Author Archives: Dee

About Dee

I am a working wife, geek, and mother of two with opinions about just about everything which I plan to share here.

What Is In a Name? Hosea 11:1-11

August 4, 2019

Scripture

Hosea 11:1-11

11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

11:2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

11:3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.

11:4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.

11:5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

11:6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.

11:7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

11:8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

11:9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

11:10 They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.

11:11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

Intro

The book of Hosea is an interesting book. It is the first of the 12 books of the minor prophets which just means the books are short. In fact, in the Hebrew bible they are lumped together as one book called The Twelve. 

The message in Hosea is a cycle of betrayal and idolatry, judgement, repentance, redemption, and restoration.

Hosea is the story of a prophet who is commanded by God to marry a prostitute. He marries Gomer. She leaves him for another and he goes and brings her back. The story is a picture of God’s relationship with the Israelites. Hosea is a prophet during the reign of Jeraboam who was king of the northern ten tribes of Israel.  If Jeraboam had obeyed God, his family would have been established like King David but he set up a couple of golden calves and led the people into sin and they turned their backs on God.

So God gives Hosea a message for the people but instead of saying the message, Hosea is to LIVE out the message. God tells Hosea to marry an adulterous wife. There will be children and God tells Hosea what to name them.

Names

There will be a son – Jezreel which means scattered, a daughter named Lo-ruhammah which means not loved, and another son named Lo-ammi which means not my people. These names might seem unimportant but we will come back to them.

Hosea married Gomer who was a prostitute before the wedding, and an adulterer after. Gomer represents the Israelites who have turned away from God and worshipped false gods.  God speaks to Israel through Hosea about the coming consequences if they don’t repent. 

How Do We Feel About The Story of Hosea and Gomer?

I come to this story carrying some sympathy for this young pastor, Hosea. Hosea hears God’s call and I wonder if he doesn’t imagine himself preaching some glorious sermon that will cause the people who hear him to turn back to God. Maybe he was a little nervous, maybe he was humbled to receive such a calling. Whatever he was feeling, I doubt he imagined what would come next. This man of God, through obedience, finds himself in a situation that sounds a lot like the headline in one of those magazines by the check-out counter at the grocery store.

I don’t know about you but I didn’t feel the same sympathy for Gomer when I first read this story. I might have felt sympathetic for the prostitute. I mean, it was difficult for a woman in those days. If you were poor and had no male family member to take care of you then you just did what you had to do to survive. But then Hosea loved and married her and she was unfaithful! My judgemental self probably responded in a similar manner to Hosea’s friends. I’m sure they had a lot of advice for him and in human terms it would have made perfect sense. Don’t do it Hosea! She is not good enough for you. Think of your career as a pastor! She will break your heart! Some people may have just been mean and gossipy but others may have spoken out of genuine concern for their friend. They would have seen this as a huge mistake.  Here she was – living what seems a terrible lifestyle and Hosea as we say, “made an honest woman out of her”. Not only did he marry her, he LOVED her. So he not only changed her name from prostitute to wife. He changed it to beloved wife. And Gomer goes right back to her old ways. Hosea not only brings her back – again! -he pays a ransom to do so.

Why would Gomer go back to this life?

Maybe Gomer had named herself a prostitute by her life before Hosea. 

You can change your address and call yourself something else but do you believe it in your heart? Maybe she still felt that the old name applied. Maybe that voice on repeat in her head told her that she was unworthy so many times that she came to believe it and no matter how much Hosea professed his love, she couldn’t shake the name or the shame she had given herself.

Is Jesus in Here Somewhere?

Let’s look at the new testament for some insight into this whole name business.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist baptizes Jesus and God names and claims His son – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Then just a few short verses later, we come to the temptation of Jesus. In Matthew 4 what does the devil say? If you are the son of God. Three times the accuser gives reason for doubt about the name that God has just given Jesus. 

Doesn’t it often happen that way? As soon as we have a spiritual experience – a God moment, feel convicted by a sermon, do something selfless for someone else – immediately following one of those experiences it seems like something happens and other things try to tell us that we belong to them. Our spouse does something irritating and our anger says it owns us. Bills come in the mail and the washing machine breaks and the car starts making a funny noise and our money (or lack of it) and our stuff claims us. We buy a burger for the guy near the overpass carrying a sign that says “will work for food” and as we drive away we watch in the rear view mirror as he throws the burger in the trash and our heart for the needy grows cold.  We are owned by an unforgiving and critical spirit. In an instant we went from better to bitter.

The accuser, the father of lies, uses the very things that bring us closer to God against us. 

But only God can truly name us because only God can see who we were created to be IN HIM. God has the final say!

God has named us sons and daughters, so loved that He put on flesh, walked among us healing and teaching, suffered and hung on a cross, died and three days later defeated death…everything else that the world names us is a lie of temptation that only becomes true when we listen to it. 

Maybe that is what happened to Gomer. Maybe she couldn’t accept the grace of forgiveness from Hosea because first she would have to admit once and for all how broken and in need of forgiveness she was and after all, isn’t that precisely why grace is so hard?  And sometimes, harder than admitting how broken she is or …we are, is having hope that we could actually be something other than what the world names us. Hope. Grace. The very things we need the most can be the hardest for us to accept. Maybe it is not true for you, but for me it is always easier to extend grace, to forgive someone else, than it is for me to accept it myself. I think we all sometimes deep down, want so badly to feel safe, to belong, that we run in the opposite direction from hope and grace because our doubt gets in the way and the accuser says we are not worthy and we forget that the good news of the gospel is exactly the answer to that lie. 

Remember the names of the children?

Hosea 1:10-12  “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’  The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel. (which not only means scattered but also means God plants!)

and

Hosea 2:23 I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

God doesn’t wait for his people to “come around”. He meets us right there in the midst of our sin and that is where grace happens. 

Where Are We?

No longer scattered, no longer unloved, people of God. 

The story of Hosea is a picture of sin and brokenness and separation from God but it is also a picture of Jesus, a ransom for sin, for being made whole, and of us being given a new name.

For while we were yet sinners (our old name), Christ died for us. (Redeemed – our new name!)

Galatians 3:26-28  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine)

The accuser can’t name you. The world can’t name you. 

There is a story about Martin Luther, the Catholic priest who was responsible for the beginning of the reformation (the beginning of the protestant church). In his time, you could purchase what were called “indulgences” from the church. In other words, if you had sinned, you could sort of buy your way into heaven. Martin Luther said, no we are justified not by anything we do in ourselves, but by faith in Jesus Christ through grace. One story says that when he felt temptation he would shout these words. “I am baptized!” It was sort of a way of saying “Evil – you think you can tell me who I am? You should meet my dad!”

Last week, in his sermon on prayer, Mark said that the name of God should always be set apart as holy. As he spoke, I was thinking about one of the names of God. I AM.

When we begin a sentence about ourselves, We start out by saying I am (whatever – angry, hungry, a Methodist,) and in a way, we have started our sentence with the name of God. Maybe that is meant to be a reminder of who (and WHOSE) we are. 

God is holy and we are grafted onto the family tree as sons and daughters and so through Jesus Christ, we too are holy, precious and redeemed children of the living God. That is what the power of the transforming love of God is like. That is what God is like. That is what love is like. We are loved. We belong. THAT precious people is our name. Amen.

Let Us Pray

Father, we thank you for your creation, for breath, and for Your Son, Jesus, the Christ. We see ourselves and each other as the world names us. We thank You because You see us as beautiful, beloved.

 Ephesians 2:10 says that we are your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which you have already prepared in advance for us to do. 

Help us to remember the God moments where we feel close to you so that when we find ourselves wandering in the dark valley we can shout “I am baptized” and know we are just passing through on our way home to you.

Amen

May 6, 2019 John 21:1-19


SCRIPTURE

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

___________________________________________________________

INTRO

From the creation of the entire world, God has been moving. I’m no pastor, but I’ve been going to bible studies for over twenty years. Reading the bible and reading what others say about the bible in between. Nothing I have read leads me to believe that God has stopped moving. I believe that the bible is the ongoing dialogue we are invited to have with God. Through scripture, corporate worship, fellowship, and service, we are invited to walk and talk with God as He moves and if we decide at any point that we have read the bible, been to church, and are done, then the only thing we are going to have a chance at seeing is a glimpse of God’s back as He continues to move.

So when I speak from this pulpit, my words are just a part of my journey with God and that changes as I learn and think about what I am learning. It means I may say something you don’t agree with or that you see differently. I may even feel differently about something I’ve read a year from now because I too, am moving, as are all of you. We are all on a journey and we change and grow. We go to the bible with the same kinds of questions that have been asked by people since the beginning. Why do bad things happen to good people? Will evil and death continue to have the upper hand? Does God see and hear us? Is He good? Is He still working? How are we to live?

CHANGE

Today we are going to look at how Peter handled change and how we might see ourselves sitting next to him.

Imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. He has just seen his friend and teacher crucified. He has seen the Risen Savior and Jesus has breathed on the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit and given them a commission so they got busy and went to work, right?

No they didn’t. They went fishing. That just didn’t make sense to me. At first…

But then I thought about how I handle being upset. Dale used to say if he wanted the house cleaned all he had to do was invite company over or pick a fight with me.

Now when company was coming I would clean the house but when I was mad? It was super clean time. I would polish the washing machine. I just had to be left alone until I worked it out of my system. I retreated to the familiar and the physical labor helped me get my mad out.

After Dale was sick and in the hospital for several months, we came home and I tackled a stump that was in the backyard by our air conditioner. I dug and I wrapped a chain around it and pulled and fought with the thing until I finally got it out. That stump had nothing to do with Dale being sick, but my response to the stress was to tackle a challenge. Life had been out of control and in both these situations, I needed something to help me feel in control again.

So Peter has had several shocks, one right after the other. And underneath all of it is the deep disappointment he carries in himself for denying Jesus.

We have all done things that we feel guilty for. Maybe we accidentally hurt someone. We can go apologize and hopefully that resolves the situation. We feel better and the relationship is stronger. But sometimes there is no fix. Sometimes we carry that weight around for a long time, and like anything you carry, the longer you tote it around, the heavier it seems. When that happens, sometimes we get stuck.

