Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Contrite Sacrifice

Sacred Gifts and Holy Gatherings
What We Bring to God

The Lord's Day

Leviticus 16:29-34  The Message

29-31 “This is standard practice for you, a perpetual ordinance. On the tenth day of the seventh month, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you are to enter into a solemn fast and refrain from all work, because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. In the presence of God you will be made clean of all your sins. It is a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. You must fast. It is a perpetual ordinance.
32 “The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father is to make the atonement:
He puts on the sacred linen garments;
33 He purges the Holy of Hollies by making atonement;
He purges the Tent of Meeting and the Altar by making atonement;
He makes atonement for the priests and all the congregation.
34 “This is a perpetual ordinance for you: Once a year atonement is to be made for all the sins of the People of Israel.”
And Aaron did it, just as God commanded Moses.
For Reflection 
When I was  much younger I thought ritual was a waste of time.  It was a rote practice; mechanical, done with little thought, therefore, inauthentic.  Since those days I have begun to realize the importance of ritual.  Whether done in a corporate worship setting or alone, adherence to ritual sets aside a time for you to become closer to God.  It is a time for you to remember in a systematic way that you are (or should be) about your Father's business.

that you will strengthen your relationship with God by remembering that you are about your Father's business.  Pray that you will in all things reflect God's intention for human kind.  Pray that you will remain in humble service to your creator.

Monday, November 30, 2015

It Is Good

Sacred Gifts and Holy Gatherings
What We Bring to God

The Lord's Day

Genesis 1:28-2:4  The Message

26-28 God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
        the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
    God created human beings;
        he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God’s nature.
        He created them male and female.
    God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
29-30 Then God said, “I’ve given you
        every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth
    And every kind of fruit-bearing tree,
        given them to you for food.
    To all animals and all birds,
        everything that moves and breathes,
    I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.”
        And there it was.
31 God looked over everything he had made;
        it was so good, so very good!
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day Six.
Heaven and Earth were finished,
    down to the last detail.
2-4 By the seventh day
        God had finished his work.
    On the seventh day
        he rested from all his work.
    God blessed the seventh day.
        He made it a Holy Day
    Because on that day he rested from his work,
        all the creating God had done.
This is the story of how it all started,
    of Heaven and Earth when they were created.

For Reflection 
God is the source of all things -- even us.  God has made us in the likeness of God.  We have the capacity to be creative so that we can bring to God what God as brought to us.  We can return to God the best of what we are meant to be.

We can do that only if we remember that we are not independent from God. Our rituals and holy days are means by which we remember to whom we belong.  We often think of the ritual of the Sabbath as a day of rest.  However, agreement about the nature of this day is far from resolved.  What does it mean "to rest?"  What is your definition of the Sabbath?  How does your Sabbath strengthen your relationship to God?

Pray prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the God who gave you the capacity to live creatively.  Pray that what you create will honor your creator.  Pray that you will remember to set time aside to reflect on your activity and to lift up your work to the glory of God.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Apollos Grows in Ministry

The Christian Community Comes AliveSeeds of New Growth
Thessalonica, Beroea, and Athens

Acts 18:24-28  The Message

24-26 A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures. He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story.
27-28 When Apollos decided to go on to Achaia province, his Ephesian friends gave their blessing and wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the disciples there to welcome him with open arms. The welcome paid off: Apollos turned out to be a great help to those who had become believers through God’s immense generosity. He was particularly effective in public debate with the Jews as he brought out proof after convincing proof from the Scriptures that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah.

For Reflection
These passages show us the need for being open to new ideas. Perhaps more importantly it shows the power of the faithful to mentor others.

I recently had a discussion with a forty something woman who assigned the strength of her twenty year marriage to a group of elderly Christian women in a nursing home.  She told a story of Christian mentor-ship where they offered pre-marital instruction that was grounded in the Gospel.  They spoke of the Holy Spirit which resides in us all and how she should discover that in her "man" and how she should lead him in discovering the Spirit in her.  She spoke of their proscriptions for mutual trust, time spent in Christian fellowship at the dinner table with their children and how to pass on their faith by acting as faithful parents. They spoke about how to foster a lasting loving relationship and a satisfying sexual life.  The most important artifacts in a marriage, they instructed, are a kitchen table for family talk and a porch swing with little room for kids where she and her husband could resolve issues and come quietly together.

