Monday, June 13, 2016

HATE...Is NOT of God

Yet again we find ourselves filled with emotion over another Mass shooting and trying to make sense of it. And while everyone means well as they process their own grief it seems some words can come across as cold and hateful and leave the message that the victims in some way asked for what they got. 

I want to take the time to study the scripture with you and see if we can get a grasp on where God is in the midst of 50 dead and 53 injured. 

Matthew 2:16 - 18

 16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

John 11:33 - 35

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
Isaiah 66:13
 “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Isaiah 49:15

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

All these verses paint a picture of God as mothering and compassionate. A God who nurtures us and grieves with us. I want to share one more passage that provides a portrait of How God relates to us. That is the image of the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 - 31

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[b]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

If God instructs us to be accountable to each other and responsible to each other then id he not also those things to us? When we laugh he laughs, when we cry he cries.
To solidify that God is the caretaker and the comforter in these heinous massacres I want to establish the role of the devil here. As he clearly has one.I give you the following verses.

John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Ephesians 6:10-12
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The devil is alive and well, make no mistake about it. And when darkness invades our world leaving people dead you can be assured the devil is at the center of it. No atrocity like the massacre in Orlando should ever be attributed to God. Our God sent his own son to earth to die on a cross that we might have life. That is not the actions of a revengeful God. The devil would have us think that but that would be incorrect. Please see this act for what it is. An act spurred by the devil and evil as Ephesians say we battle against. And know that God is in the midst fo the grieving.

Lastly, can we learn to love our neighbor? This will never if we fail to do so.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Loving the Unlovable

Disclaimer: This is written primarily for people in the Human services profession. If you are in an abusive relationship with a  significant other, do not stay in it. You have every right to be loved and respected and not hurt by others. Check resources in your locality and seek help if you are in this situation.

People on the margins of life have been on my mind lately. This is the result of a conversation with a friend and my weekly devotion this week. How many of us can say that we excel in loving everyone, including those who bother and annoy us? I don't expect any reader to raise their hand. If we are honest, we have all failed to love those that are unlovable. We know who they are, the child who is constantly disrespectful, the adult who is verbally abusive, the one's who show no appreciation for what has been provided for them. I am no different. The devotion and the conversation reminded me of a time I failed to love the unlovable. I would like to share it with you.

It was 2009 and I was serving as Director of Children and Youth at St. James United Methodist Church in Tarboro, NC. I had a part time job sitting with an elderly lady at the local senior living community. Things started off well but as time passed she would get angry at me. She would say I was a waste of her time, tell me I was fat and needed to lose weight, then there was the day she ran into me with her walker. That was it for me. I was not about to let someone abuse me when I was trying to be their friend. I called her daughter that night and promptly quit.

Seven years later as I reflect I realize this woman needed the love and patience I could offer and I simply cut her off. One of the most difficult passages to digest in scripture is when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes it, to walk an extra mile when a soldier demands we walk one and to give the cloak off our back when we are asked for our shirt. Jesus is calling us to a different way of living. Are we going to accept the call?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Love is......

"The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more 

clearly you'll see their flaws. That's just the way it is. This is why 

marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships  don't 

last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they 

act when they're out of money or under pressure or hungry, for 

goodness' sake. Love if something different. Love is choosing 

to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. 

Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is 

pain and sacrifice, it's seeing the darkness in another person and 

defying the impulse to jump ship."


Monday, January 25, 2016

A Prayer (for all of us) to Pray

Pray for this fragile earth, our island home. Pray that we would be good stewards and she would withstand our abuse.

Pray for the Church. Pray that where it is right God will strengthen ti, and where it is in error God will direct it. Pray that God will fill the Church with all truth and peace.

Pray for the joy of human life, with all its wonder and surprises. Pray we would remember that all people are created in the very image of God.

Pray for the poor, the destitute, and the dying, in full knowledge that God looks with special favor upon those in greatest need.

Pray for our families, friends, and our neighbors, and for those who are alone.

Pray in thanksgiving for all the blessings of this life, and for the promises of the next. Pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes, not only by your words but by your deeds.

*Taken from the Prayer Books of the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Church of New Zealand and the Iona Abbey Worship Book

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Someone else's shoes

Please take the next 4.5 minutes to step into someone else's shoes. Be blessed and be changed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A thought for the New Year



positive thinking,


& most of all,


Monday, December 21, 2015

A Lesson in Gift Giving

Matthew 2: 1 - 12

      After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:" '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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.' " Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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 and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Opening Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove; descending on us, reveal your love. Word of God and inward light, wake our spirits; clear our sight. Surround us now with all your glory; speak through me that sacred story. Take my lips and make them bold. Take hearts and minds and make them whole. Stir in us that sacred flame; then send us forth to spread your name. Amen.

