Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thomas a Becket

From today's reading: And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it. 2 John 1:6

I have talked about the commandments on any number of occasions. Some people like to harp on particular commandments, but I prefer to understand them as a whole before looking at the individual commandments. Looked at as a whole, they are the sum of everything that we need in order to live a life in harmony with God, with nature and with our fellow man; in other words what we need to live a life of love. The first four teach us what we need to live in relation to God; and the last six teach us what we need to live in relation to each other. They are about treating each other with respect and when we respect other people, regardless of who they are, then we are indeed showing them the love of God.

The following is the beginning of an interesting article concerning today's saint by James Kiefer; "On December 29, we remember Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, slain in his own cathedral in 1170, for his defiance of King Henry II. The death of Thomas reminds us that a Christian, even when safe from pagans, can be in danger from his fellow-Christians. It also reminds us that one can be martyred in a cause where the merits of the particular issue at hand are not obvious to all men of good will."

To read the whole article please go to:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holy Innocents

From today's reading: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Today is the day we remember the "holy innocents." In the gospel of Matthew we hear the story about Herod, who was fearful of losing his power to an infant king. He sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all male children under the age of 2 years old. On this occasion we remember all chilldren who died in their infancy, or who were stillborn or who never reached birth.

Lord, we know you receive into your heavenly presence all those who have died before their time. Please comfort their parents who sorrow at their loss and especially those who never had the opportunity hold their baby. Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stephen, the first Martyr

From today's reading: Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. . . The authorities set up false witnesses against Stephen. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Acts 6:8, 7:59

Stephen was one of the first seven ordained as deacons to help continue the work of the new church. He was called to assist the apostles in ministering to the poor and the hungry. He showed the kind of pure love that Jesus himself had for all people, and he died for that unswerving devotion to Jesus. If we could only have a part of the devotion of Stephen, imagine what we could do for the Lord and for the world.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Word made flesh

From today's reading: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14

Bruce Marchiano after playing the part of Jesus in a Bible production, wrote a book called Jesus, Yesterday, Today, Forever in which he asks the following questions:

"What kind of God would choose to be born in a stable - a small stable in one of the tiniest little towns in the ancient world? What kind of God would choose a peasant girl for His mother and a no-name blue-collar worker for His father? What kind of God would choose a feed trough as His first resting-place, and farm animals for His first companions?"

The answer is: This is a God who sets an example instead of demanding service. This is a God who comes among us as a little child, willing to touch and to hold the world in his hands. This is a God who understands human love and human suffering, the joys and sorrows of life.

He didn't pick a rich palace for his place of birth. No fancy trappings that turn the eye and tarnish the soul. But a humble stable where no ornament detracts from the baby whose soul purpose is to redeem a broken and hurting world.

He didn't pick an earthly queen to bear the holy babe. He picked a simple peasant girl - one who knew how to love - who would love and cherish the child to be born.

And he didn't pick a rich king to give the child all the material wealth his heart could desire. No, he picked a common laborer, a craftsman who was proud of his work; who would protect the boy with his very life, and teach him honor, and respect.

He is real. He laughed and he cried, he got angry and he forgave. This is the God who walks with us in love, not just today, but every day of our life. This is God incarnate - God made flesh. This is the God who dares to become one of us - the one we call Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A very merry Christmas to all.

From today's reading: Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)

A very merry Christmas to each and every one of our friends this season!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Prophet of the Most High

From today's reading: Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High. Luke 1:67-68, 76

We're still headed toward Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Zechariah speaks the prophecy, both about Jesus and about John. It is all part of God's plan to redeem his people from their own sin - to redeem us from our own sin. Blessed is the Lord God of Israel for he cares for us all - as a hen broods over her chicks, as a father looks on at the birth of his child, so God looks at us and cares for us.

John's role was as the chosen prophet of the Lord, whether he wanted to accept that title or not. Each of us has our own role to play in this life. It is a role chosen for us before we were born and it has meaning in the grand scheme of things. And part of that role is to make sure the message does not die. That message is that Jesus Christ is alive even today and is looking for a home in your heart.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Restore us, O Lord

From today's reading: Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. Psalm 80:3

The people that were called Jews had been looking for years for the restoration of Israel. "Show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved." God had a plan - it involved a woman of faith and a little baby, small and helpless. It involved a strong man of faith to watch over the baby until he could take care of himself. The Lord planned to restore Israel through this child born 2000 years ago. A baby whose birth was noted by a few shepherds and some astronomers from the east. Thirty years would pass before the world would begin to take notice of this single life, and when it did, he was eventually killed. But this little baby, whose birth we will celebrate in a few days, was the hope of Israel and the hope of the world. Blessed is he who was born, blessed is he who will save us - even from ourselves. Let us look with joyful anticipation to the birth of the Christ child.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thomas the Doubter

From today's reading: Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. . . If you know me, you will know my Father also.' John 14:5-7

Today is the day that we remember the disciple Thomas who was known for doubting the appearance of Jesus after his death. I have always felt like Thomas got a raw deal there - he was only asking for what the other disciples had already received - to see the risen Lord. In today's lesson he just wants to know the way so he can follow. In John 11, Jesus is headed for Jerusalem where he knows there are people seeking to kill him. Thomas tells the others, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." His loyalty is phenomenal - he is willing to go with Jesus even to death.

Tradition holds that Thomas went to an area in India to preach the gospel and built a church with his own hands. There is a Christian community in the Kerala district who claim to be descended from those converted by Thomas. (Thanks to James Kiefer for his research.)

Dear Lord, once we are sure of who we are following, give us the kind of loyalty expressed by Thomas that we too may be willing to follow Jesus even unto the end. Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mary said, "Yes."

The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. . . Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Luke 1:30-31, 38

I almost envy Mary's certainty in saying "yes" to God. There is one tradition that says every Jewish girl was asked to bear the son of God and that Mary was the only one to say "yes". The words of the following song were written by my friend, Vincent Uher III. I have reprinted his song here with permission. The tune is Tempus Adest Floridum (Good King Wenceslas).

Sing of Mary, blest is she, Mother of the Saviour.
"Yes!" said she to Gabriel's plea. "Yes!" to God forever.
"Yes!" for every woman born. "Yes!" for every nation.
"Yes!" for children yet unborn. "Yes!" for all creation.

Sing of Joseph, vexed was he, troubled and perplexed.
Till an angel in a dream, Peace to him directed.
"Take the virgin as your wife. Love her baby wholly.
Love the infant as your life. he's God's Son most holy."

