Saturday, June 09, 2018

In the Midst

Mark 3:20-35

...and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"—  for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."  Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"  And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

Reflection

Jesus' ministry to the outcasts, the poor, the needy, the sinful people of this world has cast doubt and shock into the minds of the religious leaders of the day. Doubt has been cast even into the minds of his immediate family. What is this that Jesus is up to?

As a young lad, Jesus sat in the temple, and the religious leaders of the day were astonished at his answers. But now we see a Jesus that challenges the religious leaders, his family and the world with his questions. As Jesus gathers with the very people that the world rejects and claims to be "unclean" he poses questions that we must consider.

How can Satan cast out Satan?
Who are my mother and my brothers?

Jesus isn't Satan and those who think that he may be aren't the same people that are sitting down to eat with Jesus. Jesus came for the likes of you and me. Jesus came for the people of this world to shock us into a recognition that we all are in need of forgiveness and salvation... even and especially for those who think they don't need forgiveness. This world is full of people that are in situations that they have lost control of, and Jesus comes to the dirtiest among them and saves them through no effort of their own. Perhaps these people don't even need to recognize Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Jesus just forgives them and saves them. I suppose if they needed to recognize Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, they may think that this action in itself saved them.

Nope! I'm not saved by recognizing Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. I'm not saved by anything that I do or choose to do. I am saved by Jesus through the Jesus.

After all...
How can Jesus cast out Jesus? Not by something that I do, that's for sure.
And... who are my mother and my brothers? The prostitutes, the tax collectors, the filthy dirty sinful people of this world, who by my side and in my presence and along with me are in need of Jesus; a Savior who saves us through no action on our part.

Being saved and called by the Holy Spirit... this changes everything! Everything!

Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord... I am called and saved by you to do your will in this world. Lead me and guide me and steer me in the direction you have for me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, May 05, 2018

BFF


John 15:9-17
9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Reflection
Love one another... we're all so different. I reflect on the times that I take our dog Barney to the dog park. He is a pro at loving and freindship. He runs up towards another dog and doesn't pick the ones just like himself. Nope ol Barney just picks pretty much the first dog he comes to and greets with such excitement that perhaps the two or more of them run off in joy. If the dog is apprehensive, Barney just moves on. Maybe he will be back to play later. Barney makes this whole love and friendship thing look so easy!

But for me...

It's all so overwhelming. Just look at your Facebook feed. Reflect on the news of the day. Think about all of the people you have neglected, hated or even separated yourself from due to your own opinions, judgments or differences. All of this love stuff is so overwhelming.

How can I be so lovey dovey in a world that sins against me as I sin against it?

Jesus' command to love one another just seems to be a stretch. I see Democrats that sure don't reflect love towards Republicans and vice versa. I see hate towards Muslims, Mexicans, Whites, Blacks, North Koreans, Russians, Jews... the list goes on and on and on...

How do I reconcile the passage above when I know I'm guilty on one level or another? How do I approach this command of Jesus?

In my imperfection and sinfulness; I guess the only thing to do is start somewhere. Start with friendship. Jesus mentions "friend" over and over. How can Jesus claim me as his friend when I crucify him and kill him in my sin? Yet he does. So this friendship idea must be some clue to follow for me to begin to love one another. But... to make friends with all those I mention above seems so overwhelming. And to top it off... why do I want to go make friends with people that I don't agree with, people I'm uncomfortable with, or even people that seem so different and foreign to me?

But... Jesus is giving these commands so that I may love another.

So here goes... make some friends. Discover our differences... but even more so.... see how much I'm alike and celebrate our friendship... even with those Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Russians, North Koreans or whatever wonderful differences God has created in all of his creation.

I have a notion that this friendship thing that Jesus commands is just the trick towards loving one another.

I'm sure I'll confess, forgive and be forgiven and discover so much more that I could ever imagine.

Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, thanks for claiming me as your friend. As I endeavor in the friendship thing, guide me and use me and forgive me when I mess it up. Be with me when I'm afraid and use my words as words of love and understanding that we all are your children created to love one another... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, April 28, 2018

I Can't Imagine!


