Tell Them, Tell Everyone from the Mountaintop

6 Jan

IMG_0327Happy Epiphany!  This is a mountaintop near Sedona, AZ.  I was there in 2009 and took this picture.  The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired chapel is a favorite place.

Now on to the last half of Romans 10; where Paul is telling his reader to “tell them, tell everyone.”

11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

14-17 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!

But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

18-21 But haven’t there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what’s going on? Plenty, I’d say.

Preachers’ voices have gone ’round the world,
Their message to earth’s seven seas.

So the big question is, Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,

When you see God reach out to those
    you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
    you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people
    you think are religiously stupid,
    you’ll throw temper tantrums.

Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:

People found and welcomed me
    who never so much as looked for me.
And I found and welcomed people
    who had never even asked about me.

Then he capped it with a damning indictment:

Day after day after day,
    I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
    but cold shoulders and icy stares.

This passage encouragement to ‘tell everyone’ that when they trust in God and call on God to save our lives is also a frustrated rand that the people of Israel did not tell others of God’s saving grace.  And not only did Israel not tell about God, but got upset when the ‘unworthy’ were invited into a saving relationship with God.  And, Paul accuses them of not faithfully living out their relationship with God.

I always think it is important to remember that the Jewish community that Paul is addressing is not the same Jewish community of today.   In Paul’s life the group he had grown up with – Jewish leaders – were people followed their rules, instead of opening their lives to a relationship with God that Jesus pointed the way towards.  For him,the indictment by the prophet Isaiah was true:

Day after day after day,
    I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
    but cold shoulders and icy stares.

This is Paul’s reality and our past.  Now in the present moment God is calling to us.  Will our future be ‘telling about God from our own mountain top?’.  When I think of ‘telling good news’, I always seem to think of St. Francis quote, “Preach good news at all times, and when necessary use words.”

Peace and Joy

 

Knowing Our Part

5 Jan

I am continuing in Romans for the new year.  I am up to Chapter 10 and I am always amazed as I read through the text again, especially when I read it in the Message.  The words of Paul strike me again and again that we get it wrong when we think we can “make our religion,” rather than surrendering to God.    Instead, as Paul says, we do it exactly backwards (my mom has another way of saying that!)

10 1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.

4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?

The word that saves is right here,
    as near as the tongue in your mouth,
    as close as the heart in your chest.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

Trusting God to guide each day, each moment; and trusting God over and over again each day . . . that’s salvation.   John Wesley saw it as a process.  It is no wonder it understood it as a daily, eternal revealing of our lives after he read Paul.

I think we have a hard time surrendering to God.  It would be better if we were like the boy on his knees, knowing our part is to mess things up and it is God’s part to forgiving, again, and again, and again and set us on a good path again.

Surrendering to God means knowing that we are NOT God.  That we are not capable of anything on our own, but with God all things are possible.   It is a wonderful sense of humility and release that comes in letting go of all of the details and plans and pride; to know God sees us as we are, forgives us what we have done, and lets us begin again – healed – new – open to the possibilities that the day came bring to let God’s light (not our light) shine through us.

It’s a great way to being 2016.

Peace

2015 in review

31 Dec

I thought I would post this summary that WordPress does for me each year.  Considering this is a free service, they do very well.

I guess I will continue in the new year.  I still have some of Romans to complete.

Mostly I want to say, thanks for reading.  I really can’t imagine I have much to say, but I always seem to find words – especially about the Divine Presence that is grace filled enough to enter the moments of my life.  It is what keeps me sane and grounded.

Blessings on the year that has completed it’s cycle.  Blessings on the possibilities of the year to come.  The divine presence is there – let’s enjoy the ride.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Always Good to Read the Bible

16 Dec

I am glad to be back writing again.  I have had ‘sinus thing’ that has slowed me down and a couple of extra Christmas cores.  I hope you take time to read the Bible verse, even if you skip my commentary.  The text is such a wonderful wake up call to the craziness of our world that passes for Christmas celebrations these days, or should I say ‘Holiday celebrations.’

So, the letter from Paul continues in the 9th chapter and struggles with the ‘bad theology’ of an Almighty God.  The argument goes, if God created everything, then we can’t be responsible for anything that goes wrong with God’s creation.  These extreme black and white concepts miss the complexity and grayness of our experience.

Here Paul relies on the old dictate from Job that you can complain to God.

19 Are you going to object, “So how can God blame us for anything since he’s in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?”

20-33 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other people. Hosea put it well:

I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
    I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
    they’re calling you “God’s living children.”

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:

If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
    and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
    salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
    Arithmetic is not his focus.

Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth:

If our powerful God
    had not provided us a legacy of living children,
We would have ended up like ghost towns,
    like Sodom and Gomorrah.

The quotes from Hosea and Isaiah take us from the inane, useless arguments to the personal relationship the The Divine Presence.

How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
    a stone you can’t get around.
But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,
    you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.