Sing of Jesus, blest is he, In the Lord's Name coming.
Born in great humility, Every person loving.
Prince of Peace and Counsellor, Wonderful the telling!
Came to earth to save us all, And to share his blessing.

Mary, Joseph join us now. And all saints in glory.
As we tell his love for all. In the sacred story.
Angels, shepherds, and the kings, to Christ's side are running.
Let all people ready now for his second coming.

Glory be to God on high! Glory in the highest!
Peace on earth, goodwill to all, from the Lord Most Highest.
Blessings come for everyone, Graces to God's credit.
From the Father with the son, through the Holy Spirit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Preparation in this Holy Season

From today's reading: But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Luke 1:13-15

Advent means the arrival of an important person or thing. Our readings this week really reflect this season of Advent as they lead up to the birth of the Christ child. In today's reading, Zechariah has gone into the holy of holies to offer incense and is confronted by the archangel Gabriel who bears a message of good news - Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are to have a child and his name is to be John. John will be the voice in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord.

Sometimes we, like Zechariah, doubt the ability of God to really answer all our deepest desires. But God has a plan and we are all part of that plan. When we live our lives in faith, regardless of the doubts, God will bless us in unexpected way.

To paraphrase a friend of mine (Fr. David Price), There is pressure in our culture to try to make Christmas perfect which as we know is all but impossible. Jesus was born into our world as a gift of light shining into the darkness. Regardless of our limitations, we must be prepared to welcome this holy child into our hearts. He is the perfect one who will bring peace, hope, love and joy into our lives, making perfect, that which we cannot.

During this busy week of preparation, take out a little time to focus on why we prepare, on why we wait. We wait on the one who will take away our sin, who will fill our life, and who will meet us right where we are and who will bring us to where he is. All praise to him who loves so deeply.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sing a Song of Praise

From today's reading: He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3

Being the music lover I am, I love any verse in the psalms that talk about new songs and singing to the Lord, because that is what I really like to do. So many songs speak to my heart and it really doesn't matter if it is an old favorite, or something new that reaches in and grabs me. All down through the years, poets have said it with style and class and each one reaches a new generation. Some favorites that make my heart soar are:

#9 from the hymnal - "Not here for high and holy things we render thanks to thee, but for the common things of earth, the purple pageantry, the dawning and the dying days, the splendor of the sea...". (I see that every Sunday morning as I drive to La Porte for worship) . . . and on to the last verse that says, "To give and give and give again, what God has given thee, to spend thyself nor count the cost, to serve right gloriously..."

From the renewal period, Diane Andrew wrote, "I want to be a child again, I want to see the world through five year old eyes, to walk with my Lord, wherever he may be, to put my trust in him..."

And from the contemporary era, the 2008 Desert Song bridge from Hillsong, "All of my life, in every season, You are still God, I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship."

Anytime we lift up our voices and sing (or listen) with purpose, God blesses us with overpowering love and a closeness to him that creates a bond that can never be broken.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Sacrifice of Heart

From today's reading: Psalm 50
1 The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken;*
he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak:
11 I know every bird in the sky,*
and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving*
and make good your vows to the Most High.
15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;*
I will deliver you, and you shall honor me."
24 Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;*
but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God."

In this psalm, God is saying that sacrifices and burnt offerings are not necessary. He says that everything in the earth belongs to him, and implies that he has no need of food sacrificed from the earth. We no longer offer actual burnt offerings, but some people are proud of their sacrifices - remember the Pharisee boasting in the temple while the tax collector prayed humbly. Some people wear sacrifices to God like clothing - "Oh, I fast and I tithe and I do this for God, and I do that..." I'm not saying that God doesn't care about these things - they are nice - but what God is looking for is how we live our lives in relation to other people.

Sacrifices can't really make up for mistreating others or even ignoring their existence. Any sacrifice we can make is worth less than keeping the word of God and walking in his ways. What God really wants is a sacrifice of heart. So today be sure to share the joy of Christ and of Christmas with someone who needs a little sunshine in their life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


From today's reading: The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes." And to him he said, "See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel." . . . If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts. Zechariah 3:4, 7

These lines concern the priest Joshua. His guilt is taken away and he is being set up for a position of authority, but there is a requirement to walk in the way of the Lord - to be holy and upright. The Lord will take away our guilt and give us authority, but with the authority comes responsibility.

Now, we may not think we have much authority - maybe only over your own household or your children, or a pet. If we do not handle whatever authority we are given in a responsible manner, then we will have to answer to God. And if we do handle that authority well, then God will bless us and give us more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I stand at the door and knock. . .

From today's reading: Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Revelation 3:20

This is part of the reading from Revelation concerning the church at Laodicea. You may remember that the Lord takes this church to task for being luke warm - that's what most people remember when they read Revelation - "I will spew you out of my mouth..." He takes them to task because they have grown rich and prospered and they have forgotten their need of God. I think this is a temptation for all of us when things are going well in our life. When we are in need and things are not going well, there are two choices - worry yourself to death, or cry out to God - keeping alive that praying without ceasing. But when things are going our way, we are much less likely to keep that running conversation with God.

But then you get to this wonderful passage - God tells them that even though they have abandoned him, he is still there: "I stand at the door and knock, if you hear me, open the door and I will come in..." God is still there for us, through thick and through thin, through good and bad; even when we have all but forgotten him, God is still there. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, our joy is that God is there for us in all circumstances of our lives.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Filling the need

From today's reading: "I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world." Revelation 3:8b, 10

All of the readings today are apocalyptic - that is - talking about the end times. Since we do not know the time or the hour of the end, then we must find new ways of interpreting these scriptures to have meaning for us today. Today's reading from the Revelation of John is from the message to the Christian church at Philadelphia (in Asia, not the US). This is a word of favor for this church, that because of the faithfulness of its members, it will not suffer in the same way as those who have not kept the word.

I believe that it is a reminder to us that if we, as a church, are faithful to keep God's word, and to reach out in love to those around us who are in need so that they may be blessed, then we will find that our own lives are enhanced, enriched and blessed, individually as well as collectively. It is our faithfulness in the small things that matters the most to God; simple things like folding the bulletins for Sunday worship, or sitting and talk to a visitor who stops by on Sunday morning. These are the things that God notices. We don't have to be big, or strong, or rich in order to be a witness to God's power working in our lives or to make a difference in someone else's life. God will take whatever we are able to offer in his name and multiply it to fill the need in his purpose.

