Monday Meditation – Beyond Judaism

Jesus Judaism

Even as the author of Luke’s gospel shows us the countless ways that Jesus and his earthly family are quintessentially “Jewish,” he also shows us that Jesus had come not solely for the Jews but also the rest of the Gentile world.

Eight days after his birth, Jesus’ parents bring him to be circumcised, something that distinguished the Jews from all others.  Yet even as Jesus is placed squarely in the rituals of Judaism, Simon, another Jew, beyond reproach, prophesizes over the baby.

“You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:31-32 CEB

Luke’s Jesus is Jewish through and through and also going to be a conduit of God to the Gentiles.  Luke places Jesus at a crux between the distinctive and the malleable.  Jesus is both Jew and beyond Judaism.

Why this need to put Jesus rooted in Judaism but also open to those beyond its borders?  Because the movement Jesus began moved to a more open rendering of the community boundaries as it grew and expanded beyond Palestine.

We take for granted the Jesus movement going into Gentile areas but at its insemination, it was considered a “Jewish” movement that went beyond its tribal, cultural and social boundaries.

Thank God!

Dear Lord, we take for granted Your presence in our lives.  Yet there are some who do not know You.  Help us to spread Your gospel long and wide throughout the earth as you intended it should be.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Happy New Year!

Happy New Year blog

After a tumultuous and sometimes painful year, we have survived to live another day!

Thank you, God!

In a time when it seems our thoughts and prayers were sorely tested by the evil of the day, we clung to the hope implied within them.

Thank you, Jesus!

While we have lost some loved ones this past year, new ones have come into our lives.  We celebrate the beginning of new relationships and endeavors for the coming year.

Thank you, Holy Spirit!

As the year ends, we remember the good and bad times that came and went.  We saw great devastation but we also saw and knew great love triumphing over hate in every occurrence of evil.

To this we cling to – love.  The love upon which our thoughts and prayers are grounded surely still matters and will always have victory over indifference and evil.  It provides the impetus to do more.  To feed the hungry.  To seek out the lonely.  To visit the imprisoned.  To quench the thirsty.

Let us begin this New Year acknowledging what has gone on before but looking forward to what will be waiting for us in the coming days.

Thank you God for another day!

Amen!

Monday Meditation – A Known Story

Third Sunday in Advent

We all know the story.  We’ve heard it a thousand times and again every year around this time.  And in case we might have temporarily forgotten it, we are retold it by tv programs, Christmas pageants and choir cantatas.

Charlie Brown in frustration asks who knows what Christmas really means.  Linus takes the stage and paraphrases Luke.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 NIV

There is a familiarity to the story that makes us feel secure and rooted.  We can count on it to order our lives.

Yet familiarity can dull anticipation.  It may not breed contempt but it does lack a sense of expectancy.  Children find comfort in reading the same storybooks every day but this sense of looking forward to the books is hardly dampened by the repetition.  Let us take a lesson from our children and not lose our excitement no matter how many times the cow jumps over the moon.

The story we have to tell is no fairy tale.  How much more inspiring is the Truth?

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, while You reign from heaven above, You live and love in the midst of Your creation.  Never leave us alone.  We need You too much.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Taking It For Granted

Taking it for granted

Second Sunday in Advent

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8 NIV

What was the last thing you anticipated?

The birth of a child or grandchild?

Going to church?

Going back home during the holidays?

A vacation?

Nowadays anticipation is not a feeling we normally experience in our day-to-day living.  Perhaps you anticipate going to church every Sunday. Too often, though, many think of church not as something new and exciting but mundane and obligatory.  We no longer anticipate the weekends because we have to accomplish all the things we put off during the week.

Christmas can become boring or obligatory too.  Buying gifts and celebrations, may all seem the thing to do, a necessity of living in a nation that celebrates the holidays.

Yet we cannot forget that the incarnation of our God in human form is a highly anticipatory event in history.  We must not take it for granted despite its annual commemoration and all the perfunctory circumstances that seem to come with it.

Let’s refresh our minds and understand anew the grandness of the event.  The awesomeness of our God being born into our world to live among us and love in a way that is almost incomprehensible.  When we give ourselves over to this awesome love, it invades our very being with a light so bright and warm it can chill the coldest heart or soul.

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, help us to feel again the anticipation of your coming to Creation.  Let us bask in your light of love and goodness.  You are our Savior!  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Anticipation

Anticipation Advent

First Sunday in Advent

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 NIV

Advent is a time of anticipation.  It begins the countdown to Christmas.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, an incarnation of God in our midst.  Nowadays this may seem typical given the success of Marvel Comics and their incarnated God Thor.

But long ago, the idea of God talking on human form was profane and secular.  And it is.  God no longer resides in the heavens but here on earth.  First as Yahweh, then as Jesus and now as the Holy Spirit.  God is alive in Creation, in partnership with it, showing us the Way to true life and living with one another.

How awesome is our God?!

Dear God, we expect with great anticipation Your coming to us in the form of an infant child.  To be so vulnerable shows us how we are to be just as vulnerable as You were to us.  Give us faith to do so.  Amen.

Ministry of Administration

Servant Keeper

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.  Proverbs 16:3

We need all the help we can get with managing our church’s ministries.  Too many times records are kept in a haphazard way that differs from pastor to pastor and secretary to secretary.  Things are lost or misplaced.  Mistakes are inadvertently made.  Keeping track of congregation members becomes more cumbersome as membership grows.  There are so many moving parts to keeping a church running smoothly that surely there must be a way to help church committees manage.

