Friday, February 17, 2017

Logos: Leviticus 19:1-2,9-10

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.  “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:1,2 and 9,10)

The Lord spoke to Moses and told him that because God is holy, so are we. 

How does that change our lives? I think these verses tell us that because we are created in the image of God, and because God is always re-creating us, to make us more holy, that we are called - demanded -to structure our lives to reflect God's holiness.

In these verse, the Israelites are told to not be so greedy as to harvest the edges of their fields - this was a way to care for those who were hungry, and who would come to glean from the fields. Remember in the story of Ruth - how she gleaned from the edges of the field? They are called to not strip their vineyards clean - to leave something for the poor and the alien.

I don't know about you, but I'm not harvesting fields or picking grapes, but I still think these verses apply to my life and to yours. How do we structure our lives to care for the poor and the alien?

We can gather from these verses a few things:

  1. Our care of the poor and the alien isn't accidental. It require intentional acts on our part.
  2. It requires that we let go of the fear of not enough - that we let go of our greed. Of what are you afraid? Let go of it and care for others.
  3. This intentional, brave, fearless work we are called to do is holy. It doesn't make us holy, but it reflects the holiness of God - and of ourselves.
So, think on these things. What do these verses say about our care for the hungry and homeless around us? For our care of our neighbor? For our care of the immigrant? What intentional, brave, holy thing do we need to do?

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

#Blessed

Last Sunday, I attended worship at a different church because we were doing a presentation at the church after worship. The sermon topic was "#Blessed."

I loved the thoughts expressed in the sermon - so much that I took notes and want to share them with you.

Blessings are not evidenced by what we consider to be success. Our new car, our home - these are not what God would consider to be blessings. In fact, Jesus has blessed everyone. Think about that. Jesus was crucified, died and buried. He rose again, and in this action, everyone was blessed.

Look around. Who do you consider to be blessed? It doesn't work the way we think. God's kingdom is a different place. God blesses everyone - not just the righteous or those who (whom?) we think have earned it.

All are blessed. In fact, there is nothing you can do to eliminate God's affirmation of you. Blessing is our identity - our condition. It is who we are.

You are blessed. Look around and find God's blessings in your life. Where do you find evidence of the presence of God?


(Hattip to Rev. Angela Gay Kinkead)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Perspectives: You Never Know

Steve and I were out for dinner one night. At the end of the evening, the waiter returned to the table with the check for Steve to sign. This picture shows the pen he brought with the check for Steve to use.

Can you read the pen? It says, "United Methodist Foundation of West Virginia, Inc." I picked out that pen, worked out the design on my computer, placed the order with the company that made them, and then The Foundation staff sent them out to churches. And there it was. In the wild.

I've seen lots of these pens in churches, but I've never encountered one in "the wild." 

This is just a pen, but it reminds me of how the word of God spreads. This is the effect that our actions have in the world. Help a person, and you never know the change your love will have in that person's life. God knows, and sometimes you might get a glance - most of the time you won't.


So serve. Shine. Help. Love. It goes around the world.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Joy

Joy. What does joy mean to you?

Is it the happiness you experience when you see your favorite team win the Super Bowl? Is it the pleasure of a fine meal? This is all joy, but it's not the Christian joy. I don't mean that it's sinful to find pleasure in these and other experiences - just that it's not how God defines joy.

And, interestingly enough, it's not how C.S. Lewis describes joy. Joy is the yearning for ... the longing for ... something else.  
I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again... I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”  (C.S. Lewis)
Joy is the longing for something that we experience for only a moment. We cannot hold onto it. It is not an end in itself. When we make it the goal, rather than the goal being what we yearn for, we cannot reach it (the joy or the goal). Complicated, isn't it?


Joy is never ours to achieve. It is a gift from God - a spiritual gift. Lewis, I think, if I understand correctly, would say that joy is the longing for God. It is what we experience for just a moment when we are in God's presence. It is not something we create - it is fleeting. Try to hold onto it and it slips away. Try to recreate it, and you'll fail. Open yourself up to sanctifying grace; find joy.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Time and Eternity

Have you ever said, "She is growing up so quickly! Just the other day, she was a baby?" Or marveled at the adult-ness of your sons? I have. Time seems to rocket by. We say in our office that we speed towards Annual Conference and then we rush towards Christmas.

According to Louis Markos, in the CS Lewis lectures I'm listening to, this is evidence that we are created for eternity. We live in a time-bound world. We are in time, we are part of time - we can't imagine a world without time. So why are we so started that time passes? 

He says that Lewis proposes that our inability to judge the actual speed of the passage of time is evidence that we are created for a world without time.


