John the Baptizer called the Jews of his day back to the wilderness, the place where God traditionally informed and shaped His people. There, in the wild, a way was to be prepared for the Coming One, the Messiah. John the camel hair dressed prophet, eating locusts and wild honey, baptized synagogue attending Jews! It was close to someone telling the regular “church goer” to Get Right With God. Who, ”ME?”
Since we are all in an unexpected “wilderness” at some points in our life perhaps we should listen in! And what better time than the Advent time of waiting for Christmas joy and peace and hope. Advent is really more than cards, parades, parties, and shopping! Any of the latter can express The Reason For The Season but can also “hide” the great need for spiritual introspection, preparation, and personally meeting God again and again throughout our life’s journey. God always accepts us where we are but doesn’t want to leave us as we are!
John the Baptizer is a good one to listen to but because he is pointing to the One to come. Jesus brings the Spirit to our wildernesses, our finding our way forward, and all our relationships both in family, community, and nation. Prepare a way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3)! Make this 2nd Sunday in Advent a time of preparation for your spiritual renewal with God in Christ!
“Hurry up and wait.” This is an expression often associated with troops waiting in drudgery, boredom, and routine until suddenly they are called to action, to the fury of battle. The texts of Isaiah and Mark warn of the coming Day of the Lord filled with awe and destruction, apocalyptic world changing events. We are called to wait. But called to be alert in the waiting. Advent as alertness!
Paul in 1st Corinthians 1:3-9 also speaks of the End and revealing of our Lord Jesus but in that time of waiting Paul says we “have all we need, e.g. wisdom, knowledge and spiritual gifts.” And he tops off all this encouragement by saying we are in a “partnership” (CEB) with Jesus (!). That says a lot about how our Lord sees us: if not equals we are still valued as partners working together. Imagine going into the office or whatever workplace and there is a fellow partner… Jesus! Certainly THE Senior partner but nonetheless a partner. Maybe that’s why we often refer to one another in church as a “prayer partner.” We are in this together. We’ve “got each other’s back!” We “saddle up together” and ride toward the horizon, the future, the Sunset.
Pick your favorite image! The point is we go together with each other and with Jesus. Perfect “partnership” casts out fear, if I can paraphrase I John 4:18. Partner up with the best!
Blessings on this First Sunday in Advent!
Between a Sunday whose emphasis is giving thanks and a Sunday when we rejoice in a baby born in Bethlehem, we get a Sunday packed with both cosmic joy and…Judgment! And if we are not intentional, all of the above can get lost on something called Black Friday! Shop till you drop?! It’s a wonder the church can get anybody’s attention this weekend! But we do because there is a loud Truth about both joy and judgment held together in one Person both a Shepherd and a King; Christ the King Sunday; it is the last Sunday in the cycle of the Christian Year.
Next Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, we begin anticipating 2018 and the 12 month cycle of retelling the old, old story from the cradle to the grave to the glory! If there is a beginning to the story of Jesus there is also an ending followed by…..the whole mystery of an Eternal Kingdom “not made by human hands.” An arrival of Cosmic Joy and Judgment; thus we celebrate the texts in Ezekiel, Ephesians, and Matthew all focused on a “wrapping up” of All Things! But, since we are living in between the Times we still need to hear “what saith the Lord” for our current day. We still have to shop (!), make decisions, tend to the relationships at hand, and find ways to enjoy what good things are given to us! God is not finished with us yet! Let us “jump for joy” and “flee from the wrath to come (Wesley)!” We CAN do two things at once!
See you this Sunday, Christ the King Sunday!
It’s that time in the year when individual talents, giftedness, and strengths really begin to be noticed and appreciated. In school work, Fall sports, and election years! Gifted people get noticed! Talent in people, at whatever level, is applauded.
The scriptures, no less, speak to the talents each person has. Deborah is recognized as a leader in the early years of Israel’s becoming a nation of united tribes. Jesus tells his disciples and followers a parable about the faithful use of what each person has been entrusted with. Paul in First Thessalonians encourages us to “build each up and encourage one another.” People of faith have the “talents” to do just that! Young and old all have gifts to share with the community, eg, wisdom, knowledge, strengths, creativity, attributes of all of us being “made in the image of God!”
