Sunday, December 18, 2011


Readings: Jeremiah 11:18-20; I Timothy 6:12-14; John 12:37-50

Ever been blindsided? Think of the poor kiddo in the ever-popular Christmas movie A Christmas Story. He receives gifts annually from a far-away aunt, and this year is no exception.  Ralphie receives that wonderful big box in the mail addressed just to him, and he tears into it with great gusto knowing it will be something absolutely wonderful. And it would have been--if he were four. There, laying in the box, is a big, fluffy pink bunny suit. A bunny suit! Ralphie was blindsided. Really blindsided.

We've all been blindsided throughout our lives; maybe not with a bunny suit, but definitely blindsided. Sometimes we're greatly let down by a loved one, a friend, or a situation. We think things are going along fine and Wham!--blindsided. We are, at first, dazed and wondering just what in the world happened. Then, once we are over the initial shock, we start questioning and asking why it happened. This is when hurt and anger can consume us. In the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah himself was blindsided--there was, in fact, a plot against his life. He said he felt as though he was "a gentle lamb led to slaughter" (v.19). How did he handle this horrible situation? He put it to God. "But, O Lord Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause" (v.20). Jeremiah didn't feel that he needed to be alone in this; he was not by himself. He was, unfortunately, blindsided for doing God's work. Yet knew that God was on his side. He trusted in God.

The book of I Timothy gives us good guidance on how to handle situations when we are blindsided throughout life. He tells us to "Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.12 & 14). We don't need to fold to those who blindside us, but we're not called to fight the fight of mere mortals with fists or ugly words, but through the fight of faith. Christ is with us, even when we feel the most dejected, the most deceived, the most humiliated by our earthly peers. But Christ never leaves our side. He's there; we just need to reach out and then we'll be well-prepared to "fight the good fight of faith".

In John 12:47 & 48, we hear Christ's words: "... For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me, and does not accept my words; that very word with which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." Christ's living forever in our hearts is not based on judgement; it is based on saving us and always being there for us upon our acceptance of him. We'll never be blindsided by Christ. What a wondrous message.
Peace be with you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Readings: Isaiah 50:5-10; I Peter 2:21-18; John 12:1-36

It seems that bullies and the act of bullying is sprinkled throughout the news on a pretty regular basis these days. Schools are trying to figure out how to handle the bullies as well as the bullied. It's miserable to be bullied, but it's certainly nothing new. Bullies have been around for ages. 
Happily, we have a good guide already in place on how to handle these incidents. It may not be exactly what we'd like to hear, but it certainly is what we need to hear when we're on the receiving end of a bully.

Isaiah 50, verses six and seven tell us, "I offered my back to those who beat me--cheeks to those who pulled out my beard--I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me. I will not be disgraced. That seems like a pretty tall order not to retaliate, but what we tend to forget when we're sitting there at the mercy of the bully is that there is someone watching every move the bully makes...and every move we make as well. And we will be helped and protected. Maybe not by earthly, everyday standards, but by heavenly standards.

In the Book of John, we find Jesus and Lazarus having a meal in the home of Mary and Martha after the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Outside, the crowds are forming; this miracle has opened the hearts of many of the townspeople who have now chosen to follow Christ and his teachings. This, of course, doesn't set well for those who are against Christ and all he stands for. So, the plotting and bullying begins. As we know, Christ paid the ultimate price for all of us and all our sins. He was mocked, beaten, and tortured for all of us. Yet he didn't fall to the bullies; instead he gives us these words, "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me" (v.26). To be honored by the Father for serving Christ...those words can belittle the biggest of the bullies' power over us. Christ then tells us to "Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light" (v.36).  It's difficult when we're being picked on, ridiculed, or having our lives made miserable when we don't see that we've done anything wrong--and many times we haven't. It just happens; as long as there are people on earth, there will be bullies.

The good news is that, like the little kids say on the sidewalk when nose to nose, "My Father is stronger."

And we know that for a fact. Peace be with you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No Showy Needed

Readings: Zachariah 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-9

The lowly donkey. The poor cousin of the majestic horse. In the equine world, the donkey is the country bumpkin. In a nutshell, the donkey exemplifies all that is under appreciated for its good works in the world.
But once in awhile, the lowly donkey has its moments. I've always thought that God sees something special in donkeys that the rest of us miss. Think about it--who brought the lovely Mary and the soon-to-be-delivered Christ child to the stable? Not a grand horse, but a donkey. In Matthew, Christ instructs for a donkey and its colt to be brought to him. "'Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and being them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell them that the Lord needs them and he will send them right away.' This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet" (21:3-4), the prophecy in Zachariah, "See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (9:9).

But why a lowly donkey? Why not a fantastic while stallion? Because God doesn't do showy--we humans invented showy. With God, there's no need to show off. In fact, in Philippians, his words are "Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equity with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (2:6-7). God sent us Christ as a helpless baby, not a magnificent jewel-robed leader on an over-sized throne. We are shown through this act of humility how we are to live while here. These words follow the wonderful theme throughout the Bible that the least shall be the greatest. A lowly donkey played an important part not once, but twice in the history of Christ's time here on Earth. And, in this loving gesture, it gives us all hope. We don't have to be high and mighty to be accepted and loved by God. We just need to live humbly before God, love him above all others, and above all things. And, just like those donkeys, by being true to ourselves, to others, and, most importantly, to God we will thrive. All creatures, great and small, are indeed beautiful in God's sight.

Peace be with you.