Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Prayer Vigil

Our church hosts a prayer vigil each Lenten season - usually beginning on Holy Saturday, and continuing until Easter morning.  Each slot is an hour long.

I participated several years, but I don't think I've done it lately. This year I claimed the Sunday morning 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. hour to pray.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. It didn't seem like a good idea this morning.  I realized it meant getting up an hour early and getting ready by 8:00 a.m.  We leave the house at 9I:00 a.m., so I would need to finish the prayer time and then walk about the door.  No lazy Easter morning for me.

I even considered skipping it.  Shortening it.  Doing it at a different time.  Something to change what I had agreed to do.  But Steve had the hour before me, and he got up early, and he went downstairs to spend the hour in prayer.  Sigh.  I guess I would do it, too.

I had forgotten.  It had been so long since I spent an hour in prayer, all at one time, dedicated with no interruptions, that I had forgotten what a joy it is.  

I need to be more intentional about this.  I need to be more disciplined about this.  I just need to do it.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Growing Their Gifts

Brad Paisley grew up in Glen Dale, West Virginia, which is very near to Wheeling.  I was in Glen Dale a few weekends ago, so I "did my research" after we left town (I googled).  Wikipedia says that he performed in public for the first time in his church.  The article later quotes Paisley to say, "The neat thing about a small town is that when you want to be an artist, by golly, they'll make you one."

That made me think about church.  I hope our children say that about our churches.  My prayer is that whatever gifts, talents, or dreams our children have, that our churches will nurture those gifts and dreams so that all of the children of God have the chance to go into themselves.  Into the selves that God has created them to be.

Sometimes I worry that we put perfection - in our music, in our readings, in our ministry - at a higher value than the nurturing of the "not so perfect." I hope that we will all take the chance and give those growing into their gifts the opportunity to use them.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Looking up


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Anxiety into Hope

 When I watched this, what impressed me the most at first was that Nadia took the scripture that we might not think has much to do with us - who was Caesar and who was the ruler in Jerusalem at the time Jesus was born - and developed it in a way that helped me to see how the people who read it would experienced it, and how that experience can form my own thoughts today.

 When we read it on the surface, we might not notice that part of the scripture at all. But the idea that there are forces in the world against which we feel powerless is very relevant today. And the idea that Christ can overpower all of that is incredible hopeful.

 Where is anxiety in your life? Can you turn it into hope? I pray that it is so.

 Second lesson in this is that the Bible offers us so much more than what is on the surface. The literally true fact is who was ruling at time. The truth is so much more. We should remember that, and apply it to our study, shouldn't we?

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Means of Grace

According to the United Methodist Church website, the means of grace could be divided into Works of Piety and works of Mercy.

Works of Piety are practices that lead us to holiness of living.  We can do them as individuals or as communal practices.  Individuals practices include reading, meditating, and studying scripture, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing out faith with others.  Communal acts of piety include sharing the sacraments, Christian conversation and accountability, and Bible study.

Can you see how these practices can lead to wisdom?  Reading, study, Christian Conversation, and Bible Study open our minds to seek God through the Bible  and through others.  Meditation, prayer and fasting, and worship open our minds to the work of the holy spirit to whisper wisdom from God to us.

What about Works of Mercy?  Individuals works include good works, visiting the sick, and those in prison, feeding the hungry, and generosity.  Communal practices include seeking justice, ending oppression and discrimination, and addressing the needs of the poor.  I think all of us would agree that putting feet on the words of Jesus to love each other, when we do it though acts of mercy, not only benefit the ones who need the help, but also open us up to wisdom.  Help other people, and you will find you are the one who needed mercy.

In our quest to find wisdom, I think Wesley's list of the means of grace are an excellent starting point.

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Monday, April 22, 2019


I taught Sunday school a Sunday or two ago.  I focused the lesson on the beginning of Peter Enns' book, How the Bible Works.  His thesis is that the Bible is designed by God to invite us on a quest for wisdom.  

