Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Test everything, hold fast to what is good.

From today's reading:  Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets. but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Test everything, hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  Great advice - sometimes harder in the execution.  You would think that all forms of evil should be outlandishly and outrageously obvious.  But that is not always the case.  Often times, the things that seem most attractive, and even innocent, can eventually lead to various forms of evil.  When we get too far into entitlement mode (you know, when you think, "why not me?") that is when we risk Satan's invitation.  That is when we need to remember to test everything, to hold fast to that which is good, and cast away that which is risky.  And trust the Spirit to guide you at all time.  He who is faithful will never let you down.

Lord, when temptations come, help me to recognize them and to walk away from their attractiveness and not to fall into their trap.  Guide me by your word and your Spirit, that I may make right choices and walk in your ways.  Amen. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Faith, hope and love - these three remain

From today's reading:  Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  1 Thessalonians 5:8

Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to remain faithful in their life in Christ.  Too often the human response to the trials of this life is to run away and hide under a rock.  Here Paul gives us images that can help us to stand firm and upright.  Not unlike his letter to the Ephesians, we hear these images of armor - the breastplate that protects the Roman soldier in battle and his helmet.  Here Paul suggests a breastplate of faith and love, to remind us of Christ and protect us from the spiritual anarchy that often swirls around us.   And he suggests a helmet consisting of the hope of salvation that will keep us ever positive in the face of adversity.  Paul cares forthose he ministers to and always tries to give them tools to cope with their situations.  We can use those same tools in our own lives.

Lord, keep us ever mindful that your love surrounds us and protects us like a breastplate so that our faith in you can remain firm and undaunted.  Help us to always keep the helmet of hope in place so that we know that you are ever with us and protecting us in all the cares of this life.  Thank you, Lord, for your son, Jesus, and for the teaching of your servant, Paul.  May we look to you in all things at all times through the power and leading of your Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Psalm 20

From today's reading:  Psalm 20

1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble,*
the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 Send you help from his holy place *
and strengthen you out of Zion;
3 Remember all your offerings *
and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4 Grant you your heart's desire *
and prosper all your plans.

May your day be blessed and full of joy.  Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

For love of God and neighbor

From today's reading:  You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand 
are pleasures for evermore.  Psalm 16:11

I had trouble reading the Psalm today - I wanted to sing it.  These are the words for John Foley's song, "For You are my God."  For you are my God, you alone are my joy.  Defend me, O Lord.  As we came out of church one Sunday, a young man asked me, "I thought I heard him say we are to love God first above everything else.  My father always taught me that you should love family above every thing else."  

The young man had heard correctly.  We are to love God above all, because it is in God's perfect love that we learn to love family and others more perfectly.  Without God's perfect love, other love runs the risk of becoming possessive or even obsessive.  Loving God first keeps all else in perspective.

Another verse says, "You give marvelous comrades to me."  God does place wonderful people in our path to accompany us on our journey through life.  These are the ones that we are to love with the love born of God.  And if we allow him to, God will guide us through the maze that we call life.  We don't have to struggle with all the questions that arise, God will be with us and lead us to right decisions and actions.

Loving God, help us to love those around us more perfectly remembering that we are all made in your image.  Open our eyes and ears to following your leading to reach out in love to a broken and hurting world.  Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas, the giver of gifts

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Here we are in Advent and today we celebrate Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Turkey.  St. Nicholas was a compassionate man who loved God and people.  The story goes: there was a man in town who had three daughters, but lacked suitable dowries for his daughters so that they could not get married.  To save them from a lifetime of prostitution, Nicholas walked by the house on three consecutive nights and threw a bag of money into a window so that the three girls could be married.  Nicholas thereby became the patron saint for anonymous gift giving.

Tomorrow, we are getting together with other members of Sam's high school class for lunch.  We decided that each of us would bring a toy for the Blue Santa gift drive.  This is a prime example of anonymous gift giving.  We trust that needy kids will have a very merry Christmas because of the generosity of others in the spirit of St. Nicholas.

Lord, give us a heart after the heart of Nicholas.  Open our eyes to see where there is need, and open our hearts to reach out as our ability allows to help others in their necessity.  Help us to shine a light into the darkness and give hope to a broken and hurting world.   Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Come, let us go to the house of the Lord

From today's reading:  3 Many peoples shall say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah  2:3

I'm not sure when it came about that I was  indeed glad to hear someone say, "Let us to go the house of the Lord."  In the beginning, it was tedious - and then somehow, being in the presence of God became less and less a chore and more and more a time of excitement and expectation.

I know that we are always in the presence of the living God - but being intentional about coming together to worship Him has a joy of its own.  There is a fulfillment that takes place in the heart that is very hard to explain to someone who has not or does not feel it.

One of the phrases you hear over and over in the gospels is "Come and see..."  When faced with those who do not know the Lord, all we can do is say, "I've found something that fills me and brings peace and hope to my life.  Come and see for yourself."

Lord, open my ears to hear your word that I might always rejoice to hear your voice.  And open my heart to reach out to those you have placed in my path.  Let me be a beacon, not a wall, to those who do not know you, so that I might lead them to your holy hill.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sharing the Gospel & ourselves

From today's reading:  So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.  1 Thessalonians 2:8

What really strikes me about this is that Paul cares so deeply for the Thessalonians.  When we care for others, we want them to experience what we have and what we know and what we love, but most of all we want to share ourselves with them.  God uses us no matter who we are or where we are - but he uses us best when we have love for those around us - for those to whom we minister.

For those of us we serve on Cursillo or Emmaus and Kairos teams, team formation is very important.  It is in getting to know those we serve with that we grow to care deeply.  And it is in praying for those who will attend that we grow to care for them even before we meet them.

When in our daily life, we run across people who irritate us or seem to be at odds with us, try praying for them.  Honest prayer has a way of changing attitudes and situations and relationship.  

Dear Lord Jesus. help me to learn to pray honestly for those around me, that I may grow to care deeply for them.  Help me to become a beacon of your light and love to this broken and hurting world.  Amen. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

By whose authority?

From today's reading:  Jesus answered them, 'I will also ask you a question. . . Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?  Luke 20:3-4

All of the officials who came to Jesus asking about his authority to be teaching in the temple may have been asking about temporal authority, but Jesus takes it to the next level.  Is the authority from men or from God?    In our day and age, in the Episcopal Church, the answer is both: God anoints (appoints) and the church affirms.

The officials considered the two choices given by Jesus.  They did not want to believe that John's authority had come from heaven; that would mean that there was a problem with their own authority.  So they took the safe way - "we don't know."  And the truth was, they really didn't know."  I've also found out that it's okay not to be sure about some things and it's okay to change your mind when you have new data to consider.  

Authority from God can only be sensed at a spiritual level.  Often doors open when you are following the path God has chosen, but they tend to slam shut when you are walking outside his will.  I remember a young man with a dream, but every time he got the pre-requisites for the program he wanted, they would change the qualifications.  When he finally changed degree programs, he had no trouble getting through it and advancing to his masters degree.  Was John's authority from heaven?  Consider the lives that were changed and the hope that was given in the midst of his ministry.

Lord, open our eyes to see your hand at work, and give us grace to follow the path you have set before us that we may bring hope and clarity to a confused and questioning world.  Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Your Redemption is drawing near.

From today's reading:  (When you) see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. . . stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."  Luke 21:27-28

Being the Rector of Church of the Redeemer for 4 years, I saw this vision every Sunday and preaching under this image was a constant reminder that Christ will come again.  What does it mean as we come to this first Sunday in Advent?  Today is a day of prophecy, of hope and expectation - waiting for the coming of Jesus.  It's not for us to know when He is coming again, but as we await his coming, we are not to sit around idly twiddling our thumbs.  No, we are to be productive while we wait - sharing signs of God's love, of Jesus' presence in our midst.

The problem with this image of Jesus coming in the clouds is that too many people have equated it with judgment.  But Jesus very clearly states here that it is not judgment, but redemption that he brings.  So stand up and raise your heads as you see Jesus coming, for the kingdom of God is indeed drawing near.

Lord, open my eyes to see your hand at work, and give us grace to cast away darkness and put on the armor of light.  Ever remind us that Jesus himself came as a humble child before he was raised in majesty.  Help us to emulate that humility as we proclaim His life and ministry to a broken and hurting world.  Amen.