Friday, December 9, 2011

In the shadow of His wings

From today's reading: 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23:37

This was Jesus' cry to the people of Jerusalem shortly before his death. It acknowledges their fault, but affirms God's desire to love them regardless of that fault. Each of us has faults that we do not want to acknowledge. Too often it is a desire to believe that we are right and everyone else is wrong. The culture around us tells us it's okay to be a victim, even desirable because then we can use that as an excuse when things don't go our way. Jesus invites us to come in out of the coldness and aloneness that we sometimes build up around us.

Once we have been gathered under his wings, then we can reach out in love. How often do we see people around us who are in deep need - who are overcome by their problems, or who are being victimized. When we reach out to those in need, it is God's own heart that reaches out through us and invites them to come in under the shelter of his wings to be loved and protected.

That is the joy of being part of God's creation. We never have to be alone for God is always willing to reach out to us with a loving desire that we allow ourselves to be surrounded by his love and his peace.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Heart's Desire

From today's reading: Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches. Take delight in the Lord, and he shall give you your heart's desire. Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. Psalm 37:3-5

This passage from Psalm 37 admonishes us to do four things: put our trust in the Lord, do good, take delight in him, and commit our way to him. And there is a promise given that if we do those things, he will give us our heart's desire. This idea of our heart's desire can be a little nebulous. And this time of the year especially we find ourselves asking for things...

I told my daughter the other day that I wanted a new 10 inch skillet for Christmas. Will that make me happy? No. It will improve my cookiing experience, but it's not my heart's desire. Some people think that if they just had a new house or car, the latest electronic device, a new job, a boy friend or girl friend, or power or fame or fortune, that they will then be happy. Those things have surface value only.

I believe that down in the deepest crevices of our heart, what we want most is to know that we matter, that our life matters, that we are important to someone. God tells us over and over that we matter - that he takes delight in us. As long as we look for meaning in things outside ourselves, there will always be a hole in our life. It is in finding the inner peace of God in our heart that we find wholeness in our life. Delight in the Lord and you will find that he delights in you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Practice what you preach

From today's reading: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach." Matthew 23:2-3

You've heard it said that actions speak louder than words. That's what this is about - living into your teaching. You can claim that you love everyone with the love of Christ, but if you do things that are hurtful to others, then your actions belie your words. Jesus is saying that those who are teaching hold the position of authority and therefore deserve respect. But he is also affirming that IF they are living their lives contrary to their teaching, then we are not to emulate them.

This week in Advent is about love, and the way we demonstrate love is by living into the teaching of Jesus Christ - following his example by loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas

From today's reading: '"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22: 37-39

Today is the day set aside for the remembrance of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in the area of Turkey. Nicholas is remembered for his love of God and others and for his generosity in giving to the poor. One story told involves a poor man with three daughters who was unable to provide dowries for this daughters. To save the daughters from a life of prostitution, Nicholas walked by the house three night in a row and threw a bag of gold coins through the window - one for each daughter's dowery. (In colder regions it was said he threw them in through the chimney.) For this reason, anonymous gifts are said to be from St. Nicholas and he has therefore come to be identified with gifts given to the poor during the Christmas season.

Nicholas was one who demonstrated love of God and neighbor through his generous gifts to those in need. This Christmas season, take time to remember those in need, and to express God's love in tangible ways following the example of St. Nicholas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I am Alpha and Omega

From today's reading: 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Rev. 1:8

Today the Episcopal church remembers Clement of Alexandria. He was a teacher and head of the Christian school in Alexandria at the end of the second century. He considered science and philosophy to be preparation for understanding the Gospel. He was a scholar willing to meet non-Christians on their own grounds to listen, to debate and to defend the faith. (Thanks to James Kiefer for his article on Clement.)

I think it is important to remember that faith - Christianity - is a philosophy, a particular philosophy based in the belief that there is a God who is outside time and space, who created all things that are and who cares for his creation. And there is a juxtaposition between science and religion that allows us to remember that although God created all things, he has given us a mind to seek out and desire to understand his creation.

Our God, the Alpha and Omega, existed before time began and he will remain after time ends. At this time of the year, we remember that he was willing to enter into his own creation and we rejoice at this example of great love.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Come, won't you come?

From today's reading: "Then he said to his slaves, "The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.' " Matthew 22:8-9

(If you follow the Mission St. Clare daily office, you will have noticed that today's gospel reading was incorrect. It should have been Matthew 22:1-14.)

I lost a friend once by saying, "I cannot come..." The truth is we have choices to make in this world, and sometimes there are things that take precedence over others. I helped celebrate a wedding two weeks ago and the bride was okay that certain family members from out of state couldn't make it, but her daughters were upset that the favored uncle didn't show up. In this age and economy, time and distances and circumstances (work, previous commitments, etc.) sometimes keep us from doing things we might really want to do.

In today's reading, the implied invitation is from God to the Jews - most of whom ignored the message. Matthew's community was kicked out of the synagogue and persecuted by the elders who refused to accept the message of Jesus. When the Jews refused to answer the call, then the young Christians turned their message to the gentile community, inviting in anyone who would listen. And the message still goes out today to anyone who is willing to listen and to come in. Christmas and Easter remain our two biggest selling points. Everyone who hears the message has the option of choosing to come in or to remain outside. Consider inviting someone to come to church on Christmas Eve to discover the blessing in the birth of the Christ child.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peace is waiting on the Lord

From today's reading: "Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation." 2 Peter 4:14-15

This is something that a lot of us are not good at. We find it hard to wait patiently, but that is what Advent is all about - waiting. In this world of ours that is so well connected, to sit and do nothing is perceived as counterproductive. Yet Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." It is really easy to ignore God in the busy-ness of our life, but it is when we get still that we really begin to understand who God is and what part he plays in our life. There are times when God wants us to be still and sit quietly with him. God has something to say to each one of us and those are the times when he finds it easiest to get our attention.