So maybe Peter retreated to the familiar, tried to tackle a challenge that he could control. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Peter and the other disciples fished all night and didn’t catch anything! So now on top of everything else they are tired and hungry and have no fish. Now there is some man on the beach telling them to drop their nets on the right side of the boat. I picture Peter scratching his head and then shrugging his shoulders. What could one more try hurt?

They dropped their net and and it filled up with so many fish they couldn’t even haul it into the boat!

WE ARE PETER

Imagine you are standing in that boat with the disciples. What have you poured your heart and sweat into and ended up with nothing but aches and pains and darkness? Watch for dawn. Listen for Jesus voice. Then do what He says.

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

To quote Tom Wright: “Jesus after all, has given his followers a strange and striking commission in chapter 20. They are to work for him. They are to be filled with God’s breath, and be sent into the world as Jesus had been. But if they try it their own way, they will fail. They will toil all night and take nothing. The only way is for them to admit defeat, to listen afresh to Jesus voice, and to do what he says.”

BACKGROUND

Now if we go back to Luke 22:54-62

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.  And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

So, back at the beach…

The mysterious disciple whom Jesus loved recognized Jesus and when he said so, Peter threw on his clothes and jumped into the water. The other disciples stayed in the boat, dragging their big old net full of fish. When they got to shore, there was a campfire with fish cooking and bread!

Remember when Peter first denied Jesus? It was near a fire. Peter walked out of the ocean to his savior and smelled the cooking fire. Maybe the same smell as another long night, the night he denied Jesus.

What did Jesus do? He fed Peter and the others. He cooked them breakfast! He told the disciples to bring their fish but he already had fish cooking. He didn’t need their fish, did he? So why does John include this information? I think John wanted us to learn a lesson. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking we must do it all. We think it’s our responsibility to organize, to clean, to lead, to tell others the good news of the gospel. God NEEDS us!

Of course when we serve we are to serve in a mighty way. But it isn’t all up to us. The same God who created everything in the world is still on the throne and we are invited to be a part of the kingdom and we are created for a purpose and to fulfil that purpose is built into us. God doesn’t need what we have or what we can do. But we need Him.

STUCK

In my mind, Jesus sees Peter’s heart. He sees how he is stuck in his guilt and his “stuckness” keeps him from moving forward.  After they have eaten breakfast Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. He answered him yes and Jesus gave him instructions. “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asked him again. Peter once again answered that he loved him. Again Jesus gave him instructions. “Tend my sheep”

I wonder if it all came flooding back to him.

Imagine how Peter’s heart must have been pounding. How he must have been shaking. I wonder if he was thinking, here it comes. Jesus is going to let me have it. I failed Him. I deserve whatever I get.

One more time, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. This time Peter said “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Jesus is the passover lamb, who takes away the sin of the world including Peter’s sin. How often do we find that the hardest person for us to forgive is ourselves. I’m not making light of what Peter did. And sin always has consequences. In Peter’s case, maybe his sin was keeping him from what Jesus had commissioned him to do. Jesus went right to the hurt and each time the question is asked and answered, Jesus doesn’t pat Peter on the shoulder and tell him it’s okay. He doesn’t even use the words “you are forgiven”. He gives him his commission again. Time to get to work Peter!

John 10:11 says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

TRUST

Back in John 20:21 Jesus told the disciples “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”

Jesus shares His ministry with Peter. He entrusts Peter with the care of His sheep. Peter was not just forgiven, he was restored. Jesus is not just putting Peter back to work. He is sharing His own work with him.

I have experienced “stuckness” in my life when I felt guilty or worried or hurt and couldn’t move forward in my life until I figured out why I was stuck and dealt with it. That’s a lot of MY and I and when we are stuck, I would venture to say that our focus is pretty much on ourselves (at least that is how it is for me) and sometimes the only way out is to change that focus and do something for someone else. A part of this seems to be Peter being told to put on his big boy pants and move on. Yes Peter, you messed up. It’s done. Now go take care of others.

Peter got refocused.

LOVE

I asked myself why this question? Of everything Jesus could have said in this exchange, why did he ask Peter if he loved Him?

Maybe because real ministry, whether you are a pastor, a lay person, a committee leader, a teacher, whatever you do, deep down, it begins with a love for Jesus. It’s not so much the work – it’s the heart. We aren’t earning grace. We are responding with relief and gratitude to something that is already complete. Even though we have all let Jesus down probably many many times, Jesus wants to help us find that love and to express it and be healed and be restored. He wants us to hear His voice as He gives us new work to do.

Will we fail? Sometimes. Will we let Jesus down? Repeatedly! But along with Peter’s greatest failure Peter holds another memory. He remembers a time when he heard the masters voice and literally stepped out of the boat in faith and even when his own lack of faith would drown him, the Jesus he loved, held him up. So if we will listen for the voice of Jesus, and act on what He tells us we may get wet….but occasionally we may get to walk on water!

I cannot remember the author of this quote but the words – We are not to be just recipients of salvation, but also bearers of salvation. Three times, Jesus tells us how to do that. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, care for the flock.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

We live in a different world than the one we grew up in. Anyone with a phone has access to data and can look up any scripture, any commentary, any article written by anyone in minutes. We are no longer isolated in our church or anywhere else. What is done or said in view of others can be seen and heard by everyone almost instantly and the world is watching. And questioning. Will they see this loving shepherd Jesus in us? Will they get a glimpse of me walking on wave tops and want to climb out of the boat and join me?  Or will they see a judgemental, punishing Jesus who sees their failure and has written them off as unworthy and decide their safe, comfortable boat is just fine, thank you very much!

I just recently discovered an author and yesterday she died. I am surprised at how I am grieving for someone I never met She was 37 and leaves behind a husband and two small children. This quote resonated with me. I ask that you join me in praying for her family and friends.

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” ~ Rachel Held Evans

Prayer

Father help us to hear the voice of our shepherd. We know that we have let you down and we know that only your great love can restore us. Open our hearts to let Christ heal what hurts and keeps us stuck and give us new work that you have prepared for us. We gratefully receive salvation and we want to extend it to others and so we ask that you fill us with your spirit because we know that we can’t do anything good apart from you. Help us to be Jesus loving, water walking, bearers of salvation. As you sent Jesus and Jesus sent the disciples, send us! AMEN.

Luke 9

Scripture
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

9:29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

9:30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.

9:31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

9:32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

9:33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

9:35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

9:36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.


Transfiguration Story

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


My grandmother was from Scotland. She came to Canada by way of the Salvation Army. She signed up to be a cook for three years to pay her way. She met and married my grandfather and raised three kids during the depression.

My mother used to tell me that they didn’t know they were poor because everyone was poor. She told me once that the Communist party grew during this time (at least on paper) because a family would be put out of their home – be standing on the street with all their belongings in bags and the Communist party would have them sign a card saying they were a member and then put them up in an apartment, buy them some groceries, and help the man find a job. It wasn’t about ideology, it was about feeding your family and putting a roof over their heads – survival.

Part of those years my grandfather was overseas in the war. Before he came home, my uncle grew to be old enough to go into the service and they met in London. My uncle asked my grandfather if he still smoked and he said yes. Uncle Tom gave him cigarettes he had brought from home. My grandfather asked my uncle if he had started drinking and he said yes so they went to a pub and got to know each other all over again. In the meantime my mother had to have thyroid surgery. Her family doctor went into surgery with her and sat by her head as she had to remain awake and speak when asked to, to make sure they didn’t nick her vocal cords.

Some time after all of this – once the surgery was over, my grandfather and uncle were both home, my grandmother sat down at the kitchen table and had a small nervous breakdown. They carried her out of the house in the same chair she sat in because she couldn’t move – she was catatonic. She recovered and life went on.


I tell you this story because I love old family stories and we all have them. Our stories remind us of who we are, where we come from, and that others have gone through trials and made it through to the other side so we know that we can too. Just as our family stories remind us of who we are, our faith stories remind us of who we are in relationship with God. We see ourselves in the people of the bible, trying to work out how to live as God’s people

Our text today starts with the words “after these sayings”. I want to back up and talk about those sayings because I think they have a lot of bearing on this text.


In Luke 9, Jesus had called the disciples together and given them power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick and sent them out. Good stuff! Then we have a weird little paragraph about Herod wanting to see this Jesus. Not so good! Then the apostles returned and told Jesus everything they had done and they all withdrew for a little quiet time but people found them and Jesus taught the crowds and healed people and then we have the miraculous feeding of 5000 people, Again – good stuff! and then:


Luke 9:18 tells us

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Not so good?)

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”


So, we have the disciples seeing the miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes, then we see them getting the bad news that their friend and teacher, their Messiah, must suffer and die. They must have been wondering if they had made a terrible mistake. They had given up everything, their jobs, their families, their homes, all to follow Jesus and now He is saying He will die. They had put all their hopes and dreams in this man and now instead of triumph, they see a future in ashes.


According to today’s text, it is only 8 days after this conversation that Peter and John climb the mountain with Jesus. This mountain was Mount Hermon which is a little over 9000 feet tall. There is a ski resort there. I have been to the top of Mount Evans in Colorado which is 14000 feet tall. I went in July. Started the trip in 90 degree weather and finished with coat, hat and mittens and snow. I got out of the van and started to walk around and realized I had forgotten my camera so I ran back to the van to get it. Running at that altitude is a big mistake. I went down the mountain flat on my back on the floor of the van with a terrible headache. They call it altitude sickness.


So here we have Peter and John climbing this mountain with Jesus, probably still reeling from the news that Jesus is going to suffer and die. I don’t know what was going through their minds but I can put myself in their place and imagine what I would be feeling. The lazy part of me would have been wondering at the necessity of climbing 9000 feet to pray. When I wasn’t huffing and puffing and whining about how the temperature is dropping and these sandals do not offer a lot of protection from snow….my mind would have been mulling things over. Surely Jesus was speaking in metaphors. He isn’t really going to die, and what does he mean he will be raised again? Why would he need to die if he is going to come back to life? How is this going to save us all? How much farther is it? Are we there yet??

