Archive | March, 2014

Opening Day

31 Mar

I have looked at the statistic of my blog and it looks like 1 or 2 people have been reading it lately. There is a great deal of freedom in that reality.

So, it is daybreak on opening day of the 2014 baseball season. The Orioles will be playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yard at 3 p.m. [I looked at the ticket prices and to go and stand in the stadium is $117.50!]

Last year I preached that opening day is like Easter – a new beginning and full of possibilities. On opening day anything can happen – the Orioles can win the World Series – Chris Davis can hit a new home run record – Manny Machado can make more incredible plays at third base – the possibilities are endless.

As a new baseball fan I know this feeling. It is the emotion of drawing close to God and seeing the new day through God’s eyes. Today I could actually control my tongue, I could be disciplined enough to get all the work done that I should and call all the people I should, I could even get all those notes written to people I love. Yes, it is a day of opportunities and possibilities.

I am not going to ruin the hope of opening day [or Easter for that matter] by knowing how quickly games can fall into the lost column of the year’s tallies. I am not going to focus on how often I do not do what I know God could accomplish through my faithfulness. I am just going to focus on hope and enjoy it today.

Our human existence gives us all kinds of experiences of new hope; opening day, a new baby, a new love, a new milestone reached in our lives. All of them are shadows of the one hope in God – the Easter hope – that death in finally conquered and new life is given. The joy of Christian is multifaceted; on that I like best is that each morning I can wake up and find forgiveness and healing for yesterdays failures, and new faith in what I can do today as a beloved child of God –
The possibilities are endless –
It’s Opening Day!!IMG_3965

Wrong Question

29 Mar

When I was preparing for Lent this year I planned the entire season; I picked all the scriptures and hymns I would be using in worship. I have been preaching from the Hebrew Scriptures and the gospel for this week is one of the reasons.

The passage is in John’s gospel, which always has a layer of symbolism. And the recommended scripture passage is John 9:1-41, which is way too many verses to handle is a Sunday morning setting [and I am not going to print them all here.]

With all that said, I have always like this story. It begins;

9 1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

I like the paraphrase of “The Message” because it makes clear that the disciples are looking for someone to blame for the man’s blindness. In that culture all misfortune was handled by blaming someone – someone who had sinned against God – and making them make sacrifice for the sin with hopes that the misfortune would be fixed [for the long version of the belief system is the book of JOB].

But Jesus is telling them they are asking the wrong question and by extension, the belief system of the day is incorrect. The correct question is, “What can God do?”.

Do you see the difference in attitude that Jesus is pointing to in your world. I see people who will work hard to assign blame for a situation and once they have pinned the blame on something or someone [besides themselves, of course], they act as if the problem is solved, or at least not their responsibility. Yet, Jesus is saying, “I have a better way to approach the problem.” Don’t look for what is at fault, but the possibility and power of God to heal. We might have to do some praying and some work to be a part of that solution, but I believe it is what God is asking us to do with our lives on this journey of faith.

The second note that I would make about the scripture text is that I am glad that it is in the Bible. The first place this text came alive for me was when I was a student chaplain at Children’s Hospital in Boston. I was leading a Wednesday afternoon worship service and used this text to talk to children about the completely difficult life they led in the grip of a horrible disease. It was meaningful for me to say that their lives held a special ability to bring glory to God. I don’t know if it was helpful to the old children and young teens who attended the service, but they remain in my prayers.

The passage ends by says:

39 Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”

40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”

I pray we will see through God’s vision and ask the right questions. Peace.

Wake Up!

28 Mar

Throughout my Christian life I have met lots of types of people of faith. One of the types, usually Christian, believe it is their job to make sure everyone is going to heaven. There are at least two problems with this; 1. It usually is counterproductive to tell people that they are going to Hell unless they become like you, 2. It is not their job to decide who goes to heaven.

I like the Ephesians passage for this week even though it is in theological metaphorical language, it is clear. Christian are familiar with these symbols, so the passage become straight-forward.

Ephesians 5:8-16
The Message (MSG)
8-10 You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.

How simple is this instruction, “Just do it”. It is amazing in our Christian life we go through all kinds of contortions, guilt, theologizing, which make us inactive; when if we just look at what Jesus did and try to walk the same path – we’ve got it!

11-16 Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.

AND, don’t do things you shouldn’t. Think of how many excuses would die on our lips, if there was not excuse – if we said, “You’re right, I was told not to do it, so I shouldn’t have done it”. I once worked with a pastor who said I put too many, “shoulds” in my sermons; people saw this as judgmental. Well, I think the scripture does have a specific agenda and the only person I really held to the standard I was preaching about was me – others had to make their own choices.

Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!

BUT, we are suppose to look like people who have come out of the coffin and are living a Christ life. So, here’s the challenge for the day [and really every day] live like you really mean it; like you really meant the part about being raised with Christ into a new life; like you really mean that you are forgiven and made whole and you are suppose to extend that grace to others; like this is the first day of a new creation and God has all kinds of possibilities waiting for you. End of sermon. Peace.

God View

27 Mar

Even though I have finished the Psalms, Lent is only half way through. I am going to blog on the lectionary for the week. I always am working on a sermon and thinking about the scripture for the week. So, this will help me and I hope it will help you on your journey of faith.

This Sunday I am going to preach on a favorite passage from I Samuel. It is the anointing of the sheep herder David after King Saul falls out of favor with God. God asks Samuel, prophet to King Saul, to anoint another king under the nose of the reigning king. Samuel is terrified, as anyone with a brain would be, but God makes a way.

