Malachi 3:1-6, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6
Preparing for these three texts was interrupted a bit by my watching the funeral of President George H.W.Bush at the Washington Cathedral. I was also struck by how all three texts have a context of government and leadership! John the Baptist is preaching during the reign of Caesar Tiberius in Rome and Pilate and Herod in Palestine. Paul writes while being held under house arrest by Roman authorities. Malachi announces God’s judgement on those who oppress the people whether government or the religious authorities are doing the oppressing!
All of this, of course, is the buildup to the coming Righteous One, Jesus of Nazareth. There really is a sense of a huge impact impending on both individuals and upon governments. And there is “cosmic” significance and transformation coming as in a “Refiner’s Fire.”
In the public televised Christian funeral of a former US President we hear echoes of God still at work in lives of individuals, communities, and nations. This gives us both anticipatory “concern and unease” in the call to change thru love and justice but also anticipatory joy knowing that God in Jesus Christ is bringing the True and Good to all people!
We are to hear the call of faith and then the following response of service to a greater good than just our own well-being!
Cosmic joy is coming!
See you in worship and in service!
Jeremiah 33:14-16, I Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36
Some are old enough to remember the Heinz catsup commercials from 1979 which depicted kids eagerly awaiting the slow moving catsup to descend out of the bottle onto their hamburger. The background song sung by Carly Simon was named “Anticipation!”
Our scriptures for the First Sunday in Advent definitely are about anticipation and coming events on “the big scale of things!” Momentous occasions wrought by God Almighty. A case can be made that the Luke passage was indeed fulfilled in 70 AD! Jerusalem was under siege and the Temple was destroyed. We will look at that time in Christian history but also at ancient Jeremiah’s longed for hope of Israel. Paul brings us to the attitude we should have as we wait with anticipation for God’s appearing in our lives throughout human history.
It’s a great start to the Season of Advent! We ask ourselves, “What are we longing for above all else? Gifts at Christmas give us a measure of joy but what lies behind that momentary happiness and points to something much grander?” What DO we anticipate coming from God?! What are some ways to do this together as God’s people?
Blessings in your waiting!
Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-25 and Mark 13:1-8
The word provoke usually means an act that could, in turn, lead to a “poke” as in “poke back!” A provocation between nations has been known to lead to armed conflict! This does not seem to be the best direction for a calm and thankful family Thanksgiving does it?
But to provoke in Hebrews 10:24 is to provoke to “love and good deeds.” Another translation uses the words “to stir up!” Either translation is a strong encouragement to earnestly demonstrate how Christians feel toward one another out of thanksgiving for what God in Christ (our final High Priest) has done for us! Gratitude leads to a good attitude! Especially toward the brothers and sisters as well as the neighbor, the stranger and even the enemy!
So, we arrive at being “provocative” around the Thanksgiving table. If used in the manner most often thought of “provoke” could lead to family feuds before everyone departs for their homes! Thus, we use it as intended in Hebrews 10:24!
Book ending this thanksgiving expressed in love and good deeds, however, is Daniel 12 and Mark 13 both speaking of a Final Wrapping Up, a great Stirring Up of all creation as God brings a great apocalyptic ending to non-love and bad deeds in all Creation.
Again there is Thanksgiving that God’s purposes will be fulfilled both in the work of Jesus on the Cross and in the Resurrection of all coming after the Resurrection of the first born I.e., Jesus!
When all is said and done the final word from us to God is “thanks.” From this response there is a great freedom to “provoke” love and do good to all. Sort of what you hope for at each Thanksgiving table or Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends, saints and sinners, the least and the lost, the loved and the forgiven!
Our hope is built on nothing less…..
Happy Provocative Thanksgiving!
2 Samuel 23:8-12, Luke 6:27-36 and Romans 13:1-5
Sunday November 11, 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War I. For most of us alive today that is only history long behind us. But such an event has had lasting impact on all. What should have been a convincing moment to commit to world peace seemed to have only set the stage for World War II; and wars and large scale violence ongoing still into the 21st Century! Something is wrong.
Yet, the remedy is always before us in the struggle to be people of faith in a fallen world. And ultimately as the Creator and Savior, God makes a way for all creation. There is hope.
Our texts today cover only a portion of the vast sweep of scripture addressing the human condition. We should hope for peace yet ask what is to be done before the fullness of the Kingdom arrives. We will look at King David’s “mighty warriors,” Jesus call to “love our enemies,” and Paul’s look to the state as a way to constrain evil.
I dare say we will still struggle with lived faith each day even with Biblical guidance but we will have guidance which comes from beyond mere human wisdom and human planning.
Pray without ceasing even in the midst of “wars and rumors of wars.” Remember those who have served and continue to serve this Sunday! Remember all who walk by faith and not by what they see in a fallen world.
Ruth 1:1-18, Hebrews 9:11-14 and Mark 12:28-34
I write this on Halloween. Or rather All Saints Eve. Kids of all ages tend to enjoy the “scary” night of costumes and candy! Fun scary not really scary. Behind the ghosts, zombies, Frankensteins, action heroes, and cartoon characters, there is a whiff of the real thing: our death. And also those of whom we love.
All Saints Day celebrates those who have become the Church Triumphant, the Church at rest, the Church at the Eternal Banquet Table. But the only way there is through Death and Resurrection and that too only through the Risen Lord Jesus. Our scriptures have the “bookends” of the grief of Naomi and the utter loyalty unto death by Ruth AND the High Priestly death of the sacrificial Lamb of God in Hebrews 9. In between those we have Marks’s Jesus describing the full life in loving God, neighbor, and self!
Death is real but love of God, neighbor, and self is greater still. And so we remember Jesus and all our hidden-in-Christ family and friends this Sunday. Dead, not forgotten, and ultimately alive in a Kingdom that has no end and has only the Light of God in whom there is no darkness!