Now we find them on the mountaintop. Jesus is praying and as He prays, He is changed. The appearance of Jesus face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white.


We could talk about how sometimes prayer doesn’t change your situation. We could talk about how sometimes prayer changes YOU. It brings you closer to the One who can sustain you through your circumstance.

But I want to move on with the story!


The disciples saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus. Two of the most important prophets were there with Jesus and they were talking about the very things Jesus had spoken of with His disciples. The text says the disciples were weighed down with sleep which makes sense as they had just climbed this 9000 foot mountain, but they stayed awake so they got to see something very special! They had a glimpse of glory!

We could talk about the importance of staying awake and paying attention so we don’t miss miracles that happen around us every day, even when we are feeling “world weary”.

But let’s get on with the story!


I love Peter. I identify with him. In my mind he is the person that exasperated Jesus but the very things that are exasperating are also the things Jesus seemed to love about him. He speaks without thinking, but he loves Jesus. He doesn’t always do the right thing but his intention and his heart are good and he shows up! He messes up and falls down but he keeps getting back up and like a child, tries to put his feet in the prints of His savior even though those footprints are far to big for him.

Peter is excited! He says this is awesome! Let’s build some cabins – one each for you, Moses, and Elijah. Now, he was not being selfish and he was being practical. He didn’t say he would build a shelter for himself – Just for Jesus and the prophets. They were exposed at a high elevation. They would need shelter! But as usual with Peter, his words were not the appropriate response.

Suddenly they were covered by a cloud. They are on top of a mountain, in the cold and now it’s dark. They can’t see anything. In my imagination, they are afraid to move. What if you fell on some rocks? Or off a cliff? It’s a long way down and this is before cell phones, before 911, before much of anything in the way of medical care. Jesus has recently told them he has to die and now they are seeing things that are completely out of the ordinary! Personally I think they handled it pretty calmly, all things considered! No wonder they were terrified!

We could talk about how important it is to trust Jesus even when you can’t see your next step… But I want to go on with the story!


Next they hear a voice come out of the cloud saying this is My Son, My Chosen, listen to Him!” The same words God had spoken at Jesus baptism with an addition. “Listen to Him” And then Jesus was alone. The prophets were gone.

We could talk about how these words showed that Peter wanting to build three dwellings was an incorrect response because the prophets are not on the same level as Jesus. They are gone now and God is doing a new thing and the most important thing is to listen to Jesus.

But I want to move on because we are nearly to the end of this particular faith story!


They told no one what they had seen. Who would have believed them if they had? But they have been on the mountain top. They have seen the prophets of old, and they have heard the voice of God. When you think about it, no wonder Peter wanted to stick around. Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? Something happens that gives you such peace and joy and you just wish it would last! But if life was nothing but a mountaintop experience, then we would not need God. We would not appreciate the spiritual high because we would not have the low to compare it to and a faith that is never tested is not a very strong faith.

Now they climbed back down from this mountain and when they got to the bottom there was a crowd waiting.

We could talk about why were they just waiting at the bottom of the mountain? If they really wanted to see Jesus why didn’t they put in a little effort – climb up to find him?

But I want to finish this story so we can all go home!


A man comes out of the crowd asking Jesus to look at his son who has a demon. Now just recently, Jesus had given the disciples power and authority to heal and minister. The man had asked them to help his son but they could not and Jesus has some pretty harsh words! You faithless and perverse generation! How long must I be with you? Then he rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the child and gave him back to his father.

Wow!

I’m tempted to think critical of the disciples but maybe this little weird addition after the mountaintop experience is here to remind us that all of us individuals or corporately as the church, have times when we are so close to heaven that we can almost touch the fingers of God and how often does that happen and then it seems like moments later, someone is complaining about the music or the bulletin or how church is too hot or too cold and did you see what she wore to church last Sunday??

We come down from the mountain and unclean spirits are waiting at the bottom, nipping at our heels or our hearts. Day to day life descends like a cloud on our heads.


And that is why we need these faith stories. These old stories that remind of of who we are and whose we are and that even those who walked on earth with Jesus and heard the very voice of God in the cloud, still had feet of clay and stumbled and backslid and didn’t always understand just like us. So like Peter we keep keeping on anyway, we fall down and get back up, say inappropriate things, don’t love the way we should, repent and keep listening for Jesus.

In the days that followed, there would be troubles. Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing Him, Jesus was beaten and suffered. I imagine the disciples in hiding, frightened, worried not knowing if they were to be next and was this the end? And then someone would start talking about being on the mountaintop. And how Jesus was greater than the prophets of old and that God himself spoke and said Jesus was His chosen son. And as they told and retold the story, their faith was made stronger. That is what our faith stories do for us!


When we read through these events we see a kind of pattern. Something good happens, something bad happens, something good, something bad. The good and bad are constantly held in tension and isn’t that the way our lives go? Especially our spiritual lives! The moments we feel strongest in our faith, something happens to test it! But we know how this story ends! Jesus dies, but he is raised again. God keeps His promises and we will experience death just as Jesus did but because Jesus was raised so too will we go on to eternal life. The veil isn’t needed anymore! Jesus ripped it away and as long as we listen to HIM, through the Holy Spirit, we can have understanding, we can hold to our faith, and we can learn to see each other as God sees us!


Quote

I want to leave you with a quote from Robert Benson:
“That in the end, my sin will never outweigh God’s love. That the Prodigal can never outrun the Father. That I am not measured by the good I do but by the grace I accept. That being lost is a prerequisite to being found. That living a life of faith is not lived in the light, it is discovered in the dark. That not being a saint here on earth will not necessarily keep you from being in that number when the march begins. “


Let us pray

Father we want to see your glory. We want to stay with you on the mountaintop often without actually having to climb the mountain. We forget that your glory lives in the ways we show your love to others. We want to be better listeners and to understand so that we can know your will for us and then because we understand, to do your will. We forget that if we want to know what the Father is doing, we have to listen to your Son. We long for the day when the cloud is gone and we not only hear your voice but see your face and know you fully and understand the depth of your love for each and every one of us as we are fully known by you. Amen

John 2:1-11&1 Cor12:1-11

This week both the epistle reading and the gospel reading seemed to fit together for me so I’m going to talk about both and hopefully pull them together for you at the end.

John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so,  and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The story of Jesus turning water into wine gives us 3 things to think about and help us remember.

1. New life

2. New Covenant

3. New Revelation

1. New Life – Changing one element into something else can symbolize marriage – it brings new life out of two people who become one. The relationship between God and the Israelites was symbolized by marriage. Israel was repeatedly an unfaithful spouse and was sent into exile. Ezekiel 16 is very graphic in describing Jerusalem as an adulterous wife. Jesus represents new life and restored relationship with God.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

2. New covenant – The old covenant was broken and time and time again, God’s people did not keep their part of the promise or contract. The stone jars were not for drinking water – they were for ceremonial washing of people and utensils. Jesus turning the water into wine proved that he had more than fulfilled the ceremonial cleansing.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’”

3. New revelation – This miracle demonstrated the nature of God’s glory revealed through Christ. All of the stories and miracles and history of the old testament were wonderful and important and teach us so much about who we are and who God is, but this moment gives us a sneak peek into How God has saved the best for last.

Summing it up – Jesus brings us new life – we are free from the endless cycle of making and breaking promises to God. Jesus cleanses us – we are no longer sinners doomed to death. Jesus reveals God’s surprising and eternal nature and His glory.

And so we tell the stories of Jesus over and over. We read them for ourselves and I don’t know about you, but I find different things in those same stories year after year, maybe because God reaches out to us through His word right where and when we are. Spiritual needs change with the different seasons of our lives and so the same stories we have always heard take on new meanings and new depth.

Let us look at the epistle reading

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Concerning Spiritual Gifts
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

It’s a little ironic that I am speaking to you this Sunday. During the Monday morning bible study as we read the lectionary reading for this week, Mark went around the table asking us what our spiritual gifts are. Miss Susie was kind – she said my gift was knowing what to say and how to say it. My interpretation was that I am a chatterbox. I do like to talk. Ask my husband…or maybe you should NOT ask my husband (even if my pastor says he has infinite wisdom!) But aside from talking – I love words! I love stories and poems and art and all of the ways that we as humans try to connect with each other. I love that I can read the same passage in the bible at different times in my life and see something different each time. An example is the reading for this week from the gospel of Mark. I have read that story many times but never until this week did I pick up on the water jars not being for drinking water but water for ceremonial cleaning of people and utensils.

I love the stories of Paul and his care of the churches that he planted, even though Paul sometimes reminds me of shoes that are too tight. Necessary but often uncomfortable!


In the case of the church at Corinth, there were serious problems. They were showing up, but they were what is called in today’s vernacular – a hot mess, and we know that they wrote to Paul about their problems and he wrote several letters back to them addressing those problems. Some of the problems in the early church were similar to the problems in the present day church. Sometimes we forget that the purpose of coming to church is NOT just to come to church!


I used to read this passage about gifts with a little dismay. Partly because I have heard so many sermons that spoke about gifts that seemed to be followed by a hint that I needed to get busy and figure out what my gift is and then do some kind of work in my church related to that gift. I worried too about whether or not I even had a gift! I would observe some of the more mature saints in the church and think, they are so much more capable, loving, spiritual…well you get the picture.

As gifts go, it was to me, a lot like getting clothes for my birthday instead of the pink glitter bike with pastel streamers and pretty basket on the front. I’ve taken spiritual gift surveys and had that same feeling of trepidation because with the answers might come expectations.

But Bible.org defines spiritual gifts as “the supernatural ability to carry out the work of Christ through his church.”

So if we take that definition at face value the question that has to be answered next is “What is the work of Christ” as it pertains to us.

Let’s look at Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In this passage, Jesus has been crucified, died, and has risen. The tomb is empty. The women have been told by the angel to go to Galilee and on the way there, Jesus appears to them and tells them to go to his brothers and tell them to go to Galilee too. Jesus appears to the disciples who at this point are probably at a loss as to what to do next. In my imagination, they are grieving the loss of their friend and teacher, afraid of what the future holds for them because of their association with Jesus, and in their humanness, wondering if they have not put all their hope on the wrong thing. Now Jesus shows up and wipes all that doubt away and gives them the very things they need – faith and purpose!

