Monday Meditation – Go, Go, Go!

On the Go

The word “go” is prevalent in the gospel stories.  In Matthew alone it appears 82 times, not counting any derivatives.  Jesus is the one who often is uttering the word to his disciples, to demons, to those sick and now healed.  Almost everyone is charged with “to go” in some way by Jesus.

We Christians are to be a moving people!

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 10:7 (NIV)

Jesus sends us out into the world.  We are to always be in a mission state of mind.

A previous week’s devotional said, “We are to inhale worship and exhale witness”, we are to bear witness to what Christ has done for us, in order that others may see the love and power of Christ in this world.  We must “go” into the world outside our church walls. This is what Jesus did when he met people where they are instead of making them come to him at the synagogue.

God, for whatever reason, has chosen to work through us in this world.  How do we chose to achieve that responsibility is up to us.

Dear God above and below in our lives, help us to be worthy partners in these ministries You have led us into.  You are our lead.  Open our eyes and hearts to see and know Your Holy Spirit and how it is moving in our world.

The Last Word : A Response to Charlottesville

Virginia

 “I have decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems…. He who has love has the key to ultimate reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I find myself in a turmoil this past weekend.  The events in Charlottesville, VA have disgusted and angered me in two ways.  Disgust for the vision of separatist hate that the fascist right proclaims and anger for the violence perpetrated against those protesting peacefully against these voices of hate.

It’s difficult to watch what happened in VA and not be troubled at how much our country has changed in the last decade and also in how it hasn’t changed very much since the 1950’s.  Hate and violence seem to be the answer to every problem. Or worse, indifference and dismissiveness.

Having seen what we have this weekend we must take a stand.  We must say “NO” to hate, “NO” to violence and “YES” to love and “YES” to nonviolence.  And we must do so in the face of abject hatred and terrible violence just as the protestors of the neo-nazi, white supremacy, alt-right groups were doing, before being mowed down by one of them.

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 CEB

Now is not the time to be lukewarm.  It is a time for passion and desire.  For what?  For justice, for righteousness, for equality, for love.

Those who hate have decided now is the time to reveal themselves.  Let us look them in the eye without hoods covering their faces and speak love to them, speak the gospel message to them, speak the coming kingdom of God to them.

Their time is limited.  Jesus has already vanquished hate and death.  In His resurrection, we have love abundant for all.  And that is the last word.

Dear God, you are almighty.  You are all loving.  Help us to love during this time of turmoil we as a country are facing.  Help our individual hearts seek peace from you.  Help the leaders of our country to speak peace and love not hate and violence.  Help us as Christians to lead in our Savior’s footsteps of nonviolence and righteous understanding.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – A Ministry Passion of Mine

feeding

And I will still be carrying you when you are old.  Your hair will turn gray and I will still carry you.  Isaiah 46:4 ERV

During my sabbatical, in addition to caring for my grandchild, attending Spanish classes and keeping the house clean, I was able to participate in a passion of mine in ministry to older adults.

In my church’s neighborhood, there is a group of older adults who live at or just above the poverty line.  They are typically living alone, their children hardly visit, and they are lonely.

During my sabbatical and even now, I meet with them regularly.  Being an introvert, I can give them what they most crave – someone who listens.  It is a skill I get to use to the glory of God.

Response

They have responded by coming to our church once a month to be fed physically, mentally and spiritually.  In addition to listening to them and being with them, I also cook for them.  You see, cooking  is another one of my passions.

I have great joy in working out God’s call on my life.  To be able to partner with God in shepherding these older adults through their later years is immensely rewarding to my soul.  It is my way of answering Jesus’ command to his disciples in Mark 6:37, “You give them something to eat.”

For whatever reason, God has chosen to include us in His work caring when we care for the marginalized, including the elderly.  As God’s partner, we must take seriously the many institutional changes going on in the country today that may leave the elderly behind in poverty and at risk.

I do what I can in my life to carry out the gospel message, but I cannot forget that society must never leave behind those whom Jesus came to save even the one amongst the many.

Dear God, you are the Great One, the Almighty One.  Lord, we come before you now asking for our part to play in Your ministries in this world.  Whether it is as an individual or as a society, help us to come together to do Your will and show Your love here on earth.  Help us to remember the lonely and the powerless.  We ask for clarity from, and for, our representatives in the halls of government.  Help all of us to choose wisely and not selfishly. Amen.

Monday Meditation – Change Is Hard

Changes Ahead

All of us have probably gone through or are going through a change.  Some we hate, some we enjoy, some we fear, others we don’t know what to feel or think about.  It is in these times of change that we see who we are and not just who we say we are. We have a chance to ask some critical questions in the midst of change. Who are you during these times?  What is your attitude?  What are your values?  What is your faith?