John 15:1-8

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Reflection

Abide in me... What does this mean? Abide?

First off, abide is a verb. Abide is something that I must do. Abide gives me an action to take. Abide in me... should I take this as a command?

A definition I have seen reflects the meaning of abide to be an acceptance. How do I accept? What am I accepting?

It seems in this passage Jesus is telling us to accept him. To accept him not only because Jesus wants us to accept him but even more, to accept him because without him we are on our own to live and die, and that will be that. Jesus is offering us a chance at eternal life in him. In him and through him we can have eternal life, salvation, and a life that is beyond anything we could ever imagine on our own.

When we "abide" in Jesus we live a life and bear fruit of which we can't even begin to understand on our own. Without this "abide" we bear no fruit. We receive no nourishment to support anything. Without Jesus we can't even support our own life. Without Jesus we dry up and die and become fuel for the fire.

But what if... what if... we accept?

Jesus' words will be with us. We bear fruit. We receive nourishment. Everlasting nourishment that glorifies God, and we are disciples. We become new and refreshed and wonderful creations of God that are created for life and love, and eternally connected to the only source of life through the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Abide in me... What does this mean?

It means life with endless possibilities and endless love in the God of you and of me and of all creation. I CAN'T only imagine! Surely I will be surprised by the endless mysteries God has in store for me. And that is more than all I need.

Prayer

I can't imagine! Nope, Lord, I can't imagine, but I accept the awesome gift of life you offer as I abide in you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, April 14, 2018

They Gave Him a Piece of Broiled Fish


Luke 24:36b-48
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Reflection
So there I was. Yes! I was with all of them when suddenly Jesus appeared. Where did he come from? How did he get in? I suppose at some time Jesus must have been One with that door he came through. He must have been in the door and the door in him, because here he was, right before our eyes. Surely he was like a ghost or something. Surely! Only ghosts can be One with the door! Only ghosts can go through wood and just show up after all. Yep! I was there with them.

But then Jesus says, "Nope! I'm not a ghost!" Yea... right! Even I has a hard time believing this! He came through that door after all and here he was. So Jesus goes on to show us his hands and his feet. Gross! Hands and feet that were One with the wood of that cross just a few days back. The same hands and feet with holes in them! Come on, Jesus, give us a break here. I bet, if I could, I could thrust myself right through those hands and feet just like you, Jesus, thrust yourself through that closed door. Admit it, Jesus, you're a ghost! You may be the Holy Ghost but you're a ghost!

I'm still not sure about all of this. So, just to prove that he wasn't a ghost, Jesus does something with me that nails it, pun intended. They hand me to him and he eats me! Jesus eats me! Jesus chews me up and swallows me and down I go. There I go right into the belly of Jesus! Talk about a reversal of the Jonah deal! I'm in the belly of Jesus! And the stomach acid starts to work on me and before you know it Jesus' body is making me One with his blood. OK! I believe, Jesus! You are not a ghost! You are flesh and blood.

So, I once was a fish. What am I now? I'm one with the body and blood of Jesus now. This whole situation doesn't make a bit of sense to me. Jesus came to prove that he was flesh and blood, Jesus came through this door to prove that he was real but look what he made me!

Then Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that they are witnesses! Come on Jesus! What about the poor ol' fish you just ate!

So what do the disciples do? They go and tell. Sure Jesus makes me One with him in his body and blood and the disciples go and do likewise. They tell of Jesus who gave his body and blood to save them from sin by the actions that Jesus took upon himself. Jesus makes them One with himself through his body and blood given upon that cross and resurrected to new life. Body and blood through the bread and wine  that these new believers take into their own real bodies to digest and become One once again with Jesus.

Talk about a mystery! And I'm just a little ol' digested fish after all!



Prayer
Jesus... I believe! As I tell of your suffering, death and resurrection; I know of your forgiveness and new life. A new life in the here and now, in the flesh and blood while I am One with you... today.... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, October 16, 2017

I AM... The Champion!

