Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31st Reflection- Breathe! - by Bill Lynch

Ezekiel 37:1-14
1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord God, you know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord." 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord."

Reflection - Breathe!
Something from nothing. That's how God works. He takes dirt, he takes mud, he takes chaos, he takes bones and puts a little bit of wind... a breath... a Word... into the mix and renews life in people. He renews your life and he renews my life and he shows life to all people. All people even if they don't want to believe in him. God will show all of us new life. Not only show the renewed life but give the renewed life... God gives renewed life... even from the grave. Especially from the grave. God gives renewed life in the resurrection of Jesus and grants this gift of renewed life to all the people. What a gift... what a grace.

Even in tiny forms God grants renewed life. God grants renewed life to the infant at baptism. A life full of God as the parents and sponsors raise that newly baptized child in God's Church. God grants renewed life in the healing and the changing of people that are now able to see God in many and various ways. We see God with eyes or without eyes. We see God in the hearts and minds or a caring friend. We see God in our own heart and we see God in the midst of pain and suffering. We see God in the laughter of new joy. Yes... God takes and makes something from nothing.

The issue we and I tend to have is that we hate to deal with and even fear the pain, the suffering, the mourning and the death. We hate the separation. Yes, we hate the change that we can't control. But as is seen in this passage, we need not fear any of this. We need not fear even death itself. God can and will place breath into even the dust we form or the bones we leave behind. God is about renewed life. Witness the renewed life of Lazarus and even Jesus. In the resurrection we all will experience this renewed life in God all because of that step that God took himself in the flesh and blood of Jesus upon that cross thousands of years ago. God showed his promise of renewed life in person to all the world.

Yes, I sin. Yes, I separate myself from God. And yes, in my sin I die. I die to myself and I die to God. In my sin is death and eternal damnation. But, I can also see my sin. I can smell the stench, the rot of my sin and turn to God. I turn to God even in the midst of my exile and my separation. I must look to God and repent of that sin. I must turn to God and place all of my hope, trust and faith in God. The same God that breathes new wind and breath even into dry bones to bring about renewed life.

And when God takes this action. This action of breathing into my lost soul; my separation and exile from God; the wind of God's Spirit takes control of me. I am renewed in life through God's breath and the wind of God's Spirit. I am renewed in the eternal life and the eternal fellowship with God and with all of the saints. Yes, I am renewed and restored to find that even in the midst of my sin and death... God was there with me. God was with me all along. God was with me in the exile and the separation.

A moment of sin and separation drove this message home to me in the bright lights of a sign. A sign that proclaimed to me that even as I was in the midst of my own sin and separation... a sign that flashed boldly and brightly before my eyes the truth of renewed life... "God is closer than you think."

How true... even to some bones... even to some dirt... even in the gritty cross of Ash Wednesday... even in the blood stained cross of Jesus... even in the midst of the tomb... the breath of God... the wind of the Holy Spirit... "God is closer than you think." God is there with you even in the midst of all these times, ready and willing to breathe and renew your life too.

Thanks be to God!

Yes-- hear is a wonderful song that sums it all up from Chris Tomlin.

Lord, breathe on me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29th Reflection - What a Laugh! - by Bill Lynch

John 9:1-41
1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, 7 saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" 9 Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." 10 But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" 11 He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, "Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight." 12 They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know." 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see." 16 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet." 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" 20 His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." 25 He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." 26 They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 27 He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" 28 Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." 30 The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34 They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 36 He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." 37 Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." 38 He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" 41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, "We see,' your sin remains.

Reflection - What a Laugh!
This passage always seemed like a comedy show to me as I have read it many times.

First off, I didn't choose to be born. And I didn't choose to be born with whatever I have. So how can it be assumed that the physical parts of my body that I have or even don't have determine if I have sinned? The disciples jumped into a question that makes assumptions and Jesus just blows all of these assumptions completely apart. This guy wasn't born blind because of sin. This guy is this guy and he happens to be different. Aren't we all different? Isn't our differences a beauty to see and learn and observe? They are in my opinion. I wouldn't want to live with a bunch of Bills (even though I do live with a bunch of bills!). So, why jump to the conclusion that, in this case, if a person is blind that someone must have sinned. The two don't go together.

Second, I love how the people kept bugging the man who was blind and now sees, where Jesus was. Well, this guy doesn't even know what Jesus looks like! How is he supposed to know where Jesus is? Another dumb question making assumptions. Maybe the assumption was that if you can now see, you must have been faking it all of this time. I don't know... but really... the now sighted man is happy to see after all.

Just yesterday I was watching National News and they played a clip of a 40 year old woman after receiving a hearing implant that could now hear for the first time. This reminds me of how overwhelming the blind man who could now see must have been at this moment in his life. And then... and then, there were all of these people stuck on how it all happened, who cured him (who's to say it's a cure?) and if the man that gave him sight did the act of the Sabbath! Really? This guy can see! And we aren't all excited for the guy's new gift of sight? We aren't excited for this now sighted man and how his life will change? All we care about is finding fault with the man, his parents and the man who gave him sight? What's wrong with us!

You know what... we all do this kind of thing too. It's not like I or you or anyone else is innocent of not seeing the gifts of God's grace in life. We want to look at the negative side of way too many things in life and become blinded to the obvious, in your face grace of God, right in front of us.

So in our sin of seeing the negative, the downside of every minor detail of life, we turn to the words of Jesus. We are the blind people! We are blind to the grace of God right before what we think are our own sighted eyes! And Jesus tells us that he is the one to grant real sight. Not just the sight of our eyes... that's so easy for God, but the sight of our souls to the grace of God that is present with us and all around us.

Yes, we... I am the sinner of this passage. I am the one that needs sight. I am the one that need Jesus to take some spit and dirt and form the mud that drives me to the pool of water that will grant me sight through Jesus' act of love and compassion. I am the one that needs Jesus to find me in the darkness of my sin as I beg for forgiveness. I am the one that needs the sight of God's grace. I am the one that needs to be compelled to proclaim "Lord, I believe." I am the one who's very existence, who's very being and life is fully dependent upon God's gracious act of love upon that cross that died in my sin and I am the very one that looks to the resurrection of Jesus.

Without Jesus, I die in my own dark sin forever.

So, for me... it's true... as a I once heard a friend of mine say at one of our Saturday Morning Men's Meetings, respond to the question of what you would say upon entering heaven... "I want to see Jesus!"

