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Are we really being the church?

They will know you are my disciple by the Love you share…

We are being bombarded by the media about so many things. Sexual orientation, immigration, gun reform laws, and the list go on and on and on. I have a question, where is the love of our neighbors in any of this debate? I hear anger, frustration, and pain; however I do not hear love. 

I was reading an article just a few minutes ago. I do not remember it’s title nor the author’s name, but we are at a crossroads. The banter from each side of the issues are trying to out scream the other side of the issues and blame everyone else for the decay of our society and not take any responsibility for there own participation in the mess. 

No that I have said that… Where is the love God first shared with us? Is it only to be shared on Sunday morning, while we are inside the four walls of our buildings? That is not to say that we have to agree on everything or anything for us to respect each other. Respect comes from having real relationships with each other. Getting to know one another in such a way that we do not have to put up these fake faces and walls to be inn the same space with each other. If we can not be transparent with one another we must learn to do so. Our earthly life is fleeting, and how can we expect to be before the throne of Godwith a pure heart with these glimpses of hatred in our daily walk/journey? 

My heart is extremely heavy. I pray that God will change our harden hearts, our closed eyes, our closed ears and transform us into the people we are called to be. Children of God.

We must be in dialogue with each other and be willing to disagree with each other until God reveals God’s truth to all of us.

No matter is we are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Budist, Rastafarian, Atheists, or any other section of society, we will be enlightened the Spirit. Not but the status quo.

Pax

Feed my Lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep

In the Gospel according to John (21;15-19), we have the discourse between Jesus and Peter where Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times. We feel the pain Peter feels each time the question is asked. However, do we or Peter really pay attention to the response that Jesus says after Peter answers?

We sometimes miss what Jesus is really saying, don’t we? Sometimes we long for something more…something that goes beyond our comprehension, yet it is extremely simple. We are called to take care of each other at each stage of life. When those, we are in fellowship regardless of their age, we are to feed and tend to them.  We go out on our way with such great intentions yet we can become so very misguided. Feeding and tending is not always just the physical it is also the Spiritual. In our brokenness, we can put the cart before the horse. 

I was reading an article the other day, and it reminded me as a pastor that we are not in church to be entertained. We are in church to be discipled to be a follower of Christ Jesus. The message that Jesus shred with us in this discussion with Peter. If we are not reaching out to those we know and those we meet…we are not living into the call that has been placed on each of our lives. May we grow into feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, and feeding the sheep.

May God bless, lead and guide us to being “real” disciples of the Lord we say we love. 

Where is your wilderness?

What did the wilderness that the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into look like? The wilderness probably looked like the problems we see today. It was filled with broken people. The wilderness was full of broken people that robbed, killed and maimed those that traveled alone. Yes, Jesus faced these issues in his day also. We know that Satan was and is roaming in creation using the broken people of our world to distract us from God’s purpose for each one of us. How often have you considered God’s purpose for us? I, personally, do this daily. However, I do this alone as Jesus did. I am also in a group where we discuss with others on how to live into my vocation. When I tried, at on point in my life, to do this on my own, I failed miserably. Even though, I tried to share the light of Christ, my own brokenness got in the way. I know one thing for sure, that being in dialogue with this group helps me work through my brokenness. Those that I am in dialogue with are growing closer to one another and to God. We hold each other accountable for not giving into the dark places of our lives and growth in our discipleship.
During this season of Lent, we are encouraged to reflect on our short-comings. We are attempting to be completely honest with one another… almost brutally honest. Does anyone else here have this kind of community in which to talk to? If you do not have a group like this, I highly encourage each and everyone to Please find one. But when you do Please consider the following:
1. Leave one’s ego at the door…
2. Agree to disagree, and do it respectfully…
3. Do not where your feelings on your sleeve…
4. When the debates get heated, and they will, do not hold onto old hurts and pains…
5. Leave the private things talked about between those at the gathering…
This kind of spiritual community can truly show us that we need a community outside those that we have at work, or beyond our friends, or even our church community. This kind of spiritual community will also painfully remind us that we may model our lives after Jesus, but no one has made it to the place of scantificaltion that we all desire to achieve. Jesus was and is able to be so much larger than our brokenness. Jesus can resist the temptations that Satan set before him and continue to set before us. We are not Jesus. We are disciples of Jesus. Ever growing, living, and conferencing with each other along our journeys. Yes, Jesus sends to each of us the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help us discern the correct path. Lent is a time for us to reflect on choosing to walk the path that Jesus walked before us. We are called to into this path by our Baptism and that path leads to Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
I, sometimes…a lot of the time… get caught up in my brokenness which causes me to over look the gift of the discerning Holy Spirit. God gifts us with those we conference with to be the tangible voice when we ignore everything else.
Has anyone considered that for some coming to a new church can be his or her wilderness? Going to a new place can be just that…a wilderness. It can be wrought with dangers that we would not expect. Even something as simple as, “Where do I sit?” This can be a major problem for some folks. When we have a visitor that no one knows; how do we greet them? How do we help them feel welcome? Do we introduce them to others? We, in our brokenness, may not see his or her discomfort. We need to remember our discipleship and meet people where they are in their wilderness. We need to remember that being in the wilderness, people are longing for community… people are longing for a place where they can be themselves…people are longing for dialogue… people are longing for acceptance.
How can we reach out to people struggling in their wilderness? We can do this only one person at a time. We have to invite those we meet to journey with us. That is not to say that the wilderness does not have challenges… but we have companions along the way. Companions strengthening our discipleship… Companions that help us discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us.
As disciples of the Resurrected Jesus, we are called to invite others to join us in the path that may lead to death, but leads to life everlasting, so that we can help each other along the way. If we do this, our discipleship is not in vain. It is for the glory of God. It is for the Kingdom of God… and at that last day, God sitting on the Throne of Grace will be pleased to say to each of us, “You are my child, my beloved with whom I am well pleased.”
May each of our journeys in the wilderness of life show the discipleship we claim. Let us invite others to be companions along the way. We do not know what tomorrow will bring, and we do not know if others will join us on the journey. However, we know that if we listen to the Holy Spirit along the way our foot shall not falter, and we thank God for that.

