Monday Meditation – Unity

Unity

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV

We are in this together.  There is no part of the body of Christ that we can excise in order to bring about unity.  We are in unity.  The question is how we learn to live with each other in all our differences and diversity, wrongs and sins.

First we must choose to be together no matter what.  Staying together in an era where divorce is so common can appear to be an old-fashioned idea especially if one party feels as if the other is beating them up.  Perhaps it is best to walk away.

And yet we can’t.  We are in this together whether we want to be or not.  We are the body of Christ.  We can’t leave each other alone no matter how much we want to do so or in fact do so.  We are inextricably tied together with one another.  We will face one another in heaven one day.

So let’s learn to love one another as God loves us.  That is, better than we love ourselves.

Monday Meditation – A New Commandment

New Commandment

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35 (NRSV)

This new commandment that Jesus gives us is not based on our love for ourselves or others.  At its heart is God’s love for us.  Just as God loves us, we should love one another.

How does God love us?  How did Jesus love us?

Sacrificially.  Giving up his life, his throne to come to earth, Jesus loves with us. Not over us. Not beneath us. But with us.  This is God’s love for us.  His is an honest and real love based in the reality of human life.  Not a pie in the sky unattainable love but a real down to earth kind of love.  One that includes the hard parts of life within it but still conquers all.

This is how they will know we are Jesus’ disciples.

Dear God, you showed us how to love one another.  Help us to follow your example and know that the love you offered and which we now give, is one that is tested by the hardness of life and yet still remains victorious over hate.  Amen.

Happy New Year

And we begin. Again.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”
Isaiah 43:18-19

You see it everywhere. Signs of the new year are all around us. New offers from retailers and car sellers. People making new commitments to “improve” their lives. New year. New start. New beginnings. But it doesn’t really start here. Perhaps it really started with our celebration of just a week ago. It started with the true gift of Love God shared with His people – the birth of the Christ Child.

The start of something new beckons us to forget the old – old eating habits, old health routines, old ways of thinking. It would seem quite appropriate in this day and age for United Methodists to remember one thing and renew it: to exhibit the kind of Love for each other that God has given us as an example. When we renew and exhibit that kind of love, we are able to perceive the new things God has in store for us.

What will the New Year bring?

The past year – the old – has been one of many discussions of the problems we face as a denomination. The concerns and comments are valid and bring up points that we must consider as we move forward as believers. You see news articles and blog posts about those concerns for the Church. You hear of ways Church leaders are moving forward to address these issues. The discussions seem like wastelands. At times we feel lost and wandering and wonder where we are headed. But those same conversations offer us some great hope – that while we acknowledge the differences between us, we also exhibit greater love for each other.

So…Happy New Year

So we ended the previous year with hopes of renewal for the new one. May Love be at the center of all we do, hope for, pray for, and work together to achieve among us and throughout the world.

Meditation Monday: A New Psalm

psalm

A New Psalm

Lord of Heaven and Earth

We stand before you vulnerable and confused.

We are overwhelmed by it all.

Lord help us!

Hear our cry, oh God!

Leave us not alone here.

 

We wrestle with all that is going on around us:

The persecution of our fellow Christians,

The bombing of families with children,

The trafficking of women into sexual slavery,

Floods and wildfires,

Large and small scale acts of violence and desecration.

There is so much to wear us down.

 

Yet we know you are God,

You are the Most High.

It is into Your hands we put ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

We pray and You hear.

We listen and we do.

And though it may seem our little acts have no effect,

We believe that a thousand ripples can cause a tidal wave

Of love that can wash away all that is not Your will.

 

Praise be to our God!

UMC Flood Relief

Flood ReliefOne Drop Of Water That Leads To A Flood

One drop of water is insignificant.

One trillion drops can stop an entire city!

In Louisiana, in a short time, millions upon millions of drops of water fell from the sky inundating the people, their pets and their homes with flood waters. Four parishes have been declared disaster areas because of this flood. There is much devastation and chaos.

Like snowflakes, individual water droplets are singularly beautiful, even innocuous and not all that forceful. But when they get together, their power becomes an overwhelming flood, sinking entire homes and killing people.

One Drop Of Grace That Leads To A Flood Of Love

Yet, just as much as drops of water coming together can wreak havoc upon a community, so too can United Methodists when we come together to bring grace and love to people devastated by flood waters.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD). They are helping those affected by this flood with warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees—opening hearts, minds and doors to those in need.

Banding together, United Methodists can take on the flood and show people how God is working their midst.

The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations.

And praying, always praying.

Dear God, we pray hope and peace to our brothers and sisters in Louisiana. We ask for your healing touch upon the land that is flooded. May the waters recede and the time of rebuilding begin. We will not forget them now or when the rains stop. Protect them especially the vulnerable. Watch over them. Amen.