Amen to that my friend! Yes! I want to see Jesus too!

And as Jesus opens my eyes to see him... all I can picture is Jesus laughing... I'm laughing.. and we're both excited about this entire comedy scene of life... everlasting life!

Thanks be to God!

Yes, I want to see you and I want to touch you and I want to see your face, Jesus!

Lord, open my eyes to see you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26th Reflection - Come out! - by Bill Lynch

Ephesians 5:8-14
8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Reflection - Come out!
When we've come out of the darkness of our sin into the Light of Christ all things change. We can see! We couldn't see when we were in the darkness of our sin. We couldn't see the harm we were doing to not only ourselves but to so many other people as well. But when we come to God in sin and God shows us Love and forgiveness, even in the consequences of our sin, we live in a new Light. We live aware of our sin but at the same time free from that sin so that we can rejoice in the Light and live anew.

That's grace! That's the grace of God that comes to us in the Light of Christ. When our sin is exposed to God and God's Spirit shows us a new and different way, we experience the freedom only Jesus can grant. So, when this passage states "Sleeper, awake!" I can't help but to think of how Lazarus must have felt when he stepped out of that tomb and saw the Light of Christ before him commanding him to "Come out!"

Yes, we too "Come out!" from our sin and step into the bright Light of Christ when we come to Jesus in faith and hope for forgiveness of our sin. We too step into the bright Light of Christ in new life.

When we step into the Light of Christ the first thing we see is Jesus and then, we step into the communion of saints who are joyful in our change from darkness to stepping into the Light. We are now in communion with the Church. We are invited and yes we are joyful too to respond in the work of the saints of the Light. We gladly reach out of the Church to the sick, the poor, those in prison, the hungry, the homeless, yes all of those people that are just like us that God sent Jesus to save. We step into the Light of Christ and we step into the Joy of the Spirit of the Church and we step out of the Church into the mission and call that God has prepared for us and all of his Church. We go! We go, as children of the Light. And we go in all joy and thanksgiving for what God first done through Jesus for all of the world.

I leave you with this song that reminds me of what it must have been like for Lazarus and how it is like my step from sin into the Light of Christ and the joy of the Church.

Lord, I come to you and kneel humbly in your presence. I can't live without your Love and forgiveness.  Call my name from the darkness of my sin into your Light and the joy of the Church... today... tomorrow and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 23
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.

As I read this Psalm, it was as if I went back in time. A time and a church. Morning Sun Presbyterian Church in the country outside of Hueston Woods State Park. I was asked to give a series of sermons for a dear pastor friend whom I deeply respected, that was taking a sabbatical for six weeks to renew and refresh.

As my reflection --- truly my remembrance of a reflection of time past, I present these words today. Words presented to a wonderful flock of Jesus' disciples then and now.

Listen to the Shepherd's Voice 
Sermon 7/23/2006

Prayer for Illumination
Lord; come to us this day. Let us hear your voice. Let us know your call. Let us feel your presence in our lives. And let us follow you. May these words lead us to the Master and Teacher who is the Son of God. – Amen

The 23rd Psalm. One of many favorites of all time. But what is it about this Psalm that appeals to such a large percentage of Christians throughout all time?

The early church sang Psalm 23 as the baptized person emerged from the font and proceeded into the newly illumined church for Eucharist.

Today many a funeral has the 23rd Psalm read.

This Psalm is like a walk through life with our Shepherd taking care of all of our needs. This Psalm is like a prayer of worship to God before a sermon that our Pastor would tell us of a Lord whose name is Christ and make him known to us. That during this sermon I would be attentive to listen to the words of the message as I am led to this Master and Teacher who is the Son of God.

So let’s take that journey here and now through Psalm 23. Feel Jesus’ presence; Once again hear him walking close by. Walking once again as we heard him walk in that Garden years ago. Walking with you and me through life. Our Shepherd. Our Lord – Our Savior.

The practice of Eastern shepherds was to have various flocks sheltering together in a common fold. The shepherd of a particular flock would approach the fold, come to the gate and call.

Groups of two or three sheep would know his voice and turn and follow the shepherd.
The shepherd knew each one of his sheep.

In the church we must remember that we need to exist in the fold of the sheep. If we think we as sheep can go it on our own—we deceive ourselves.

Jesus calls the flock- the flock – even though he knows each one of us- he calls us as a flock to follow him. In this we see that Christ must remain the head of the church. There is strength in membership of the flock.

Jesus has called us – we hear our Shepherd’s voice. I am called through the gift of my baptism. I am called by Jesus as a Child of God. I am called unique. I am called peculiar in a wonderful way. But all the same, I am called. You are called. And we begin to move towards Jesus voice. In pairs- maybe two or three. We join together in our walk towards our Shepherds voice. We get up and walk. And we find a Lord who is a wonderful Shepherd taking care of all our wants and needs.

"I shall not want." – come on – I will want! – But who is I?

If I think of myself as a body—I will without a doubt want! – Who here hasn’t been hungry or thirsty – need rest – the body has needs and wants. As a body – as human flesh – I will want.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective though- Who is I? – How about – Do I have a Soul?—No! – I have no soul! – I have no soul! – This is a surprising and bold statement to make. An early preacher made this point years ago. I have no soul--- I am a soul and I have a body. This is the change in perspective of thinking here on "Who is I?"

I am a soul that has a body.

So when I think of myself as "Soul" – I can see that with this perspective – with Christ as my Shepherd – "I shall not want." – With Christ there is nothing- absolutely nothing else I will ever need- In Christ I shall not want. Thanks be to God.

Listen to the Shepherds Voice- "I shall not want."

My Shepherd makes me lie down. He makes me. No request here. Christ makes me lie down. Just as in our reading from Mark. Jesus knows when we need rest. And he will make us lie down. He will make it happen. In command we see renewal and restoration. God throughout all time has told of us this need. Even in and through the creation story and the Ten Commandments. A rest happens. A Sabbath of renewal takes place.

And as Sheep – Jesus our Shepherd makes us rest.

Listen to the Shepherds Voice. "He makes me lie down."

So at the beginning we hear his voice. Rise and slowly join together – one to two, two to three and more to follow our call together as Chosen children of God. Following our Shepherd who takes care of all our wants and makes us rest in life. Then he restores us. He restores our soul. That different perspective. I am soul – which happens to have a body. Rest-

Remember the times of rest- real rest—Life is like this – we start on a journey – then God gives us rest- rest in green pastures.