Let us pray.
Almighty God lead, guide and direct our paths by your Holy Spirit in the wilderness. May you give us companions that will help us see your path for us. We ask this in your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Where do we shed our light?

This is the outline of thoughts for Transfiguration Sunday (Last week). I hope everyone can get a little something from my ramblings.

Today’s lesson from Mark is the epicenter for us, the readers of Mark’s Gospel, it is the halfway point between the baptism of Jesus and Jesus’ resurrection. A voice from heaven tells the select few, Peter, James and John; to “Listen to him!” That is to believe Jesus’ words; which Peter had disputed, that rejection, suffering, and death, and resurrection are integral to Jesus’ messianic mission, and that way of the cross is equally integral and inescapable for all who would follow Jesus. The necessity of the passion remains, in the Gospel, a hidden mystery in the word of God. Even though, the reason may have been hidden to Peter, James, and John, its inevitability should be obvious from the perspective of history.
Jesus’ unfaltering devotion to the reign of God on earth provoked “the worldly powers,” you know the temple authorities and the Roman governor… those that thrive on the fear, hatred, greed, falsehood, violence, and despair that oppresses and distorts everything human… to make the powers try to maintain the status quo by using oppression and murder to fight against God’s non-violent love and just-ness in their very midst.
Transfiguration is therefore an extremely power-filled word… for us to be transfigured… for us to be transformed, we must walk in the same way as our Savior Jesus. Yes, this will make us a target for the “powers,” but should we expect nothing less?  We, those that God has revealed Jesus as the Messiah, to must stand up to the evil powers that are active in today’s world, just as the “powers” were in Jesus’ day.
Let us look at the embarrassment that transpired Nashville in week the before last. Where is the just-ness in denying people that are below the poverty line even though they are working full time jobs medical coverage? This is not about which political party one sides with, it is about restoring humanity to those it would help. The officials that voted against this health care plan much like the “powers” of Jesus’ day just want to keep the status quo in other words keeping the things the same. Taking care of the haves and not those that have no hope. Our elected officials have turned their action into the long standing issue, “us vs. them.” The “powers” showed us that the common good is not in their interest. Those people have shown the rest of us that since they have a great medical policies that does not cost them a single red cent, then no one else matters. Is this action living into God’s kingdom? Is this action showing God’s love to all of the created? Is this action nothing less than resisting God’s plan? Yes,  these actions are nothing new, but are we not the ones that God has revealed our Christ to us in the person of Jesus?
So… Let us think about what it means to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. It means that we stand up for those that have no voice. It means that we take up our cross to show God’s justice and love is felt by all creation. It means we put on the armor of Jesus and lead others in the non-violent way of God’s kingdom… that kingdom that has NO boundaries. If we have to offer our lives… the world will be able to see that we put our discipleship first… the love that God offers us first… has and will continue to transform us and the world around us. And maybe… just maybe…God will be seen in our actions. May the Holy Spirit continue to strengthen, guide and protect us as we do God’s will in our community, county, state, and country.
The most important thing we can take away from today’s Gospel lesson, through our discipleship should transform each and everyone of us. As our discipleship grows and we grow stronger in our faith, we should expose evil and seek to transform the world with divine love. This divine love that we have been exposed to by the revealing that Christ Jesus is our messiah, our redeemer, and our model. Are we up to the challenge? The divine love we have experienced give us the strength to not live into the status quo and resist the world’s “powers” of oppression, domination, exploitation, greed, and deception. The story of the transfiguration is our story to affirm the ultimate truth. To love with all our heart… with all our soul… and all our strength into the confidence that Jesus’ non-violence is truly the way of salvation, healing , and eternal life. Jesus has and will continue to call each and everyone of us to find our voice… to transform ourselves and the world around us because the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Let us prayer.