The work of Christ that we are to continue is to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them. Jesus appeared to His disciples and gave them this job so it follows that maybe to make disciples we have to BE disciples. We as individuals and as The Church can’t teach others to follow Christ if we are not following Christ ourselves.

Fast forward to Corinth where this little baby church is fighting over who they follow, doing things we don’t even whisper about in church, never mind do, and just basically in disorder and Paul wades in and tries to help them sort themselves out. He reminds them who they used to be and who they are now.

He pretty much says calm down, everyone is important, God works in everyone and that work is for all and the Spirit gives those gifts as HE pleases so no one can say they are better than anyone else or that their gift is better than any other gift.

It is in our nature is to compare ourselves to others. To think we have goodness because we are better in some way than someone else. That is a trap that puts us slap in the middle of the old covenant where rules and sacrifice and work were the cycle that made the ancient Israelites do right in the sight of the Lord and then do evil in the sight of the Lord.

Romans 7:19 says For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.

We are free from that trap because Jesus has made us ceremonially clean, he has given us a new covenant – we are right with God, not because of what we do, but because of what God has done through Christ. God saved the best for last!

When the kids were small we lived in Emberson and there was a field next to our yard with a pecan tree and in the spring the field was covered in daffodils. I looked out one day to check on the kids and saw Jessica sitting in the middle of the flowers picking handfuls.

I know you remember when your own children were small and they brought you a bunch of crushed daffodils or a picture they drew for you and that your heart was full. It was better than any expensive roses or painting because of who gave it to you and because it was given out of love. And just that way, these gifts that Paul wrote about are not just jobs or talents or responsibilities. They are the very manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the comforter and encourager that was given to us when Jesus went back to be with the Father.

They are given as He determines – so we don’t have to DO anything. We don’t have to try to have a gift. We don’t have to try to perfect a gift we think we might have. We just have to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit will take care of the gifts.

Paul tells them to listen for Jesus. It doesn’t matter who is actually doing the speaking. Listen for Christ being spoken into your life. Listen for the Holy Spirit. The actual gift doesn’t matter so much as the giver and the gift also doesn’t matter as much as what it accomplishes which is the work of Jesus Christ – which is following Jesus, through that Holy Spirit that is speaking to you – so closely that when someone looks at you, they see Jesus. When someone hears you speak, they hear God loving them. When someone sees your life, they see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Colossians 3:15-17

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We are water being transformed into wine so that others will see the glory of God in us and believe. That my precious church, is our purpose!

Amen.

East Texas Winter

Texas winter can’t make up it’s mind
trying on weather and discarding
the too tight or out of style
as though it makes a difference
lacy white for a marriage that won’t last
as mud gets tracked in like so many
steps across a brown field
wind cuts through the truth and leaves
me wishing for a spring
that only teases it’s way into summer

Matthew 2:1-12


The Magi Visit the Messiah

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

   who will shepherd my people Israel.”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Merriam Webster defines Epiphany as: January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles

also:

a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something

an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking

an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

a revealing scene or moment

I think an epiphany happens when your brain stops thinking because suddenly your heart understands!

So who were these guys anyway? These wise men, magi? Matthew’s gospel is vague. They were from the east. If you look back in the old testament, Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon had a bad dream and called his magi and enchanters to interpret it with major threats if they couldn’t. Daniel saved the day with an interpretation and dream from the Lord.

Pharaoh of Egypt also had a bad dream and when his magicians couldn’t interpret it, it was Joseph, a Hebrew exile in prison that gave him God’s interpretation.

So the ancient Jews who heard this story wouldn’t have blinked an eye at the idea of magi.

There is a joke about a little boy who returned from Sunday School with a new perspective on the Christmas story. He had learned all about the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. He was so excited he just had to tell his parents: “I learned in Sunday School today all about the very first Christmas! There wasn’t a Santa Claus way back then, so these three skinny guys on camels had to deliver all the toys!” And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with his nose so bright wasn’t there yet, so they had to have this big spotlight in the sky to find their way around.”

The gifts that the wisemen brought to the manger must have been very costly but a bit impractical. It seems to me a crib and diapers and maybe an actual room would have made more sense. They came to the manger, worshipped for a short time and left their gold, frankincense and myrrh and went back home. Doesn’t it seem odd that they left so quickly? If you were truly wise, wouldn’t you have wanted to stick around? I mean, I don’t think you could have pried me away with a crowbar! The most important child ever to be born and you don’t stay to see what happens next? How foolish these wise men seem!

They were sent by Herod and it didn’t occur to them that his motives might be a bit suspicious? Luckily for the baby Jesus, they had a dream and knew to stay away from Herod. Of course Herod was crazy mad when they didn’t return to tell him where to find the child and to quote Frederick Buechner on Herod “For all his enormous power, he knew there was somebody in diapers more powerful still.” He was so mad that he ordered every boy child under the age of two killed. What an illustration of the wisdom of the foolish.

Can we find ourselves in this story? Are we the ones who come to discover Christ only to spend a short time worshipping and then go back to where and who we were? Do we bring our gifts to the manger and leave them thinking they are somehow important – forgetting that what Jesus wants most from us is our heart? Our life? Our everything? Are we wise in our own eyes? We have so much more than the wise men in this story. We have the benefit of the New Testament, preachers and books galore written by those who have spent years of their lives studying the bible and hours writing their thoughts about what they have studied. We have the whole story and yet how many of us would make a long journey on a camel on the chance we might catch a glimpse of a baby in a manger and then risk the wrath of a powerful king so that this baby would live.

But maybe, for all their wisdom. it was in the moment that they came to the manger, that they recognized who this baby was. Maybe they came face to face with the foolishness of their own wisdom and left forever changed by what they saw with their hearts.

I remember walking down a snow covered street at night in Michigan. How snow muffled sound and the sparkle from the moon on that snow. How the sky was so clear and in the silence it seemed like you could actually hear the stars. And how small and insignificant it made me feel.

I remember evenings in summer – that time before sunset but right where the light begins to change as the sun gets lower in the sky and the reflection on the lake that stretched to the horizon. I remember the sense of peace and security, the day winding down, knowing I would sleep and that same sun and lake would be there in the morning.

I remember the sound of my mother’s voice, calling us in from playing and how she looked, standing at the sink washing dishes while I dried and we had some of our most important conversations. A constant presence that anchored my life.

I can describe those things to you but I live somewhere else now and my mother has been gone for years. They are just foolish stories. They are words and facts. But in my heart these are truths. I can close my eyes and see with my heart and be right there.

I think of Thomas in the bible. We all know the story.

John 20:24-29

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It doesn’t say that Thomas actually touched Jesus’ wounds. I picture him standing there face to face with the resurrected Christ. Hearing the sound of Jesus’ voice, close enough to touch him. And I think, in that moment, Thomas stopped seeing with his eyes and saw his Savior with his heart. Jesus became real and alive for him. Thomas wanted facts. What he got was truth.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 says

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Men who thought they were wise, journeyed to a stable and found wisdom in a story that should be considered foolish. A poor young couple with nowhere to stay bringing a child into a world of poverty, pain, oppression, danger….who’s purpose in living was to go from the manger to the cross for you and I and inbetween, loving, teaching, feeding and healing.

So as we turn from Christmas and move into the new year, we too have left our gifts and walked away from the manger. The Christmas decorations and nativity scenes have been packed away until next year. We no longer hear the bell ringing Salvation army volunteers outside the stores and in fact, the stores were already stocking Valentines cards and candy before the New Year celebration had ended. Family has returned home and the weather is cold and compared to the noise and busyness of Christmas, there is silence. In that silence, may we all be able to close our eyes and with our hearts, return to the manger. May we meet again and again, this tiny new baby and have our hearts so changed that we drop our gifts and run to tell the world about this hope. Camels are optional…May we read the stories about Him in the bible and see ourselves in those stories so they become alive for us. May I rediscover that I am the prodigal son, welcomed back by the Father with open arms after I have gone and made a pigsty of my life; that I am Zacchaeus the thief who climbed up a tree hoping to get a peek through the leaves at this Jesus and found myself with an amazing dinner partner. That I am the disciple who had enough faith to step out of the boat onto the waves, but not enough to keep me from sinking without Jesus. May we, like Thomas, discover our risen savior and recognize the truth of Him with our hearts even when the wisdom of the world would tell us that none of this makes sense. It makes no sense that God would be born into a manger, walk the earth and suffer and die and be resurrected for ME! For YOU! But my heart tells me it’s true. My Lord and my God!

Father may we bring the gifts of our doubts, our foolishness, our homesickness for something we can’t even articulate and lay them at the manger and walk out into the world with the wisdom and truth that is Jesus Christ, your Son who comes to take away the sin of the world, to make us righteous, holy and redeemed. Help us live as a grateful people who love you and through our words and actions, to live every day as your foolish and broken but beloved children in our own walks from Christmas to Easter.  Amen.

Build, Plant, Pray

Jeremiah is the longest book in the bible. I always thought it was Psalms but it turns out that Jeremiah has the largest word count. Much of it is not a happy story so I started out wondering why I was so determined to find Jesus in Jeremiah. Why would I want to talk about such a depressing time at the beginning of Advent?

As I studied Jeremiah this week, I kept remembering something my mother used to say. “There is nothing new under the sun” What she was telling me was that no matter how new and different I might think my generation was, we were the same old thing, just dressed up a little different. Underneath, rebellion has always been with us, people do good, people do bad, seasons change and people remain basically the same. So as we talk about this time in history, we can see (as we often do in the bible) similarities to ourselves.

The Lord had brought his people out of slavery, led them out of the out of Egypt and that story could have ended “and they dwelled in peace and loved the Lord and lived happily ever after.” But the bible doesn’t end after the Israelites are rescued.

We fast forward to the time of Jeremiah, and the temple has stood in Jerusalem for 300 years, but the people had drifted far away from God. They made gods of their own.

