Sunday, November 29, 2015

Words and Wisdom - Enduring Gifts

I have a few moments of stillness and morning sun as Advent begins.  The daily lectionary offered an apocalyptic word from Jesus: Luke 21:5-9.  Reading these passages always beats back the joviality of the season.  It is a stiffening challenge.  It is a dash of cold reality in the week of the abortion clinic shootings in Colorado, following the Paris attacks from short days before.  We will see terrible things, Jesus warns.

This is a passage of woe and warning. Of all 14 verses in the assigned reading from Luke, only 4 lend comfort. All of these verses seem framed by the challenge to endure (v. 19).

How will we endure?  Jesus offers two gifts - magical powers if you will: words and wisdom (v.15).

The other night I was called out to the hospital to be with a man in his final hours.  There were doctors and nurses everywhere.  Technology and skill abounded.  I felt quite emptyhanded as I headed out the door in response to a call.  All I had were what Jesus bequeathed to me - words and wisdom.

These are pretty rough days we are living through.  Moments of sun and stillness are to be treasured.  When we step into the week ahead.  I pray you will endure every trial. Perhaps each trial is an opportunity to testify (v. 13).  Let's carry faith, hope, and love in our hearts.  Then may the words we speak be wisdom.   

P.S. - Looking for a great 2015 daily Advent devotion?  See what our spiritual community has put together:

(Photo of my "In Jesus' Name" Norwegian prayer coffee cup.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Celebrate the Triumphs of Others

Psalm 35:19-21 is the evening reading tonight.  It is a prayer for vindication.  The charge is put to God, "Defend me! Vindicate me!" Don't let the haters rejoice or drag me low!  

How often do we offer that prayer?  How often are we rejoicing in another being brought low?  Could there be a connection between our attitude toward others and the petitions we make for ourselves?

The Psalm also acknowledges the rejoicing of those who are glad for the psalmist's vindication.  How often do we notice and celebrate the achievements of others?

Might our perspective in prayer change our attitude in life?  The reading from my Company of Pastor's confession this evening is taken from the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession.  It reminds us to pray in the name of Jesus Christ for he is our mediator.

Somehow in my life, when I pray remembering Jesus, it changes my outlook.  I find myself less wrapped in self concern.  I pay more attention to the love of God and give less attention to the negativity of others.

How will you celebrate the triumphs of others this week?  How will that transform your heart?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Consider the Outcome

In today's reading from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus places a spiritual emphasis on the hardest discipline of faith - generating a holy life - our spiritual outcome. In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus is confronted by leaders who attack the lack of ritual purity amongst his followers. By the end of the exchange, the challenge is put to those who would hang their hat on tradition alone.

Speaking to the crowd, he says, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." He places the burden of faith on the human heart and its outcome. It is too easy to focus on external circumstance and custom when the genuine and productive work of faith begins in the heart.

As an example, Jesus points his accusers toward the fifth commandment, to honor father and mother. How might our heart be moved to bear good fruit in light of that commandment? The Larger Catechism suggests this commandment even affects our relationship to a stranger on the street, "to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another, and to rejoice in each other’s gifts and advancement as their own." (Q.131)

How might our lives and our world change if we mastered the affections of our hearts and employed that change in daily life?

Friday, November 6, 2009

How Often They Put God to the Test!

The reading from the 78th Psalm this morning recounts the consequence of putting God to the test. Time and again people forget the power and righteousness of God. Time and again, God proves to be faithful despite our failings.

The reading from Matthew shows the priority Jesus places upon sabbath refreshment from the labors of life and ministry. Yet the people follow him. He instructs the disciples to get something to eat. They are only aware of their limited resources. Jesus, by contrast, is aware of all that we have which so often we neglect. Jesus took what they had, and gave thanks to God.

In giving thanks to God, Jesus demonstrated a contrast to the testing nature of humans. With the meager supply the disciples had, all the people were filled to satisfaction.

Would that I could turn to God with thanksgiving more than testing.

Friday morning prayers in my Company of Pastors discipline makes this petition: "let our concern for others reflect Christ's self-giving love, not only in our prayers, but in our practice." A-men.

Friday, October 9, 2009

They Begged Him to Leave Them Alone

Today the daily lectionary offered a reading from Matthew about the demons who were cast out of two dangerous men that lived in the cemetery. Apparently the demons found such behavior by Jesus to be torture and complained that he was breaking the groundrules for the inbreaking of God's new world. The villagers had restricted these afflicted men to the cemetery but Jesus liberated them from their demons so they could be amongst the living. Of course, the demons never go quietly. They wanted to escape into a herd of pigs. Jesus in effect said, "if you feel you belong amongst the pigs - have at it!" Off to the pigs they went and off a cliff into the water went the pigs. News of these events were brought to the villagers - by the pigherders. The people begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone. I wonder. If we see through the eyes of Christ and bring life to those we meet, will the consequence of our vision make others beg us to leave them alone? Could it be, that we might prefer to keep our demons in the dead places of our lives rather than risk the change that may come if we embrace new life in all our being? Do we sometimes wish Jesus would leave us alone? What a tragedy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Open my eyes

Today's Psalm 119:1-24 reading spoke to me as it offered the prayer, "I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me." So often I fear that the praise of God's law expressed in this psalm would come out as self-righteousness off of my lips. I back away from expressing delight in the commandments for fear that I will be misunderstood. Perhaps this is because there is another language that does not understand my devotion - "I live as an alien in the land." In all my effort to interpret the goodness of God, I learn to speak other languages. Yet the primary language is that a spiritual vision - "open my eyes" (v. 18). I pray that my facility with the ways of the world will not cause the gift of God's law to be hidden from me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

People are walking like trees!

As a boy I can remember travelling to Northern California on an expedition to the Redwood Forests that Arlo Guthrie sang about. One tree had a cut through which cars could drive - and it was still alive and soaring to the heavens. The reading from Mark 8:22-33 causes me to wonder about the first healing of the blind man when people are seen walking around like trees. (Sounds like a Tolkien story, right?) Then the second healing gives the blind man the whole picture. I wonder, could his first healing offer an impressionist view of God's purpose for us? Are we to be growing, as a blessing for others - like the mustard seed that grows into a cedar tree?