our being so that our lives are led by peace and love, being cognizant of how our actions impact our world and all that is in it.

Prayer: Lord, make us mindful of dialogue with you in every moment of our lives. Help us to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) 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.

Taking Up Our Crosses

Living in the Spirit
September 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’ –Matthew 16:24-28

Our lives stream with choices some simple some complex. We forget that choosing not to choose is a choice. I love the scene in the Jungle Book movie where vultures perched on naked tree branches are caught in a circular conversation, “What do you want to do tonight?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” How many times have we had similar conversations? Choosing to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Jesus is a life altering decision touching every aspect of who we are and what we do with our lives. We no longer can sit on the fence and watch the world go by saying “isn’t it a shame, somebody ought to do something about that.” We are the somebody.

The world often casts love as a role we simply fall into; make no mistake, love is a choice, as is indifference and hate. Choosing to love is a commitment that takes all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength leaving no room for indifference or hate. I fear our gravest departure from Jesus’ example comes in the form of indifference. How we act as we present ourselves as followers of Christ is how others who observe us understand Jesus. If we project an attitude of indifference, we present an inaccurate picture of Christ. If we caste hate-filled judgment on others in the name of re-creating them in our image, we may drive a wedge between them and the One in whose image they were created.

We have a choice right now in our society whether to live God’s love completely for all of God’s children. When the world tells any they are not welcomed, we must welcome them in the name of God just as they are. If they are hungry, we feed them if they have no clothing we dress them, if they are sick we work toward their healing, if they are in prison, we restore them, and if they are strangers, we recognize them as strangers no more but as our brothers and sisters in Christ. And if any of these realities are the result of systemic injustice, we do justice.

Prayer: God of All, make us whole, make us 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.

Politics of Jesus

Living in the Spirit
August 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. –Matthew 16:13-17

Why did Jesus ask the disciples how people perceived him? Was he checking to see if he was getting his message across? Was he testing his team’s understanding or fidelity? Preceding this scripture are stories of the religious leaders of the day asking for a sign from Jesus to prove who he is, and a warning from Jesus for the disciples to beware of these same leaders. I think Jesus was trying to address both questions. He cared that people understood his message. He cared that the religious leaders did not misconstrue who he was to further their purposes. Jesus dealt with politics.

We tend to tie politics to civil government, but everything we do involving groups of people includes some form of politics. We even try to influence one group’s politics with another group’s. Politics is a branch of ethics concerned with the state or social organism as a whole rather than the individual person:  a division of moral philosophy dealing with the ethical relations and duties of governments or other social organizations*. Much of the Gospels include reports of Jesus’ handling the politics of his faith community. He was a threat to the power of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He called for the formation of a kingdom that was vastly different from their concept of God’s Kingdom. Many of them, not all, were certain their understanding of the Kingdom of God was God’s understanding. Sound familiar? Are we following the path of the Pharisees and Sadducees rather than Jesus’ way? How do we know Jesus’ path when we seek it?

Jesus was a minimalist. He had two basic rules love God and love one another. He illustrated both with lots of stories and lots of examples that passed to us through the ages. His message was not a new one. It was one his faith community were called to follow very early in its formation. The lesser gods of lust for power, greed, pride, envy, and sloth continually play their political viewpoint against God’s all the time wooing us away from the basic rules. If love is wanting the very best for everyone, then these lesser gods cannot be a part of God’s Kingdom.

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me**. Amen

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/politics
**Psalm 51:10-11

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.