Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your promise gives me life.

From today's reading: Psalm 119: 49-50
49 Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.  50 This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life.   

While pondering various worries this morning, I found this to be great comfort and a reminder that, after all, it is all in God's hand.  We think we are handling things well, and then we find ourselves is a bit of intestinal distress and realize that we have just stuffed it down and it is churning up our insides.  Not fun at all.  

When that happens, it is good to remember that it is God who is in control, and when we can't change what is happening, we lift it up in prayer and allow the Lord to be a significant part of the situation and therefore the solution.  For God is our hope, and when we are troubled, he will be our comfort when we remember that he is ultimately in charge of our life. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A few thoughts on gossip

This morning's Old Testament was from the apocryphal book known as Sirach or also as Ecclesiasticus, chapter 19, verses 4-17.  What we find as we read this, are true words of wisdom for today's living.  This lesson encourages us not to gossip - the first part tells us, if you hear something, don't repeat it.  And the second half encourages us, not to jump to conclusions when we hear something bad about someone.   If we hear something bad, about someone, go talk to them.  You might find out what y0u heard was untrue.  Or there may be a very practical explanation for what happened.  

When we make assumptions about other people, especially about their intentions - we always project our own biases into the situation.  It is always more productive to ask questions and give others a chance to explain before we condemn.  We could reduce a lot of our stress, and much of our health challenges by giving people the benefit of a doubt and engaging them in productive conversation rather than sitting back and stewing in our own web of conjecture.

May the Lord grant you a peaceful day void of the conflict that is often produced by gossip.  Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gifts for the work of ministry

From today's reading:  The gifts he gave were . . . . to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith. . . .  Ephesians 4:11-13

The lessons I used today were from those appointed for the remembrance of St. Simon and St. Jude.  Where the dots are I have left out a list of gifts that I think can probably sidetrack us.  If we get too hung up on the "special gifts," we forget that all gifts are given for ministry - even gifts of cooking and cleaning and serving at table can be gifts for the spread of the faith.  

One of my young friends who came through campus ministry at SHSU came from a family that were mostly C & E'rs - you know, attending only at Christmas and Easter.  But they attended the Episcopal church, so when her dad died during her high school years, she was not grounded in a Christian community.  

What made an impression on her was that someone from the church that she didn't even know, came to her house to help out and cleaned their toilet.  Just think of the gift - to go to a house where someone has died and to clean their toilet - and to make a lasting impression on a 17 year old girl.  That simple act made a difference in the life of that young girl.

What are the gifts that God has given us?  You don't have to be a preacher or teacher or spiritual giant to make a difference in someone's life.  The greatest gift is love.  It is love that allows someone to go into a stranger's home and to perform the simplist of acts that can bring another to faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trusting in the Lord

From today's reading:  1 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong.  For they shall soon wither like the grass, and like the green grass fade away.  Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches.   Psalm 37:1-3

That just about sums it up.  -  don't envy those who get ahead by improper means, and put your trust in God.  God will take care of those who do evil and he will take care of his faithful.  We simply have to trust that he will be there and keep us under his watchful eye.

So many people are beginning to show the strain of this years presidential campaign.  I, for one, and tired of the rhetoric.  If the candidates would just tell us what they plan to do or how they plan to handle various situations and quit attacking one another, I might actually want to listen to them.  

I found this gem while reading my lessons this morning and hope maybe it speaks with truth.      "The government of the earth is in the hand of the Lord, and over it he will raise up the right leader for the time."  Maybe we should all pray this one!   Sirach 10:4

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From the belly of Sheol you heard my cry.

From today's reading:  "I called to the LORD out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.  Jonah 2:2

This has always been an encouraging verse to me.  Here is Jonah in the belly of the great fish and he knows that this situation is a result of his discision to ignore the Lord and run away.  I don't know of anyone who hasn't made a bad choice on occasion.  Sometimes they are simple little things that don't really make a big difference, but on those occasions when the decision could be life changing, it is so comforting to know that we can call on the Lord and regardless of where we are, He hears our voice.  And He will begin to set in motion those things that will help bring us out of the belly of the fish that has engulfed us.

From Psalm 139:7-8,12a - Where can I go from your spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to Heaven, you are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. Even the darkness is not dark to you...

It doesn't matter what kind of mess we get ourselves into - our Lord is there to help us find our way back.  Now and always!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Someone touched me

From today's reading: Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.'  Luke 8:46

The crowd surrounded Jesus and pressed in from every side, and yet, he knew that someone had touched the hem of his cloak, and not just touched it, but touched it with the faith that it could make her well.  Jesus felt the power go out of him and he knew it wasn't just someone who wanted to be able to say, "I touched Jesus." but someone in great need; someone in desperation.

I think this is so hopeful for all of us.  When we reach out to Jesus in any kind of need, he feels our presence and our need and our faith.  And he in turn reaches out to us and assures us, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.' (Verse 48)  It's as simple as that.  No great and mights acts - no proclamation from the rooftops.  Just 'go in peace - you have been cleansed.'  It's personal and it's powerful in its simplicity.  Go in peace - the Lord is with you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Philip the Deacon

From today's reading:  Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch returning home (from Jerusalem), he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up. . . and he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.  The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak.          Acts 8:26-27, 29-30,32,34-35

Philip is one of the seven men selected in Acts to serve the church along with the disciples.  I love this reading - I love what it says.  Philip allowed the Spirit to lead him without question and when he found himself in this place, he first listened before responding.  When he saw this court official in his chariot, and heard him reading from Isaiah, he asked, "Do you understand?"  When invited, he joined the eunuch in the chariot.  But he still listened and did not respond until asked a question.  I think a mistake some Christians make is to assume that someone wants to hear what they have to say, without first listening to their cares and concerns. Philip listens and then waits until the Ethiopian asks him a question.  Then he answers it, openly and honestly.

