Tag Archives: Wholeness

Spiritual Weeding

Living in the Spirit
July 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ –Matthew 13:24-30

One thing learned from gardening; it is a continuous process: preparing the soil; planting the seeds; watering, if needed; protecting plants from bad bugs and encouraging good insects; weeding; keeping critters from eating the plants or their produce, and harvesting. One cycle ends the next begins. All the things designed to get good plants produce a wealth of weeds.

Weeds need removing when they are small. Left to develop, weeds rob plants of vital nurture including water. If weeds are allowed to grow, their roots become entwined with plant roots. Their removal most likely results in killing the plants as described in our scripture today. Much like the garden with plants and weeds, we live in a world of both good and evil. We are free to choose which path we take. We pay the consequences or reap the rewards of our choices.

Individual choices are important, but what responsibility, if any, do we have regarding the negative impact evil inflicts on others? It seems that creating a world where evil is plucked early in development would not only benefit each of us individually but also all of us together. Evil rarely, solely resides in an individual. Evil’s continuing existence is as dependent on transmission to others as is Love’s.

Failed education systems are pipelines to prison, and our prison systems tend to turn out harder core criminals rather than people restored to wholeness. Our outlandishly expensive health care system makes some rich but limits the availability of affordable, accessible care. Those who cannot afford it often wait to seek help until it is too late and much more costly. We pay a heavy price for our greed as we reap its consequences.

Prayer: Lord, instruct us in the way we should go. 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.

Riding Out the Storm

Living in the Spirit
July 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:12-25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
–Romans 8:18-25

Christ’s calls us to make a positive difference in our world today. While we study to learn from the past and prepare for the future, our focus is on the here and now. A wise and experienced person once told me that it takes at least ten years of persistent hard work to initiate a new government program. For example, in the USA we have worked since the 1960’s on health care for all. The more complex the issue, the harder it is to make change. The wise person likened it to turning a giant ship around in a turbulent ocean and taking it in a different direction straight into the storm. In a similar thought, the scripture above speaks to Paul’s experiences at the beginning of the Christian era in the process of initiating the Kingdom of God following Christ’s resurrection.

Humans seek every way possible to have the abundant life Jesus promised without following God’s path to attain it. In so doing, we turn to lower tier gods such as greed and power and never experience satisfaction. Greed and power demand more and more greed and power and always end in a futile waste of energy.

God created an interdependent world, which requires all to participate fully sharing and caring for resources so that all God’s creation works together in love. Love always begets more love.

Prayer: Spirit of God, shine a bright light on the path to wholeness, oneness, and justice that we may one day see your Kingdom of love ruling our world. Grant us the gift of patience in large measure when we enter troubled waters on this journey. 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.

Abide with Me

Living in the Spirit
July 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 28:10-19a

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’

 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. –Genesis 28:16-19a

Of course, God by nature is with us all the time; we are the ones who lose sight of God’s abiding presence. God surely desires our company on a regular basis, not just when something bad happens, we find ourself in trouble, or even when we are celebrating. I am a strong proponent of preventive health care. Eating right, exercising, getting adequate sleep, keeping my vaccinations current, and getting recommended tests and check ups. Can’t say I always practice what I preach regarding preventive health, but I do work at it. Continuously working at being at-one with God is preventive care for our souls.

There are numerous books describing spiritual disciplines that can help facilitate relationship growth with God. My favorite is Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. The most important lessons I have learned over time is that there are as many ways of communing with God as there are people on the earth. We certainly can learn from each other, but we must search out the ones that are most meaningful to us. We benefit from attempting practices that are outside our comfort zones ways that are most meaningful to us. Journaling is oft recommended as a spiritual discipline. I love to write but when I tried journaling, what I wrote grew more and more morose. Putting my thoughts in writing in response to daily scripture reading has had the opposite impact. It helps me see myself more clearly and envision ways I can better serve God.

Another recommendation I discovered once was reading scripture, picking a character in the scripture, and putting myself in that character’s place imagining how I would react in the same circumstance. I must confess, I thought this was a somewhat bizarre idea, but when I tried it, I found it to be a most meaningful experience. What did it feel like to be in Mary Magdelene’s place when she encountered Jesus alive at the tomb?

The older I get, the more comfort I take from inviting the presence of God to just rest with me for a while, I am learning what the song Abide with Me teaches.

Prayer:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me. 