I read this again this morning, and had new words for my frustration with what the world and the retailers have done to Christmas.  Paul says if we give our lives to God, then God can straighten them out.  So, what was wrong with Israel?  They didn’t trust God, they took over.  Our celebration of Christ’s birth has been high-jacked.  I find it truly hard to find the sweetness and simplicity of the birth story in the midst of what passes for the celebrations in our culture.  We have taken over, rather then kneeling at the manger and thanking God for trusting us with an infant.

Yet, I know that the Divine in the midst of all of it, and it is my responsibility to quiet my spirit and worship God at the manger, not at the store.

Blessings and peace,  Mary

Wanting all included

20 Nov

The last blog ended Romans 8, one of the most incredible affirmations in scripture.  As we move to Romans 9, Paul resets his emotional dial.  Even though their is assurance in the Christ life, there is still struggle in our daily life.

Chapter 9 begins with the sorrow of those who have not found the Christ life.  He mourns for those who have not receive the gift that God has given in Jesus Christ.  I have felt this way often – it is painful to want those you love to realize just how much God loves them and the incredible life they could enjoy in the Divine Presence.

1-5 At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them—family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!

The majority of these verses are an explanation of how God’s gift is not dependent on our behavior, but is a power the burst through all the bounds of human existence.

6-9 Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise. Remember how it was put: “Your family will be defined by Isaac”? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, “When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son”?

10-13 And that’s not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, “The firstborn of your twins will take second place.” Later that was turned into a stark epigram: “I loved Jacob; I hated Esau.”

Any reading of the scripture will find God lifting up those the world thought unimportant and those who believe themselves important never finding the strength of God.  It truly is one long David and Goliath story.

14-18 Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. God told Moses, “I’m in charge of mercy. I’m in charge of compassion.” Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power.” All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill.

God is the first word – it is God’s world – we are the people God has created for God’s pleasure.   I wonder when that will start to get straight in our heads.  We are not to use the Divine Presence for our pleasure, but rather the other way around.

I believe that in each moment of our lives God’s Presence is there.  If I can ask, “what will honor and bring glory to God in this moment,” then my life is full, being given the meaning through the source of my life – God.  Alpha and Omega – beginning and end.

Peace

Power of the Christ life

9 Nov

Good Morning Friends,

This weekend I went to my High School Reunion and the church I grew up in.  Both were interesting experiences are interesting to reflect within the context of my current life.  I rejoice again that I surrendered by life to Jesus Christ when I was 16 and have been surrendering the parts I take back every day.

My home church now has a traditional service at 9:30 and a contemporary service at 11:15.  I was planning to go to both services, but life did not work out that way.  The first service the preacher did not use the lectionary; he ‘preached’ on Matthew 6:25-34, which was barely mention during the sermon.  Now this is the text saying not to worry and I love it, but the preacher said it is OK to worry, because we all do it anyway.  You would be very proud of me that I did not jump out of my sit and challenge him.  The service was structure that after the preacher said it is OK to worry, because it is just our human nature and we could make small changes about what we worry about and that was all we were capable of, we stand up to say The Apostle Creed which speaks of the incredible inbreaking of God – the power of God to transform the reality of our world – but apparently we are not suppose to take the seriously or personally.  When I found out that the contemporary service was the same scripture text and sermon title with just a praise band added, I left.

We CAN take the promises of God seriously and personally.  The end of the 8th chapter of Romans is used so often by Christian as words of assurance.  I hope we can also use them as words of power for our lives. First I put the text in the blog as New Revised Standard Version, but I realized I usually use The Message.  Once again the text popped out at me in a new way.

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

If this statement of Paul’s was true for his life and we can believe it is true for our life, then what do we have to worry about???  I believe in working hard, approaching life intelligently, thinking through the probabilities of a situation; but worry about it is useless AND I believe it denies the power of God for our life.

You have been redeemed, you have been resurrected with Christ, you are a child of God and precious to the Divine in the Eternal Now.  Enjoy the ride -no worries.

Peace

God, who began a good work in you.

3 Nov

Good Morning Friends,

Did you complete the line of the song. . .”will be faithful to complete it.”  This is the scripture on which the song is based.  Paul’s writing brings us into intimate contact with work of God in the world; in our lives; throughout history.

I think Paul’s personal experience of waiting for the Messiah plays out in these text.  When he is tired of waiting, when he is in prison, when he thought Christ would put things right long before he needed to write this letter; he says it’s OK because the Divine is right along side of us giving us strength, giving us words for our prayers that have no words.

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

The New Revised Standard Version of verse 28 is: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  This is a difficult verse for other who have lost loved ones too soon, through tragic circumstances, so I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase better.  That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.  

It is God who brings meaning to our lives when events are tragic or wonderful, when days are long or when they fly by, when we are surrounded by those we love or when we sit alone.  God brings meaning to all of it.  It is why I love my faith, why this faith journey is life-giving to me; it has brought me through a the incredible, unexpected, diverse experiences of my life AND brought them meaning in the Presence of the Divine.

It is God who has called us by name and infused it with meaning and hope and the eternal now.

So for this today, enjoy each moment – God is present.  Live each pain – God is healer. Live each adventure – God resounds with the novelty of each moment.

Peace

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