God, who transfigured your beloved Son in the sight of Peter, James and John, and Jesus ordered not to speak of what they witnessed until he was resurrected; transform us into your people, so that our witness of the risen Lord Jesus may enlighten the world to your truth, your vision, and your love. We ask this in your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Mercy & Faithfulness

2 His own right hand and his holy arm •
have won for him the victory.
3 The Lord has made known his salvation; •
his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
4 He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness
towards the house of Israel, •
and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
5 Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth; •
break into singing and make music.
6 Make music to the Lord with the lyre, •
with the lyre and the voice of melody.
7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn •
sound praises before the Lord, the King.

These words of the Psalmist echo in my mind as of late. We, as the created, from time to time forget how to show mercy and be faithful. That is not saying that we do not have the capacity to show these traits, but choose not to demonstrate them to those around us. We demand others to show us mercy and be faithful to us, yet we only want to return these actions in times when it is convenient for us.
Is that the picture that the psalmist is painting for us here? God shows us mercy and faithfulness even though we continuously miss the mark. However if we learn from our mistakes and grow toward sharing God’s mercy and faithfulness with the rest of creation… We will honor our God. Not only in our actions but through our lives. God will continue to bless our lives and the song of life we live and sing to God’s honor. May we all show mercy and faithfulness in our dealings with one another and grow from our shortcomings.
Thanks be to God.

Why does God not do something?

Our world is full of tragedy. Just watch any news program. People blowing up one another… famine…people oppressing others who have no power (political or socioeconomic that is). Plus we have those that are using bits and pieces of scripture to push his or her agenda. Christians everywhere are asking the same question, “Why doesn’t God step in and do something to make things right?” I know I have thought the same thing from time to time. But if we look beneath the surface of today’s parable we can begin to understand why God has not stepped in as many of us say that’s what we want to happen.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, would we really like God to be in direct control of the world? Will you allow me to paint a picture of a possibilities for us? If God were to rule the world there would be no place for any unjust action in our lives. No racism… no hatred… no sexism…no turning people against one another… There would be no more room for the “us vs. them.” It would be only we. There would be no place for discord. We would not be able to say they just don’t understand what I am going through, because we would all be subject to the same thing. There would be no place for excuses or egos or he said, she said… and the list goes on and on and on.
God is gracious. God allows us to grow toward maturity even with the “weeds” we experience. And God allows the “weeds” a chance to change their ways until the “harvest.” (and maybe even after that) The God of all has already displayed that God is in control of the world. God brought Jesus back out of the tomb, and not the same way Jesus brought Lazarus back. When Jesus brought Lazarus out everyone recognized Lazarus. However when God resurrected Jesus… And triumphed over death and the powers of this world. The egos…the us vs. them…the oppressor…the enemy has no power in this world other than the power we allow he or she to have, we didn’t recognize him at first. In our broken state, we have allowed people to make up our minds for us. We have allowed people to go hungry, because they are not like us. We have allowed those in power to divide us into the “haves and have nots” in the name of Religion or God. We have allowed people to not have medical attention to make them whole again because they are lazy and will not get a JOB.
Since all of that has been said, in our broken state do we really want God to be in control in this world? Maybe not as much as we thought, but I believe God is in control. However, our God is extremely patient. God has shown that the powers of this world may think they are in control but God is waiting for the final harvest, that point where all creation can see how in control God truly is. Our eyes are being opened and we will Glorify the creator of all as our sovereign Lord…Our King…Our Master. We are having our eyes opened to the reality that God has been, is now and always be in control whether we like it or not.
As we continue to go through our journey, may we see that God is in control. God is ruling this would with patience, grace and Love. God is allowing us the opportunity to show that we believe that God is sovereign and should be the focus of our daily journey to bring ourselves to a closer relationship with God and each other, so that we can reach that point “social holiness” that John Wesley mentioned in his writings. We have to be in conversation with one another and demonstrate accountability to and for one another, so that we can make it to the point of Sanctification. That point where God is pleased with who and whose we are becoming. This “social holiness” takes each and every one of us working to change ourselves individually and corporately as the body of Christ. If we allow ourselves to be transformed into Jesus’ likeness in our daily discipleship, we will also change the world around us because more and more people will see the Kingdom of God breaking forth all around us and them. And just maybe…Just maybe the divisions will cease and our Creator God… our Heavenly Father will be smile at us and bless us more than God already has.
My Sisters and Brothers may we continue to grow toward that holiness in community. We think from time to time that just because God allows things to happen in the world around us and that God is not in complete control. God is demonstrating control yet patience with the world, and that God has given each of us free will. We are not puppets for God. We are Children of God and we need to demonstrate that in our actions, and show who’s child we are through out our lives.
Let us pray.
God of our fore-mothers and fore-fathers guide our church toward what we need to be doing in the present day to bring others in to your family. May we be instruments of your justice in the community that we serve as well as the world at large. We ask that your Holy Spirit continually guide us in our walk with you and each other. We ask this in the name above all names, Christ Jesus, your Son our Lord. Amen

Are we sowing or are we the rocky, thorny ground?

