Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Only Priest Needed

"But Jesus lives on forever and continues to be a Priest so that no one else is needed."--Hebrews 7:24

This morning I came across a splendid reading in the book of Hebrews. It explains, in the most direct way, how the lineage of priesthood among the Jews came to a halt with the coming of Christ. Up until that time, there were many priests and these priests were of the lineage of the Tribe of Levi (to the best of my understanding). During the time of Moses' leading the Jews across the dessert, it was the Levites who were responsible for carrying all the items of the Temple, and once stopped for a period of rest or by direction from God, they sat up the Temple and handled all matters holy. However, as with humans, they began to get a bit questionable in their practices. One thing about us...we're quite habitual and our habits of the bad type tend to return to us over and over and over again. 

As explained in Hebrews, Yes, the old system of priesthood based on family lines was canceled because it didn't work. It was weak and useless for saving people. It never made anyone really right with God. But now we have a far better hope, for Christ makes us acceptable to God and now we may draw near to him" (verses 18 & 19)

So now we have an ever-lasting Priest that speaks on our behalf to God--in Christ. He (God) says that Christ has the rank of Melchizedek, a sometimes forgotten but amazingly important person in our Faith. (The mystery of Melchizedek is fascinating and more than worthy of a meditation of its own, so I'll use this only at this time for a point of reference.) We need no other priests: "Under the old arrangement there had to be many priests, so that when the older ones died off, the system could still be carried on by others who took their places. But Jesus lives forever and continues to be a Priest so that no one else is needed. He is able to save completely all who come to God through him. Since he will live forever, he will always be there to remind God that he has paid for their sins with his blood" (verses 23-25)

Many people have become highly disillusioned throughout the ages when those in positions of leadership in the church fail to exemplify, through their daily living, the way of God. Even back in the time of Aaron (during the 40 years in the desert), Aaron himself had that weak moment and, before control could be regained, idols were appearing and people returned to their unsavory habits. Fast-forward to today--people see members of the priesthood, members of the clergy, high-ranking church officials failing to live their faith through example. As a result, the general population thinks what is good for the goose is good for the gander. And the "idolic" way of life returns yet again. How wonderful to read the words of Hebrews and know that all the human foibles of our earthly leaders and would-be leaders have little to do with our faith in daily life. As it is stated: "He is, therefore, exactly the kind of High Priest we need; for he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin, undefiled by sinners, and to him has been given the place of honor in heaven. Under the old system, even the high priests were weak and sinful men who could not keep from doing wrong, but later God appointed his Son who is perfect forever" (verses 26 & 28).

We have everything we need on this earth to help us to become people of Faith. And, through the reading of the book of Hebrews, we know we have the only priest needed.

May God be with you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gliding Along the Tides of Time

"We glide along the tides of time as swiftly as a racing river, and vanish as quickly as a dream. Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should." Psalm 90: 5 and 12

Gliding along the tides of time--this pretty much says it all. Although through better and better prevention we are able to achieve longer lifespans, once life draws to a close it usually seems too short. Perhaps the idea we're missing is that it is all about quality and not quantity.

Many of us on this planet are born into a virtual Garden of Eden. We have more than enough food at our disposal; a place of shelter to keep us warm, cool, and protected; clothes on our backs and shoes on our feet. Mercifully, we're also given a conscience that reminds us of others who aren't living with the same ease as us, so we see to it to share. The act of sharing emulates the love of Christ, thereby not only giving material items to others through kindness, but sharing our belief in Christ as well.  Fortunately, most of us are more than willing to share our abundant resources with others in need. It's the sharing our belief in Christ that makes us hesitant. How do we do this? We feel awkward, we feel intrusive, we feel a lack of skills of how to smoothly interject Christ's love into our daily conversations. We've unfortunately been bombarded with one televangelist after another that tend to overwhelm us to the point that we feel if we speak of the word of God or Christ to anyone, we come across in that same overwhelming way. Don't worry--it won't. God is in our corner. He knows every hair on our head and every thought in our mind. He knows how we're wired--He had a hand in it, remember? If we ask for calm in our own thoughts and speech, we'll have it. The appropriate words will come to soothe, help, love, and give hope to those around us. All the teachings of Christ were done in this manner; he sat amongst people, quietly sharing parables--not screaming from the rooftops or flailing and flaunting about. He gives us the same still and calm sharing ability if we ask Him for it.