Finding peace amid the trials and tribulations of this life can be a challenge. American lawyer, Horatio Spafford, after losing his four daughters in a ship accident, penned the famous song, "It is well with my soul" while traveling by ship over the same area where his daughters were drowned. Following this tragedy he was still able to say, "Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul." He and his wife had three more children and later traveled to Jerusalem to minister to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike without proselytizing. Here, more than a hundred years later, we remember this man who found great peace in the Lord and we ask the Lord Jesus to bring peace into our lives this Advent season.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Andrew's Day

From today's reading: . . . John watched Jesus walk by and exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" Two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. . . They said to him, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" Jesus said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him. . . One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew. . . He first found his brother Simon Peter and said to him, "We have found the Messiah." John 1:35-41

I love Saint Andrew. Maybe it's because my Dad's name was Andrew and we named our son, Andrew. But I think it's more likely that the example of Andrew in the Gospel of John is of someone who believed in Jesus and from the very first day he knew Jesus, he brought people to Jesus. In today's lesson he brings his brother Simon. Later he brought some Greeks who were wanting to meet Jesus, and finally he brought a young boy who had 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. Could we ask for a better witness and example of what it means to be Christian?

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and our heritage in the Episcopal Church comes through Scotland as well as England. After the revolutionary war, when the Anglican church in America changed its name to Episcopal, the leaders of the new church knew that they needed bishops. Three priests were elected and sent to England to be made bishops. The Church of England refused to do this, so the three made their way to Scotland where they were ordained as bishops. It is for this reason that the Episcopal flag/shield is made up of the St. George's flag (flag of England) with an adaptation of the St. Andrew's flag (flag of Scotland) in the upper left hand corner.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We were eyewitnesses. . .

From today's reading: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." 2 Peter 1: 16-17

I love this reading. Remember that on the Mount of Transfiguration - Jesus told Peter and James and John not to tell anyone until after his death? Here Peter is, telling of the event. Now that Jesus is dead and resurrected, Peter is getting the word out. This is something he saw himself, not a story he heard. He was an eyewitness.

We, too, are eyewitnesses to the things that Jesus does in our lives and we are to share those events also. The problem is that the words, "God told me..." or "Jesus told me..." are suspect. People may think that you are crazy if you use those words, so we focus on what he does. I was in church one day - lamenting about my lack of knowledge of my heritage, and suddenly God filled my heart to overflowing as he assured me, "I am your father and this is your family. If you want to know your heritage, read the Bible. This is the legacy I give to you." It was at that point that I knew I would follow the path that led to seminary and full ministry in the church. We are the family of God and he will fulfill our most intimate needs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent: Our king comes riding on a donkey...

From today's reading: 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Matthew 21:4-5

Today's reading is from the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem. I find it significant that we picture Mary, great with child, riding to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey and here, near the end of his life, Jesus is once again riding on a donkey going to Jerusalem where he will face his death. It is the life he led betweeen these to events that leads us into the knowledge and love of God. I picture a Jesus full of joy and love and hope for the world.

Advent is a season of expectation and hope and preparation. While the whole world has gotten ahead of itself and jumped into Christmas, we traditional Christians are experiencing the kind of anticipation that comes with waiting for the birth of a child. That is a great metaphor for Advent.

Take time out during this four weeks to enjoy Advent and to help you focus on the hope, love, joy and peace that should be inherent in Advent, I would direct you to a website called "Busted Halo" for their Advent Calendar.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

C. S. Lewis remembered

From today's reading: Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." Matthew 19:14

Today was my mother's birthday. She would have been 98 years old this year. She died in 1993 - 30 years after my father died.

On this date, my sophomore year in college, Mom and I had tickets to see Peter, Paul, and Mary in Houston. The concert was cancelled following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas. C. S. Lewis also died that day. He is remembered today for his many contributions to the Christian world. He may be best remembered for his children's series, The Narnia Chronicles - my favorite book of that series being The Last Battle. He also wrote a number of book, both fiction and non-fiction. Some of my favorites are Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Litany for Thanksgiving

The following is a Litany of Thanksgiving that I used last night at the Community Thanksgiving Service in La Porte, Texas. In it I have combined, adapted and expanded the prayers for thanksgiving and national life from the book of common prayer (pg 836-839). Please feel free to adapt and use for your own needs during this week of Thanksgiving.

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us saying,
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Creator God, giver of all good things: you have given us the natural majesty and beauty of the earth with its resources that not only sustain life, but also delight and inspire us.
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Almighty God, ruler of heaven and earth, you have given us a land where we are free to worship as we want without fear of repercussion and where we reside in the shadow of your love;
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Redeemer God, for the men and women who have made this country strong by placing their lives on the line for our sake through service in the armed forces: We give you thanks today for each of these; especially we remember Private First Class Cody Norris, the life he gave, and the family he left behind.
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Merciful God, who watches over his creation and those made in his image; you have given a heart of protection to the men and women who serve our community as police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians. We remember all those who care for us in our hour of need.
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Loving God, You have surrounded us with family and friends to journey with us throughout this life. Lord, give us a heart to remember and hands to serve those who have no one to reach out to them.
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Bountiful God, You have given us homes and an abundance of food and drink. Keep us every mindful of those who have no place to sleep and those who have nothing to eat.
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Gracious God, You have given us minds to think, hearts to love and hands to serve; you have given us health and strength to work and leisure time to rest and play;
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Faithful Lord, we thank you for the faith we have inherited in all its rich variety; especially for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For your goodness and mercy, "Lord, We give you thanks."

Help us, O Lord, to continue the good work begun here on earth and in this country. Strengthen our efforts to blot out ignorance and prejudice, and to abolish poverty and crime. And hasten the day when all our people, with many voices in one united chorus, will glorify your holy Name. Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Like a tax collector

From today's reading: "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. . . But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed. . . If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. " Matthew 18:15-17

This is a slippery scripture - totally misunderstood by some people. My feeling is first that this provides a good model for dealing with people who have hurt you; NOT for judging people for the way they live their life. (That is the job of the Holy Spirit - not us.) When someone has done something to hurt you, go talk to them about it. Chances are really good that you can work things out.

The second thing is that this has been used to badger people you don't agree with or who are believed to be 'sinful,' and to "unfriend" them in life - an even kick them out of the church. For those who use this in that way, my question is, "How did Jesus treat tax collectors?" He did not snub them or avoid them or ignore them. He befriended them. He visited them in their homes. He ate with them.

That doesn't mean that you have to go along with a friend who is doing something illegal or self-destructive. I don't think that Paul's proclamation to become all things to all people means we have to put ourselves in jeopardy. We have to strike a balance in life between being available to those may need us and allowing ourselves to become sucked into the midst of their problems. May God keep us all open to those in need of his love. Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Child-like faith

From today's reading: Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:2-4

I like the way this is stated and translated because it makes it clear that we don't have to be children, but to be like children. My friend, Diane Andrew, stated it very well when she wrote, "I want to see the world through five year old eyes. . . To walk with my Lord, wherever he may be. . . To put my trust in him." It is that childlike trust that the Lord desires from us; that childlike faith that is never self-centered, nor demanding nor manipulative. The Lord wants to see our desire for him, delighting to be in his presence with no hidden agendas, no impatience, no speculation, just the joy and peace that comes in the presence of Jesus..

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paying the temple tax

From today's reading: . . .the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes, he does." And when he came home, Jesus asked, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?" When Peter said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me." Matthew 17:24-27

Today I did some research on the temple tax and verified that it was a head tax on males (age 20-50), collected in Moses' time after a census, but during the time of Jesus it was collected yearly. In our lesson, only Jesus and Peter were shown to pay the tax, resulting in an assumption that the other disciples may have been less than 20 years old. (Something I had not previously considered. I'm not sure it would make a difference one way or another - except it might explain why they sometimes seemed so slow to understand.) The tax was collected ultimately for God, so Jesus is saying that as sons of God, he and Peter are not subject to the tax. But he tells Peter to pay the tax from what is received for catching the fish so they might not give offense. Jesus is saying that even though he does not owe the tax, he will pay it as an example to others. I believe that the witness we are to others is so very important. What is it that we are proclaiming to others? Our actions speak much louder than words and as we walk through this world, people are watching us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God with us.

From today's reading: "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes." Rev. 21:3-4

What a wonderful promise we have from our Lord. His home is with us. He dwells in our midst and we don't have to go off somewhere looking for him. This is one of the lessons that is often read at funerals. It is comforting to know that He will be with us through everything - ready to wipe away our tears and holding on to us regardless of our circumstances. For me it is a very calming reminder when things get crazy in my life - to know that I can just reach out and God is there - never intrusive, but always available.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On the Mountain Top

From today's reading: "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white." Matthew 17:2 Many of us have been up to the mountaintop. The problem is that when you have experienced that kind of high, it is tempting to try to go back - to regain that feeling that fills the mind and body and soul with awesome wonder. This experience that Peter and James and John had on the mountain was never repeated, but it remained burned into the very fabric of their being for the rest of their life. They came back down the mountain and they ministered in the highways and byways of the valley below. If they hadn't done that, we might never have heard of Jesus or God and the awesome love he has for us. I like the way Amy Grant said it in her song Mountaintop -

And I'd love to live on a mountain top
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I'd love to stand on a mountain top
'Cause I love to feel my spirit soar
But I've got to come down from that mountain top
To the people in the valley below
Or they'll never know that they can go
To the mountain of the Lord.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On this foundation

From today's reading: Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "Blessed are you. . . you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Matthew 16:16-18

Jesus and his disciples are in the region of Caesarea Philippi, a city full of pagan shrines. The city had a river fed by an underground spring coming from the area of the shrines that was believed to be the opening to Hades, the underworld, and the river Styx. That prompts his comment about the gates of Hades in a proclamation that his community will never die out. The other significant thing here is the use of "rock." Peter as we know means "rock", but the term used for "on this rock" means a shelf or ledge of rocks. Jesus seems to be indicating that the church will be built not only on Peter's faith, but also on those who, like Peter, have a faith that is God revealed. As God reveals more and more of his love and purpose to us, we each become part of that foundation for his church in the world today. (Notes are from "The Life With God Bible" formerly published as "The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible".)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A sign for our times.

From today's reading: "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." and "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!" Then they understood that he (was not talking about) bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Matthew 16:3b, 11b-12 The powers-that-be are still trying to trip up Jesus and now they have asked for a sign from him. I think back to when John sent word from prison asking if Jesus is the expected one, and Jesus' reply is 'look around, the blind see, the lame walk, the mute speak, what more do you need?' Everywhere Jesus goes. he leaves signs of his presence there. Even today, God leaves signs of his presence everywhere. It is simply opening our eyes to see his work in the world around us.

I am often asked, when faced with a decision, how can you tell what God wants you to do. My answer is always the same - ask God for a sign - but not just any sign - ask for a specific sign - one that you will recognize when it comes. As Sam and I were driving to Huntsville to interview for the assistant rector/campus ministry position, I had another firm offer that was attractive, so I asked for a sign. I said, "God, if I walk in the nave and I cannot see outside, it will be a sign that I do not belong there." When I walked in the nave of St. Stephen's, there were six large clear-glass windows - three on each side of the congregation - and a seventh large clear-glass window behind the cross above the altar. Because I asked for a specific sign, I recognized it when it came. I spent 6 wonderful years in Huntsville as assistant rector and campus minister. It was the perfect place that God had prepared for me, and because I asked for a specific sign, the answer were there waiting for me. God has an answer for you also.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Filling the need

The disciples said, "Where are we to get enough bread. . .?" Jesus asked, "How many. . .?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." Then ordering the crowd to sit down. . .he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them. . .and all of them ate and were filled; Matthew 15:33-37

This was the most popular story in the gospels - it is told 6 times in the four gospels. And I think it says much more to us than just feeding a multitude of people. Thanksgiving is coming up and a lot of churches will feed a multitude of people around our country, and that's a good thing. But I think it also speaks to us about the graciousness of God to take the meager things we offer up to him, and to multiply it to satisfy the need. I remember that my son was working for a local contractor one summer. He and his friend had been left to paint a front porch with one bucket of paint. They had used it quite liberally and realized that they still had half a porch to paint and only a quarter of a bucket of paint. Andy remembered this story and these two 20 year old boys, in faith, stuck out their hands over the bucket and prayed for God to multiply it to be enough - and it was. God can and will do that in any area of our life when we offer it up to him in faith. Whether it's paint, or chicken salad, or our own skills and abilities, when we offer it up to God, it will always fill the need and be more than we could have imagined.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Faith is trusting God