Jeremiah 16:20 tells us
…O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of distress, the nations will come to You from the ends of the earth, and they will say, “Our fathers inherited nothing but lies, worthless idols of no benefit at all.” Can man make gods for himself? Such are not gods! “Therefore behold, I will inform them, and this time I will make them know My power and My might; then they will know that My name is the LORD.”…

God spoke to Jeremiah and told him he was to prophecy and Jeremiah tried to convince God that he was not the man for the job. He was young. He didn’t know what to say. God told him that He himself would give him the words to say. God told him not to marry so Jeremiah just got news that might not have been too exciting. He was going to be alone, and his calling was to tell people things they didn’t want to hear. So Jeremiah begins a not so fun career of telling the Jews, particularly the leaders, that God is going to give them over to their enemies. Jeremiah was the only real prophet at the time and his competition was telling people that God is with them and they will have peace and victory over Babylon so Jeremiah was preaching a message that was pretty unpopular. The people were enjoying their status as God’s people without living up to the reality. Talking the talk without walking the walk. They were not listening. They made gods of their own and there was no justice in the land.

Much of the book is a series of warnings and advice. There are a lot of If/Then statements.

If the people return to God, then God will give them Godly leaders. If there is one honest person among them, God will forgive them. If they reform their ways, then God will allow them to live in the land. If they stop worshipping other gods, then God will not harm them. If they will call on God, then God will listen to them. If they will seek God with all their hearts, then God will be found by them and rescue them from captivity.

Jeremiah’s ministry did not draw crowds unless you count the ones who wanted to kill him. He didn’t inspire people to give up their wealth so he could buy a jet plane (though he did get travel, he got kidnapped). He didn’t preach to a megachurch or have his own TV show or wear a rolex.

Jeremiah questions God throughout his ministry. He wonders why the people plot against him. He asks for vengeance on the wicked who prosper, to heal him, to save him, to put his persecutors to shame.

Jeremiah travels around and speaks to kings, priests, leaders, and anyone else he can find. Over and over you read his warnings, his advice and the peoples’ response and you see that through Jeremiah, God gives the people chance after chance for His people to follow His voice and keep His covenant. But the people didn’t listen. Everything that Jeremiah prophesied came true. Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Jews, the temple was destroyed, the city was burned. The Babylonians set up a new governor and went home. The governor was assassinated and the Jews asked Jeremiah what to do. Their choices were to stay were they were or go to Egypt as refugees. Jeremiah told them that the Lord had promised that if they stayed in their land they would be ok. They will live in peace under Babylonian rule. But they go their own way and so God brings the Babylonians against Egypt and again things do not go well with the Jews.

The people are marched 500 miles though desert to Babylon where they are in exile from their home, no temple, no one speaking their language, surrounded by foreign idols, and there were still false prophets who were telling them exactly what they wanted to here. That they would not be in exile for long. Jeremiah wrote to the exiles and told them they would be in Babylon for 70 years, and that God wanted them to marry and have children and multiply and flourish. They were to pray for the city where they lived (their enemies!) because if that place flourished, so would they.

This seems like odd advice to refugees. Bloom where you’re planted people. Things are not the way you want but don’t have a fit, don’t throw a pity party. Pray for your captors and get on with your life. I have to admit, that part about praying for the people that burned your city, destroyed your temple and marched you off to a foreign land, caught me off guard. But it was practical. They were going to be there for a long time. To wish calamity on the place you are are stuck in doesn’t make sense, does it?

We all have experience types of exile. Sometimes we are in situations of our own creation which is doubly troubling. An encounter with one of your children where you feel like anything but the picture you had of yourself as a parent. Waking up and realizing that you are in debt and you know you got yourself there but how are you going to get out? Times when you are in exile from yourself or at least the self you wanted to be.

Sometimes we are in exile through situations out of our control. The marriage that falls apart, the doctor who sadly tells us the test results are serious. The job, where we walk in only to receive a pink slip. We feel like we are in exile, alone. And maybe we feel the need to drop out of life for awhile.

But Jeremiah drops you a note that says build, plant, marry, pray. God tells us to live our lives, find purpose, be part of a community.

This is great though not always easy to follow advice to us as individuals but what about us as The Church? Does it feel sometimes like the church is experiencing exile? We definitely live in a land of idols and sometimes it seems like the world is speaking a different language. A language that says achieve, gain financial success, protect your own and it’s fine to go to church on Sunday but don’t give me that Jesus stuff at work or on my way to the bank or when I’m shopping at a Walmart on a crowded Saturday. even church has become a social thing – go to the right church, buy the right products, dress the right way, Sing the right songs, sit in the right pew…Don’t be squirming about the pew – it’s ok, we are all creatures of habit. DO things and you will be accepted by who? God? Other people? Do we still gravitate to those who say what we want to hear? Do we still worship our gods of our own making?

Now we come to the part of Jeremiah that speaks to the future. Jeremiah writes to the Jews in exile.
Jeremiah 31:31-34
The New Covenant
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah writes words of comfort to the exiles. He tells them they will be there for 70 years but there will be an end to exile. Meeting with God will no longer be dependent on a place – the temple, but they would know God directly through His son. Todays scripture.

Jeremiah 33:14-16 New International Version (NIV)
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15
“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

God had a plan for them AND for us. There would come a time when there will be no more exile. Sin and death has been defeated, and God has written His law on our hearts and and now He will be our God and we will be His people. So we begin this season of preparing for a savior to be born by first realizing how badly we need Him. We have been given chance after chance after chance and still our human nature causes us to try to do good all on our own. We try to fashion our own gods, whether is be our job, our families, or our STUFF. We dismiss or minimize our own sin by pointing at our neighbors and saying but look! At least I’m not as bad as those people! We place ourselves in exile. We strive and grasp and forget what God has already done for us. So as the church, we stay in the Jesus, build community, plant seeds of the love and grace and salvation of Christ Jesus, and pray for those who are at the least, unkind to us. It may feel like we are in exile sometimes but God has promised an end to that and the work is already done.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Luke 22:20
And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (there He is – Jesus! The new covenant Jeremiah spoke of!)

So let’s be quiet. Be at peace, experience true glory, real and unexplainable love, and take refuge in knowing that God has sent a savior, to all of us. To you and you and you, and even to me.

I found this poem by Ann Weems months ago and tucked it aside for the right moment and I want to close by sharing it with you now.

The Christmas spirit
is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces 
in the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed into our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are still possible,
That even now

Unto us
A Child is born!

Amen!

Ruth and a Leap of Faith

In the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy has to pass through three booby traps to get to the grail. His father is mortally wounded by bad guy Donovan to force Indy to to risk his life in the traps. In one scene Indy is standing in the opening of the side of a mountain with nothing but sheer cliff face above and below him. He needs to get across a chasm and there is nothing but air. He closes his eyes and quietly says to himself, “it’s a leap of faith”. He then steps out on air and it becomes solid under his feet! A bridge is now visible and he can now see his next step. But until he took the first step there was nothing.

Some of us are planners. Some of us spend a lot of time flying by the seat of our pants. My husband likes order. He will ask me in the morning before I have finished my coffee, what do I want for supper. I don’t know! In fact I don’t know much of anything before I have my coffee! I get tickled at Mark (my pastor) and Marion (I’m probably going to get in trouble now!) But Mark is definitely a planner. He likes order. He amazes me how he will usually even have the timing down. And Marion? Well it is not that she doesn’t plan because I know she does, but her general approach to life is take the next step and then see what comes after that.  In fact, I remember her family saying – the plan unfolds as it happens! What tickles me is watching them together. I have found that Marion and I tend to make Mark a little crazy sometimes.  I KNOW I make my husband a little crazy! But today I am going to see a little validation for just taking the next step.

Maybe one day I will be able to stick with the snippet of scripture we are given in the lectionary readings but so far that has not happened. I get interested in “the rest of the story” Lately I have been studying the old testament through the filter of watching for things that point to Jesus and it has changed the way I see most of the readings.

Today I am going to give the condensed version of  the book of Ruth and I hope you will join me in mining for gold as we walk it out and see if there is anything pointing us to the Jesus who was there at creation, was promised in the old testament, lived and died so that we also could have eternal life, who sent the Holy Spirit to abide with us, and will return for us because our creator has never and will never, ever, ever leave us alone.

Elimelech was married to Naomi and they lived in Bethlehem. They had two sons Mahlon and Chilion. They moved to Moab because of a famine in Bethlehem and Elimelech died there. Their sons married Moabite women – Orpah and Ruth. After ten years both sons died. In that time and culture women alone had no support so Naomi with no husband or sons decides to go back to Bethlehem where she came from and where she had heard that  “The Lord had visited His people by giving the bread.” . Ruth 1:6

**In the future the Lord will visit His people and give them food only then He will not only provide bread, He will BE the bread – Jesus said “I am the bread of life”

Naomi believes the hand of God is against her.  She tells her daughter-in-laws to stay and find themselves new husbands to care for them.

Orpah stays but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi and even though Naomi tries to talk her out of it, knowing she has nothing to offer the young woman, Ruth is determined.

Naomi and Ruth go to Bethlehem at harvest time. In those days, the harvesters would leave a little in the field and the poor could come along and pick it up.

 Ruth asks Naomi to let her go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain. As it turned out she was “gleaning” in the field of Boaz. Boaz was a wealthy relative of Naomi’s husband. Boaz finds out who Ruth is and tells her to stay with the women who work with him – apparently this could be a dangerous undertaking for a woman alone  and Boaz tells the men to not touch Ruth so she will be safe as she picks up the grain. Ruth is grateful but asks why he is being so kind to her. Boaz had heard how Ruth had stayed with and cared for her mother-in-law. He makes sure Ruth has something to eat and drink and plenty of grain to take back to Naomi. In 2:12 Boaz says “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

**God’s provision often comes through the love and faithfulness of His obedient servants!

When Ruth comes home with all this grain Naomi asks where the field was that Ruth got the grain from and when Ruth tells her where and how Boaz had been kind to her, Naomi blesses him and tells Ruth it is good that she stay in that field because she might be harmed elsewhere. She tells Ruth that Boaz is their relative and their “guardian-redeemer”

The phrase guardian-redeemer is a legal term for someone who has the obligation toredeem a relative facing extreme hardship Leviticus 25:35-37 says  ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.  You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

Naomi sees that Boaz likes Ruth and tells Ruth what to to and Ruth obeys. Boaz ends up marrying Ruth and Ruth has a son – Obed who grows up to be the father of Jesse who is the father of David. The son is born in Bethlehem.