The Beloved Community

Community

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded. Mark 9:40-41 CEB

The question of who is in and who is out of the beloved community is one of the threads running throughout the gospel of Mark. What we find when we study Jesus in Mark is that those who are on the margins of society – the sick, the dying, the poor, the “unclean”, Gentiles, children, women, Galilean fisherman, prostitutes and the demon-possessed, are all at the center of the community. Always have been and always will be.

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Love Is Enough

Love Is Enough

Love Is Enough

A state legislator, trying to justify raffling off an assault rifle at a fundraiser, proclaimed, “You can’t combat this kind of hatred (mass shootings) with overwhelming love. There is only one way to combat this…that’s either to remove or neutralize these individuals.”

Yet being Christians, isn’t “overwhelming love” required of us, even with our enemies?

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. Matthew 5:43-48 (CEB)

But is love enough? In a decade of mass shootings and suicide bombers, is love a powerful defense against self-hatred turned outward?

Love was never meant to be a “defense” against evil. Love has always been an offensive action against bigotry, anger and hurt. (Double entendre intended.)

As Jesus tells us in verse 44, love is an action as much as praying for your enemies is one. It is not a weapon. It is a verb.

Love IS Enough

So what does love do?

In a moment of violence love is the mother out with her son for a night of dancing, throwing herself in front of him taking the terrorist’s bullet. In another, love is a teacher shielding her students.

But love is at its most powerful before situations have deteriorated to the point of bloodshed. It is in the act of loving people continuously that we prevent them from becoming so filled with self-hatred that it spills over into hating others.

We must love these people who seem unlovable. It is in loving that we can combat violence and hatred. Love is enough.

This type of love is not a superficial love. We are talking about a deep visceral love that makes miracles happen. Not in some magical sort of way but like the love shown at other nonviolent protests that have taken place and changed the world. The kind of love that brings people together to become the beloved community, taking care of all God’s children. This is the kind of love all of us can exhibit towards each of us. This love is enough.

We must ask ourselves how we could have loved these people before they lost sight of their divinely inspired humanity. Perhaps if we can answer that question, the need for guns will be obsolete.

Should we try?

Istanbul

Istanbul

Pray for Istanbul

First of all we extend our prayers to all those affected by the airport bombing in Istanbul, Turkey. My friend, Thomas Kemper, who is the General Secretary at the General Board of Global Ministries, was in the airport at the time of the terrorist attack. Praise God Thomas is ok!

We mourn with the families and friends of those who did not escape the events unleashed by a few extremists. While it is difficult to do so, we also pray for the families of those who perpetrated such horrible acts because Jesus commands us to do so.

In this time of relentless bloodshed both overseas and on our own soil, we will not be bowed by fear and hatred. We cling ever tighter to our hope and salvation, Jesus Christ and follow his example of faith over fear.

Even in the face of terror, we hold to the hope that light shall overcome darkness, love shall overcome indifference and hate, and God has already overcome all evil acts including the death of His son with resurrection power!

Amen!

Dear God, we pray during this time of anxiety and shock. Help us to remember Your great Love for us and that you call upon us to do good and not evil. Help us to pray for our enemies and not seek to repay them” an eye for an eye”. Help us Lord to follow Jesus’ lead that may seem counterintuitive but is always righteous.

Meditation Monday: Pardons Not Badges

Pardons

When we became Christians, we didn’t get badges, we received pardons.

God so loved us that He became one of us. As Jesus was dying because of us, he asked forgiveness for us. He pardoned us.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing. Luke 23:34 (CEB)

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (CEB)

We need to love ourselves as God loves us. We need to love one another as ourselves. We need to love one another as God loves us.

God’s love shows up as grace, forgiveness, trust, excitement and righteousness. Can we do the same with one another?

God you command us to love others as ourselves. But sometimes we don’t love ourselves very well. But your first command is to love you. In loving you, we learn how to love ourselves as you love us. Help us to love each other as you love us with the perfect love you have given us. Perfection is the goal, but the journey to it is life. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Love and Trust

Love and Trust

There is so much distrust in the world. No one is given the benefit of the doubt. Intentions are selfish until proven otherwise. Everybody seems to be out for themselves. Everyone has an agenda.

This same level of distrust exists in the church as it seems to be in many institutions and organizations. People don’t trust their leaders. Leaders don’t trust their people. Evangelicals don’t trust Progressives. Progressives don’t trust Evangelicals. No one trusts the Moderates. Country churches distrust city churches. Small churches distrust larger churches.

Everyone’s motives are questionable, personal and surely not the will of God.

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” John 13:34-35 (CEB)

Can love exist outside of trust? Can love exist inside of distrust?

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