Let's talk about wisdom for a little bit:
  1. Wisdom was present before creation à Proverbs 3:19-20 says, “The Lord by wisdom  founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the  deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.  Paul speaks of how Jesus and  wisdom are intertwined in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “He (God) is the source of your life in  Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and  sanctification and redemption…”
  2. “At least some ancient Jews ascribed to wisdom something approaching divine status to  act as a mediator between God and humanity, to make God accessible to us here and  now.”  (Enns) We can understand that wisdom is a characteristic of God.
  3. I think wisdom is one of the ways God employs sanctifying grace to help us to grown  more into God’s own image.  
Wisdom makes God more accessible to us.  Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit whispers to us.  Wisdom  was present with God when Jesus was, at the beginning.  

And the Bible invites us to pursue it.  

How do we do that?  I think there are lots of ways, but I think back to Wesley, and the means of grace.  If Wisdom is a characteristic of God that leads us closer the image of God, then I think it is a kind of sanctifying grace.  If it's grace, then what about Wesley's means of grace?  Could these be tools to help us to seek wisdom?

Tomorrow, let's talk about the Means of Grace.  

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Monday, April 08, 2019

The Same Mind

Please read Philippians  2:5-11

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" (verse 5)

Have you read Facebook recently? Skimmed through Instagram? Peeked at Twitter? Have you sat in a restaurant and listened to the conversations flowing around you? Have you tuned into the news? Have you noticed, the way I have, that many of us, including me, are convinced that we are RIGHT.  We believe that our judgment, our conclusions, and our actions are right, and those who disagree with us are WRONG.  And we fail to love.

Sometimes, in our tweets, our posts, and our conversations, we fail to see that the person in front of us, who we judge to be WRONG, is a child of God, created in God's image, and beloved.  Instead of seeing a person, we see an issue.  We see what we believe to be WRONG, and we fail to love.

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus."

As part of the work I do, I am privileged to travel through the Annual Conference. I meet many United Methodists, and I can tell you, we do not all agree.  And yet, even so, I have been welcomed everywhere I go.  Everywhere I go, people are feeding the hungry. They are teaching children about God. They are reaching out to their communities to share the light of Christ. Everywhere I go, people are being the CHURCH. 

To me, having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus does not mean that we agree.  It means that we love the way Christ loves.  It means that we empty ourselves of thoughts of ourselves, and we follow in the footprints of Christ, even to a cross.  We will always fail to love until we see the PERSON in front of us.

"Let the same mind be in you that was in in Christ Jesus."

Prayer: Creating and sustaining God, help us to walk in humility, dying with Christ, and living a new life.  Help us to love all of those around us, seeing our brothers and sisters through your eyes.  Forgive our judgment of others and our pride in ourselves, and free us for joyful obedience.  We prayer in your son's name, Amen.

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Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Spouting Verses

A couple of weeks ago in worship, the lectionary reading was the temptation of Jesus. Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days, fasting.  The devil comes to him, and tempts him.  What was interesting to me that morning in worship was that for temptation, the devil used bible verses from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

In a world where I hear so many people quoting Bible verses to make a point, this struck home with me.  I don’t think we are the devil when we quote scripture, but I think that story points us to a conclusion that is extremely important in our faith. The purpose of the Bible is not that it is to be used as a weapon. It isn’t to be used as an “instruction” manual, with verses lifted up as arrows.

So, what is the purpose of the Bible?

I'm reading a book called How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns.  He writes that the purpose of the Bible is to invite us to pursue a quest for wisdom.  This is how God designed the Bible; and don't you and I believe that God knew what he was doing?

If God knew the best kind of sacred writing we would need, and I believe that to be true, then what is God’s plan? His purpose for this writing? Peter Enns says that the pursuit of wisdom is God's Plan A.

Think about that the next time you are tempted to spout Bible verses in support of what you believe. Anita, in Sunday school, put it best today.  "Don't use the Bible like the drunk who uses light post for support instead of for illumination."

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