The UMC is going through changes.

Has been for a couple of decades.  But that is to be expected.  As new generations come through our doors, they bring their own influences and sensibilities.  A grandmother listens to the preacher, assuming he’s telling the truth to the best of his knowledge.  Her grandson is checking out what the pastor is saying on his tablet or cellphone, making sure of the minister’s accuracy through online resources.  He also maybe looking up opposing arguments.

What is the change we want to see in our denomination?  What does God want to change about us?  What is God already changing in UM churches all over the world?

Jesus knew exactly who he was and went about being the change he wanted to see, the Kingdom of God here among his people. Mark 1:15

He wasn’t like Grumpy Cat in this picture.  “There’s only 2 things I don’t like.  Change and the way things are.” says Grumpy.  Jesus was the change He wanted done on earth as it is in heaven.

Grumpy Cat

Dear God, Show us how to change into what we are to be next.  Help us recognize and live faithfully as nothing stays the same.  Change is inevitable but need not be unenviable.  Turn our hearts toward you and your ministry here on earth. Amen.

Monday Meditation – Touch

Touch

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1  NIV)

Jesus healed the sick by touching them and restoring them to their communities. The priests only wanted money for sacrifices to be made in order for one to be allowed to rejoin one’s family and community.  They wanted to be paid in order to make one ritually “pure” again.

Miracles

Big miracles like the virgin birth and the resurrection just don’t happen in my life with too much frequency.  But many miracles Jesus performed every day, like touching someone in need, often those who no one would touch.  I’ve seen such love, I know it can happen.  I just don’t see it enough.  Touch is an incredible miracle.  Because without it none of the others would matter.  Even one’s weak faith did not disqualify you from receiving Jesus’ touch.

A touch.  The compassion of one man willing to break all the rules to touch you at your lowest.  It doesn’t have to be physical, it can be spiritually.  But both together are so powerful.

Dear Lord, Your Son came to touch and heal us.  Let us follow His lead and reach out to those nobody wants to touch.  Grant us courage to do so.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Father’s Day

Father's Day

You know what just makes me cry as soon as I see it?  Those commercials where service members who are fathers surprise their kids when they come back from war.  The kids are so happy and excited.  Both the 2 legged and 4 legged variety.  In one commercial, a man in fatigues crouches down to the level of this 4 year old.  The little one throws herself into his arms and says, “Ohhh, daddy.”

Daddy.  Dad.  Father.  Pa.  Papa. They are known by many words in every society.

Where mothers are the everyday rudders, we look to for direction, fathers sometimes can seem larger than life.  To a son he can be a role model.

For a daughter, Daddy can be her first boyfriend.  The one she measures all others against.

There are many fathers in the bible.

Good men who were  after God’s own heart.  They are considered righteous.  And yet each one fails his children in some way.

Adam the first father, who had no role model before him, no example to follow.  He clearly is not aware of the feud between his two sons that gets out of control.

Lot was given the chance to leave Sodom and Gomorrah before they were swept away.  He is saved by God.  He was a decent guy.  Where was Lot’s sense of decency when his daughters get him drunk and he gets them pregnant?

Abraham was a father to an entire nation.  But tossed out Hagar and his son Ishmael into the desert.

David was said to be a man after God’s own heart.  God blessed him.  Where was David when his son Amnon raped his daughter Tamar?  Absalom, another son of David, is the one to mete out punishment to his brother.

All these despicable acts perpetrated or at the very least, not stopped by the righteous fathers, against their children.  Yet all were considered men who loved God, and whom God loved as well.  God even considered a few friends.

How?  What made this possible?

Grace.

It was grace that saved them.  That didn’t mean they didn’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions or inactions.  As we all must.  Grace and justice go hand in hand with God.

Father’s Day is a celebration of dads.  Of tough ones and gentle ones.  Tall ones and short ones.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  Fathers with long hair, fathers with bald heads or dreadlocks.  Woman who are father figures.  Young fathers.  Old fathers.  Men who are like fathers to those without.  First time and second time fathers.  It is a celebration of fathers who get it right and all of them that get it wrong sometimes.

Let us pray continued grace for all of them.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Blasphemy

It seems one can blaspheme the Holy Spirit and commit an eternal sin, one that will never be forgiven.

What is this unforgivable sin?

Juan Luis Segundo writes, “What is not pardonable is using theology to turn real human liberation into something odious.” (1979, Frontiers of Theology in Latin America, p 240ff.)

In other words, calling the work of the Holy Spirit evil.

The context of this sin is within the story of the Pharisees addressing Jesus as possessed by Beelzebub.  They were saying that in fact, Jesus was driving out demons by the power of Satan.