It's an interesting thought.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Logos Matthew 5:21-24

"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'   But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.  So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matthew 5:21-24)
Yes, but God, I don't want to do that.

Have you ever been really angry with someone - so angry that you can't imagine forgiving that person? Have you ever considered what that anger does to your relationship with God? To the work you are called to do for God?

Have you ever considered that there might be something you are holding onto that you must release in order for God to bring you healing? To allow you to serve more fully? To experience the joy of God more completely?

Have you ever thought about just letting go of that?

Yes, but God, I don't want to do that.

We are not in this alone. We are not called to forgive alone. We have already been granted to power of God to lead us to do that which we could never do on our own. Forgive. Allow that power to work in your life. Allow yourself to be healed. God will do that for you; for me. For all of us.

Do that, and free yourself for joyful obedience.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Become the Happy Ending

As the Western District Lay Leader, I gave the devotional at a recent workshop.  Here it is:

As I thought about this devotional this morning, the word Hope kept moving through my mind - so much so that I became convinced that Hope was what I needed to talk about this morning.

So - and this isn't how one should write a devotional - but I went to Bible Gateway online, and searched for the word hope in scripture.  And I found 202 references to the word hope.  That didn't really amaze me, but what did amaze me was that 15 of those references were in the book of Job.  If you think about Job, I imagine he felt hopeless.  

If you think about it, many of the people around us feel hopeless.  Think about it for a moment. Who around you might feel without hope?
  • The person addicted to drugs - who feels hopeless to recover?
  • The parent who watches a child suffer - and feels hopeless to stop the pain?
  • The friend who watches someone slowly die from Alzheimers?
Have you felt hopeless?

Have you ever attended a church meeting and left feeling hopeless? 

But, you are here today, and you come with hope. You come here to learn more about the job you have been called to do - for the work you are about to set about doing is work that is in response to a call from God for you to use your talents and gifts for the work of God's kingdom.

In Acts, Chapter 2, verses 43-47, Luke writes, "Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."

This is church.  This is what church is about.  The Guideline page that started me thinking about hope uses the word HOPE to describe the church. 
H - hospitality - We offering welcome and inclusion to those who do not know God.  We go into the world in outreach and mission, offering hope through our words and our deeds.
O - Offer Christ - we offer Christ by providing opportunities for people to commit their lives to God - think baptism and communion.
P - purpose - We nurture people in faith, demonstrating to them that they have a God-given purpose in the world - to live out their belief in acts of piety and mercy. - being living demonstrations of grace
E - engagement - We send out grace-filled believers who are putting their faith in action.

We as a church are a circle, offering hope to the world. You can hear echos of that in the passage from Acts.

I heard it said once that we as the church, through what we say and what we do, become the happy ending.  I hope when you leave here you feel more empowered, equipped and excited to be the hope for the world so that the church can become the happy ending.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Perspectives: Let your light shine

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstands, and it give slight to all in the house.  In the same, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)
I have two images to show you today. One is of a glass of water. I think it's amazing how the light shines through it. You don't really see the candle that is behind it, but you see the beauty of the candle, shining through the water. In some ways, I think this is how we should shine for God.

The candle is beautiful. Something about the water adds a different beauty to it. You don't really see the water, but the water is part of the beauty that you see.

We are made in the image of God. When we open ourselves to serve God, God's light shines through us, and the result is beautiful to behold.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

On Law

On Law:  There are basically two kinds: (1) law as the way things ought to be, and (2) law as the way things are. (Beuchner, Wishful Thinking)

Yes, I'm still reading Wishful Thinking.  Yes, it's taking me a long time. But, I read a few paragraphs a day as my daily devotional, and his writing is so full of ideas that need to be savored and examined, that I wouldn't want to read it fast. 

Anyway, his paragraphs about law struck me. Think about the quote.  There is law that describes (and tries to enforce) things as they should be. We have laws against theft, because we should not steal. We have laws against pollution, because we should try to protect the creation we share. These try to describe the world as it should be - a world where we respect each other and God.

Then there are laws that describe the way things are. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can change form but is neither created nor destroyed. It's a law that describes the way things are. The law of gravity - drop an apple and it falls to the ground. Newton put it into words, but his words didn't attempt to make things the way they should be - his words described the way things are. E=mc2 isn't guidance for the universe. 

So, when a prophet tells the people of Israel that if they continue acting the way they are, that something will happen to them, the prophet isn't forecasting what will happen if his words aren't obeyed. The prophet is explaining the way life is. When we learn that if we place money and possessions at the center of our life, our hearts will grow cold and we will be alone with our belongs, we aren't being told of what happens because we have disobeyed the commandment to have no other gods before God. We are being told of life as it is. Failure to love has consequences as certain as the law of gravity on an apple.