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

 I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me *. Amen

*First three verses of Abide with Me by Henry F. Lyte see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Abide_with_Me/

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 Great Physician

Living in the Spirit
July 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’ –Matthew 13:18-23

It is amazing how many times I can read a scripture and suddenly see something new. Scripture opens to us when we most need it. I think that is particularly true as we pass through the differing ages and stages of life but it is also true in relation to what is happening in our world at a given time. The phrase that caught my attention today is the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart. Recently, I became disheartened by the mean spirited comments made about providing health care for all. A friend just quoted back to me something I said in the past and still believe today, “ Americans for all their short-sightedness, really do not want their city streets marred by sick and dying people begging for help.” Comments I am hearing and reading seem to indicate that I am wrong.

I believe that access to affordable basic health care is a right, not a privilege, which places health care in the Common Good category. We are all better off for many reasons when our society is healthy. I support Medicare for all as the best and most cost effective way of meeting this need.  For those who want a higher level of care and can afford it, supplemental insurance is available.

Health care policy notwithstanding, what is wrong with us, if we can so easily say, get a job if you want health care when the vast majority of non-disabled adults do work and when the health care they need may cost more than they make. I have also heard dying is more cost effective for some cancer patients and some disabled. Jesus healed the sick and commanded us to care for them also. It is a heart thing, and we need to understand that things of the heart must be protected from evil. There is an old song my mother used to sing; we might want to think on it now and then:

The great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer,
Oh, hear the voice of Jesus.

Refrain:
Sweetest note in seraph song,
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung,
Jesus, blessed Jesus*.

Prayer: Lord, grant us the gift of shared responsibility for the care of our loved ones, the loved ones of others, and particularly for those who seem to have no one who loves them. Amen.

*First verse and refrain of The Great Physician by William Hunter see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Great_Physician/

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.

Flesh to Spirit

Living in the Spirit
July 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:1-11

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. –Romans 8:9-11

Congressman John Lewis in his Note to Self* for CBS News, said to his younger self following a violent police response to a peaceful sit-in: “You got arrested the first time, and you felt so free. You felt liberated. You felt like you had crossed over,” he added. While he was still physically alive, he made the move from the flesh to the Spirit. Most of us dwell on the cusp of the Spirit, having never faced such a decisive threat to freedom, even life itself. Jesus Christ calls each of us to cross-over to the Spirit-driven life as we work for the actualization of the Kingdom of God.

While it may seem a paradox, it is harder at times for those of us who live in relative privilege and safety to answer Christ’s call to give up the flesh and become Spirit-led. What was it Jesus said in Matthew 19:24? Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’  We are cutting ourselves short. We too can know the liberating facet of God’s love when we see past our privilege and open our hearts to love all our neighbors. When we have a world where everyone has enough and is enabled to become fully the persons God created them to be, the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Prayer:
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me**. Amen.

*http://www.cbsnews.com/news/note-to-self-congressman-john-lewis-civil-rights-leader/

**Spirit of the Living God by Michael Hawn see at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-spirit-of-the-living-god

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.

Chains of Greed

Living in the Spirit
July 11, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 25:19-34

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. –Genesis 25:29-34

One of my aunts who had no children of her own, carefully taped the names on each piece of her memorabilia of the niece or nephew or friend designated as its recipient upon her death. My guess is she saw too often the fights heirs have over estates. She also was a career school teacher/librarian and understood the principle of valuing each individual.  I always wondered what there was about a particular piece of crystal that made her pick it for me rather than giving it to my sister, brother, or cousins.

As a twin, Jacob was in the odd position of losing the prime hereditary position by only a few seconds. The Bible portrays him as crafty throughout. His cheating his brother is only the first example of others yet to come. Esau gains the reputation of one easily taken, trading his inheritance for a bowl of beans. Jacob would be a revered oligarch in our world today. We probably all have a touch of greed in our beings. Making the most of money in our society is a valued trait.

Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 says The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. 1 Timothy 6:10 states For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

The problem with greed is it can never be satisfied. Greed is an addiction that overtakes one’s life often replacing perceived wealth for God.

Prayer: God, we live in a greed-ruled world. We are so enamored with it; we cannot see it as harmful. Open our eyes, free us from the chains of greed. 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.

 

Works in Progress

Living in the Spirit
July 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 7:15-25a

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. –Romans 7:15-20

We are works in progress. None are perfect, yet we strive for perfection, learning from our successes and failures, asking for forgiveness and mercy when needed. We should not be too hard on ourselves nor too easy. Wasting time and energy in continual self-deprecation helps no one. Continuous self-evaluation and adjustments are key to overcoming our deficiencies.