This is more than homespun advice.  This is the essence of the practice of the Way of Jesus Christ.  This is what the community of faithful is all about.  This is the early church.  This is also the mission of the modern church, shepherding in the way of the Lord. Life without end starts and is ensured by Christian mentoring in a God-centered community.

prayers of thanksgiving for the Holy Spirit speaking wisdom given to elderly folks.  Praise God for the fellowship of Christ, the glue which binds Christians to trust in the Way. Pray that you will find the wisdom of living in a community tied to the Kingdom of God. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Teach Me Your Ways

The Christian Community Comes AliveSeeds of New Growth
Thessalonica, Beroea, and Athens

Exodus 33:12-18  The Message

12-13 Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”
14 God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
15-16 Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”
17 God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”
18 Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

For Reflection
God's way is a radical departure from the ways of human culture.  God's way is to trust in humanity.  God's way is to provide support and guidance.  Here, Moses' trust is limited.  Moses wants a sign.  "Let me see your Glory," Moses petitions. 

How much proof that God is with us do we need?  What about those who proclaim God's support or invoke God's name for selfish ends?  How do we know God is with us?

Perhaps we will never know when God is with us.  Perhaps we have to accept uncertainty,  Perhaps we need to trust that God will use us to good ends.  Perhaps we will have to work for justice, compassion, forgiveness and inclusion and trust in the Creator.  Accept the mystery that is God!

Pray constantly so that you will come closer to knowing God.  Pray in humility that God's will be done.  Pray prayers of thanksgiving in the face of fear.  Pray for compassion in the face of threat.  Pray for forgiveness in the face of retribution.  Pray for the peace that is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice compassion and love.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Commissioned to Teach

Christian Community Comes AliveSeeds of New Growth
Thessalonica, Beroea, and Athens

Matthew 28:16-20  The Message

16-17 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
18-20 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age

For Reflection
Here we see the meaning of worship in the context of the Christ event.  Worship was not just meeting one or two days a week and singing praises, praying and listening to a sermon.  Worship was not passive.  Worship meant to risk one's present life for the life centered in the practice of the Way, Jesus's practice of radical trust in God and interpreting the wisdom of the scriptures.  Faith in the context of the life lived by Jesus was characterized by radical trust in God which freed human kind to practice a life driven by love in fellowship with each other and God.

In this interpretation of Scripture, telling is replaced by teaching.  It is not enough that we believe in God and Christ.  We must also practice our beliefs.  That is what was taught in the early Church.  The dependence upon rules and ritualistic distance from God was replaced with participation in the radical idea of God's Kingdom.  It was not about our destination after death -- heaven or hell.  It was about the life here and now, eternally perpetuated by training others in the practice of the way.

that your life will remain dedicated to the perpetuation of the Way of Jesus Christ.  Pray that you will live the life Christ taught us to live, working for justice, compassion and mutual support in all things.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wisdom from God

The Christian Community Comes AliveSeeds of New Growth
Thessalonica, Beroea, and Athens

Proverbs 16:19-24The Message

19 It’s better to live humbly among the poor
    than to live it up among the rich and famous.
20 It pays to take life seriously;
    things work out when you trust in God.
21 A wise person gets known for insight;
    gracious words add to one’s reputation.
22 True intelligence is a spring of fresh water,
    while fools sweat it out the hard way.
23 They make a lot of sense, these wise folks;
    whenever they speak, their reputation increases.
24 Gracious speech is like clover honey
good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.

For Reflection
"God helps those who help themselves."  Biblical or Common wisdom?  Ben Franklin -- not Biblical.  How many more proverbs can you think of are labeled Biblical by some but in reality are not?

that the wisdom you possess is derived from following the life of Christ.  Pray that you will be able to divide "Common Wisdom" from God-centered Wisdom.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Living with God

The Christian Community Comes AliveSeeds of New GrowthThessalonica, Beroea, and Athens

Psalm 27:4-5  The Message

I’m asking God for one thing,
    only one thing:
To live with him in his house
    my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
    I’ll study at his feet.
That’s the only quiet, secure place
    in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
    far from the buzz of traffic.
7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!
9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
    but God took me in.
For Reflection
There are many things we do that are done automatically.  We don't even think about them.  Many of these things like your morning rituals are learned and continued by how well they work for us.  Some of our reactions to the events of every day life can be traced to culturally based norms.  Spend some time today reflecting on your "auto-response" system. Make a list of those things which are based in our "common" culture and those which can be traced to a God Centered culture.

Living with God should result in a perspective which allows you to see the world differently, hopefully, with opportunities for peace.

that your auto-response system is grounded in God and driven by the Holy Spirit.  Pray for full immersion in the Godlife.