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.