Imagine also that just being “loved by God our Creator” will bring out the best in each of us for the benefit of each of us! Quite a different way of viewing ourselves with less of an emphasis on competition as our culture tends to glorify.
Be the best that God has in store for you whatever your gifts and talents! Play as though unto the Lord!
Run hard, serve in the elected office, aim for the A+, go long, plant the seeds, be….all you can be while you can be!
Thanks be to God!
Well, the news lately has not been so good. Local, national or international events….not so good. O, there are still many good days and moments with joy and laughter, work and leisure, but they seem dulled by violence, tragedy, and death. Innocence seems to come to a close a lot earlier in life than in The Good Old Days (which is what we all, of a certain age, look back to and then realize….really didn’t exist!). Since we live in a Super Information Age, we find out quickly about all the misery and suffering from the East to the West.
With this in mind, we get scripture this Sunday which points to both the bad and the good in the Day of the Lord (Amos), the “Rapture” (First Thessalonians), and The Wise and Foolish at The Final Wedding Feast (Matthew). The bible is both realistic in how it sees the suffering and evil in the world, and the wonderful hope that God will end that suffering and evil. The bible is about us staying alert, waiting, and participating in what God is doing and God will do. We can sleep…or stay alert. We can be Wise….or we can be Foolish. We can grow in faith….or we can be “content” to stay the same, but miss out on God’s call to be an ongoing New Creation in Christ!
I admit that having lived long enough to have gone through probably over ten predictions of the End of the World; I am weary of End Time “prophets.” I am NOT weary of seeing God continue to bring forth faithful people in spite of gloom and doom. People who “persevere to the end,” people who “are not just hearers of the Word, but are doers of the Word” as well!
This is the greatness of faith: we believe and experience God Now, to the End, and Beyond.
Praise be to God on Sunday and beyond! See you Sunday and beyond!
As C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia, once said: “Aim just for earth and that is all you will get. Aim for heaven, and you get both.”
The person of faith is not earth bound. Dust we are and to dust we return, but that is hardly the end of our Christ story. On All Saints Sunday we remember all those faithful departed, family, friends, influences, examples of love and being loved, forgiven and being forgiven. And as we read and hear these scriptures we have reason to rejoice and be glad in what God brings forth in the people of the Kingdom both here and forever. But words fail us at the threshold of death. We can only go so far in description and vivid images since the bible goes into some detail but is often constrained and says “this far…but no further.” We do, however, build upon what we do know and what we have seen exemplary in the lives we remember today. People that lived in faith, hope, love, and in forgiveness. These must continue especially the greatest of these….love.
So, when the 10 year old asks about heaven and pets and games and houses and clothes “up there” we can simply say “we don’t have many pictures of all that but God is good and will do what’s right for His beloved people.” You can fill in some blanks as your faithful imagination allows, but always remember…”we see through a glass darkly.” But then….someday….!”
Praise be to God!
The solar eclipse of 2017 was an event that will not repeat itself for us in Middle Tennessee for a very long time. Yet, the church Reformation of 1517 has been repeating itself in various ways for 500 years this very October! Yes, it’s been 500 years since the very conscientious monk Martin Luther nailed 95 things he thought should be addressed in the teachings and practices of the church at that time to the door of the chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. He was protesting. He sought reformation not division. He got both.
That door has become famous and reminds us this Sunday that doors mentioned in scripture are also about reformation….the reformation of all people! Change is called for! In individuals and in the body of the church. The church of the ancient Apostles always being reformed in every age.
“Doors” present themselves all the time. Doorways to something good and better or doorways to less than good. That whole thing about “Sin crouching at the door” in Genesis! Cain invited sin in! Bad outcome!
In Matthew and John’s Revelation we hear Jesus encourage us to knock to receive the good and He also comes to knock on our door that each one (and we as the church) will invite Him in.