From today's reading: "In spite of all this, they went on sinning and had no faith in his wonderful works." Psalm 78:32 The first 31 verses of this psalm talk about all the good things that God did bringing the people up out of Egypt; setting them free from slavery, saving them from the Egyptian army, providing water and bread and meat when they hungered and thirsted. And regardless of what the Lord did for them, it was never enough. They always wanted more. That pairs with the reading from Nehemiah 9:26, "Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their backs. . ." The Israelites strayed from their faith in God and couldn't figure out why things went wrong for them. What happens in life and how you approach what happens in life has everything to do with faith; and faith begins with the first 4 commandments (the ones that are abhorrent to so many people in this day and age.) 1) love God with all your heart; 2) don't worship anything else in place of Him; 3) trust God rather than blame him; and 4) spend time with Him. If our relationship with God is straight and true, then everything else in our life will flow naturally out of that relationship. But when we allow outside influences (or even our own attitudes) to impinge and alter our relationship with God, then it will ultimately alter our relationship with the world around us.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spiritual Hygiene

From today's reading: "Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles." Matthew 15:17-18 The scribes and Pharisees had complained to Jesus about his disciples eating the wheat in the field without washing their hands. The cleanliness laws of Israel were designed to keep people healthy. They included things like washing your hands before you eat and washing your dishes and pots and pans after using them. We think of these things as health factors but they had been passed down as law to the Israelites. What Jesus is saying here is that the authorities were placing too much importance on something that was designed to keep the population healthy, and they were totally ignoring the relational aspects of the law. It went so far that they were even using the law to their own personal benefit, such as refusing to support their parents (Commandment to honor your mother and father) essentially claiming what would have been used as their tithe to the church. That was only symptomatic of the kinds of things that the scribes and Pharisees were doing. They placed undue burdens on the people while verbally sidestepping their own responsibilities. What is it that comes out of your mouth? Does it defile or honor God?

Friday, November 4, 2011

My ways are not your ways.

A little different approach today. . . I slept in and so the TV was on when I got up. I goofed off for a while before coming in to start my study. I saw a snippet of one talk show in which the hostess couldn't seem to wrap her mind around the guest's stipulation that a particular friend as exactly that - a friend, not a backstabber. But the hostess just wasn't buying it and I got to thinking about all the people you hear (especially on TV or radio) who simply yell over whoever they are talking to, who can't possibly imagine that someone might be motivated differently, who project their own fears and anxiety and pettiness on to the person with whom they are talking.

Then I came in to start my study and the two things that spoke to me were: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord." Isaiah 55:8 (from Canticle 10) And "Just and true are your ways. . . For you alone are holy." Rev. 15:3-4

I wondered how often we might be guilty of projecting our own desires and prejudices on to God. Our ways are not His ways. . . For God alone is holy! I think in essence, we don't really have any idea what that means. My mantra today will be, "My ways are not your ways, O Lord, for you alone are holy."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Praise God through the Psalms

From today's reading: "I have been sustained by you ever since I was born; from my mother's womb you have been my strength; my praise shall be always of you." Psalm 71:6 I was struck by the personal impact this verse has on me as an adopted person. It is important for me to know and feel that God has been with me from conception. I know that other verses have impact on other people. I want to share with you from my devotional book:

The book of Psalms begins: "Happy are those who. . . love the Lord's teachings" (1:1-2) and ends with "Praise the Lord!" (150:6). In between is every situation you might experience on the journey of life - trials, losses, betrayals, joys, hopes, promises, and desires. The Psalms represent the whole spectrum of human experience and the faithfulness of God to walk with you through each one. . . When you begin with faith in God - reading the Bible and trusting his love - you end with praise for him. . . So express your love for him from the depths of your soul! Because he will never let you down. . . From Moments of Peace in the Presence of God (Bethany House)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls Day

From today's reading: "He will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces..." Isaiah 25:8a This is one of the readings for the burial office that offers hope and promise for all people. For Christians it is comforting to know that this life is not all there is; that there is more to come after our bodies die. More and more I see life as a preparation, a time of growth until we are ready to meet the Lord and move on past these earthly bonds. I don't think anyone knows what the next life will look like; all the people who have written about it and painted pictures of what their hearts have imagined, have projected out of their earthly existance. The only thing I feel sure about is that the presence of Almighty God will gather us up and draw us in to be part of that eternal life not bound by this earth, and the souls of all the faithful believers who have gone before will rejoice at our coming.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saints Day

From today's collect: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you. (Book of Common Prayer) This is the collect for All Saints Day. Although this day is about celebrating the lives of the Saints specifically, many of us use it as a day to remember those who have died, who were close to us and who impacted our lives in special ways. I had to look up the word "ineffable." It means "too great to be described in words." It can also mean "too sacred to be uttered" such as the Hebrew name for God. It implies that if we love the Lord and try to live our lives for him, when we die, we will also come into his presence and find the kinds of joy that are so great that no words can describe or express them.

Wheat and Tares

From today's reading: his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field. . . The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers." Matthew 13:36, 41 Each one of us is like that field where the weeds grow among the wheat. We, as human beings, are a collection of both good and bad. I, for one, would hate to think that the sin that crops up from time to time is going to bring me down. But thank goodness, 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that "The Lord. . . is patient with you, not wanting any to perish. . ." So he allows the bad to grow up with the good in each of us so that one day when the harvest comes, the angels will purge that which is not of God (the evil, the sin, the bad decisions) from our lives and we will be made ready to stand before the Most Holy God.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One God and Father of all.

From today's reading: "There is one body and one Spirit. . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6 Today's lessons are those appointed for St.Simon and St. Jude (sometimes referred to as Thaddaeus), two of the less known apostles. Very little is know about them, but it is believe that they may have traveled together as missionaries to the area of Persia and been martyred there.

These words are used as the beginning of the baptismal rite in the Episcopal church. If we are to believe what is written in Genesis that God created all the universe, everything that is, then we have to believe that he is one and I believe it follows that he is in all things as stated above - he is "through all and in all." He has not limited our ability to reason and to seek him out through our understanding of the world. He reaches out to us through all means, and yet we often underestimate his ability to speak and act in the world he created. Our God is above all, and in all and and works through all things to make himself known to us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

God's will be done

From today's reading: "These things you have done, and I kept still, and you thought that I am like you." . . . . "Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me; but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God." Psalm 50:21, 24

I was really struck as I read this from today's Psalm. It is unusual because it is the voice of God speaking, not the psalmist. He says 'your offering is ever before me, but I don't need it' (adapted) - then it lists a number of 'sins' - things people do to one another, and because God did not respond the people thought that God approved. One of the things we do as humans is to project our own stuff onto someone else - maybe not on purpose, but we forget others are not necessarily like us; they have other world experiences and may be motivated by different things. This seems to be a cosmic projection - projecting our own stuff, our desires and prejudices onto God believing that he is like us. God is very definite that although we honor him with sacrifice and thanksgiving, it is in keeping his will, not ours projected onto him, that we will find our salvation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Discerning God's purpose