Image result for Jesus face on the coinMatthew 22:15-22

The Question about Paying Taxes

 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Reflection

As humans we take things and put our stamp on them. We take things and make them our own by our image or perhaps by our signature. We take things and claim them as our accomplishment. We win trophies and get certificates and claim credit for our mental, physical or maybe even shear work ethic and claim it as our own accomplishment.

When I think of what Jesus said in this passage about giving to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and the things that are God's to God; I can't help but to realize that none of it belongs to the emperor or to myself or to anyone else. We fool ourselves into thinking that what we have done is a result of how great we are. Win the race... was it due to God or to me? Get rich... was it due to my hard work or a result of what skills God has given me. Win the championship game... should I point skyward and then take the cheers for myself?

In this passage of Scripture, I hear God's call to clarify to myself that what I do and say and act, in the end, has no justification for God's loving act of sending Jesus into this world to save me and all people from sin, death and the devil. I cannot take, or even stake claim, through my own efforts, for a righteous judgment of God through my actions.

All I have is a gift from God... I owe it all to God to respond in love and joy to the gift God has chosen to give to me in Jesus. It's not because I won the game, the race, the job or anything else that makes me deserving of this love from God.

I'll give what I need to give to society in order to maintain order, but I owe all I have to God.

And that's great, if you ask me! Thanks be to God!

Prayer

Lord, I see your face all over everything in this creation of your's. I see your face alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Stop!

Image result for stop siPhilippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Exhortations

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Reflection

What rich words are used in this passage. What depth of meaning and human compassion is present also in these words of encouragement and direction. Even the address... "my beloved," contains the passion of  Jesus. Here we are told to keep it up, to keep on keeping on.

In this passage Paul cheers on those Christians that are struggling. Paul lays out many truths and ways that we can deal with our wrestling both with God, with one another and with the devil. If we pause and see the joy God has surrounded and wrapped around our struggles in life we can feel how close God is with us and even beside us or even wrestling with us. God's love is present. If we stop and give thanksgiving for all that God gives to us. Stop... really stop and think about it. Forget the struggle for a moment and give thanks to God. If we but stop and look around at friends, family and those God has placed in our lives and give thanks for presence of God and of people. When we stop we see God.

Stop and wait and see. Stop and wait and taste. The meal is here. The water feels so good in the forgiveness of baptism. The sweet taste of the fruit of the wine and the joy in the actions of God in the blood of Jesus bring about resurrection and joy and everlasting like.

We don't win the fight and win the prize. The prize has been set before us through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And as we wait... we rejoice... we see... we know of  the presence of God in all of our life journey.

Prayer

Lord, as I wrestle in this life you have given me. As I wrestle with the sins I commit. Stop me and let me realize your presence, your joy, your resurrection, your body, your blood, your encouragement; that I may rejoice in love towards you and those you give to me each day. Lead me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What a Feast!

Image result for a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
Isaiah 25:1-9

Praise for Deliverance from Oppression

O Lord, you are my God;
   I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
   the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
   it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
   cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
   a refuge to the needy in their distress,
   a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
   the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
   the song of the ruthless was stilled.


On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
   the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
   the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
   and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
   for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
   Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
   This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Reflection

Protection and salvation... through the storms of life we received protection, relief and salvation.

But before the protection and the relief and the salvation... doesn't this imply that we will struggle, wrestle, deny and possibly turn our backs? God permits us to see our sin. God permits us to smell the stench of our sin. God wrestles with us and touches us and we feel the pain in our flesh. Yet God also heals us and protects us and saves us.

Yes, God leads us to the feast of life... everlasting life in and through Jesus after the cross and into the light of the resurrection.

In knowing this truth we respond in love towards God and in love towards one another. We respond in action and in prayer. We gladly jump right back into that baptismal waters to daily seek forgiveness and grace and new life to live each day in God.

Wait on it... believe and trust in God and wait on it. The feast is coming...

Prayer

Lord, I look forward to that great feast to come with all the saints. I look forward to Sunday and I look forward to the feast of your Kingdom come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen