Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gone Fishin'...A Time of Patience

Readings: Lamentations 3:22-23, I Peter 3:8-15, Luke 5:1-11

Anyone who enjoys fishing knows that patience, many times, is the name of the game. You can have the best pole made, the ideal bait, the best conditions...but once everything is put into place, it comes down to simple patience. We've all watched the fisherman that puts a line in for a minute or two, reels in, recasts, lets the bobber get settled and then, just when you think it looks good, it gets reeled in yet again.

Fish like to take their time before they commit to getting caught--kind of like people. 

In Luke 5, Jesus called the first disciples from a life of fishing in the conventional sense to begin fishing for men, i.e. winning them over to eternal life. And, as a leap of faith greater than they ever took while guessing where the next big catch might lay, these men followed Christ--a man they barely knew. Christ told them, "Don't be afraid; from now on, you will catch men. So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed him" (10-11). 

So, do we want to get caught? What's in it for us? about a life on this beautiful earth of living in harmony with one another? Those of us who are "caught" "live in harmony with one another, love as brothers, are compassionate and humble, not living a life of paying evil with evil or insult with insult, but rather with blessing" (I Peter 3: 8-10).

It makes me glad I took the bait. You, too, I'm guessing.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Blessing of the Ages

Readings: Numbers 6:22-27, Luke 6:36-42, Romans 8:18-23

"The Lord bless and keep you, 
the Lord make his face smile upon you and be gracious to you; 
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

This ageless blessing was originally given by God through Moses to Aaron and his sons to bless the people in their care. And now, centuries later, we hear these words of peace, hope, and faith in benediction at church services of varying denominations.

It's a blessing that makes us feel very loved, very at peace, very centered.

What can we do, in return, for our brothers and sisters to show our gratitude for this eternal blessing? Christ gives us words to live by in Luke 6: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you" (36-38). Notice that even these words are words of's not just a list of "don'ts" or "shouldn'ts". Rather, these words are gentle reminders that we are all fallible, yet we are all worth saving. Don't want to be judged? Don't judge. Should be easy, right? Yet we all are guilty of the continual pattern of judging, condemning, not forgiving, and not giving as we should. Yet, we are still given the blessing of God.

Seems like it's certainly worth the effort to work on that judging, condemning, not forgiving, and not giving enough's kind of the least we can do, it seems.

But it's work--real work--to live our lives in this way. 

It's enough to wear a person out at first...

When we start to feel a little weary about the whole idea of changing and trying to do better, our loving God sends us more encouragement to do well. "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not only by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:20).

Liberated from bondage to decay...brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

What do we ever do to deserve all this love?

We have received the blessings of the ages from our God, through his beloved son. On this beautiful day, let's all work toward that "attitude of gratitude" by judging less, condemning less, forgiving and giving more. We have the "how to" directions and an endless pool of inspiration. 

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Found It!

Readings: Isaiah 12:1-6, Luke 15:1-10, I Peter 5:6-11

Losing things is no fun; finding things is pure joy. For every person who's ever lost something somewhere around the house, it can be an exercise in frustration. When we do finally find that lost item, we feel almost humbled while, at the same time, exuberant.

There are two parables in Luke that celebrate the feeling of finding the lost. In the first, that of the lost sheep, Jesus shares how diligently a good shepherd will look for one lost sheep among a flock of 100. He equates making sure that all of the flock are safe and sound to the search for all sinners returning to the fold. "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7).

The second parable is of the lost coin. This falls into our everyday lives of lost stuff. Jesus talks of how a person will pretty much turn a house upside down if something of material value is lost. We can all pretty much relate to that. But Christ merely used this as a "for instance"--his true interest is in our eternal lives. "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the perseverance of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).

Lost stuff is an aggravation; a lost soul is a tragedy. It seems the world has this mixed up these days. Think of how diligently we look for lost items that will, over time, cease to exist or be of any value. Now think of the lack of diligence we pursue those who we know have not yet returned to the eternal flock. Isaiah 12:4 states, "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted."

The earthly clutter tends to override the eternal path...

I Peter gives us a pretty good instruction book on how to keep things under control on a daily basis and, thereby, keep the "clutter" out of our lives--be it material items or the way we live our lives. "Humble yourselves therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. And the God of all grace, who called you to this eternal glory, in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast" (5:6-8, 10).

The next time something is lost, look that something receiving more attention than a someone nearby that does not yet know the love of God?

Peace be with you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Consider the Source

Readings: Proverbs 9:1-10, I John 3:13-18, Luke 14:15-24

Growing up, when I would hear something that was kind of odd, I'd go to my trusted filters--my mom and dad. Nine times out of ten, their response would be the same..."Consider the source." 

Good advice.

Our daily journeys seem to be more bombarded than ever with information--considering the source still rings true as a good piece of advice. It is, in fact, ageless.

It's been used all throughout the Bible to help guide us on our paths.

In Proverbs, we learn that there can be two different "sources" to consider--the negative and miserable sources that carry the darkness in life, and the way of light and wisdom. 

When we, through a kind word or deed, come upon someone who is walking in the negative field of darkness we may find ourselves facing some push-back as is written in chapter 9: "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse" and "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you" (verses 7 and 8). We have to consider the source of the anger and the hatred; it's not meant particularly for us in most instances--it's been brought about by some other decision or development in that person's life. If we get a negative response, there's no need to recoil and become negative and dark ourselves. It's a time to issue a quiet prayer for that person to find peace in all the turmoil and let them know gently that we're there for them, regardless. Our seeking out others to share the light of perfect love is not about us--it's about sharing.

I John 3:13 very clearly states: "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you." Children of the Light are children of eternity; children of the darkness are children who are limited by the boundary of earth and a short time span on it. As children of the Light, we are given clear guidance from our perfect source, Jesus Christ. And wonderful guidance we have: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers"(3:16). Unquestioning, unyielding love. "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (3:18). "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (3:17) It's spelled out clearly for us--we can bring others to the Light by practicing what we are directed to do. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).

A beautiful source to consider throughout our time here on earth.

Luke 4 is the parable of the prepared feast with invitations sent out to a chosen few. Upon receiving the invitation, there is great excitement and anticipation. However, once the date finally arrives, life has gotten in the way. The mundane has elbowed its way into the designated time of the feast. The invited have too much to do or don't feel like going. The parable tells us clearly to consider the source of the invitation. Our loving God invites us to the eternal feast; turning down the invitation is the worst case of bad judgement we'll ever have. 

Throughout life, consider the source...

Peace be with you. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Talk, Talk, Talk...

Readings: Deuteronomy 6:4-13, I John 4:16-21, Luke 16:19-31

Talking, talking talking...silence is no longer's rare beyond belief. Everywhere we go we are tethered to the next spontaneous conversation via cell phone, text message, in-vehicle communication system. We are surrounded by televisions, radios, Internet, electronic signs, etc. And, it seems, everyone is talking...

Is anyone listening? Is there anything worth listening to?

Talking, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. In fact, it was heavily encouraged in the book of Deuteronomy. God's message of love through the commandment "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" is then stressed that we put it into practice by "impress(ing) then upon your children. Talk (about this commandment of love) when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (6:5-7). 

Now we have something worth listening to and worth talking about to others. Our idle chatter can become more focused, more useful, and more worthy of our minds' powerful and blessed mechanisms. We can process this higher plane of all-encompassing love; we can also share this commandment with others, not only through our talking, but through our deeds as well.

"Write (this commandment) on the doorframes of your houses and your gates" (6:9).

We can, in essence, surround all our waking moments with the ever-abundant love of God and our loyalty to Him. 

And what does all this talk of love give us?

I John tells us, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him" (4:16-17). We are given permission not to wake up with fear and dread each morning, but, instead, to wake up with a clear mind that is full of confidence from living in and loving our God. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (4:18).

We can wake up each day with a smile, carry that smile throughout the day, and find peaceful sleep at the end of the day because "We love because he first loved us" (4:19). We are loved.

We can look at those who don't have our best interests in mind and smile; they are slaves, unfortunately, to earthly belongings, greeds, and needs. We are, when fully wrapped in God's love, in a different realm. We can, indeed, "love our brother" matter what. We can share that love through our talk and through our deeds. It's not up to us to control the outcome; it's our pleasure to share through our vast love of God.

The final reading is the story of Lazarus and the rich man. As you may recall, Lazarus was a beggar just outside the gates of the wealthy man's house, to whom the wealthy man paid no attention. When they both died, Lazarus was seen by the wealthy man through a wall of flames. The wealthy man asked God for Lazarus to go back to earth and warn his brothers of their fate if they continued to ignore their brothers and sisters in need. God replied that this would do no good if there was someone within such close proximity as Lazarus was to the wealthy man and they still could not see the need. 

Time for us to talk the talk in will you serve today?

Peace be with you.