Monday Meditation – Lent : Indignation

Indignation

Jesus had a full emotional life, which we get glimpses of in the gospels, especially in Mark.  During the Lenten season we get a hint at Jesus’ emotional life and what it meant for him to be indignant, angry, compassionate, fearful and loving and what that means for us today.

Almost from the beginning of his public ministry in Mark, Jesus is not an unemotional Savior.  In fact, he is a very feeling human being as well as God.

In Mark 1:40-45 when the leper approaches Jesus asking him if he dares to declare him clean, Jesus “snorting with indignation,” answers in the affirmative.

Is Jesus indignant with this man who dares to come to him with this outrageous request?  No he is irate with those whom the leper has just come from, those whom Jesus has him return to in order to show his cleansing as a testimony “against” (in the original Greek) their refusal to cleanse him, probably due to a lack of appropriate payment.

Should we be no less indignant at the systems that keep the poverty-stricken from full inclusion into mainstream society?  Low wage jobs, lack of health care and affordable housing, are but some of the impediments that the poor face every day in order to live in a self-sustaining way.

Dear God help us to understand how systems of oppression exist to trod down upon your people.  Help us to not partake in them and help us to bring them down much like your son preached and taught.  Let us never forget our righteous anger against a system that would marginalize people because they do not have enough to pay the toll.  Amen.

Giving to Support United Methodist Beliefs

Giving

Many of the year-end giving appeals you receive are about increasing tax ramifications for one’s financial gift. These are important and support many great causes. However, as Christians we also realize the spiritual significances of our year-end financial giving to the ministries of our local churches and non-profits.

Year End Giving

Giving is an act of worship. It is an act of faith, of planting what future generations will see grow to fruition.

Our connectional giving provides support to our leaders who face the daunting task of steering the Church towards a common goal of faithfulness, forgiveness and making disciples for Jesus Christ. Connectional giving supports our efforts to minister to a hurting world.

We have organizations within our denomination dedicated to aiding the needy, healing the sick, comforting the stranger and addressing social ills. Our giving helps support these.

The needs are genuine. We are and always have been a connection of believers in need of one another’s generosity.

“For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us,” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 NRSV

As United Methodists we are dedicated to these causes. As a denomination we are called to support them.

Investing financially in what God has given us a passion for is one of the ways to participate in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God gives to us so that we might give. In giving we can fulfill our purpose in life – to love as God loved us.

During this time of gift-giving, let us remember our ministries that mean so much to us. As much as God has given you, provide good stewardship and give!

To learn more about how to give, where to give, and the impact of your donations, visit www.umcgiving.org

Support the spirits of our military troops

Support Troops

Support the spirits of those who serve us

Those who serve our country in the armed forces and the first responders in our communities often witness harrowing acts of war and violence.  It makes an impact on the body, mind, and spirit of each one of them.  Too often, though, the spirit is forgotten.  We rally to make sure those who provide help to others have sufficient medical/psychological care and benefits befitting the nature of the intense jobs they hold.  But how can we care for their spirits?  The United Methodist Men had an answer.  From an Eagle Scout project, Strength For Service was born.  It supplies devotional books to members of the armed services and first responders free of charge.  For a story about how your ministry can support this project click here.  Help the men and women who do so much for us with books designed to help build up their spirits.  This is but one way to honor their service to us.

Standing with Standing Rock

Standing Rock

The use of water as a cleansing motif is not new. Amos the prophet likened it to justice rolling down like a river and righteousness as a stream.

But what if that water is polluted? What if the water itself has been tainted? What justice can it serve to the people? What righteousness can it supply to drink?

Standing with Standing Rock

So it is that we as United Methodists, stand with the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in their commitment to keeping clean God’s resources including the water of their sacred places.

Water like justice is for the good of all peoples. Let it continue to flow freely and cleanly throughout North Dakota and all over the world.

Meditation Monday: A Full Glass

Full Glass

It has been said there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who see the glass as half full and those who see the glass as half empty. I ask, why should we live in a half glass world at all? Why not hold out for a full glass?

THE FULL GLASS

Changes are abounding in religious life all around the world. Some good, some not so good. We as Christians need to keep our eyes on the prize —a full glass.

The thief cometh not but to steal and to kill and to destroy. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10 KJV21

As we go about loving one another, let us always strive for more than we think is possible. Our god has promised abundance – a full glass – which is more than we can ever imagine.

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; 21 glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB

Why don’t we take God up on God’s offer of abundance?

Dear God, you are Emmanuel, God with us. You have promised us more than we can imagine. When we pray for one another let us ask for more than we think we have the right to. When we pray for our Church, send us grand visions of the Church you would have us to be, even if it seems beyond our abilities. Give us a full glass, a full measure of your grace and mercy. Amen.

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.

Meditation Monday: Bread Of Life

Bread Of Life

I Am the Bread of Life

I have noticed in my travels that in nearly all cultures and even sub-cultures like the American South, bread is a staple in the diets of almost all people. It may take different forms and be called many things but it is in the final analysis bread.

How fitting is it that Jesus said in John 6:35 (CEB), “I am the bread of life.” Of all the food references he could have made, Jesus chose “bread,” not “meat,” not “vegetables” but “bread.”

Despite the warning against carbs and bread, it still remains a daily part of most people’s lives in a way that veggies and meat still do not. “Rice” rivals “bread” by sheer number in households, and even in places where “rice” is the main dish, there still exists “bread.”

When He says “I am the bread of life,” Jesus lands squarely in the middle of daily existence for nearly everyone. He is the sustainer of life, as long as you have bread and water you can hold out, but without one or the other life becomes very difficult. Like bread, Jesus is the very staple of a Christian’s life.

Bread will always be in our lives as human beings, despite all the carb warnings. It is too intrinsic to being human. Jesus too should always be in our lives. He is too intrinsic to being a Christian.

Dear God, Fill us with your amazing, sustaining bread. Let us take in your goodness for our soul. As you bring the rain and sun to grow the food for our stomachs, use the rain and sun in our lives to show us your comforting presence in the midst of our lives. For you alone are the holy one, the bread of life to our souls. Amen.

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: To Receive

Receive

We humans are generally “takers.” We “take” our turn. We “take” our next breath. We “take” over. We “take” charge.

“To take” is to do things alone. Taking is to get for ourselves. For example, if a person is holding out an apple to us, for us, what do we usually do? We take it from their hand. We typically grab it from above.

What if, instead of taking, we received the apple? We would place our hand below theirs. They give us the apple and we would receive it.

“To receive” is to do things in relationship. Receiving takes at least two entities.

What happens if we become “receivers?” Can we “receive” our turn? Can we “receive” our next breath as a blessing from God? Can we “receive” power from those willing to give it?

We can if we work together to be a blessing to one another, partners in love rather than enemies of opposition trying to wrest from each other what we want. Can we receive one another’s stories as we listen carefully and not take them out of context for our own needs?

What God Says About What It Means To Receive

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 CEB

We cannot take the Holy Spirit, only receive it.

From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John1:16 CEB

We cannot take the grace of God, only receive it.

Let us be receivers and not takers. Let us be in relationship with one another and not solitary figures taking what we need.

God the giver of all good things, teach us how to receive and not take. Teach us how to give and also how to receive. Help us to hold each other accountable without judgment but with mercy and good intentions. All of us are learning our way to perfection. Amen.