Along comes the Parable of the Sower, rich with varied depths of meanings to help us see just what things we “ought to do,” and just how we might find ourselves equipped with the “grace and power to accomplish them,” and which things very well may prepare ourselves as a community to receive Christ and the Spirit of God into our midst… so that God’s spirit might abide among us, μενο a technical word in the Greek for pitching a tent, setting up shop, moving into a neighborhood and being active in the community as well as so much more.
And the first thing we might notice is the repetition, “A sower went out to sow, and as he sowed … .” That is, scratch that… this is no random person scattering seed, hoping gravity and good luck will take care of the rest. This sower is sowing, which points to a practiced skill. This seed goes where it is supposed to go. No soil is left bare. No soil is over-planted. Yet, even with such a sower, some seed lands on the road, or on stones, or among thorns.
This may be hard for us to wrap our heads around. Was the “sower” not paying attention to where he was placing the seeds?
Vincent van Gogh, a 19th-century Dutch artist, understood this. He understood that the seeds were God’s Word of the Kingdom – and van Gogh knew, as we all know, that Christ is God’s Word of the Kingdom. Christ, the Word of God’s Kingdom, came to proclaim a message: I will set you free; I won’t let you be anything but holy, good and free.
Now what most people do not know is that the young van Gogh set off to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Protestant pastor. He spent some years evangelizing, bringing this good news of God’s Word to the poor, beginning with mine workers in Borinage, Belgium. During this time he was able to identify with the miners, their families and their lifestyles. His religious beliefs made him want to alleviate spiritual and physical suffering.
Only later did he turn to painting as another way to express his desire to bring people closer to God, closer to each other and closer to themselves. In 1888 he painted “The Sower,” an important work in the history of art, and surely a scene related to our story here in Matthew. One sees the sower, practiced in the art of sowing, deliberately planting the seed in the soil. For van Gogh the color yellow symbolized faith, triumph and love. The color blue represented the divine …and so he combines these colors so they seem to move together, showing the relationship of all living things. And there is something holy, good and free in the figure of “The Sower”… who, in the parable, of course, is God in Christ planting the Good News of God’s Kingdom in the soil of our hearts.
And the very thought that this seed, the Word of God, could yield a hundredfold would be heard by the farmers and fishermen Jesus addresses as simply fantastic! No seed known yields such bounty. Maybe tenfold, twentyfold or even thirtyfold, but 60 or 100 is unprecedented, unknown… simply unimaginable! We are meant to respond with awe that God’s Word possesses such grace and power. We are meant to want this Word planted in the soil of our own hearts, where we can tend to it, hear it, and be transformed a hundredfold ourselves. This is a truly awesome gift from a truly awesome God.
Of course, the dangers of not tending to it is outlined. It is a parable of self-analysis: Are we fertile, well-tilled, deeply mulched soil? Or are we rocky ground? Do we welcome and make opportunities to tend to God’s Word every day? Or do we spend more time tending to the thorns of wealth and the cares of the world, such that the Word yields nothing?
Many who first heard Jesus tell this story at the Sea, figured out it’s meaning: We are the soil, the seed of God’s Word comes to abide in us, and for those who till and water and mulch and care for God’s Word, we become sowers of the Word ourselves…like the young Vincent van Gogh, like St. Paul, like the fishermen, tenant farmers, soldiers and others who first heard this particular parable. Not to mention this lake was a natural amphitheater. Speaking in a normal volume level, one’s voice would carry.
Like the skilled sower, may we become more practiced in letting the Word take root in our lives so we might begin to feel and to know that what St. Paul says is true: “We are in the Spirit, God’s Spirit dwells in us.” And that is exactly what the Wesley Brothers had in mind when they began this movement, we now call the United Methodist Church. We have to prepare the ground by studying scripture. Next, we have to be in dialogue with others and with God along our journeys. And then prayer… not that prayer is any less valid, but if we listen very hard God will let us know that our prayers have been heard. And last but not least sharing God Word and what God has done and is doing in our lives with people we meet in our journeys.
God’s son Jesus desires to abide with us, in other words pitch his tent and plant his Word in our hearts and minds and souls so that we might truly become holy, good and free!

Let us pray.
O Lord, mercifully hear the prayers of your people who call upon your name, and grant that we may know and understand what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.