From today's reading: "O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant, according to your word. Teach me discernment and knowledge, for I have believed in your commandments." Psalm 119:65-66 Solomon was given the opportunity to ask for anything he wanted. What he asked for was wisdom. God was so pleased with what he asked for that He also gave him wealth and fame. Unfortunately, Solomon misused that wealth and fame and ultimately it destroyed him because he forgot the commandments of God. Discernment in how to use the gifts God gives you is a major step in living into the life God wants for each of us. God may give us all diverse gifts, but he also wants to teach us how to use those gifts. May God grant each of us discernment and knowledge to use his gifts and to live into the fullness of our life with him. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Extravagant Sower

From today's reading: Jesus said, "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, some seeds fell on rocky ground, other seeds fell among thorns, and other seeds fell on good soil. . . Let anyone with ears listen!" Matthew 13:3-9 (edited). We've all heard the parable about the sower and the soil and so often we focus on the soil - asking the question what kind of soil are we. It is a very valid question to look at how we receive the word, but I think this parable is more about the sower. This is an extravagant sower - casting seed everywhere, even in places that no one would expect growth to take place. This sower, our God, wants everyone to have the chance to hear his word, not just those who receive it with joy. He sows seeds of life and love everywhere. The seed may lie dormant for years while the rocky soil is made ready and then one day it begins to grow and eventually blooms, all because our God is patient, and loving and extravagant.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Speaking the words of Jesus

From today's reading: Jesus said, "When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Matthew 10:19-20 The lessons for today are those appointed for the remembrance of St. James of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus. (Oct. 23, transferred) It is generally accepted that James was not a disciples of Jesus until after his resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:3-8) James later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and was eventually killed for refusing to denounce Jesus. I find this scripture comforting as I begin my sermon preparation each week. I trust that God has something to say to his people, and I trust that he will speak his word through me. That's a huge thing since I don't always trust myself to know what to say. If it comes out right, I know that God's hand was all over it. What I find is that we must spend time reading God's word in order to be able to use His word when the right time comes. That is a gift given to all of us - to speak God's word when the time is right.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Known by our fruit

From today's reading: "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit." Matthew 12:33 The tree is known by its fruit and so are we as individuals known by our fruits. What is it that we produce in the world? Are people able to tell from our actions or our talk what we believe? One of the greatests days of my life as a high school teacher was the day a student said to me, "You're a Christian aren't you, Mrs. Doerr? I can tell by the way you treat us." The two things that stand out the most about Christians are (should be) our respect for people, all people, not just those we are closest to... When we are sure that God loves us regardless of what we do or who we are, then we too, can be generous in loving others. The other thing is our understanding and sure knowledge that when our bodies die, it is not the end; that we will see our loved ones again. In the eyes of the world, these are the things that separate us the most - our attitude toward other people, and our attitude toward death. Out of those flow our respect for God's creation and hope for new life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blasphemy, what is it?

From today's reading: "Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." Matthew 12:31 This goes on to say that even speaking against Jesus will be forgiven. So what is blasphemy? Is it just cursing or being irreverent? Actually neither of those were part of the original meaning. More than anything, it meant making statements about God which were blatantly untrue. Jesus was accused over and over of being a blasphemer and now we take what he said as truth - truth that the establishment (the religious leaders of the day) didn't want to hear. Over the ensuing years there have been many people who have been accused of blasphemy for expounding one belief or another to the exclusion of the whole. It's real easy to claim "blasphemy" if you don't agree with what a person saying. But when we do that, are we (like the Pharisees) refusing to believe and acknowledge that God might be doing a new thing in our midst once again? As we grow and mature as human beings (and as Christians), both individually and as a race, God continues to reveal himself in new ways and to bring new understanding into our lives. Are we open to hearing what the Spirit has to say to us today?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spending time with God

From today's reading: "I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you..." 1 Corinthians 16:7 I'm going to do something I usually frown upon - I'm going to take this sentence totally out of context. But this really captured my imagination this morning. Paul is writing to the Christians at Corinth. He is planning to come visit them and he doesn't just want to stay for a day or two - he wants to spend some significant time with them. It really hit me this morning that that's the way God feels about us. He doesn't want to just see us passing through - he wants to spend some significant time with us. And if we want to be faithful, effective witnesses to Christ's presence in our life, we need to listen to him, spend time with him, hang out with him. Different people will do this in different ways; sitting at a kitchen table, or on a porch swing, or jogging through the park, or walking in the woods or driving to work. Find a time and a place where you can give your thoughts over to God and allow him to be in control - even if it is only for five or ten minutes. You will find your life blessed in unexpected ways.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I desire mercy, not sacrifice

From today's reading: "if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:7-8 In today's lesson the Pharisees are complaining to Jesus because the disciples are picking and eating grains of wheat on the Sabbath because they are hungry. As the Pharisees got too caught up in obeying the law, they often overlooked the underlying conditions that led to violations. If they had had mercy on those who were hungry, the Pharisees would have fed them instead of complaining that they satisfied their need for food. How often do we see someone doing something we disapprove of and we simply make judgments instead of exploring to find the root cause. We all do it, we all have our standard that we expect others to live up to. When people violate the law, they need to be held accountable, but we as Christian members of society also need to discern when and where to show mercy and when to help in meeting their needs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pass it on.

From today's reading: "I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed." Luke 1:3-4 Today we celebrate St. Luke the Evangelist. It is because of the faithfulness of Luke, Mark, John, and Matthew that we have some understanding of Jesus Christ and his Father in Heaven. The Jewish people had closed the canon of scripture 600 years before the time of Jesus and there was really no impetus for the spread of the faith. The life, teaching and works of Jesus Christ opened up new dimensions and new depths into the understanding of God and his desire for his creation. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: " We can be eternally grateful for all the gospel writers for doing the same, passing on what they received. And when the opportunity arises, each of us is also called to share what we have received concerning the Lord. There is at least one person out there who needs to hear what you have to say and God will bless and honor and use even the most timid of our attempts to share.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Forgive us our sins

From today's reading: Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD. Psalm 25:6 I'm sure that we all have things in our past that we would rather not remember, that we regret, or we would have done differently if we could. Making mistakes or making wrong choices (sin) is part of the human condition. But for those of us who love the Lord, God's graciousness will not only cover the sin, but will ultimately use it to bring about a positive effect, as a learning tool, or an example, or a conviction to action. Because he loves us, we are forgiven and we are not to dwell on past unfaithfulness. God wants us to move on out of the past so that we can live more fully in the present and look forward to the future with the assurance of God's presence.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Are you the one?