God generously provided within the scope of God’s love scripture to guide us along the way, Jesus as a role model, communities of faith to support and nurture, and the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. When we engage with these gifts, we grow in spirit and truth enabling us to turn away from evil and seek God’s good.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity.*

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your grace. Thank you for inspiration and expectation and for insight and passion. Direct us to use all our gifts to your service in creating your Kingdom on earth. Amen.

*Final verse of Jesus Lover of My Soul by Charles Wesley see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Jesus_Lover_of_My_Soul/

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.

Sent to Serve

Living in the Spirit
July 3, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 24:34-36, 42-49, 58-67

So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has.

 ‘I came today to the spring, and said, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’ and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.” –Genesis 24:34-36, 42-44

“That’s a God thing.” is my normal response when something appropriate happens that results in wholeness, oneness, or justice. I usually say the phrase in hindsight. In the midst of life, I think most of us respond with instinct, although I too like Abraham’s servant send prayers for guidance.

Instinct should not be whatever will happen, happens. Paul talks about Christ’s followers being like well-trained athletes. When a player is on the court or the field, his or her body and mind must meld together instantly in response to the movements of the other person or team. Really good athletes usually possess natural talents, and they enhance those talents with hour after hour of intense workouts, the study of opponents, shared wisdom from a coach, and practice, lots of practice.

Christ followers are charged with similar tasks designed to hone our whole being with the goal of serving God with all our hearts, minds, strength, and souls. Such preparation allows immediate response when indicated. Someone caught and saved a baby dropped from the 11th floor of a burning building recently in England. Most of us are rarely required to respond to such a serious circumstance. All of us live in communities where children are falling through the cracks of poverty, hunger, and inability to take full advantage of available education. There is something each of us can do to catch these children before they fall. It may take dusting off some old skills or learning some new ones. Start now, for the opportunity awaits.

Prayer: Lord, help us to find our niche in serving others and when needed to hone our skills in preparation. 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.

Loving like Jesus

Living in the Spirit
July 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:40-42

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’

My paternal grandfather died when my father was ten years old. I obviously never knew him. So you can imagine my surprise several years ago when I met with a state senator from my home county. Upon hearing my last name, he asks who my father was. I told him, and he said “I knew your grandfather. He was one of the finest men I have ever know. Have a seat what can I do for you?” I not only had my foot in the door for the business I needed to conduct but I also felt the responsibility of living up to my grandfather’s reputation. I was welcomed not because of who I was but because of whose I was.

Our lives as followers of Christ speak volumes about God and Christ. We are responsible for conveying the love of God in every aspect of our lives. In sharing our love, we transmit to others that God loves them too.

Sometimes we feel obligated to place restrictions on our love requiring a certain behavior, mode of dress, language, religion, even skin color or sexual orientation, which, I fear, puts us out of step with God’s righteousness. Loving without judging takes a whole lot less effort and does a whole lot more good. We would do well to remember that we learned about love because God first loved us.

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more.
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me.
Now safe am I.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me*.

Prayer: Teach us to love as Jesus loved. Amen.

First verse and chorus of Loved Lifted Me, lyrics by James Rowe see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/1070

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.

We Have a Savior

Living in the Spirit
June 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-14

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ –Genesis 22:9-14

‘The Lord will provide.’ The Lord did provide the earth and all that is in it, our very lives, and knowledge and talents to use the resources wisely if we so choose. Some believed over the centuries that after creation God stepped back to observe how we humans handle such gifts. Abraham, I think, felt a partnership with God and  from the beginning, sought and received God’s guidance through all of his life as did Moses, David, and the prophets. Jesus introduced a more particular understanding of God with us. Jesus’ followers seek to fulfill the vision of a Kingdom, the world, ruled by love, as a calling to be a part of his purpose.

‘The Lord will provide.’ Abraham speaks in the future tense. Was this event the point at which Abraham realized that the Lord’s provision is eternal? I must say in times like these when the world teems with fear and hate and divisiveness; we need a touch of such faith. We need the provision of hope when our personal and communal resources feel stretched to the breaking point. We need a Savior. Thank God, almighty, we have one.

Prayer: We thank you God for the gift of Jesus Christ who dwelt among us and dwells with us today 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.