**Boaz redemption of Ruth foreshadows Christ’s redemption of His people .

In Chapter 4 verse 15 the women of the town bless Naomi, saying the son of Ruth and Boaz “shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourish of your old age”

**The renewal of Naomi’s life is only a foretaste of the complete restoration of eternal life that would be accomplished through God’s son.

So, while Ruth is a short book – only 5 and a half pages in my large print bible, there are many things that point us forward to the New Testament and Jesus Christ.

We finish with some of the most famous and beautiful words in the book of Ruth – Ruth 1:16-17

“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people will be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also. if anything but death parts you and me.”

What a beautiful picture of abiding in Jesus. This world brought trials to Naomi and Ruth but Ruth became more than a daughter-in-law to Naomi. She chose to become her daughter – truly her family. The logical, worldly thing to have done would have been to remain in her homeland and find a husband to care for her but she chose to stay with and care for Naomi and to step out in faith, to accept Naomi’s God as her own and her life was completely changed.

**God’s family is built on faith – not nationality. Ruth, a non-Israelite from Moab is an ancestor of Jesus

She was more than Naomi’s daughter in word, she went to work to see that there was food. She acted on her faith and her love for Naomi. She listened to and obeyed her mother-in-law and that obedience lead to her having a husband, a son and a new life that blessed her and Naomi and at a future time – all of us!

Like Naomi’s daughter-in-laws we are free to choose. We can stay where we are comfortable and safe and I am not saying that is completely bad…or we can take that first step on an adventure with our faith and the more I read my bible the more I see how true a description the word adventure is. God will always surprise me.

At the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade they reach the Grail chamber only to find dozens of cups – all different. Only the true grail brings life. The antagonist chooses a princely grail, gold and student with jewels and when bad guy Donovan drinks from it, he ages into dust. Indy chooses the true grail, a plain pewter cup and after being warned by the ancient knight who has been guarding the grail that it cannot be taken beyond the temple entrance, Indy carries it to his father who is instantly healed when he drinks from it. Elsa who had been hanging out with bad guy Donovan tries to leave with the grail and falls to her death. Indy nearly falls into the same trap but his father persuades him to let it go and they escape the temple and ride off into the sunset. Often what looks like the good choice from worldly perspective is the opposite and sometimes we hang on to things to tightly. Our faith wasn’t meant to be something we hoard – it was meant to be shared. Some things are meant to stay in the temple but we aren’t. We are supposed to go out to a world that needs us to be Ruth, to be Naomi, to be Boaz.

How would we be changed if we pursued God with the determination that Ruth had? What if we made the choice to leave the world we are familiar with behind and how would our world change if we were all to choose to make that kind of commitment to abide in Christ – to go wherever Christ would go, for Christ’ people to be our people, to be Jesus for those in need in a broken world.

When Ruth determined to stick with Naomi, she had no idea how things were going to turn out. She didn’t know that she would marry and have a son. She just saw the next step and she took it.

Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”

Father help us to remember your everlasting arms. John 15:6 reminds us that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and that we can do nothing without staying connected to and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We know that there will be trials, famines, and loss, but your Word assures us that underneath – your everlasting arms are there holding us and all we have to do it trust you and take that first step in obedience. You have already provided the bridge across the chasm.

Never

I never knew
that red anger
clangs like loose tin
in a windstorm
cutting the air as it sings with venom
or that white hot hate would stripe
the backs of humanity wielded
by those who can
or that blue bruises
would darken hearts
and stiffen hands that can’t
gentle a troubled world.

Ashes

Job sat in the ashes and wept

While satan ripped open his life

And he wondered if the Father slept

Job sat in the ashes and wept

While it seemed that all joy had died

Job sat in the ashes and wept

But he held to his faith through the lies

Job sat in the ashes and wept

Even wifey said curse God and die

Just cruel words from his friends inept

Job sat in the ashes and wept

In time, god’s promises were kept

Though we even now wonder why

Job sat in the ashes and wept

And often we echo his cries

A Triolet is a poetic form consisting of only 8 lines. Within a Triolet, the 1st, 4th, and 7th lines repeat, and the 2nd and 8th lines do as well. The rhyme scheme is simple: ABaAabAB, capital letters representing the repeated lines.

Job – Scene or Story?

It’s a scene – it’s not the story!

Since I started speaking I have read commentaries and watched preachers online, just kind of trying to find my lane. I recently watched a video of a pastor preaching and a phrase he used resonated with me. It’s a scene – it is not the story. How often do we think that the situation we are in right now in the present feels like it is our forever place?

I love to read. Have you ever gotten so caught up in a book or a movie that you found yourself holding your breath and thinking that the main character will never get out of this?

Scholars do not all agree but many think that Job may be the oldest book in the bible. It tackles the thorny issue of theodicy or divine justice. The thought that God rewards virtue and punishes sin. Job was my least favorite book of the bible. It doesn’t fit my picture of the loving Father, waiting to welcome me home with open arms, to dry my tears, and give me my heavenly assignment (which is probably going to be heavenly garbage person but that’s okay – long as I get in the door!)

The story of Job always left me with more questions than answers. Why would God give so much grief to this good man? Just because satan challenges him? It seems very unfair, arbitrary. Is this one of those lessons in trust? I know that for me, very often, the problem is not with God, but with the limitations of my understanding.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight.

Isaiah 58:8-9 reminds me:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So I decided I needed to dig a little deeper.

You all know the story but here is the condensed version. Hopefully you can picture some of this story in your mind always keeping in mind – this is a scene – it is not the story!

We start out with Job. He has a good good life. He has a good wife, a beautiful home, livestock, servants and kids. He loves the Lord and the bible tells us he is blameless.

There are two confrontations between God and satan. God points out his faithful servant Job and satan says if you take away his blessings he will curse you. God gives satan permission to do that only not to harm him physically. Job loses his livestock, his servants, his home, and his children, but he doesn’t blame God, in fact he praises him. He said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

So God points this out to satan – Job has lost his earthly blessings and he is still faithful. Satan says take away his health and he will curse you to your face. God gives satan permission to take Jobs health but not to kill him and so Job is covered now with boils from head to toe. He sat in ashes scraping himself with a piece of pottery. Even his wife said “curse God and die” She gave up fast!

Now Jobs’ three friends enter the story and they see this awful sight and sit down in the ashes with Job and they stay there for a week with him, not speaking. Finally Job breaks his silence. What does he do? He complains. Well wouldn’t any of us? He wishes he had never been born, and if he had to be born he wishes he had died at birth. What good is living if it brings so much pain? He, like any of us would, was crying out. Why?

Do his friends offer sympathy and support? Nope. They point out to him that he used to encourage the weak. He should take his own advice. If all these trials have come upon him he must have sinned. He needs to confess his sin and repent so the Lord will restore him.

Job defends himself and pretty much tells these guys they are “fair weather” friends.

At about verse 36 apparently there is a storm. One of Job’s friends, Elihu compares God to the majesty of the storm and makes a speech. God speaks to Job out of the storm and asks him a series of questions and Job admits his understanding is too limited to answer and he repents. God rebukes Job’s friends/critics and tells them to make a sacrifice and that Job will pray for them so that God won’t give them what they deserve for not telling the truth about Him. Not too happy with their theology. After Job prayed for his friends, God restored him and blessed him in the latter part of his life more than He had in the former.

Wow.

So what if we walk this out looking for signs or comparisons with Jesus? Where is Jesus?

Job as one of the oldest books in the bible happened a long time before the birth of Jesus…but!

John 1 says  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 8:12 says When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

We saw at the beginning – Job was blameless. The most upright man on earth suffers the most.  Remind you of someone else?

Job said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there. (Job 21). Jesus died naked on a cross.

Eliphaz at one point started just making up stuff that Job never actually did. (Job 22:6-9) Jesus was falsely accused by false witnesses at His trial before the high priest.

Eliphaz taunted Job – told him to call out to God for help. Matthew 27:43 says “He trusted God; let him deliver Him now if He will have Him.”

At one point Job cried out “Why do you hide your face, and regard me as your enemy? Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

At the time that Job needed his friends the most, they failed him. Peter denied Jesus 3 times. I have failed people I love. Not intentionally but it caused pain none-the-less.

Job was raised up from his suffering when he interceded for his friends. After Jesus’ suffering, He was raised up as our intercessor.

So…Picture Job, a good and happy man, livestock, servants home, children – picture it. Beautiful life. The scene, but not the story.

Now see Job sitting in ashes, disfigured, bereft. At first too sorrow-filled to speak for a whole week! Still…A scene, not the story!

Then? Job still in ashes but his three so-called friends pointing fingers and lecturing him. Looking all high and mighty while Job is still crying out to God – asking why?

A storm, God speaks! Job in awe, realizes how little he understands. I can just picture this. Darkness, clouds and thunder and lightning and Job with his face turned to God’s voice while his friends are standing to the side, arms crossed, feeling pretty smug. Boy, Job is going to get it now!  And God proceeds to ask questions.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

Tell Me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its measurements?

Surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

6 To what were its foundations fastened?

Or who laid its cornerstone,

7 When the morning stars sang together,

And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

And more, so much more. You have to read the book of Job – the pictures of the glory and power and majesty of God are some of the most beautiful verses I have ever read….and Job is humbled and repents.

And then God turns just a bit and there is that moment when the three friends realize that oh oh….now they have their arms behind their backs and their heads bowed…

When I was a kid we had a glassed in porch called a breezeway. The kitchen door going to the porch had a square window covered in curtains my mama made. Those curtains were ALWAYS closed. I had just gotten a whipping for something. I don’t even remember what. I went out the door and turned around to face that window and stuck my tongue out. The curtains were open and there stood my mama – frowning and crooking her finger at me. I imagine those friends having that same feeling I had multiplied by a gazillion.

A scene but not the story.