Green- green becomes green with Light and Water- Green – those refreshing baptismal waters of life- that warmth and Light of the Son our Savior- Jesus who provides that everliving water of life- that continual renewal in our baptism – day after day we relive our baptism and feel the water of life entering our souls- each morning giving thanks for those baptismal waters that restore us- combine those waters with the warmth of the Son – the Light of the world- the Word that became flesh and dwelt amongst us- God’s Water- God’s Light in a Savior for each of us and for all of us. Green with Life- Light and Water. Showers as well as sunshine-

But rest and restoration is not an end. He restores my soul- there is that soul again- I am soul that has a body--- in the restoration we see our life as movement—not stagnation- we move on by the lead of our Shepherd—after restoration the journey is not haphazard- it leads somewhere- there is spiritual gain to by found in all that God permits to happen to us.

Listen to the Shepherds Voice. "He restores my soul."

He guides me in paths of righteousness.

Purpose in my life- I have been restored now it’s time to get up and go. Begin the journey God has called me to through my baptism. Seek to discover the gain God has for my soul. This path will not always be easy. Jesus my Shepherd will guide me but that doesn’t mean this will be a cakewalk. The path may be hard. The path may be narrow. I may have to squeeze through a gate or two. I can expect to feel some pain.

We are being led back to the main flock. That flock of saints in glory. Those souls who have taken this journey. Or a journey unique to their lives that led them by the Savior back to the fold. Back to the host of saints in heaven where we will once again gather in glory. But for now- for you- for I – we follow the lead We trust in our guide and follow in faith.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice. "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names sake."

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death"---

Notice how we were refreshed by the still waters – before the hardest part of our journey- then while in the dark there is illumination- the Light of Christ. Even though we walk through the shadow of death- journey into the dark corners of life- we have our Light- our Shepherd as our guide. Walking there once again as always -–at our side.

Do you hear his walk? Do you hear him walking in the Garden? That Tree of Life- Can you hear the walk? – He is walking with you in the darkness of your life—hear the walk- feel Christ with you by your side- with you from the beginning and even now.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice. "Even though you will walk in the darkness I need not fear because Jesus is there with me to guide and protect me.

Jesus there to protect and comfort me. Comfort me with his rod and his staff. I can’t defeat evil on my own. Christ defeats evil on the cross for me. He has defeated evil with his rod and I must depend on this and this alone. I can't depend on my own strength. Only through Jesus -–and he will use his rod and staff on me also- to lead me- to guide me- to discipline me as a loving Shepherd will always do to his sheep. That’s comfort! – Yea I may be disciplined- I will know my sin – but in the knowing of my sin- Jesus will guide me and redirect my path.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice- your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

We’re going back to the fold where a table is prepared. A table spread before me. A communion table along the way in the dark valley. That table where we can take in the body and blood of Christ. Remember once again the price Jesus paid for us. Even in the dark valley. Jesus our Shepherd leads us back to this table – time and time again to remind us of what a price he paid for each one of us- and for all of us together as his Church – Jesus is our Shepherd preparing that table now and in the future and showing us the price he paid for our lives.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice-He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies.

He anoints my head with oil. Remember that baptism? He anoints you too! – Anoints our heads with oil. Treats us so kindly. Loves us so much. A deep deep love that we can’t understand. A love that anoints us even though we don’t deserve it. Feel the Love of the Shepherd in your life. Feel his deep love and be so gracious for it. Give him thanks day after day all your life.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice- He anoints your head with oil.

And my cup overflows. What a wonderful Shepherd. As we walk through the valley we begin to come out. We get closer and closer to the fold – to that wonderful flock of saints in heaven and we see that in this journey – this tough and painful journey – this calling in Christ – that our cup overflows-

Now that’s Grace—a cup that overflows- that love of Christ freely given that overflows our cup- that blood at the table- beyond belief- overflowing the cup- more than we ever need- may our cups overflow with the love of Christ that his love will overflow in us to be given to the world we live in. – May Christ’s love overflow in us and spill out into each one of our worlds. Spill to every person we meet this week that they too may know and see Christ –active in our life – Christ – real and alive in and through us.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice- my cup of love overflows

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life- Our journey continues- Called- baptized- fed with the body and blood- the bread and the wine- given his love to overflowing – we now see the goodness and love God has freely given to us through our Savior. Wow! – I will follow!

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice- Goodness and Love will follow you all the days of your life.

Then there it is – and even here it is. – Now we know – now we see- that through this journey – through this walk with the Shepherd- all along- we have already begun the journey of eternal life- We being baptized –saved- followers of the Shepherd have already begun the gracious gift of eternal life- it’s already started- right here and now we have eternal life through our Shepherd- And we already dwell with the fold- We just didn’t know it all this time- we are living our eternal life through the grace of God and right now are dwelling with God – dwelling with and in God and in his temple- We have walked to the heart of God – and in this walk we find along the way that we were already with our Shepherd.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice- You will dwell in and with God- in his house forever.

Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice.
Feel Jesus walking by your side in life.
Feel his presence.
Touch his cloak. It’s real!
Hear his voice and follow his lead.
Don’t be fooled by any other voice- follow the Shepherd’s Voice.
Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice!


Lord, as I hear your voice may your, may I always follow you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24th Reflection - Signed... Sealed... Delivered by Bill Lynch

1 Samuel 16:1-13
1 The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." 2 Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the Lord said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you." 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" 5 He said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord." 7 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." 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one." 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen any of these." 11 Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one." 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Reflection - Signed... Sealed... Delivered
We are all chosen by God in one way or another. But, as in this passage, when God chooses, God looks, not on what we see on the outside, but God looks at what is in the heart. God looks into the center of our being and knows what we are and how we are made and what we can do. God sees right inside, because God knows us deeply.

Sometimes, in my sin, I find this characteristic of God disturbing. I would rather God not know some of the things that I think. I would rather God not know some of the things that I have done. But, I can't do anything about that. God is God and I am me.

