Tag Archives: Wholeness

The Power of Love

Ordinary Time
February 4, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:29-39

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. –Mark 1:35-39

If we believe we are to model our lives after Jesus, how do we cast out demons today? Jesus was a pray-er. All of the gospels describe him finding a quiet place to pray. I know what that is like; my mother was a pray-er also. My guess is she had mastered the art of praying without ceasing, but each evening she closed out her day on her knees at the side of her bed with her head propped against her folded hands talking to God. Obviously, the starting point of casting out demons lies in strengthening our relationship with God.

What are demons to us today? Today we are skeptical of the first-century idea of demons as evil spirits. We do not deny the existence of evil in the world. The mass shootings experienced in recent years often are described as evil. We are uncomfortable with that which we cannot explain. Yet, Jesus through his life, death, and resurrection demonstrated for us that Love can conquer evil. Jesus always chose love. Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

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 are all capable of both evil and love. God’s love can fortify us to make love our standard response. It all starts with prayer.

Prayer:
O Love, that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.*  Amen

*First verse of O Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go by George Matheson see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/432

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.

Oneness Leads to Wholeness

Ordinary Time
February 3, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. –Mark 1:29-34

One thing about Mark, he begins his gospel with Christ’s ministry. Mark is believed to be the oldest gospel, perhaps getting just the facts down at the start was the most important reason for writing it. We must take him seriously when he describes Jesus’ care for the sick.  The gospels all illustrate this healing nature of Jesus’ ministry. He obviously felt that health care was a right, not a privilege.

We apparently do not believe that in this country although every other industrialized country does. We don’t want to assure the availability of health care even when it is in our best interest. People without routine health care end up in emergency rooms very sick where their care is much more expensive than early intervention or prevention care. Insurance costs are derived from the costs of providing care, so we eventually pay for the higher costs of emergency care in increased premiums. The alternative of turning the sick out into the streets to fend for themselves creates public health risks about which we do not even want to think.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? One of my favorites of Jesus’ sayings is Matthew 11:28-30:

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

We make life complicated by trying to figure out the best angle for our wellbeing. When we love others as we love ourselves, life becomes easier for all.

Prayer: Lord, heal our souls as well as our bodies and our minds. Makes 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.

Heart’s Desire

Ordinary Time
February 1, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:15-23

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. –1 Corinthians 9:16-18

Paul’s chosen profession, perhaps inherited from the family business, was tent making. He was apparently successful at it, able to support himself, and made friends through the enterprise. It afforded him the opportunity to pursue his avocation of proclaiming the gospel.

An avocation is a work done primarily for the pure joy of doing it. We sometimes interchange the meaning of the word joy with happiness. Joy may or may not evoke happiness, but it is the emotion one feels when one attains his or her greatest desire. In our scripture above Paul is describing his greatest desire as taking the good news of Jesus Christ to all people. His quest caused him many hardships and eventually resulted in his death, but for him, every disciple won was the source of great joy. The driving force behind his avocation was no doubt the tremendous joy he experienced in encountering Jesus Christ and the continuing relationship that resulted.

What source of joy has Christ written on your heart? In your service to God, what brings you the greatest sense of accomplishment? Identifying your faith heart’s desire and seeking ways to actualize it will bring you joy that will last for eternity.

Prayer: Open my being to know where the desires of my heart and your desires intersect, O Lord. Enable me to pursue those points with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. 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.

On Eagles Wings

Ordinary Time
January 30, 2018

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:21-31

Why do you say, O Jacob,
   and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
   and my right is disregarded by my God’?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
   and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
   and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
   they shall walk and not faint. –Isaiah 40:27-31

A bald eagle was found shot in a field recently in Oklahoma; a crime as bald eagles are an endangered species. I think killing any animal just for the sport is wrong, which seems to be what happened here. I do not think I have ever heard of anyone eating eagle, but this dead one was left to rot in a field. Eagles are hunters themselves. They know well the life of soaring above the earth searching for food to nourish their bodies.

Isaiah in our scripture today uses the eagle as an example for us to follow as one who needs nourishment to continue our life journeys. While we too require sustenance for our bodies, we also require nourishment for our souls, and that comes in our relationship with God.