After Job prays for his friends, God restores Job’s health and blesses him with a house and more livestock and children and his life is different. You can’t go back and losses are losses but there are new blessings.

Jesus arrested, tried and crucified. You can’t judge a story by one scene.

When you are sitting in the ashes? Well if you give up when you are in the pit, you will never see the palace!

The health scare? That job you didn’t get? That problem with your marriage? Worries for your children?  A layover, not the destination!

The storm? The set up for the story!

It can be real and hard and painful, but it doesn’t define you – there is more to the story!

There are hard things that happen in this life. Sometime we cry out to God and there doesn’t seem to be an answer. We wonder how can God allow bad things to happen to good people?

There is pain, trials, suffering…death. Scenes.

There is grace, restoration, resurrection. The story!

Phillippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ

When trials come – you can sit in the ashes and you can cry out to God. Just don’t stay there. Look for Jesus. Amen?

Lost

Photo by Tommy Stone

a silence deep and calm

in greyest grey

and gloomest gloom

a weighted nothing

soft as down

even wings are stilled

and in the waiting weighting

stillness soft but heavy too

a time to sit and watch

cling to branch and to each other

time will pass and darkness to

just air, just water both give life

so peace and flight will come again

hold fast and fly on better days

August 12, 2018

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Who IS the Holy Spirit?

Years ago when Dale was working on the pipeline and we were traveling with others who were doing the same, one of the mens’ wives came for a visit. They took a weekend trip and he was driving while she read the map (this was before the days of GPS!) Apparently she was not doing to suit him and some words were exchanged and she rolled down the window and threw the atlas out the window as they were going down the road. I think it is safe to say, this man had “grieved” his wife….. I will come back around to this in a few minutes.

Being a Christian is not a place we land – a milestone we achieve. This world is set up with many milestones – graduation, marriage, raising children, financial stability, retirement.

We feel as though we have accomplished something when we reach one of those milestones. We can buy the t shirt and relax for awhile – we have made it!

But biblically – life is not a series of plateaus. We are always moving – sometimes toward God and sometimes away from God.  God is the destination but like the ancient Israelites in the desert we travel in circles and backtrack and spend a lot of time just being lost even when we THINK we are going in the right direction. Well maybe you don’t – but I sure do!

Example – story in 2nd Kings 5

paraphrased

Naaman was a great man but he got leprosy. A young slave girl said if he went to see Elisha he could be cured. Namaan took money and gifts for the prophet and goes. Elisha sends a messenger out to meet him telling him to wash in the Jordan 7 times. At first Naaman gets angry. That’s it?  But his servants say hey, if the prophet says do it what can it hurt. He does what he is told and is cured. He returns to Elisha and tries to give him gifts but Elisha won’t take gifts for something God did. Naaman has now become a believer.

In the meantime a servant of Elisha named Gehazi is listening and he runs after Naaman and tells a lie saying Elisha sent him to get Naaman to give him some money.

Gehazi ends up with leprosy.

Naaman obeyed and was healed by God and left filled with joy. He was moving toward God. Ghazi tried to profit from something God had done and in doing so moved away from God.  There are consequences.

So back in Ephesus…

Paul spends a little time telling the folks at the church in Ephesus how they are to live now that they have this new covenant (or relationship) with God through Christ by way of the Holy Spirit. He gives a list and not only is it a list of things to avoid if you want to keep moving toward God, but it is a list of things that can give the devil a foothold. There is a whole sermon in giving the devil a foothold but that’s going to have to wait for another day.

Paul says stop lying, stop sinning in your anger, stop stealing, work so you will have extra to share with those in need, speak in a way that builds others up “so that your words may give grace to those who hear” He doesn’t say “if’ you are doing these things. He knows our sinful nature.

Paul says Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Well, It helps me to understand if I learn a little more about WHO the Holy Spirit is so I went on a search to learn more and what I found that the Holy Spirit IS a WHO. A person. Not a thing, not a ghost.  In the bible the Holy Spirit is often referred to as He. The bible also uses verbs to say what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit is active!

Gen. 1:1-2 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”

The Spirit has always been there. 

2 Timothy 3: 16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.  and 2 Peter 1:21 “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit

Scripture comes from the Holy Spirit. 

John 16:7 Jesus said: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you”

The Holy spirit is a person and our helper. Jesus sent HIM to us!

John 14:26

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

The Holy Spirit is our advocate – defends us, teaches us, convicts us and reminds us

Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a gift to us from God

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

The Holy Spirit speaks to us and gives us direction

Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us;

God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials:

The Holy Spirit is a decision maker and works with us and within us

Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

The Holy Spirit is how God interacts with us 

So where are you. Are you moving toward God or away?

John 14:6 says 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” and 14:16 says 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.

Someone much smarter than I am described our journey like this – God is the destination, Jesus is the conduit through which we reach our destination, and the Holy Spirit is the engine that moves us in the right direction.

As we wander in our circles, Jesus came to be our advocate but He had to die and be raised so that sin and death would be conquered and that work is complete but we still have to get through this thing called life. So Jesus asked the Father to send us ANOTHER advocate that would be with us forever to guide us, to help us know the truth from the lies of the world and to come along side of us in this wilderness world.

Are you going to throw the atlas out the window? Would you ignore a friend? Refuse a gift? I challenge each of us to read our bibles and learn more about the Holy Spirit. To pray and ask God to help us to hear this advocate, helper, guide when He speaks to us. Let’s all fall in love with God and have hearts that thirst for more, for a deeper relationship with God through the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent us. If the one who died for our sins chose to send us someone that He said we would need, doesn’t it make sense to pay attention?

August 5 2018

Unity in the Body of Christ

Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Psalm 133:1 

A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

When Dale and I first started coming to Powderly Methodist Church we experienced having lay speakers on a regular basis for the first time. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Ironic? I mean, it’s not the pastor so you don’t have to pay as close attention right? I’ll admit that sometimes my mind wandered. I’d think boy is it hot up in the choir loft today and wow, I hope no one heard my stomach growl..I can hear God telling me “Little girl you are mine but sometime you need a whooping!” But then one day it hit me. I had a ring side seat to what God was doing in someone else’s life! I have come to view it as a gift. Not because every sermon is perfect. Nobody hits it out of the park every time. Sometimes I might not even agree with the speaker. But I have found that if I try to see beyond the words being spoken to what God wants me to hear, I can look for what God is doing in this person’s life as they prepare to speak. I try to find one “take-away” – something I can think about in the upcoming week. I can think on how I would have approached the lesson and marvel at how scripture can speak to each of us right where we are at any given time. As time passes I grow to love each of our lay speakers for what they bring to us, their prayers, their thoughts as they wrestle with God about what He wants them to say and praise God for what He does in their lives and in ours as we share.

I am reading a book called The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever. In his book Mr. Dever suggests that you read the Old Testament with the view that everything points to Jesus. Then read the New Testament to answer the question – did the deliverer that was promised in the old testament come?

The author describes the New Testament as three concentric circles. The circle in the center is Christ. That is the gospels and Acts. Jesus is the new covenant – a covenant is used biblically to make a new relationship. Jesus came to make a new relationship with God’s people because our relationship had been destroyed by sin. So now you have the next circle – as the church spread you read about God’s covenant people and how they are to live out this new relationship. The first letters are to the brand new baby churches that were just trying to figure everything out and then to individuals who have been instrumental in spreading the gospel. Next is the outer circle as the Church grew and spread to the rest of the world.

The book of Ephesians is one of those letters and in the first three chapters we are given a picture of what biblical unity looks like. In today’s scripture, Paul makes the case for unity. Now you and I when we study the bible even today, we may interpret things differently. Meanings seem to change with the perspective of where ever we are right now. Not our core beliefs but the details. At the time this letter was written, the Jews and Gentiles were dealing with coming together as one church so you had Jews “US” who brought their Old Testament laws and traditions that were so ingrained coming together to worship with brand new Christians who came from other faiths and had traditionally been “them”.

Paul makes a case for Christian unity with these two groups. Not that they were expected to agree on each and every little thing. But to remind them that if they were focused on each other and their differences they were not focusing on God.

Paul lists seven ways that unity has already been given by God for the church to walk in.

  1. There is one body – Christ’s body
  2. One spirit – the Holy Spirit
  3. One Hope – Eternal Life
  4. One Lord – the Triune God
  5. One Faith – the Christian faith
  6. One baptism – the baptism of the Holy Spirit into Christ’s body
  7. One God & Father – The heavenly Father

What do all these things have in common? The unifyer – the work of Christ’s death on the cross ties all these things (and us!) together

Notice – no where does is say we have to agree on everything – that we all have to be the same. Paul just asks that we WALK worthy of our calling.

This week as I prepared my talk, I was thinking about baby Jessica and the well. Do you remember? It was 1987 and it seemed that the entire world was watching and praying. People sent money and prayers and equipment and for 2 days we were all united in the hope of one thing – that that baby would be rescued and be okay. For two days it didn’t matter what your location, your politics, your religion, everyone was united in the hope that this story would have a happy ending. Maybe if we stretch this a little, it gives us a picture of what Christian unity can look like.

All of the people who were involved, from the folks actually present all the way to the ones like me that were glued to their tv sets and praying – all focused on one thing and one thing only – a happy ending, a human life being saved.

People brought different things to the table, some had equipment and knowledge of drilling and geology and all that goes in to safely making a way to Jessica. Some had money to help transport the necessary people and equipment and some could offer food and showers and places to stay and some were there just to share the story with the world as it unfolded. They were not all copycat robots who looked and thought and spoke the same, but their differences paled beside the rescue of one tiny soul and so they used their individual gifts to help each other focus on that and a miracle happened. Jessica McClure was brought out of a deep dark hole into the light. (And I am sure there was a lot of light –  photographers flash bulbs and the lights for the video cameras! Wow.)

And then, the whole word rejoiced. We rejoiced.

God’s covenant people, storming heaven with prayers for one thing and then not just waiting for prayers to be answered, became Christ’ hands and feet and saved someone. Paul doesn’t say you have to be a member of this or that denomination, this or that political party, be male or female, rich or poor, just walk united in Christ, coming alongside brothers and sisters in the hope that all will be saved.