I guess I could and do live with guilt. I guess I could dwell on that guilt of sin. But God has a way. When I realize that God knows me, I come to God with those sins. I come to God and confess my sin. I come to God and look for direction. I come to God and God forgives me and sets me down a different path. That doesn't mean that everything is just dandy. It may mean that I have a tough road to go down because of the sin that I have committed. Yes, even David went to God with his sin and traveled some really rough roads because of his sin. But, God still stuck with David. God chose David and loved David too much.

Sometimes what we see gets in the way of what God wants. We don't see something in another person and discount that person. What a sin! What a shame it is when we do this and pass by that person and choose another person that seems to have the traits we are looking for. This may be with a mate or with a politician or with a worker, or with one chosen for a job. We tend to see what is on the outside but don't see in the heart. But, God doesn't choose based on the outward appearance because God knows the heart. So, there are cases when a choice is made or even ordained by God that surprises us. God is full of surprises and surprising people.

When a person, even you or me, is chosen by God and anointed with that cross, we are led by the Spirit in the gifts that God has given each of us. And when the fruit of those gifts comes to all fullness, God puts us into action. Yes, we are called, we are chosen. And that's all of us, not just a few. You are called by God. Get ready for it. Yes, you are called. You will be blindsided but you really shouldn't be. God chooses you and you may as well know that God will use you... somehow... someway.

With a little humor, I present the following song from You Tube for your enjoyment. However, to make this a little better, don't think so much of yourself that you think that you can come into the presence of God with yourself... it seems more correct to me that God shows up to us and yes... God takes the action and Signs and Seals and Delivers us and makes us his own. In a way, we learn that God is ours too, when we are "Signed, Sealed and Delivered."

Lord, I know when I rise each day, in some way you will put me into action. Open my ears and my eyes and look into my heart that I may act and do what you would have me do. Direct my choices this day so that I look beyond the obvious of the situation and look into the heart of the matter. Bless my actions and forgive my inaction, that all I may do is pleasing to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23rd Reflection - Water! - by Bill Lynch

John 4:5-42
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." 11 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" 13 Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." 15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." 16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." 17 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" 19 The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." 26 Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 33 So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" 34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, "Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

Reflection - Water!
I am so glad! So glad, that Jesus comes to me, the one deserving death, the unclean one. Yes, Jesus comes to me as he came to the Samaritan woman at the well to give living water, abundant water, water that brings everlasting life. If it weren't for Jesus, I surely would be on the path to eternal and everlasting death. I would be on may way to hell. It's that simple and that plain.

But Jesus did come to me. Jesus comes to all. Jesus comes for you as well as anyone to grant eternal life. God bursts into our fleshly, sinful, materialistic, power-hungry, greedy world, in flesh, to show us another side of life. God is Spirit and in this Spirit, Jesus brings God in flesh and in Spirit.

It's easy to see what we can observe. In some ways, science is easy. Science is a gift from God that permits us to observe all that God has created in the natural realm of this universe. We can joyfully and wonderfully submerse ourselves for an earthly lifetime on the science and observation of this universe and the way it works. Yes, Jesus, as God came in the flesh, but Jesus, also came as Spirit. God comes to us in the science of the flesh and also the mystery of the Spirit of God.

And in this Spirit we receive something that we cannot observe. We receive through the gracious actions of God, eternal life in Jesus. We are introduced to something new. We are shown the Spirit of God. I can get a drink of water and quench my thirst. I get that. But Jesus gives us a drink, in the Spirit, of water that springs up to eternal life. That's the mystery of God! That's the love of God in what God has done for us, for you, for me, for anyone.

So, will you trust Jesus? Will you believe Jesus? Will you take a drink of THIS water that Jesus has? This water that gushes and overflows in a spiritual way? This water of life from Jesus himself that leads to eternal life?

We come to Jesus as Nicodemus did under the cover of night, yet Jesus comes to us in the bright light of the noon day sun. We come to Jesus seeking the answers to questions both physical and spiritual, yet Jesus comes to us with answers to questions that we never even asked. Some come to Jesus with the power and prestige of a Pharisee, yet Jesus comes to us that are in the mundane tasks of life that seem to never end. We come to Jesus thinking we know the way to God, yet Jesus comes to us knowing we are lost in our sin and offers eternal life. We come to Jesus in doubt and Jesus comes to us in love to save us from all of our doubts.

Yes, Jesus is a contrast in flesh and Spirit. Jesus is a contrast in death and life. Jesus is God and the One. God both as flesh and Spirit who comes to save us, rich and poor, big jobs, little jobs, powerful, abused, healthy, sick, and in whatever state of being we happen to be, to offer to us the life giving gift of this everlasting and eternal water of life that can only come from God. Jesus comes to us to be in a relationship with us that lasts throughout and beyond all time and all space.

What else can I say... Thanks be to God!

Here is a link to You Tube that expresses Thanks to Jesus.

Thank you Jesus for coming to me in the midst of the noon day heat of my sin and saving me from certain death. Thank you Jesus for showing me your Spirit. Thank you Jesus for your suffering, your dying, your resurrection, your healing, your teaching, your leading and your guiding. Thank you, Jesus for life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21st Reflection - Life! - by Bill Lynch

Romans 5:1-11
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Reflection - Life!
I am righteous before God. You are righteous before God. We all are righteous before God, but not because of one tiny thing we have done. We are righteous before God because of what God has done through Jesus. We are righteous before God and in our faith in God live a new life. We live a new beginning that is far different from the start of what we have attempted on our own.

Because of what Jesus did for us on that cross and because of Jesus' resurrection we can live a new life. A life that produces a new fruit. A fruit of God that comes from our faith in God. A fruit that comes even through the storms, the drought, the wind and the pounding rain of life. We produce a fruit that endures. This fruit endures, not because of us but because we have a God that cares for us in and through the tough times of our life. A God that knows how it is to live on this earth and in this flesh and with the sinfulness of all the world around us.

Yes, we are righteous before God because of Jesus life, death, suffering, teaching, healing and resurrection to new life after he defeated sin, death and the devil. We are righteous in our faith in God. So, we can jump into life knowing that our fate is secure. We can live life to a fullness that could only be realized through faith in God. We can charge into battle, we can rush into the wilderness with a strong faith that our result is sure and already taken care of... we will come through and live everlasting life with God... in relationship with God... not separated from God... but united with God in Christ Jesus.

And as we jump into life, full strength, we produce the fruit that God has made to dwell within us... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, generosity and gentleness. All of the characteristics we have been taught and shown by our Savior, Jesus.