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? Certainly, when we take something to the Lord in prayer, we need to be heedful for a response. I, however, believe that God is ahead of us all the time waiting for us to catch on and catch up to what we need to do. Our waiting involves being still and attentive enough to see the paths that God has set forth for us. God runs with us every step all the time.

Prayer: Lord, open my heart and my mind to your guidance so that I can run and not be weary. 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.

Evil and the God of Love

Ordinary Time
January 28, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

I do not have a great understanding of what were dubbed demons in the first century or the people who display similar behavior today with symptoms now given a psychological tag. I did read M. Scott Pecks book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil several years ago, which explored similar situations.

I remember well sitting on suicide watch all night in a general hospital with a young teen awaiting his transfer to a psychiatric facility. Although heavily sedated, he cycled through stages of agitation looking at me wildly declaring he was Jesus Christ and he was to save the world, eventually wearing himself out until he collapsed on the bed and fell into a deep sleep. He would later awake proclaiming he had committed blasphemy by declaring himself the Christ and he needed to die for his sin. I even remember thinking this is like the demons in some of Jesus’ stories. There is so much we do not know.

I no longer question that evil takes many forms, and I am not sure if some type of mental illness is one of them. I am sure that humans can get so caught up in layers of self-deceit colored by many descriptors such as envy, greed, lust, hunger for power, violence that they alone cannot escape the chains those manifestations have on them. Jesus Christ can and does return people to wholeness when we let him.

Prayer: Spirit of the Living God protect us from evil, lead us to the empowerment of your love that heals the sin-sick soul. 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.

Open to God’s Word

Ordinary Time
January 27, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Jesus said what he meant and meant what he said. I do not necessarily think people heard what he meant. In too many cases we hear what we want to hear. I think Jesus would be surprised by some of the words we put in his mouth. Jesus spoke some very hard truths requiring us to rethink our entire system of values, particularly those values passed on to us for generations. We truly must become a new person in Christ.

The musical/movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas* includes a song for our times, all times really, titled The Sidestep. Peppered with all the right words we want to hear, it is pretty much nonsense but designed to hook our well-planted bias: proud/humble, flag, poor to riches, plain-spoken cannot tell a lie.

Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly see.
I assure you, and I mean it-  Now, who says I don’t speak out as plain as day?
And, fellow Texans, I’m for progress and the flag- long may it fly.
I’m a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie. 

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on. **

Prayer: Renew us O, Lord, help us not only to discern what you mean but live our lives guided by your Word and your example. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Best_Little_Whorehouse_in_Texas_(film)
**First verse and chorus from The Sidestep see at http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/t/thesidestep.shtml

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.

Living Love

Ordinary Time
January 25, 2018

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. –1 Corinthians 8:1-6

How do we glean from the experiences of our first-century brothers and sisters in Christ ways to address the issues we face today? While eating meat offered to idols is no longer an issue, we still have idols. Greed and lust for power are two of the most virulent. Perhaps purchasing fair trade products is a counter to both of these idols. Greed and lust for power are directly related to all kinds of injustice in our world today. How we invest our money whether simply buying groceries or purchasing stocks matters.

The key Paul provides, for us to measure how we are to act, is love. We may spend hours comparing products to buy hoping to get the best appliance or the best deal. How much time do we spend discerning whether what we cannot live without was made by child labor working long days in horrid conditions? How much of our food is harvested by undocumented aliens because our government stalemates on creating an immigrant system that is effective and efficient? Who benefits from an antiquated and disjointed immigration system? Would border safety issues decline if a workable immigration system operated?

In the first century Corinth, Christianity was judged by the actions of its practitioners. It still is today. Reminds me of a children’s song I sang many years ago:

Watch your eyes and ears and lips and hands and feet
Watch your eyes and ears and lips and hands and feet
For there’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love
Watch your eyes and ears and lips and hands and feet.*

Prayer: Parent of All, help us remember what we learned as children and if we have not yet learned your message of love, teach it to us anew. Amen.

Summary last verse of Watch your Eyes, see at https://gospelchoruses.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/watch-your-eyes/

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.

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.