In 2 Timothy 1:8 Paul finds himself once again in jail for sharing the news of Christ. WHAT?!? JAIL?!? Didn't we just agree that we could ask for and be given the calm and smooth words to share with others? And now we're talking about being jailed? If you're not familiar with Paul, he is the exception to the rule. Paul didn't do anything half way. When he was in is "former" life as he puts it, his greatest joy was exposing Christians left and right--doing his level best to destroy the whole of the growing sect of Christianity in the Mid-East. Once his conversion came, he did his level best to make Christianity the way and only way. One can see how this might anger some of his former employers. So...Paul spent quite a bit of time in jail. But he never gave up. And he also was wise to accept a God-given partner in Christianity in the form of Timothy--a soft-spoken, hard-working man. In verse 8 it states: "If you will stir up this inner power, you will never be afraid to tell others about our Lord, or to let them know that I am your friend even though I am in jail for Christ's sake. You will be ready to suffer with me for the Lord, for he will give you strength in suffering. He goes on in verse 13: "Hold tightly to the pattern of truth I taught you, especially concerning the faith and love Christ Jesus offers you. Guard well the splendid, God-given abilities you received as a gift from the Holy Spirit who lives within you."

We all have those God-given abilities...those gifts from the Holy Spirit. We may not feel comfortable at first sharing the love of God and Christ through direct conversation. But remember the old axiom, "Actions speak louder than words." Think of how you can exemplify the beauty of Christ's love through simple gestures of kindness to others. If you have money--share it with organizations that you feel good about to share food, livestock, seeds, medicines, etc. If you have time--share it by helping at a food pantry, a soup kitchen, visiting at a nursing home, or cleaning us something for someone who can't do it on his own. If you have talent--share it by singing a song, sharing a poem or prose, making a pot of soup or a loaf of bread.

We are gliding along the tides of time. Every day does  count. We're given so much; we need to use our limited time of this dear Earth to do good to others and feel the love of Christ as we share.

May the Lord be with you always. Amen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Make Me a Vessel

This morning before I poured that first cup of coffee, I enjoyed a period of quiet solitude where my thoughts could flow freely. During those moments it's nearly impossible not to feel inspired by basic processes of thinking and expanding the mind. It's during these moments that I feel most at peace with everything; I know that all is well--on many levels.
Life as the mundane is difficult at best. Tiny, insignificant details cloud the clarity of our vision--both physical and emotional. We get caught up in issues that overwhelm us; we get frustrated, we get our feelings hurt, we strike out in defense and hurt others and then feel guilty. Why? Perhaps because we are in that old adage of "not being able to see the forest for the trees". Our "trees" in life--what others think of us, what we think of others, snap judgments, insecurities, greediness--grow and become so large that we see only them. As a result, the "forest"--all the beauties of life, of nature, of our own ability to process thoughts on a higher level--can't be seen, much less experienced.
No matter who we look to on Earth as our sages in the flesh, if they are truly wise, they all give us the same message: Shed those things that bind you and become a vessel to all that is good. I practice Christianity and one of my favorite verses is "Be Still and Know that I Am". The largess of being still--totally still--is incredible. We use the terms "uncomfortable silence", "the silence was overwhelming" and "silence is golden". That is the power of silence. With that total silence comes the ability to let wisdom enter into our otherwise cluttered minds. What a gift to give ourselves the permission to be silent. To think; to contemplate; to rid ourselves of the mundane. To fully envision our roles in this journey as "empty vessels" waiting to be filled daily with wisdom to do good to and for all those around us. 
I hope today and throughout life you will sit quietly and meditate upon the vastness of your abilities to do good. Become the empty vessel and then be filled with love, with peace, with fairness, with wisdom. Be still.