So, knowing that we are righteous before God because of Jesus... we live... we live hard... we go at it in a strength that is beyond ourselves. We live knowing the outcome of our living is resting in the hands of the only One who could take care of us anyway. We live by faith with God. Thanks be to God!

Here is a song that celebrates Jesus, the One who makes us righteous.

Lord, you came to me at the right time, the perfect time, the time when I needed you the most. You came to me and showed me a different way. You came to me and brought me from death to life in you. As I follow in your will and your way, guide my footsteps that I may produce the fruit you desire... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18th Reflection - Sing! - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,
   let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!
   Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
   as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me,
   and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
   and said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
   and they do not regard my ways.’
Therefore in my anger I swore,
   ‘They shall not enter my rest.’

Reflection - Sing!
God, you are powerful, mighty and wonderful in all ways.
   See the heavens and the seas and the powers that move within,
You have created all that is seen and unseen.
   You rule all things with a Word that comes forth from eternity.
Yes, God, you are the King, the Ruler, the Almighty Powerful.
   I witness only the smallest fraction of your power in my life.

Yet, God, you come to such people as myself.
   You come in flesh and spirit to save me from sin and death.
I fall before you in praise and adoration of your detail to loving even me.
   For before your feet, I bow to worship at the foot of the cross.
Your Son, has come to redeem me from sin, darkness and death.
   And your glory shines so brightly from my smallness to your infinite love.

I call out to hear your voice and listen to your will and your way.
   I seek to be obedient to the call you shout out to me each day.
For you lead me through the wilderness of life and draw me near the waters.
   And in the waters you pour out your Spirit and Word and Promise.
I could never forget your reach deep within my soul.
   And I praise your name now and forevermore.

Sing to the Lord! I leave you with a song of praise to God.

Lord, you are my King. Yes, you are the One and only God. God of heaven, earth and all time and space. You are God! To you all glory and honor and power belong. Permit me to hear your voice and understand your Word that I may act out the love your have shown to me and to all people... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17th Reflection - Go! - by Bill Lynch

Genesis 12:1-4a
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Reflection - Go!
Notice how this passage starts out with God. God gives Abram a command to "Go." God gives Abram and Sarai a command to pick up and leave. Then the passage continues with God... I will make... I will bless...I will bless... I will curse. God is in the forefront of this passage all over the place. It's not a passage about Abram and Sarai, rather this passage is about a God that loves and cares for the couple to assure them that in the going is the journey. God loves and cares for the couple to assure them that God will be with them as they "Go."

And... Abram and Sarai went! They went because they both had faith in God. And Lot went along as well. God gave a promise and Abram and Sarai believed in that promise and picked up and left.

This is what God calls all of us to do in our lives. God leads us into the future that God has planned for our lives. God promises a future and a relationship that will be eternal and everlasting. As we read in the New Testament the promises of Jesus to be with us always we can be assured, just as Abram, Sarai and Lot were assured, that in our "Going" we will have God to lead us and guide us through the ups and downs and the ins and outs of our life journey. A journey that will take place in physical space here on this earth and in the spiritual realm of our lives. God takes us on a journey into the future... into eternity. And all we do is "Go."

Yes, we have the trust, hope and faith in God that we are bold to "Go." Go into the future of space and spirit with God into eternity. What more could we ever desire?

For the past few months, this has been the song that I wake to each week day. I leave you with this gift as a reminder of what Abram, Sarai and we all do each day. And on top of that... how could I not mention that childhood dream of mine when Jesus came to my front door on Washington St. in Sidney Ohio, with Moses, Elijah and someone else, wanting to know if Billy came come out and play!

Lord, as I hear your promise to Abram and Sarai that a great nation will proceed from them; may I be a part of that nation of people who hear your promise and have the trust, hope and faith in you to "Go" with you wherever you may lead. I "Go" knowing that you will always be there in the ups and downs of the journey and of my life. Lead me as I "Go"... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16th Reflection - I want to know you, Jesus! - by Bill Lynch

John 3:1-17
1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." 3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above.' 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Reflection - I want to know you, Jesus!
He came in the dark and left in the dark but was being led by the Light. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark of the night and in the darkness of his thoughts. Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions. Who are you Jesus? There is something different about you that I can't quite put my finger on. What are you up to? What's the deal with you, Jesus? These thoughts go through my mind and I wonder if the same thoughts were going through the mind of Nicodemus that evening.

I tend to question Jesus. I want to know more... so much more. I want to know about this man that I have not physically seen or touched. I want to know about Jesus and touch him and ask questions. I want to know Jesus! I want to know all about Jesus. After all... I have chosen to follow Jesus as his disciple. Jesus has called me out of sin and poured the waters of baptism over me and sealed me with the sign of the cross and called me and gifted me and set me in this world to follow him in his will and his way. So... I want to know you, Jesus!

I want to know Jesus in the darkness of my sin and in the dark times of my life. I want to know Jesus in when I sin and fall short of his will and his way. I want to know why Jesus loves me. I want to know why Jesus died for me. I want to know why Jesus chose me. I want to know what Jesus will do with such a sinner as myself. I want to know you, Jesus!

Like Nicodemus, I come to Jesus as my teacher. Yes, Jesus is my Teacher and I sit in the darkness of my sin and death to hear what Jesus has to say. And Jesus tells me to be born again or to be born from above. What's that all about? If I'm born again, then I must enter the darkness of the womb of my mother. But, I don't want to go back into darkness... I want Jesus to call me to his Light! But, does Jesus want me in the dark? Maybe it's in the darkness that Jesus chooses to show himself to me. Maybe it's in the darkness that I see my need for Jesus. So many questions! I want to know you, Jesus!

But what about being born from above. That I can handle. Yes, that's more like it Jesus! I think of the Light of heaven. I think of the eternal Light of God. That's a birth that calls me out of the darkness to a Light that I can bathe in for eternity. That's more like it Jesus! I want to know you, Jesus!

Born again, born from above, born anew... what a question mark you leave me with, Jesus! I know you want me to experience another birth... but how... why... what kind? I know you speak of something mysterious... something spiritual... something of another world... but I don't get it. Yes! I want to be born of the same spirit by which you came into this world. You left the Light of heaven to dwell in the darkness, the sin, the pain, the suffering, the illness, the persecution, the hunger, the death of this world... WHY? I want to know you, Jesus!