Servant Keeper helps churches to manage the inner processes of running a church.  It helps with finances and membership management, record keeping and more.

Pastor Bradley Schutt, at Millville United Methodist Church, reports that with Servant Keeper “Instead of tracking down folders and hunting for information, anything you need is a quick search away.”

Douglas Lape of Mahomet United Methodist Church tells us that with Servant Keeper “Our time to post the offerings and prepare the deposit documents was reduced by over 40%. Servant Keeper effortlessly integrated into our funds management and our accounting software.  It simplifies all our processes.”

Servant Keeper is proficient, efficient and straightforward in helping churches with their management processes.  While God does establish our plans, we are often asked to implement those plans.  We should take advantage of all the tools available to us in order to do God’s ministry in our churches as a good steward of the talents and funds that God provides.

Monday Meditation – Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:34-35 NIV

A viral video I saw the other day showcased a homeless person who was given $100.  Without him knowing, the giver of the money followed him to see what he could do with the money.

The homeless man went into a store that advertised its selection of alcohol.  The cameras didn’t follow him into the store but waited for him outside, wondering what he was buying.

The homeless man came out with several plastic bags full.  Again without the man knowing, the person who gave him the money followed him to see what he had down with it, what had he bought.

The homeless man ended up passing out his bags to his friends also living on the streets.  When asked what was in the bags, the men and women opened them up to show that their friend had purchased and given them food.

His explanation when asked, “They were hungry.”

This Giving Tuesday – give!

You don’t know what good can be and will be done with your generous donation.  Supply your needs and the needs of your companions on “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.”  In between those days is a Sunday.  How can you fill other’s needs in your church ministries? And on Giving Tuesday, help the weak among us, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Monday Meditation – A Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let us remember how blessed we all are.  We all probably have more than we need.  We all probably have more than enough to eat, a roof and four walls to protect us, clothes on our back and people who love us.

This feeling of gratitude reminds me of a song heard in chapel this month.

Curled up in a cardboard box

Joe gives thanks for all he’s got

The label says Frigidaire,

but it’s been home for one full year.

There’s a work of art on the wall,

Joe’s first attempt to draw.

It looks like scribble at first glance,

but that’s just Joe bowing his head.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

to be just a little bit more like Joe.

When he’s not at his residence,

He’s a landmark down on Rivers Bend.

Where he mans the mission and he combs the street,

Shines a light for those in need.

It’s his way of giving back, keeping who he is intact.

For all he does he don’t get jack,

but he’s got a few Jacks back on track.

Heaven help me when I feel low,

To shine just a little bit more like Joe.

There are some who have nothing.  We pray for those who are without this Thanksgiving, find some peace, protection, satiation and love for the rest of this year.

Let us not only do our individual parts to help but also support those institutions that now exist to help those in need, like our churches and our government.  Matthew 25 speaks to us not only as individuals but also collectively as nations.

A Little More Like Joe, Lyrics & Music by Robby Hicks ©2009

Monday Meditation – A Prayer

Prayer

Lord we pray for this world, Your creation.  A place you lovingly brought to life out of nothing.

With Your hands, You created man and woman in your image.  With Your very breath, You gave us life.

We forget how much of You is in us.  Yet as Your children, we can’t help but be a likeness of You.

How deep that likeness is depends on the time we spend with You.  Reading the bible, Your inspired Word.  Taking time to be in Your presence whether through prayer, meditation or worship.

You are our God.  There is none higher than You.

You take care with us.  Even when we deserve Your righteous anger, it is slow to burn.

Even when we spew hate and hurt against one another for no other reason than our differences in looks, culture, religion or identity, You remind us lovingly that we are all Your people.

Help us to understand one another.  To see one another as Your child, Your Beloved.

With understanding can come love and perhaps that is why we abhor sitting with each other and listening to understand instead listening to argue.

Lord forgive us our sins.  Show us the way of Love.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – You Don’t Have That Kind of Time

Time

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12 ESV

“When I was 38, my best friend Pammy died, and we went shopping about two weeks before she died, and she was in a wig and a wheelchair. I was buying a dress for this boyfriend I was trying to impress, and I bought a tighter, shorter dress than I was used to. And I said to her, ‘do you think this makes my hips look big?’ and she said to me, so calmly, ‘Anne, you don’t have that kind of time.”  Anne Lamott, from “Beyond Bunnies: The Real Meaning of Easter Season,” with Michele Norris, NPR’s All Things Considered, April 18, 2011

If the past weeks have shown us anything it is that we are vulnerable.  We may be at the top of the food chain but we are not beyond our human frailties.  Hurricanes can kill us.  We can kill one another.  We can be killed in our homes and at entertainment venues.  Time can be taken from us quickly and without warning.

Life is too precious to waste on wondering if our “hips look too big.”  Life is for hanging out with friends who are dying and enjoying each other’s company.  It is about helping one another get out from underneath the mud and muck of a category five hurricane.  It is about risking one’s own life to save one’s neighbor, even a stranger, as bullets rain down upon a crowd.

Life is about more than the superficial.  It is meant to be experienced and all its audacity wrung out.  We cannot take it for granted.  It is too tenuous nowadays to be wasted.

Dear God help us to understand Your plans for us in this life you have given us.  When many conspire against us, let us know that You are God and love shall conquer all.  Amen.