Yet Jesus is liberating people from not only their demonic oppression but also their spiritual and cultural oppression.  He freed the people from ritual restraints on them in order for them to lead a life outside of the rules and regulations of the Temple priests and pharisaical laws.  Laws which had become vile themselves despite having begun with the best of intentions when handed down to Moses from God.  Laws used to trap people in poverty and outsider status.

What Jesus was doing by calling out the evil done in the name of God was not blasphemy.  But calling what Jesus did as evil was blasphemy.  Jesus’ liberation of people, His freeing of people in the name of God was a true act of the Holy Spirit.  The priests’ and Pharisees’ need to control people through the law was blasphemy.  Not because of order but because it masqueraded as the word of God and restricted people into “pure” and “impure” states according to their ability to pay for the cleansing rituals and sacrifices.  This was not what God intended.

Instead of freeing people, the religious authorities straightjacketed them with the law in order to gain from them financially.

Dear Holy Spirit come and illuminate the world for us.  Help us to see Your movement in the world.  Help us to know Your liberating power in our world.  Expose for us the hypocrisy we live with day in and day out in our lives.  Help us to see what is evil and what is not, and to know the works of our Lord and the works of the Enemy.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – The Ascension

Ascension

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Acts 1:8-9 (NIV)

Ezekiel ascended leaving Elisha.

Mohammad ascended and then returned.

Jesus ascended leaving the disciples.

But Jesus went one more step.  After his ascension he sent the Holy Spirit.  He prepared a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us always, through the decades.  God would still be present in the lives of God’s followers even unto this present day and age.

God is still with us even as God’s son has returned to God.  The trinity allows for the spirit of God to remain with us then and now.  Indeed Christ’s leaving opens up a place for the Holy Spirit of God to be present in this world.

Yet Christ and God remain with us as well as part of the Trinity through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It provides a doorway to the two other but same entities that co-exist within God’s self.

Consider ice, water and steam.  All exist within each other, yet are separate. The Holy Spirit, God and Jesus exist within each other but are at the same time separate from one another.

Let us partake of this presence in order to shore up our faith and guide our lives.

Dear Holy Spirit, come.  Come and enlighten us.  Come and free us.  Come to comfort us.  Come to guide us.  We ask this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday Meditation – After Easter Fear or Joy?

After Easter

The ending of the gospel of Mark is filled with fear.  So much so that it can baffle us with its lack of a happy ending.  Hence why some have tried to add a happy ending to the gospel which was not there in its earliest renditions.

Mark ends abruptly with Jesus’ death and the two women coming to an empty tomb.  We, like the women, can be afraid to accept the testimony of the young man who gives instructions for what it is to follow Jesus now that the tomb is empty.

Our fear can rob us of the greatest joy – seeing Jesus again.  Not in heaven or Jerusalem, but back in Galilee, where it all began, at the beginning of His ministry.

It is there that we can begin our own ministry based on Jesus’ ministry with His presence in our midst.

That alone should fill us with joy not fear!

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Hallelujah!

Monday Meditation – Fear in the Garden of Gethsemane

Fear in the garden

Vincent Taylor, author of the Gospel of Mark (1963), surveys several interpreters for the verses in Mark 14 that states in the NIV, “He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ ”

Here are the various interpretations Taylor found.

“The Greek words depict the utmost degree of unbounded horror and suffering” in this biblical passage

“Suggestive of shuddering awe”

“His [Jesus] first feeling was one of terrified surprise … the distress that follows a great shock”

Jesus is “appalled … agitated”

“It [the biblical passage] describes the confused, restless, half-distracted state which is produced by physical derangement, or by mental distress, a grief, shame, disappointment, etc.”

Jesus faces his destiny with abject terror, like any human being in His place would do.

Much like we do, when in fear, we go to those closest to us to comfort us, to help us get through the fear.  Seeing that “Abba” (Father) was not going to take away this cup from Him, Jesus goes to his inner circle of disciples leaders and finds them asleep!  Even they couldn’t stay awake long enough to pray for and with Jesus.  Three times Jesus finds them asleep.

Peter who boasted of never denying Jesus, John and James who wanted to be on the right and left of Jesus on the throne, none of them could last one night without sleep.

Yet Jesus, even in fear for his life, returns again and again to God.  He handles His terror with prayer, in the very presence of God.

Let us remember to do as much when we feel scared or lack courage.  Prayer helps us not be unafraid but to have courage in the face of fear.  Much like it did for Jesus.

Dear God, even in our fear, help us to see Your protection and love around us at all times.  Despite what we may be feeling, help us know that You have called us to a purpose to be fulfilled and You are with us every step of the way.  Amen.