Is this the Spirit you speak of? Is this what you are speaking to me about as your Word proceeds through the darkness of the night and shows me a new life, a new Light, a new place of being with God? Is this the Kingdom of which you speak? Yes, Jesus, I want to be with you in this Kingdom! Yes, Jesus, I want to dwell with you in spirit! Yes, Jesus, I want to be with you. You build my faith so much that I have a passion. I have a passion of your love and your will and your way that I can't fulfill on my own. I want to know you, Jesus!

You want me to be born of water and the Spirit. Pour on the water Jesus! Pour on the Spirit! Yes, Jesus, Yes! I want to know you, Jesus!

Come to me in the darkness of night as I have come to you. Come to me in the darkness of my sin and come to me in the darkness of my death to myself and show yourself to me Jesus! Come to me Jesus! I want to know you, Jesus!

Let the wind blow where it wants. Let the wind of the Spirit blow new into my life. Let the wind of the Spirit blow all over the chaotic waters of my sinful, selfish life that I may live, yes be born again, born anew, born from above in you Jesus! I want to know you, Jesus!

I can't arrange for this Wind, this Spirit, this coming. As you have come to me in my life from above, may the Spirit come to me. May your Love come to me. May new life come to me and to all the people. Not only me, Jesus, but to all people. Yes! I want to know you, Jesus!

I can't ascend to this heavenly place with you Jesus, unless you descend into my darkness and give me a new birth. I can't ascend unless you descend into my sin and take me with you as a new born. I want to know you, Jesus!

Yes, Jesus, now I have faith! I know that you are the Light, the Will, the Way to a new birth and a new Kingdom and a new spirit within me. But... I want to know you, Jesus!

Then, Jesus, you punctuate this passage of Scripture. You place the !!! upon it all. God so loved the world! God so loved the world that you came! You came for all people! God so loved the world that you were given into the darkness of this world and the darkness of my life and the darkness of our sin to LIVE! You were given to die and to rise again and to LIVE! You came into this world not to condemn us and give us what I and we deserve. You came into this world to save us! I want to know you Jesus. Yes! I want to know you,  Jesus!

How can I not leave you with this song... for...  I want to know you, Jesus!

God, how I want to know you! Father, Son, Spirit... I want to know you. I want to be bathed in your waters. I want to be blown away with the winds of your Spirit. I want to be created by you my Creator. I want to know you! For you are ALL... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 15th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations")—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

It's all about faith! No, wait a minute... It's all about works! We must obey the Law passed down. But, if it's all about works and I can obey the Law... then I don't need God. But to date, I can only think of one person that has been able to obey the Law completely. So, we are all left out of this equation and all of life is meaningless.

In my mind, it's not ALL about faith and/or it's not ALL about works and the Law. It's ALL about God.

So, what is this "promise" that we have been given? God promised Abraham a great reward. A reward of many children. More children than Abraham could ever imagine. But to Abraham, named Abram at the time, he couldn't see the reality of this promise, Abram was old and childless. Children seemed out of Abram's realm of imagination. So, Abram needed faith to believe in the promise God was giving. Abram needed to trust in the Word of God and believe. It wasn't about Abram needing to become fertile, or Abram needing to be righteous before God because of any works that Abram could accomplish. It was about God's promise and the truth of the promise that Abram would be the father of many nations.

It wasn't about faith or works or the Law. It was about God. God was going to act in Abram's life. Abram had just better believe it. So, did Abram have a choice? Well, I really don't know. But Abram could choose to have faith in what God promised. Abram could choose to be an active participant in relationship with God in God's works in Abram's life. Abram could choose to follow the Law to please God because of Abram's love for God and God's ways.

Abram was receiving a call. A call that came with a promise. God was going to use Abram and bring along a whole host of people after Abram in the promise as well. Abram was going to be the father of all of us who God calls and promises a relationship. So, when all is said and done... it's not about Abraham, it's not about faith, it's not about works, but it's about God and the relationship God chooses to have with all God's people.

Oh, how Abraham's faith would be tested! But God's promise to Abram stood eternal in the giving of Jesus as that sacrifice upon that altar of the cross. It wasn't the blood of Abraham's son that was shed, but rather the blood of Jesus as God the Father gave up God the Son as the ultimate sacrifice for all the people's sin. Yes... it's ALL about God!

And those people include me and you and everyone else. God wants a relationship with each of us and all of us. God promised children to Abram and here we are. The children of Abraham did not die upon that altar. God kept the promise. And in this promise, God gave a Son to die for our failure to be able to keep the Law. Jesus, died for our sinful separation from God to bring back into relationship with God all the children because God wants a relationship with you, with me and with all of us together.

We are God's creation and we are God's people. So, we can choose something now. We can choose to have faith, like Abram did and believe in the promise that God sets before us, or we can choose to run from God. Either way God wants a relationship with us.

It's ALL about God and in God we have faith. And through faith we respond with the works that God would have us do as we live in relationship with God and with one another.

I leave you with a song by Chris Rice that reminds me of how Abraham lived and how I live my life holding on to God's hand in a relationship of faith through the questions of life.

Lord, as I recall your relationship with Abraham help me to live out my life in the faith and love and trust that can only occur through you and you alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, March 14, 2014

March 14th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Exodus 17:1-7
1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." 5 The Lord said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

You're in pain, you're suffering and you're complaining all the time. That's how it is for me many times in my life. I focus on the pain and forget about the blessings. I focus on what I'm lacking and can't see in front of my face what abundance I live with. I focus on the hate and forget to love. There's no water to drink in this case. I'm thirsty and I'm tired of living this way. I can't take it any longer. I've been there and am one of the best at complaining. I fight with God over all the little things that seem like big things in my life and forget about God all together. I forget about God's true power to bring not only me but thousands, maybe millions and more likely billions of people out of the wildernesses of their lives.

I look on the television and see children in Syria being born into muddy refugee camps and yet I complain about some pain I have. But, I still thirst for water! What's wrong with me? Lord, why did you lead me into this life just to kill me off in this way? Couldn't you have taken my life in some other way? Why am I thirsty?

And then God does it! Then the rock opens up and abundant water flows. Life giving water flows and satisfies my every desire. Sure, God has been there all along, but why did my self-centered attitude focus all of my attention upon myself? Why do I sin in this way? After all... just look around... the need... the suffering... yet the blessing God provides.