16 God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.”

2-3 “I can’t do that,” said Samuel. “Saul will hear about it and kill me.”
God said, “Take a heifer with you and announce, ‘I’ve come to lead you in worship of God, with this heifer as a sacrifice.’ Make sure Jesse gets invited. I’ll let you know what to do next. I’ll point out the one you are to anoint.”

4 Samuel did what God told him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him, but apprehensively. “Is there something wrong?”

5 “Nothing’s wrong. I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God. Prepare yourselves, be consecrated, and join me in worship.” He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship.

The text says that God only tells him each step at a time. “First, go to Bethlehem and pretend that you are just leading worship. Then make sure Jesse’s family is there. Once you are there you will get further instructions.” Isn’t that just like God – you have to get to point A, before you can see/imagine point B. Of course once Samuel is at point A, he thinks he knows what do to. WRONG!

6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s anointed!”

7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

8 Jesse then called up Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, “This man isn’t God’s choice either.”

9 Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, “No, this man isn’t either.”

10 Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”

11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?”
“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”
Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.”

One of the things I love about this passage is the ‘runt of the litter’ is pick. Being the youngest of four children, born within five years, I am so happy that the last in line is the one that is chosen. In this passage, it is only when Samuel is standing in the right place, in front of the right person, that God can say, “this is it”. I think because we do not see as God sees, because we can not imagine the possibilities that God can imagine, that we have to get in the right spot to see the God view.

12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.
God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”

13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.
Samuel left and went home to Ramah.

God has a plan, David is part of that plan, but God needs Samuel to make it a reality. Without Samuel willingness to be literally used by God, a willingness to endanger his life, God would not have a way to anoint David. God’s spirit can do amazing things, but it is still human beings that are the conduits for the Divine’s ideas.

So, if you are on this faith journey as I am, then you are chosen. Chosen, even if you are also ‘runt of the litter’, even if you don’t think you imagine you can do much, because God’s imaginings are amazing. Enjoy the journey; see if you can get to point A, so God can led you to point B. Peace.

Finished

26 Mar

This is my 190th blog and the last of the psalm. It is somewhat unbelievable to me that I have lasted this long. I will continue to blog through the rest of Lent. I appreciate people who comment in my blog and encourage me to write. I am amazed at how relaxed I have gotten about writing. I know that some of my grammar and spelling is wrong, but I have learned to live with it.

So, this is the final psalm and it is complete praise. It is also the way I feel about finishing this ‘assignment’. The writer is basically saying praise God everywhere and with everything. It sounds like a good idea to me.

150 1-6 Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
Hallelujah!

As I said earlier, what if that was our main task in life? What if you were judged on how well your life praised God? I like I would like that world.

So, what’s your favorite way to praise God? What talent do you have to express how wonderful and life-giving God is in your life? For me, I love to sing, but try not to make others endure that gift of mine. But, talking about God, preaching and leading worship are enjoyable ways that I have in my life to praise God. And, I guess, writing in this blog has been an act of praise.

I hope you find the joy of a project completed, of a gift you have to praise God, and mostly, to enjoy the Divine presence as you joy this day. Peace.

Everybody Dance

25 Mar

Psalm 149 sings praises to God in dance. Why don’t we do that more? There is a great tradition in the scripture for dancing and having a great time. I would like to see the wild sword-dance.

149 1-4 Hallelujah!
Sing to God a brand-new song,
praise him in the company of all who love him.
Let all Israel celebrate their Sovereign Creator,
Zion’s children exult in their King.
Let them praise his name in dance;
strike up the band and make great music!
And why? Because God delights in his people,
festoons plain folk with salvation garlands!
5-9 Let true lovers break out in praise,
sing out from wherever they’re sitting,
Shout the high praises of God,
brandish their swords in the wild sword-dance—
A portent of vengeance on the God-defying nations,
a signal that punishment’s coming,
Their kings chained and hauled off to jail,
their leaders behind bars for good,
The judgment on them carried out to the letter
—and all who love God in the seat of honor!
Hallelujah!

Yet, even as the writer encourages the tribe to dance there is a clear understanding that those not in the God-tribe are not invited.

I hope for a day where all the tribal walls are down for the people of God’s earth. Of course, that doesn’t look like it is going to happen anything soon. . So, I pray for peace.

Everyone Together Now

24 Mar

This is another praise song that rounds out the book of Psalms. This is similar to the previous song that goes verse by verse. The writer roll calls all of creation to praise their creator.

148 1-5 Hallelujah!
Praise God from heaven,
praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels,
praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, you morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven,
praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of God—
he spoke the word, and there they were!
6 He set them in place
from all time to eternity;
He gave his orders,
and that’s it!
7-12 Praise God from earth,
you sea dragons, you fathomless ocean deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and ice,
hurricanes obeying his orders;
Mountains and all hills,
apple orchards and cedar forests;
Wild beasts and herds of cattle,
snakes, and birds in flight;
Earth’s kings and all races,
leaders and important people,
Robust men and women in their prime,
and yes, graybeards and little children.
13-14 Let them praise the name of God—
it’s the only Name worth praising.
His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky;
he’s built a monument—his very own people!
Praise from all who love God!
Israel’s children, intimate friends of God.
Hallelujah!

I wonder what our world would look like if we really believe that our most important job was to praise God through our lives?? Since I have no control over the rest of the world, the question becomes what will I do to praise God? I think I am cleaning ovens and the freezer because my mom thinks it’s important. It will be a challenge to praise God!! Peace.