This Sunday we will hear of biblical doors and we will even get a chance to nail or knock on a door! Bring your “hammer and nails” as well as strong knuckles!
Even today idols and governments of all kind beg us to “worship” them! “Worship” in the sense of devotion, following, and giving way too much attention to them! All this while the glory of God is nowhere to be seen. Or is it?
It’s a matter of what we give our attention to. It’s a God approved necessity to have food, shelter, and clothing. Having a job or some financial security is not far behind. Add commitments to family and friends and the most basic needs of life are before us. After that…we just might be tempted to follow after “idols” and “Caesar!” Most will deny they follow idols and few think government is the answer to everything in life! But……look at how we often spend the week!
Moses and God once again are in a discussion and the end result is the question of Gods glory or presence. The Golden Calf episode is now behind Moses but the need for some sense of God is still real. What can Moses hope for? God offers his Glory if only for a moment.
Paul says look at you, you Thessalonian believers! Paul virtually says “I see God in Christ in you!” “Models” of faith! Examples of the result of the Presence of God in their lives together as people of faith.
And Jesus gets to the heart of the matter of loyalty (devotion to someone or something) when he says “whose image is on that coin?” Give THAT to Caesar! Give what is God’s to God! Don’t confuse the two Jesus says. The Roman coin actually said Caesar was divine!! Idols anyone?
We face idols and Caesars all too often. Faith says “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God….” Worship is a good place to start ( and truly finish…see Revelation 21,22). Worship just might be our first line of defense against idols and Caesar! Surely a day of worship is helpful against 6 days of……????
See you at worship!
Very few people start out to be anxious or disobedient in their relationship with God and the neighbor. But, stuff happens! Even with best of intentions we can find a way to spoil a party, a wedding, a trip, or a friendship.
I believe that about covers the themes in the scriptures before us this Sunday. The Israelites get anxious when Moses is not around and foolishly make an idol. The church folks at Philippi are in need of getting along. And Jesus says some people don’t know how to appreciate a good wedding party. They don’t have the “courtesy” to dress up for a great day of celebration!
We are forever capable of messing up. The Good News is that God is ever ready to remind us of who we are and Who we belong too!
Moses and Paul and Jesus set examples and tell us true stories of life in the Presence of a God who keeps on speaking to us: “Hey,” says God. “Pay attention here. Things have changed and are changing for the good when you listen to what I am telling you. And, you don’t have to go through both bad and good ALONE!”
Can’t get well all alone and surely can’t have a party all alone! We are all Israelites, Philippians, and wedding guests! Let’s act like something good will come of being who we are!!
Come to worship and, well, listen up and look in the mirror of scripture.
You might just like what you hear and see!
Sunday is World Communion Sunday. This day we are reminding ourselves we have brothers and sisters in Christ around the world! We know this in our “head” but often we tend to act as though our church family is just where we gather each Sunday worship and weekly fellowships.
Here is simply where “we are planted.” The goal is to both bloom here but scatter “seed” to all the reaches of earth. In turn, we receive and learn that cultural and language differences actually enrich us saints and sinners here in Middle Tennessee!
For example, I cherish my early, brief 1979 missional time in Haiti and preaching in tiny Montserrat. I marvel at how at “home” I felt in attending alone a UMC service in Burlington, California (a state often thought by many to be a “world” unto itself!).
And how much joy I received, while being at home in the mid-Eighties on Christmas Eve with sleeping 1 and 3 year olds in bed, catching the Pope in Italy celebrating Midnight Mass.
Another time of experiencing our international Faith was when I helped serve communion with a student hospital chaplain from Romania, a Pentecostal minister studying in the USA.
We have been given a Great Commission to “go into all the world…..and make disciples.” And the faithful from all around our globe help make ME a growing and maturing Christian who happens to reside in Murfreesboro TN!
To God be the Glory as we receive the Bread of Life and drink from the Cup of a New Covenant this Sunday worship knowing millions do the same “planted and blooming” from Australia to Zimbabwe, nations A to Z and all in between!
Bring a neighbor this Sunday!