If this doesn't drop a person to their knees before God in repentance then nothing will. Before God I come full of reasons to repent of my sin. I fall to the foot of that cross and slowly look upon my Savior who has become my sin and put it to death upon that cross right in front of me. I fall in need of forgiveness. And in that gracious act of forgiveness, I must act. I must reach out in the midst of my own wilderness to those in the midst of their own wildernesses. I must react and tell them of a God that is full of blessing. I must proclaim that even in the midst of the wilderness, God will provide life giving water. Even in death there is life... just look up from where I am at the base of that cross... yes! even in death there is life as Jesus dies upon that cross in my sin. Yes... I know there is a resurrection. I know of a new life in Christ that only comes through the wilderness of temptation, suffering and death.

So, I give thanks for that water that flows from that rock of salvation. The water that flows in the wilderness that draws me to fall in repentance at the foot of the cross and give thanks to God! Now with my heart soft and pliable, I live by the grace of God... even in the wilderness of pain and suffering and sin. I live because of what God has done... and only because of what God has done.

Thanks be to God!

Here is a song that I leave you with that reminds me of myself in the midst of the wilderness and that awesome love of God that is freely given through that life-giving water.

Lord, lead me to act out your love to those that walk in the wilderness of pain, illness, suffering, hunger, homelessness that all may come to see the life giving water you have graciously given to us in Jesus Christ... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, March 08, 2014

March 8th Reflection - In the Wilderness - by Bill Lynch

Matthew 4:1-11
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4 But he answered, "It is written, "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you,' and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' " 7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' " 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Reflection - In the Wilderness
So here we have Jesus just after his baptism. Or perhaps likewise we have the Israelites just after having crossed through the waters of the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds. In both cases we have an act of faith combined with a revelation of God in all power. And in both cases the journey ahead leads each into the wilderness.

Perhaps the wilderness of life, the wilderness of land or maybe even both. But Jesus and the Israelites were led for a long time into the wilderness. And in this wilderness there would be suffering and temptation. For the Israelites, there would be doubt in God, but for Jesus there would be a strong and firm dedication to the will of the Father and the mission that Jesus was called to follow in this place and in this time. A place that is terminal but a time that is eternal. This is the mission that Jesus was called to carry out. In contrast, the Israelites were led in land and promise, but failed the call to obedience to God.

In many ways I have to identify with the Israelites. I have been called in a place and a time. But I fail the obedience of the test and sin. So, knowing of my sin and my failure in the sight of God; I must turn to the obedience and the calling of Jesus. I must learn to follow Jesus and be Jesus disciple. Jesus' long time in the wilderness was a testing of his resolve. And now I know that in my wilderness, I can depend on the presence of Jesus at my side while I wander for a long time in the wilderness.

As I wander through the wilderness, I see bread and wine turned into the saving body and blood of my Savior Jesus. I see the Word of Promise take hold in my inner being and feed me and sustain me for my walk and the temptations that I too must face. I see the water and the oil of my baptism daily letting me die to my sin and likewise daily raising me to knew life in the resurrection of Jesus in my very own life. I see the forgiveness of sin by God at the confession rail. All of this in the wilderness that I walk through in my own situation and stations of life. I also see a Savior that has come through the wilderness for me and for you that we may reach the promised land of everlasting life and everlasting relationship with God my Creator, God my Savior, God my Teacher and God my One and only hope.

In the wilderness I am gifted with the preparation of life eternal and gifted with the chance to focus on my Savior and his will and his way for me as I walk in the darkness of the wilderness and as Jesus leads me towards the new life of crossing that river into eternal life with Jesus in the lead.

In the wilderness, for a long time, Jesus withstood the testing and temptation of the devil. Jesus came out focused on his call and his mission. Likewise in my wilderness I am tested and tempted, but I have Jesus to focus upon who will walk with me, beside me, behind me and in front of me to lead me out of this wilderness. For it's in the wilderness that I learn the trust and hope and faith that I place in Jesus. I need Jesus in the wilderness. Without Jesus in the wilderness I am eternally lost and damned. In the wilderness, I learn the trust, hope and faith that Jesus teaches me all along the way, even while I am tempted to sin, even while I fall to sin, but even while I am being saved by Jesus.

Yes, in the wilderness... I learn... that Jesus is... the Son of God!

This song reminds me of my only hope in the wilderness in which I walk with Jesus.

Lord, lead me and guide me through this wilderness. Teach me and feed me and show me how to resist the temptations that are set before me. Forgive me when I fail and restore me to new life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, March 07, 2014

March 7th Reflection - What? - by Bill Lynch

Romans 5:12-19
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Reflection- What?
What in the world is Paul saying here? Spin my head and send me out Paul! So, I'm going to attempt to dumb this down a little so that I and maybe you can understand enough to ask questions of God. It's as if sin takes on it's own character and becomes Sin in some way in this passage. And Sin enters into this world through the disobedience of Adam. Adam chose to try to be like God, and in this attempt, Adam sinned. So along with this Sin that has come into this world through Adam, comes the consequence to Sin which is death. So, now we have Sin and it's consequence, death that rules the world.

And Paul rightly points out how we all are involved with this Sin. We all are like Adam in this respect. We all are intimate with Sin and we all deserve the consequence of this involvement with Sin in death. So, we all are in it with Sin and we all deserve death, not just through what Adam had done, but because we all have now sinned ourselves. In fact we were born into Sin and death.

So, by a single act, Sin entered into this world through Adam. Likewise, by a single act Grace and Forgiveness have entered into this world through Jesus. I see this as more than a single act however. I see it as a triple act. Jesus comes to us. Jesus dies in our sin for us. Jesus arose from the death of our sin for us. Summed up however all in the one act of God giving us Jesus.

Jesus establishes grace and life which trumps what Adam established in sin and death. Therefore our eternal death is changed through Jesus into eternal life by his coming, death and resurrection. So, just as one man, Adam, brought forth Sin into this world, one Man, Jesus, brought forth forgiveness and life.

Now, having stated all of this... let the questions begin... let the struggle with God start... let the prayer commence. It's all good... to listen to God. Thanks be to God!

Here is one of my favorite songs that reminds me of the mystery of the love of God pointed out in this passage of scripture.