From today's reading: Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Matthew 11:4-5

I like John the baptizer. The vision I claim is the handsome bearded guy singing "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" in the movie Godspell. He was the one who heralded the coming of Jesus, "He will baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit..." and now he's sitting in prison alone and he wonders, "Did I make a mistake? Did I misunderstand?"

I think we all have had those kinds of questions at one time or another about any number of things in life. This was one of those times of trouble for John, and Jesus responds, "Look at what is happening all around - these are good things - this is the fruit of the Spirit. The people are receiving hope where none existed. They are seeing God at work in their lives. We are asked to open our eyes and see God at work around us. Yes there is still pain and turmoil in the world, but God's kingdom is seen in the response of faithful people who reach out and do what they can to help those in need.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I call upon the Lord

From today's reading: "I called upon the LORD in my distress and cried out to my God for help. He heard my voice from his heavenly dwelling; my cry of anguish came to his ears." Psalm 18:6-7

In times of trouble, of turmoil, of pain, anguish, we need to know and believe that there is someone who is great than us, who hears our cry, who sees our struggle and who cares deeply that we are hurt. God is that one who knows all. He is the one we can cry out to when we are lost and alone. God is the one that will be with us through it all, who will hold and comfort us through it all. And he is the one who will find a way to bring good out of that experience if we hang on to him and allow him to be our strength. KSBJ reminds us that "God listens," and the psalm reminds us that he also cares.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are you not of more value...

From today's reading: Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31 It is absolutely amazing to think that God can know us so intimately and still care so deeply for each of us in spite of our faults and our failings. It is reason enough and more to give our praise to him for his willingness to hang in there with us through thick and thin, through good and bad, through our highs and lows. Thank you, Lord Jesus for reminding us of God's deep and abiding love for us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chance encounters

From today's reading: "So Philip ran up to (the chariot) and heard (the eunuch) reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone guides me?'" Acts: 8:30-31 Today the church remembers Philip who was ordained as one of the first deacons in the church, along with Stephen (the first martyr). Philip is remembered for his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. When he found himself in a unique situation, being filled with the Holy Spirit, He was faithful to proclaim Jesus Christ. We all, like Philip, have encounters with people, often strangers, who are searching for a word that will have meaning for their lives. If we are faithful to listen to and respond to God as we go about our daily life, we, too, will find ourselves experiencing unique adventures through those chance encounters that occur in our lives.

Monday, October 10, 2011

These three remain

From today's reading: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 There are times when we have trouble putting away childish behavior, especially when we get our feelings hurt. At times like that we do see in a mirror dimly and we don't like what we see. But when we feel powerless to change that childish reaction, we can reach out and draw on the power of the Lord to overcome our base response. It doesn't mean it's going to happen immediately because it's a process. I remember someone saying, "I know I have to forgive him, but I want to be mad just one more day." So we take it, one day at a time, growing in grace, knowing that God's love for us, his faith in us and his hopes for our future in him will remain constant and help us to overcome all obstacles.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

If I have love

From today's reading: "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels. . . , if I have prophetic powers,. . . faith to move mountains, . . . if I give away all my possessions but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal - I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 A popular wedding scripture that goes much deeper than the love of husband and wife. It encompasses the deep love of God for his creation, and our love for the creator. It is intentional love - agape love - that flows from our relationship with God and out to the world around us. If the love in our God relationship is present and right and good, then all of our other relationships will be predicated on it and they also will be good and right and all of our efforts based in this love will be blessed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

We are the Body

From today's reading: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 We, in the church, need to remember that we are all one body. We need to remember that as part of the body, we are not designed do everything, but we do have our function that is essential to the body of Christ so that he might be made manifest in the world.

From the song, "If We are the Body" by Mark Hall: If we are the body, why aren't his arms reaching, why aren't his hands healing, why aren't his words teaching? If we are the body, why aren't his feet going, why is his love not showing them there is a way."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gifts of the Spirit

From today's reading: "Now there are varieties of gifts. . . of services. . . of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." 1Corinthians 12:4-7 We are all given gifts and abilities by the Lord and they are intended to be used to help other people. The gifts are things like wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues and interpretations. Other places in the Bible list things like teaching, exhorting, giving. . . The gifts even include things like cooking, and writing notes, and encouraging others; anything that builds up the body of Christ and helps to equip the believers for ministry - and makes life a little better for eveyone, believers and non-believers alike. Only when you use your gift in these ways will you experience the fruits of the spirit which are given for your own enjoyment - things like love, peace, and true joy in the Lord.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dining with sinners

From today's reading: 11 "When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'" and 14 "Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?'" Matthew 9:9-17 When we look at today's reading, we see that Jesus and his disciples were being attacked by all sides. When we are doing things the way Jesus would, people are going to complain. One priest of the diocese found a way to get new people in, the parishioners began to complain, "They're not our kind of people." I served at one church where some from the congregation said, "We don't want them to come, they're sinners." My answer to that is, "Treat them like Jesus did, invite them in, have supper with them, not condemning, but fellowshipping with honest and open conversation." Some people just don't seem to get it. Christ's blood will cover all our sins, but we must open the door of our hearts to all so that we might bring some to Christ.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Psalm 121

From today's reading: "I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2 When I was in high school, every 6 weeks we had to memorize a poem. One 6 weeks, instead of a poem, we were required to memorize a Psalm. This was the Psalm I chose and it has been a part of my bedtime prayers ever since. It reminds me that my help comes from God; he never stumbles and never sleeps. Worry will eat you up from the inside, and having a place to put that is very healing. I know I can place my trust in God and let go of those things that trouble me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Win some for Christ

From today's reading: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God." 1 Cor. 10:31 Paul is talking specifically about being invited to dine with people who may be eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. He says if you know it has been sacrificed to an idol then don't eat it, but if you don't know, don't ask, just go ahead and eat it. The deeper message is, if you belong to God and you are living for his glory, then you may fellowship with anyone without condemnation and in doing so, you may win some over for Christ.