There is law that describe the way life is. The way things are. And sometimes the scripture is God's way of telling us the way life is, and through God's love, we are being instructed in the way to live life in this world. We are being given a heads up out of grace and love.

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Holding on and letting go

A couple of Sundays ago during the children's time during worship, a grandfather brought a little boy to the front to participate. The little boy approached with his trusted grandfather, and he would stay and listen, but he would not let go of his grandfather's finger.  He would be brave, but he needed that connection. It was trust and love, personified. Beautiful.

This is how we start with our children.  We hold their hands. I remember always holding the hands of my boys as we crossed the streets together. I remember not letting go of the buggy in the grocery store if they were in it - just to keep them safe. I remember walking on the beach, and making sure they were in front of us, so that we could see them. When they are young, we are their protection. As parents, we are what protects them from harm, if we can. We try.

As they grow, we let go. We have raised them to become adults, and being an adult means making mistakes, being brave, being independent. It is hard, but it is what we have raised them to do.

I'm so proud of our sons, and the men they have become and are becoming. I remember holding their hands, and I am (I pray) brave enough to trust in what we have taught them, and to let go.


I am blessed that God will never let go of them.

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Logos: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
This is Paul, speaking to the church at Corinth. The words remind me of a story told my our preacher today during worship. He told us about E. Stanley Jones, a man who would become a missionary and who change the face of evangelism in our Church. Jones had been a lawyer, and was called to become ordained. He went to seminary, and while he was a student, his pastor invited him to preach at his home church. He was determined to do a good job, and to be God's lawyer, arguing God's case with deeply theological and well constructed sermons. 

As he preached this sermon that he had so thoroughly prepared, he stumbled over a word, saw a college-aged girl laughing, got lost in his notes, and then quite. Gave up. Left the pulpit. As he did, he heard a voice say, "Stanley, have I ever done anything for you?" \

"Yes, God, everything."

"Tell them that."

I think Paul is saying much the same thing. Paul is saying that he comes with words to demonstrate a witness to what God - the spirit - has done and is doing. He is proclaiming the power of God, so that others might see it.


What has gone done for you? Anything? Tell that to others so that they may come to know Jesus better through you. They are waiting. They are hungry for the word of God, and you have the story to share. 

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Best of Who we Are

West Virginia: We are seen as the worst of what we might be instead of the best of who we are. 

I don't remember where I heard that. I don't even know if it pertained to West Virginia when I heard it, but I wrote it down because I thought it was profound. And true.

We in West Virginia are often seen as the worst of what we might me. Think of news media covering our state, or how we are portrayed in fiction - books, television or movies. We are often portrayed as the stereotype. I think that is because that is what people who are not from here (some people) expect to see, so that is what they find - or that is what they portray. It's a shame, because West Virginia is full of kind, generous, smart people.

Do we do the same thing? Do we allow stereotypes to blind us to what is in front of us? Do we see people as we expect them to be instead of how they are? Do we see the worst of what might be instead of the best that is?


We should stop doing that. We of all people know how that feels.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Perspectives: To Serve

This is a picture of the little bag that holds the silverware at Chili's. I couldn't help but take a picture of it. "We were put here to serve."  True about silverware. 

True also about us.

We were put here to serve. Who do we serve? 

Put the question another way. Can we equate love with service? I think we can, if we remember Jesus washing the disciple's feet. Service is love.

Love God. Love each other. Serve God. Serve each other.


How can we be of service to each other? If this is our calling, perhaps it is a question we should ask ourselves each day. Who am I to serve today? May God show us all the way. And the one (or more) to serve today.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

We are the Answer

This is the way God carries on his mission of the kingdom of heaven: not by the words with which he answer, but by our being the answer to the problems of our needy world comes by way of person and by our continuing deeds.  Abram was God's answer millennia ago. You and I are God's answers today. (J. Ellsworth Kalas / Adult Bible Studies, Winter 2011-12)
How many times do we pray, "Oh, God, help that person."? How often do we see a homeless man on the street and pray for him? How often do we see a woman who is hurting, whose daughter is suffering addiction problems, and we pray that God will help? 

There is nothing wrong with any of that - it's all good. Sometimes, though, I thing we (I) stop there. We forget that pray is a two way street. God chooses to help through us. We pray that the person will be helped and then we don't listen when God provides guidance for what we are to do. 

Don't misunderstand me. There are some issues that we cannot changes. There are some situations where our "help" would be detrimental. But there are so many where our action can make a difference in someone's life. 


When we ask the question, we sometimes forget that we are the answer.

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