Lord, what you have done for all people through Jesus is a mystery and a question mark. I know for myself, I deserve death. Yet, you give forgiveness and life. We need to talk about this a little... maybe a lot... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, March 06, 2014

March 6th Reflection - Forgive Me - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 32
Of David. A Maskil.

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
   whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
   and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away
   through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
   my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
   and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
   and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful
   offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
   shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
   you preserve me from trouble;
   you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
   I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
   whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
   else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,
   but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
   and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Reflective Psalm
I knew my sin O Lord.
   I knew that I couldn't hide.
I tried to sleep it off and ignore my sin.
   But nothing could make it leave my mind.

For, I had sinned against another child.
   I had sinned against you dear Lord.
I had sinned against so many other loved ones,
   my sin had spread like a disease.

I must run to you and confess my sin.
   I must go to the ones I hurt and speak boldly.
I must fall on my knees at the base of the cross.
   I must tell and confess my sin and seek forgiveness.

And you picked me up and brought me through,
   I still felt that awful consequence of my sin.
You opened my eyes to the hurt I had caused.
   Yet you gave me escape and love and grace.

You taught me a new way to live and love.
   You displayed your wisdom in my sight.
Your love gave me strength to carry on.
   Your discipline gave my life new meaning.

Your eye was upon my every move.
   At my slightest misstep you were there to correct.
When my heart became stubborn,
   you graciously softened my will.

I found that sin brings punishment and mercy.
   For I have been punished for what I have done.
Yet in my confession I sought forgiveness,
   and your mercy and love were greatly shown.

Let all who sin turn to you O Lord.
   Let all confess and seek forgiveness.
For it is right to be said that your are gracious.
   Gracious and slow to anger yet abounding with steadfast love.

Praise to you dear Father and God.
   Glory to you my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Honor to your teaching my Holy Spirit.
    Thanks be to the powerful God of love.

Here is a song that reflects our need to confess and seek forgiveness from God.

Lord, when I stumble and fall to the temptation of sin... hear my plea... hear my confession... return me to your favor as I seek your forgiving graces... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

March 5th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
1 "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 "So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5 "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So... what are you giving up for Lent? These questions as we walk out the church door with a black cross smeared across our forehead for all the world to see! Come on people! You just read above and perhaps heard read in the service about doing things in secrecy! What kind of secrecy is this when you walk into the grocery store with that cross on your head? What kind of secrecy is it when you question people about what they are giving up for Lent? We miss the point here!

It's not so much about what we do. It's more about why we do it. Do I walk forward to receive the imposition of ashes in order that my friends and neighbors will see that I am a Christian? Do I give something up for Lent in order that I may have a reply to the question when asked by someone else? This is not a "club" we are in as Christians! This isn't some secret society either, with a special handshake and butt bump of some kind! This is about our motives with God.

So what about our motives? What are they? It's not about being number one in the giving contest. It's not about being the best of the best in the "Church Lady" contest. It's not about being "Mr. Goody Two Shoes!" All of that stuff goes right out the window when you realize that we ALL have sinned and we ALL fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All inclusive... so we have nothing to brag about in and of ourselves. We have nothing to display and to do that would bring us into that glory of God. We ALL fall short.

Thus, the motive for the imposition of the ashes is not to display to all the world that we are the "Church Lady" or "Mr. Goody Two Shoe" but rather that we ALL are dust and to dust we shall return. The motive is our own realization that we need a God to save us! We need a Savior! ALL the world needs a Savior and that Savior has come in Jesus Christ. The motive is not to display our righteousness. The motive is for each of us to realize our need and to humble ourselves before our God and to know that we need God and God alone! It's not about the display of our being better than another person at the grocery store... it's about the realization that we are NO better than anyone else at the grocery store and that we all fall in need at the foot of the cross with thankful hearts to Jesus our God and Savior for what he has done for us, through his coming, his ministry, his healing, his suffering, his death and his resurrection. It's about the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives to call us, gift us, lead us and guide us as we live out life on this earth in our sin and with the sin of those we are with. It's about a God the Father that would care enough to grant eternal life through our Heavenly Father's gracious love for his creation.

So, we are left with, "What are you giving up for Lent?" Somehow, deep within myself, I don't think God cares one bit if I give up chocolate, Facebook, snacks, alms to the poor, time in the food pantry, bubble gum, prayer time or anything else that is some temporary act of what I believe to be is giving up of myself. I really don't think God gives a hoot about any of those things. I think this way, because I know I have a God that gave his Son to die for my sin on a cross. And I'm going to give up bubble gum in remembrance of him for forty some days??? Come on! I don't even want to tell someone else that I'm giving up bubble gum or praying extra hard for Lent! What's that all about? I think that's about the wrong motives once again.

So the question becomes, what motive do I have for giving something up for Lent? Well... the motive is a Savior that gave his life so that even though I return to ashes I will receive eternal life. Not because of what I gave up for Lent but because God loves me so much that he gave his one and only Son that I and all people may have eternal life (see John 3:16). My motive is not to look like I gave so much of myself up that I had to suffer through Lent without bubblegum to be righteous before God, but my motive is to not only give up bubblegum, chocolate, Facebook, snacks, alms to the poor or anything else temporary. My motive is to respond to the love of God in Christ Jesus by believing in God and coming to him as Jesus comes to me and give myself to him as his disciple. I give myself up to God not only at Lent but for life. Not to look good. Not to gain favor. Not to earn my points... not for any of these displays... but because of what God has done. God did it!

What did I give up for Lent? Nothing!!! Nothing at all!!! God gave up his one and only Son, Jesus for Lent! I gave up nothing. But I'm responding to this gift of God with myself. I can do nothing else. For all I have and all I am, depends and is rooted in what God gave up for me. And for this I am eternally thankful to God!

Yes, I will wear that ashen cross on my forehead today. Yes I will give myself to God now and through all of the Lenten Journeys that God has planned for me in this life in this place. Not because of any motive to be recognized for myself but rather because of what God has done for me in forgiving me and saving me from eternal damnation and taking me with him as his disciple into eternal life with him in all glory now and forever. Thanks be to God!

I leave you with this song that reminds me of my sin and the gracious and loving action of Jesus for me in my sin and for you in yours, that ALL may have eternal life. Yes, Jesus gave it ALL to ALL.

Lord, lead me through this Lenten Season. Open my eyes to the wonder of your grace and show me how you would have me respond to your love for me and for all people and for all creation... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen