Sunday, November 12, 2017

Those who have died in the Lord...

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. What a time for this scripture to come up in the lectionary readings.  Those who die in the Lord are on everyone’s mind this week following the massacre at the 1st Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.  Senseless killing and senseless death are beyond the imagination of ordinary people.  We don’t understand the kind of tormented soul who could commit such a heinous act.  And we grieve the loss of so many who were loved by family and friends and who worshipped and trusted in God.

Quite often we want to rail at God for allowing such evil and pain to exist in the world.  From our perspective, is it hard to remember that God does not consider physical death to be a tragedy.  The ones who died are with the Lord they loved, but those who are left behind are experiencing an unbearable hole in their lives and a deep, deep sorrow at their loss.  God is the ultimate comforter and healer.  For most, the wounds will eventually heal, but the experience reminds us that life in this world is uncertain and we need to hold close those we love and never take for granted those whose lives are entwined with ours.  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Focus on Jesus

Lately I have been using “Jesus Always” by Sarah Young as my morning reading.  Today’s reading includes the following: “Many Christians are defeated by focusing mainly on less important things - the news, weather, economy, loved one’s problems, their own problems, and so on.  Granted, in this world you will have troubles, but don’t let troubles become your primary focus.  Remind yourself that I am with you and I have overcome the world. I am nearer than the air you breathe yet I am infinite God.”
Too many things compete for our attention in this world today, and way too often we do focus on the sensationalism spewed out by our ‘news’ outlets.  It’s too easy to shake our heads and allow our blood pressure to rise at the atrocities inflicted upon one another and pronounce judgments on others for their actions or beliefs or whatever captures our imagination.  

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable for things they do or say, but we all too often allow ‘Satan’ to draw us away from focus on God’s goodness to an evil self-righteousness that only hurts ourselves more than others.  We forget that God does not want our anger.  He wants our compassion.  Micah 6:8 says, “What does God require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”   So I offer up the following prayer for the people of God:  

Come, Lord Jesus!  Be our guide and our focus.  Help us to find your way amid the maze of false paths laid out by those who would draw us away from your loving presence.  Send your Holy Spirit as our guide and your holy angels as our protection.   Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Living for Christ

“To me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”  Philippians 1:21. 

In this passage (Phil. 1:21-30)  Paul wrestles with the idea of dying to be one with Christ or living to spread the gospel message.  Even though his desire is to die and be with Christ, he understands that his purpose is to help others come to a fuller understanding of a life lived in grace.  

By remaining in this life as an encouraging agent, Paul is doing God’s work.  Through sharing his struggles, he gives us an example of what it looks like to follow Christ.  It is not always easy, but we are assured that the prize is worth the effort.  Christ himself is the prize, and Christ himself is our support.  We are never alone in our struggle.  Christ will always come alongside of us to share our burden.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Living forgiveness

Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.  Romans 14:3. Paul is responding to a problem in the Roman church.  Some people believe that they are better than others because of their practices in the faith.  He makes it clear in this passage that we are not to pass judgment.  Different people are at different places in their walk with Christ, and that’s okay.  

Some of us may honor the Lord in different ways and that’s okay.  Paul reminds us that we don’t live to ourselves but to the Lord.  When we died we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  And our Gospel lesson tells us that we will be judged according to the judgment we have passed on others.  One of the hardest things a Christian does might be to learn how to be non-judgmental.  We must remember that forgiveness is from God and is always to be passed on to those we meet. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Reflection on Psalm 119:105 - Word of God

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.”  There is a reason why more Bibles are sold every year than any other book.  It not only talks about eternal salvation, but it lays out a plan for living out our lives here on earth.  It gives examples of both right and wrong ways of doing things.  It also points out that even when you don’t do everything exactly right, you can still be acceptable before God. 

    At ordination, an Episcopal priest declares that they believe the Bible to contain all things necessary to salvation.  Sometimes when I don’t have a clue about what I’m supposed to do and I yell out, “Oh God, what now?”  God’s word can be comforting.  It can be challenging.  It can place you in God’s presence and help you see that path God has chosen for you to travel.  And it is always time well spent reading and contemplating God’s word.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reflections on Genesis 24

In our first lesson from Genesis 24, We see Isaac’s man-servant going out to find a wife for Isaac.  According to the instructions from Abraham, he is going only to Abraham’s kinsfolk.  As he approaches the neighborhood, he stops and prays to God to help him find a mate for Isaac.  And he doesn’t leave it open to interpretation.  He asks for a specific sign (that the woman who gives him water, will also offer to water his camels) so that he will know without a doubt that he has received an answer.  

As I was graduating from seminary, I was questioning what God was calling me to do and where he was calling me to be.  I thought I was going one place, but then John Logan, then Canon to the Ordinary, called and asked me to go interview in Huntsville for an assistant rector/campus minister position there.  I remember praying on the way to Huntsville asking for a sign.  I decided that the sign would be that I would be able to see outside from the nave.  When I walked into the nave, there were three clear glass windows on either side of the congregation and a large clear glass window behind the altar showing the forest behind it.  I had my answer.  

I don’t think that the sign we ask for is arbitrary.  I believe that God places that specific sign in our mind so that he can answer our question without a doubt.  If you don’t ask for a specific sign, it might be possible to miss (or misinterpret) God’s message for you.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reflections on the Gospel reading

Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 10:24-39) is a continuation of last week.  Jesus is sending the disciples out to preach the good news in neighboring towns.  This is still part of the teaching and instructions before they leave.  He encourages them to be like him, and what he has taught them in secret, they are now to go out and proclaim it to all they meet.  They are not to be afraid of people who come up against them.  When they proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are people who will take exception and argue with them.  It might even be family members who work against you.  

But through it all you are to remember that God considers you precious in his sight and He will be with you.  The same is true for us, also.  It doesn’t really matter whether it is family members, friends or strangers, there are people who will not agree with us.  And it doesn’t have to be about God - people will take exception over religion, or sports, or politics or even about what is a good place to eat. Arguments will happen, friendships will be strained, but through it all, we are to remember that we belong to God.  We are made in his image and are his forever.  He will give us strength to meet the needs of the day, to find solutions for working together and he will be with us through it all

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reflections on Mountain top experiences

In our second lesson, Peter reports, "When we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty."  Eyewitnesses - that is how the word of Jesus was spread - through eyewitness accounts of what Jesus said and what he did.  "Up on the mountain we saw his glory, we heard the voice of God, and we saw Moses and Elijah."  

Mountains were often where people went to experience God.  I remember climbing the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos mountains in Big Bend.  When we reached the top, there was an amazing view of the hills and valleys below reaching on to the mountains over the border in Mexico.  We got to experience a little bit of the view that God has.  Maybe it is the rarified air of the high mountains, but there is truly an experience of God as we begin to understand how great he is, and how insignificant we are.  And we begin to understand how blessed we are to have been given that glimpse of his glorious creation.  You may not have been to a high mountain, but those of us who have, can share that experience through retelling the story just and Peter and James and John.  God's glory was not just seen, but experienced, and the tale was retold over and over so that others might come be believe.