I've had this kind of thing happen at least twice where I ended up somewhere unusual in a conversation with a stranger, and somewhere in the midst of that conversation realized that it was God appointed.  And the most amazing feeling wells up inside you as you realize that God is using you to make a new difference in someone's life.  Sometimes you only realize it in hindsight, and that's okay.  But the thing that speaks to me most clearly is that evangelism is most effective when the person is in an inquiring and receptive frame of mind.  The Holy Spirit does his work and then brings us in to "seal the deal" - to clarify and affirm what He is already doing - to let the person know that God cares enough to give them help and companions along the way.  Where has the Spirit led you lately? 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are you the one?

From today's reading:  John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, 'Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?' And [Jesus] answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.  Luke 7:18-19,22 

I think this is still a big question today.  Are you the one, or do we look elsewhere?  In Jesus' day, the Jews were looking specifically for the Messiah - the one promised from God.  In today's world, that's a much broader question.  There are a lot of other 'religions' out there: many that have come down through the ages, but also a lot of newer expressions of spirituality that have been designed by people looking for meaning, but maybe sadly missing the most important ingredient.  

Whether you are looking for forgiveness, enlightenment, salvation, relationship, a feeling of oneness with something larger than yourself, meaning in life - God can speak to all of this. 

You notice that Jesus does not give a direct answer to John's question.  He does not say, "Yes, I am the one."  Instead, he says, "Look around you.  What do you see?  How do you interpret what you see?"  He is encouraging them to critical thinking - can these things happen and be insignificant?  Can these things happen and not affect the world - not come from something larger than our existence?

We are being invited to look at the world around us.  Are those significant things that happen around us just coincidence, or is there a design that comes from something larger than chance.  For Christians the answer is obvious.  Jesus was the one to come.  There is a Godly design to the universe - from the vast expanse of interstellar space to the intimate way that God cares for us as demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Restoring life

From today's reading:   As [Jesus] approached the gate of [Nain], a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, 'Young man, I say to you, rise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Luke 7:12-15

This is just a little story - only 4 verses long - and often overlooked by casual readers.  But it is an important story in telling us what Jesus is like.  Now I'm sure that during the time Jesus and his disciples traveled around they saw a number of funerals, so why is this the only one mentioned?  The story has more to do with the mother than anything else.  The mother it says is a widow and that this was her only son.  

That information is very important because it tells us that the woman is now without support - no one to take care of her or to provide for her.  She will be left on the street to beg for whatever scraps people might give her.  But it also says that Jesus had compassion for her - Jesus cared that she was left alone.  He cared that her heart and her life were broken by the son's death.  So he restored her life by restoring her son.

This is one of those little stories that is meant to comfort us; to let us know that Jesus cares about those things that have the ability to crush us.  Jesus cares and is willing to step into the gap to take care of us.  Thank you, Lord, that you restore our life when we seem to have lost everything.  Thank you, Jesus, for your loving care that surrounds us and lifts us up when we are down.  Amen.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Laying a Foundation on the Rock

From today's reading:  I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.  Luke 6:47-48

In this day and age, there are a lot of people who are seeking enlightenment and fulfillment in any number of ways: those people who say they are spiritual but not religious, those who do not acknowledge any authority over them, those who think that Christianity has no relevance in today's world.  But the truth is that it does have relevance and that it can be the foundation for what we are seeking.  

God can reach out to people in any number of ways.  He will search your heart and find what it is that moves you and give you an opportunity to see him in that.  If it is love that you want or knowledge, truth, wisdom, justice, beauty, righteousness, symmetry, grace or mercy - whatever it is - God will address it and show you his presence in it if you only open your eyes to see and acknowledge Him. 

The truth is that our world can be messy.  We often stumble around seeking and making mistakes.  But the joy is that God's love for his creation is so great, that when we study his desire for us and for the world, we find perfection in his plan.  When we lay our foundation on Him, the imperfection that rises from humanity in this world cannot topple or destroy what God has built. 

When you look at God's ability to be in the midst of our concerns, and you look at God's desire to fill us and keep us in his presence, it can be a little overwhelming to understand that the Creator of the world, the Lord of Life itself, is there for us when we need him and reach out to him.  Amen.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi

From today's reading:  One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, 'Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?'  Luke 6:1-2

Jesus was always under scrutiny by the Pharisees.  He was accused of being a drunkard, a glutton, and frowned on for associating with sinners and tax collectors.  Here his disciples were belittled for plucking and eating the heads of grain as they walked through a field.  These were not rich men.  They followed Jesus because they believed in him.  They lived mostly off the land and the kindness of others.  

Today is the day set aside to honor St. Francis of Assisi.  The way most churches celebrate his day is to have a blessing of the animals.  As a young man, Francis renounced his father's wealth and embraced 'Lady Poverty.' Sure that he had heard the voice of God, Francis began rebuilding a local church that was falling down.  Later as others joined him, he began an order of "friars"who accepted a rule of poverty and wandered what is now Europe preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.  Francis epitomized the saying, "Preach the gospel.  If necessary, use words."  He led by example (not unlike Christ) in tryng to bring the peace of God into the world.