Sunday, April 22, 2012

Here I Am...Send Me

Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 11:33-36, Matthew 28:18-20

The words, "here I am...send me" have rung throughout the ages as a mark of a hero or heroine in the making. The weight of the words inspire thoughts of bravery.

How many of us could boldly step up and utter those words?

Throughout the readings today, we see, first hand, those who risked life and limb to go out and declare the word of God and the good news of Christ's resurrection. They knew something the others of the ages did not...we are not alone in our journey.

In Isaiah, Isaiah himself is touched by God to become his messenger against the ever-hardening hearted Israelites. His journey would be a very difficult one by human standards. He was "cleansed" by the power of God, {"For I am a man of unclean lips"(6:7)} and when the coal was touched to his lips, he became a symbol of a clear and clean voice on God's behalf. "Then I heard a voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go with us?' And I said, 'Here I am. Send me!'" (6:8)

Isaiah knew he was a child of God. He knew he was not alone.

In Matthew, we hear Christ's words, "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you'" (28:18-20).

Then his most wonderful words that brought the disciples to even greater understanding they were in his care: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (28:20).

They also knew through these words that they were not alone.

Can we say with assurance those words today? "Here I am...send me"? It is, as Christians, one of our supreme goals on our spiritual journey of this life.

Perhaps to give us strength in this challenge, we hear these words of praise from Paul: "Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?" (Romans 11:33-35)

It is our honor and privilege to step up and, with conviction, say...

Here I am...send me.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Readings: Isaiah 57:15-21, Acts 10:42-48, John 3:16-21

We've all driven by a neighborhood that is in various stages of renovation--a reclamation effort to restore a now dilapidated mess of houses into their former glory. Some look at the process and think it's the beginning of a new life for the neighborhood as well as those who will occupy the "new" homes. There is a transformation of condemnation to rescue to revival. Others see it as a waste of time--all that labor and expense to build up what might be easier just to forget and move on.

Happily for us, God is in the renovation business.

In Isaiah, God tells us that he "lives in a high and holy place, but he is also with the contrite and lowly in spirit" and that he is there to "revive the heart of the contrite" (57:15). There are times in our lives that our proverbial neighborhood is pretty much in disrepair. Whether it's a situation within or out of our control, the damage is done. We have a God who blesses us with these words: "Peace, peace to those far and near," says the Lord. "And I will heal them" (57:18). Our condemned lives can and are rescued and revived--all we have to do is accept the help.

And believe.

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:18).

Our rescue will be made complete when we admit our sins that are making our foundations of life crumble. "Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43). Our condemned lives have received a reprieve, we are now rescued and ready for revitalization.

Our new foundations will be strong, our newly restored faith much like that fresh coat of paint that brings worn-out things back to newness. But, unlike the houses that are restored in the neighborhoods, our restoration is not finite. Houses will once again, over time, slide back into disrepair. Some, at that time, will be torn down and destroyed. Their lifetimes will end. Ours won't. Our renovation is eternal.

Peace be with you.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Peace I Give You

Readings: Joel 2:28-32, John 14:23-31

Peace be with you.

Words we exchange during church services pretty much no matter what denomination. 

But do we really mean it?

Peace is a beautiful gift; it is quiet in the storms of everyday life--the much needed breath of fresh air that helps the tension leave our bodies--the ease we feel after the pressure of being pushed in directions we don't want or need to go.

Jesus, in John 14, offered us words of peace: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (v. 27). We can carry that peace with us at all times--it is a gift that has been given freely to us. We are given permission not to be troubled and not to be afraid. 

Yet we are.

The words in Joel 28 reassure us once again with the gift of peace we are offered: "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said..." (v.32). 

Perhaps, during these very holiest of days, we take the time to truly accept and understand the enormity of the gift that we've been given. A beautiful, beautiful life was sacrificed for us in order for us to have true peace in our lives and throughout eternity. No greater gift will we ever have.

Truly...peace be with you.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gaining by Giving

Readings: Isaiah 32:14-20, I Peter 4:7-11, John 15:26-16:4

We're a clingy bunch--we tend to latch on to ideas, possessions, theories, etc., and we hang on for the long haul. And, at the top of the heap, we cling to life. Hearing the Biblical verse "If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it" (Luke 17:33NLT) is almost enough to make us shiver. We don't like to lose a pair of scissors or a favorite sweater...lose our life? Really? What does this mean?

Jesus' words aren't telling us to go out on a suicide mission as other religions teach, although he does remind the apostles in John that "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God" (16:2). We see this currently with our involvement in battles with people of other religions half a world away. We need to keep our faith, we need to live each day in our walk with Jesus. If, by some chance, we physically lose our lives, we will, through Christ, gain eternal life.

But we can "lose our lives" everyday of our existence in this life as well if we walk in Christ's steps and live to where people see Jesus instead of us in whatever we do. I Peter 4:7-11 says it beautifully: "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."

Losing our life means to let go...let go of the clinginess. If we are putting our earning power, our popularity, our material needs ahead of offering a helping hand to those in need, we're not "losing our life". You can still go to work, earn a healthy living, participate in events with family and friends; however, putting all these things ahead of serving God is not losing our lives to save it. We are invited to use our time, our possessions, and our talents to serve others following Christs' example--losing our lives of clinginess and gaining a life of peace as we read in Isaiah: "The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in  peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest" (32:17-18).    

Let go and gain by giving...peace be with you.