In 1st Timothy Paul writes: “ First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,  for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In Galations 3:26-28 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our Father knows we are different – He knit us together in the womb and He knows we will not all agree all the time. Some of us won’t agree ANY of the time…on some things. But what matters is how we walk this out and this preaches to me.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

it’s not about who we are, it’s about who we are in HIM

It’s not about what we want to do, but it is about what He has done for us

It’s not about what we want out of this life, it’s about what He wants for us in the next

It’s not about who or what we hear on a Sunday morning – it’s about how we live every day until He comes back for us

My challenge to all of us this week is to take that one person that is getting on your last nerve, that hurt you for no reason, that really pushed your buttons…and look at them through the lens of Christ and the sacrifice He made for THEM as well as us. Look at them from the perspective of God desiring all meaning them as well as us to be saved. It’s my prayer that while we still most likely will not agree with them, our perspective will have changed. It can’t hurt,  and maybe, just maybe, someone will be saved.

A New Thing

I have recently started a new chapter in my life. I have started being on the rotation as a lay speaker at two of the four churches in our district. I have spoken a few times before but just as a sort of pinch hitter – I was a little afraid to commit to a regular schedule at least until I got my feet wet.

It’s both a joy and a scary thing for me – the joy is that I am passionate about teaching from the bible and being a “regular” makes me more intentional about studying the Word myself. The scary thing is actually doing it! I’m always afraid that I may make someone angry or say something that causes someone to stay away on the Sunday’s that I speak. I have seen people do this with other lay speakers so it isn’t totally me being neurotic.

The next Sunday I am scheduled to speak I will talk from Ephesians on Christian unity. The last few times I have written what I would say in the weeks proceeding the actual Sunday and then I would wake up at 4 in the morning that day and rewrite the entire thing. I would ask for prayers that if God has something for me that He would help me see it sooner so that I have time to run through it several times beforehand so I will feel more prepared!

So far my process is to read through the scripture multiple times, read a couple commentaries, look for outlines online and pray for God to give me insight and clarity. If you are reading this and you are a praying person I would ask for prayers for this ministry. I’m not altogether sure what a calling is but this feels like a calling and so I am also praying for affirmation and direction.

Do you have a story that you feel illustrates a time or situation where God spoke to your life? Something you would be willing to share and let me use? I would love to hear it.

Peace!

Easter Sunday 2018

 

I had the honor of giving the message at Powderly Methodist Church and Chicota Methodist Church on Easter Sunday and so while this is a bit late, the following is some of what I shared.

1 Corinthians 15:14

“ And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

My husband is a kidney transplant recipient. He was also the third of five children. When he was born, my mother-in-law nicknamed him “caboose” because she thought she was finished having babies. She was wrong. She went on to have two more daughters. She loved all her children but I think that raising five children and caring for an unpleasant, ailing mother-in-law on a Game Warden’s salary was perhaps not part of her life plan so she questioned. She prayed. She got through it.

Fast forward years later, all the children are grown and my husband’s mother passed away. My husband goes into kidney failure. His youngest sister donated a kidney.

Did you catch that? God had provided a solution before there was a problem! If that last baby had not been born, my husband might not have seen his children grow up, get married, and give us two beautiful grand daughters!

My mother-in-law passed away before any of this occurred and as far as I know, she never got answers to her questions about having five children and some of the struggles and yet she had such a strong and loving faith. Sometime when we pray and it seems like we don’t get answers, it just might be that part of our problem is part of the answer to someone else’s prayer!

Our perspective is so narrow and our imagination so limited. God sees the entire picture and is busy working everywhere all the time, though we may go through times when we feel as though He has turned his back on us.

God made a solution that gave my husband back to me and God provided a solution to bring us all back to Him.

Jesus​ ​took on our sin and while we tend to think that Good Friday is the low​ ​point of Holy Week, Jesus still had power on Good Friday. He could​ ​have come down from the cross if he had chosen to. But on Saturday he​ ​was completely identified with us at our most powerless. He was gone, and as the bible says, descended to the dead. No power. Nothing. He came​ ​to join us here, but not to leave us here. By experiencing death, Jesus completed the picture of identifying

with us.

But then, God raised him up – not just a spirit or an angel. Luke 24:37 says​ ​They were startled and frightened​, thinking they saw a ghost. No. He​ ​ate with the disciples. He was solid, living flesh. He was not the​ ​same, as though the cross never happened. He bore the scars so the crucifixion was now a part of him. He was changed. He was different,​ ​new.

And so it is with us. We will experience death. It is a defeated​ ​enemy, but an enemy still.1s​ t Thessalonians 14:13 says ​ ​But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope​. We are told not to grieve as those who have​ ​no hope, but we are NOT told not to grieve.

What does the resurrection give us? So very much but we will look at three things this morning.

Jesus is divine​.

Mark 2:5-7​ 5​ ​And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are

forgiven.” 6​ ​Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,7​ ​“Why does

this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Everybody knew you had to go to the temple to receive forgiveness. He performed miracles. He

claimed to do these things in God’s authority. The resurrection put’s God’s stamp of approval on

all these things. By raising Jesus from the dead, God was saying that everything Jesus

promised is true.

It vindicates the cross

The early church claimed the cross was the victory over sin and death. The resurrection

provided the authority on which they made that claim. Romans 6:23 says 2​ 3 ​For the wages of

sin ​is​ death, but the gift of God ​is​ eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The resurrection is victory

over death and death is caused by sin.

It Vindicates Us

Galations 2:20 ​ ​I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; Jesus was crucified, and in a way – we were too. If he died, so did we. If he is raised, then so

too will we be raised. He is coming back.

What does that mean for us? There are people who study and have opinions about what will take place and when and how. There are pre-tribulationists, post-tribulationists, mid-tribulationists. We could spend days talking about all that. I don’t know who’s right and and frankly I’m not concerned with the details and you don’t have to be either!

All I really need to know is that God created me and loves me. He formed me in my mother’s womb to be holy and and knew I would miss the mark. Rather than giving me what I deserve He made a way. When I couldn’t make the ascent up to Him, He came down to me. Through His walk on earth He taught me what I should do to be closer to Him and knowing that He knew I still​ would miss the mark – He died FOR me! He sees past my sin – He sees the resurrection me!

But wait! There’s more! Even if that was the end of the story it would be incredible. That I could be loved to that extent is in itself miraculous. But no, that is not the end of the story! Through the amazing grace of God and through His son, though my human body will go to sleep, I will be raised and I will live but more than just live, I will have life abundantly. Creation will no longer be broken.

Everything will work to the good of everything else and there will be no sin, no sorrow, no death, no pain. We can study the bible looking for clues of what this will be like but we just get hints. All I know for sure is that it is going to be good because His thoughts and ways are so much higher than mine. It is beyond what I can imagine. So we continue to get to know Him and let Him transform us into Easter people fit for that new life, Amen?

My daughter gave me an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas. I can ask questions by phrasing them Alexa, What is the weather today, or for my grand daughter – Alexa, tell me a bedtime story. I recently learned another Alexa skill – I can say Alexa, have the bible app read me (whatever scripture). I listened to the lectionary readings on it and as I was listening to 1 Corinthians, I was transfixed. The voice was a deep, rich male voice and suddenly I could picture Paul speaking to this young church that was dealing with so much confusion and temptation and I felt as though I was sitting there hearing the words for the first time and I realized that we too need that reminder of what we are here for and what we have to look forward to – otherwise our preaching and our faith is in vain.

Father we are so grateful for your love and providence, for your grace and for your Son. We are grateful for the sacrifice of the cross and that you raised Jesus from the dead so that we too, can someday be with you in glory and and finally be able to say face to face we worship you, we praise you and we love you.

Grouchy Old Person

I have been so dismayed at how mean and badly behaved we humans are. Most of the feeling came from reading things people wrote or shared on Facebook. Last night my husband and I went to a concert at a local venue. A local band opened (and I thought they were very good!) and Sundance Head  played later. As I am addicted to The Voice and he was a Voice winner we decided we would do something very much out of the ordinary for us. We bought tickets. It has probably been over thirty years since we have gone to any kind of concert and even longer since we have been to a bar. I am not opposed to people having drinks. I just don’t want to be around drunks. There was a bar at the venue. The room was set up with wooden spool tables in the circle closest to the band and then chairs behind those tables. I didn’t know you could reserve a table so we were on chairs just behind one of them. The group who reserved that particular table came in late and then people would come up to visit with them, standing in front of us…while the band was playing.  At one point a man squeezed in to talk to them and I actually had to move my legs until they were nearly in the chair with my husband to accommodate him.

The tickets stated from 7 to 11 pm. They actually opened the doors at 7. We sat and waited until nearly 8. There was a group of 30-40 year olds behind us who may or may not have imbibed before they got there. They were incapable of speaking in “inside voices” especially one very obnoxious guy who stood right behind me talking even after the first band started. If the band got louder so did he.

Couples started to move to the dance floor and at one point in the night Mr. Obnoxious actually hit me in the back of the head with his elbow as he headed out to dance without so much as an excuse me – I really didn’t mean to give you a concussion and in daily life I really am not such an ass.”

Back in the day (yes I am old) it was the girls who were shaking it on the dance floor. This group changed that. It was the men who were strutting it out there. There were two classes of dancers. Those who obviously paid for lessons and then practiced in bars, frequently. Then you had the Seinfeld “Elaine” type who after a few beers thought they were accomplished dancers but in reality if you were sober and watching, well, picture a fish thrown onto the bank and occasionally experiencing electrical shocks. Word to the ladies – if this is who you are dancing with – stop drinking. This is the one who will cause you to do the walk of shame in the morning.

We did enjoy the music but I doubt we will repeat this activity. I know they were just having a good time but the rude and drunk mating rituals of the American reduce are just not for me. I will watch The Voice in my own living room where I can actually hear the music in my comfortable chair and not have to worry about an elbow to the head injury.

Signed: Old Crotchety Fuddy Duddy.

 

Dawn Rises

mist rises from the pond
to greet the dawn
the coolness of night remains and as
wisps reach for the sun
knowing warmth it covets
birth straining towards death
the pond remains quietly in the light