Come to worship and Fellowship in this All Saints Sunday!
I still have a vivid memory of being about 21 or 22 and going with a friend to speak with our pastor at the time. We had some “serious questions” about the faith. I don’t think he gave us a really good, satisfying answer but he did open the Bible and read a passage from Romans. It was a good example. I’ve tried to remember that as a pastor and I always carried a Bible with me as a hospital chaplain (but used it only as appropriate to the patient in the moment not as an instrument to always start with)!
This Sunday is known both as Reformation Sunday and Bible Sunday. As Protestants coming out of the 16th century Reformation we are known for the primacy of Scripture in our doctrines and in worship. The church is often reformed when someone or some group re-discover a powerful message within the Bible, e.g. “justification by faith,” or “God is love,” or “the righteousness of God not our righteousness.”
As we listen in on Job and Hebrews and Mark we will hear familiar but life changing verses which capture our attention and strengthen our faith from week to week, year to year. We are indeed “people of the book!”
Open your Bibles and read! And come to worship the God revealed in scripture!
Job 38:1-7, 34-41, Hebrews 5:1-10 and Mark 10:35-45
One question after another! God peppers Job with questions and it seems clear Job has no answer. James and John come to Jesus with a question and it is the wrong question! In Hebrews 5, Jesus “in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears….” Sounds like Jesus had his moments of questioning and agonized appeals to God the Father.
We just can’t go long without asking questions, some of which are from a hurting heart and mind and body. We thank God that questions are allowed before God’s glory and majesty! There seems to be no frown or scold toward us from God for asking hard questions. Nor does God withhold questioning us!! Not in a mean way but to open our eyes to wonder and amazement at the vastness of Creation and our very existence.
This past week I have had a lot of questions and a lot of amazement coming and going with LeNoir’s knee surgery and PT as well as the routine Q & A of the week PLUS the never ending amazement and questions that come with elections in the USA! Top that off with an amazing puzzling hospital food moment and I am left before the presence of God just “looking up” to that which is beyond me!
I am eager to share a number of things from the scriptures and our week behind us with you this Sunday. If you have any questions, bring them with you and be ready to “raise your hand!”
Job 23:1-17, Hebrews 4:12-16 and Mark 10: 17-31
So…..these are the scriptures that are before us. Mostly challenging us as the “rich”, at least compared to the majority in Haiti or Malawi or Bangladesh. Jesus sadly sees the rich young ruler turn away. In Hebrews we are told that each of us ” will have to give an account” before God who sees all. And we know what the theme in Job is all about! Pain and loss and all that!
Given a long week of personal stress what with LeNoir’s knee replacement surgery I was hoping for something more along the lines of the 23rd Psalm! Even so, at least the Hebrews passage ends on an incredibly encouraging note in essence saying we will find grace to help us JUST WHEN WE NEED IT. It is up to us to “seek” and be attentive to the Holy Spirit regardless of a good week or a bad week. In that attitude of trust….we find our way.
It is necessary to face up to God who calls us out at times, but just as necessary to realize we are helped in whatever we will face. Anyone listening? Anyone got a testimony?! Yes, most everyone in worship this Sunday! As Jesus says to his disciples (who are beginning to question can anyone be saved), all things are possible with God!
Be there Sunday! Both to listen…and to speak out!
Sunday’s worship finds us at The Lord’s Table…all around the world in languages and cultures different from ours in the USA. We can’t go “over, up, or down there” literally but in faith and in unity we are with Christians in Russia, Indonesia, Israel, and China. And most every other nation! Places, where indeed, the Creator God is present, where indeed the “rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.”
I remember in 1979, LeNoir, I, other new young UMC clergy flew into Puerto Rico, Haiti, and then the small island country of Monserrat. A Mission Exploration opportunity for new clergy in the Holston Conference. Worship and fellowship there was both familiar AND different! From the barest of city spaces to worship in to the loveliest of island sanctuaries. Yet brothers and sisters in Christ came together to bear witness, serve others, and participate in the coming Reign of God regardless of country of origin. Their joys, their struggles, their hopes were ours also!
This Sunday we will heighten our connection with others in lands far away, but with those whom one day we will sit at the same Table in the Kingdom. Surely the call is to be at one together with the One who overcomes all painful differences which divide us as brothers and sisters of one Lord.
This Sunday, bring to worship the name or face of a Christian in lands far away with whom you are determined to be in communion with….by faith, in service, and in partaking of the Bread and the Cup for all.
Blessings on this coming World Communion Sunday!
Esther 7:1-10, James 5:1-11 and Mark 9:38-50
Some situations cry out for justice in a world of hurt and pain. We all tend to have our limits and boundaries to what is acceptable. Governments set laws and penalties for breaking laws. And in the midst of the strong feelings there is often a cry for revenge, or at least the secret wish that “he or she will get what’s coming to them!”
All our texts deal with offensive behavior and reactions and responses. And in those texts we can see ourselves and some of our life stories! As far back as saying at say age 4….”Sally hit me mama! Do something!” Or standing before a court room judge and owning up to misbehavior; “here is my penalty.”
What we can find in these scriptures are ways to grow in a particular Christian response as opposed to other different examples in the world to deal with offense and injustice. And there’s the “cutting edge” of “going on to perfection, to be made perfect in love.” A striving and never arriving….until one day….the fullness of the Kingdom! Until one day, all will be at rest and peace. Let’s look at Esther, Jesus in Mark 9 and James 5 speaking to the church and find ways toward justice and God’s way of dealing with bad things happening to “good” people.
Blessings on your walk with the Lord and those you will “bump up against” this week! Come worship the One who sets the high standard for justice and patience until that day comes.