We all love getting gifts. The gifts I love getting most are handmade gifts. They are just a bit more personal than something bought in a store or a gift card given. My most treasured gift is this blanket. The friend who made this is an artist. Knowing her makes me appreciate the statement, ‘starving artist’. For most artists there is not a lot of money. What makes this gift mean so much to me is it comes with the label of sacrifice. She sacrificed time, materials and money to make me this gift and never expected anything in return. Knowing the sacrifice that people make to give the many handmade gifts I have received over the years makes them all that more precious and greatly appreciated. We can look to the Wise men and find that they sacrificed too. I want us to look at the gifts they brought the Christ child, and learn what is required of us when we give gifts. We will then consider how great a sacrifice we the church are called to make, not just at Christmas, but year round.

The first gift mentioned in scripture is Gold. Gold is a gift for a king.  By this gift we know that Jesus is our King. His kingship is different though. Jesus is to reign by love, not by force and to rule not from a throne but from a cross. When we bring any gift to Jesus we must submit to Jesus before we can be friends with Jesus. In the same vain Ephesians 5:21 says we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. What does that type of submission look like? In John 13 we find Jesus having his last meal with the disciples before he is to be crucified. What he does is give us an example of submission and being a servant to others. Here we have a basin and pitcher. 

This is to remind us of two things. First, the time Jesus washed his disciples feet and secondly that we are called to do likewise, to wash each other’s feet. Let me ask the first of three questions that we will revisit later. How can we submit to one another when we are filled with hate, fear or indifference towards others?

The second gift mentioned in scripture is  Frankincense. Frankincense is a gift for a Priest.  By this gift we know that Jesus is our Priest of all priests. In the Latin priest means bridge builder. Jesus is a bridge Builder between us and God. As Christians our gifts to each other should shine a light on Jesus as our bridge builder. To do this we must resist fear of others and love everyone so Jesus can continue to be the bridge between us and God.  This Advent wreath reminds us that within every believer there is a light, a light that comes only from God. 

By loving our neighbor we shine a lite on Jesus for others to see. So how do we know we are to love each other? Ephesians 4:32 says to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. In John 15:12 Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. And finally in Luke 6:31 we read, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The 2nd question I have for you is, How can we give gifts of love when we shut our doors to the stranger or when we call for the death of our enemies?

The third and final gift was Myrrh. Myrrh is what is placed on a deceased body before it is buried. By this gift we learn that Jesus is to die. Think about that for a moment. Jesus was born into this world to die for every one of us. He was born to die, and the wise men knew this. We as a Christians may not be at risk of dying in  America for our faith but we are called to take up our cross daily, to be in the world and not of it. But most importantly, as followers of Christ we are not to live a life of violence and seek to inflict pain on anyone, especially if it ends in taking a life. This Cross reminds us of Jesus Sacrifice.

Jesus could have avoided the cross, he could have rose up like a mighty warrior and defeated the Roman Empire, but he died on the cross. We are called to nothing less. So when you are called to lay down your life for another but you chose to arm yourself and defend yourself from a perceived enemy, you are not living according to the teachings of Christ. My final question. How can we remember and honor Christ’s death if we are armed and ready to kill?

 Can we submit to one another when we have hate and fear in us towards others? Or can we love our neighbor if we tell them there is no room for them when they are in need? And finally, can we honor Christ’s death when we seek to end the lives of others? The answer is a simple but resounding No! So what have we learned about sacrifice by looking at these three gifts? Sacrifice involves submission, love, and honor. Yet in our current climate the media tells us to hate and fear those who are different, whether it is by race, gender, economic status, religious background or nationality. At no other time in my relatively short life have I encountered a time that to live by the teachings of Jesus is so completely counter to the culture I live in. With this awareness comes the fear of boldly proclaiming the gospel for fear of reprisal from another of a different political persuasion. But then I remember what the angels said, and throughout the bible, I am told to ‘Do Not Fear.’ To believe in Jesus and have him live in your heart is to reject fear and throw off the chains of hate. As Actor Mandy Patinkin says, ”fear is poison of our lives”. When we hold onto fear our faith is weakened and there is no room for Jesus. With no room for Jesus we are unable to experience the peace that passes all understanding. The wise men had reason to fear while on their journey. Herod was clear that they were to inform him of where the baby Jesus was. But as they traveled an angel spoke to them in a dream telling them not to go back the way they came. The angel was warning the wise men that Herod was planning to kill this newly born child. No doubt as they worshipped their king that their fear disappeared but I imagine that as they left and went a different way the fear came back. The Wise men took great risk by not returning to Herod but for God’s will to be made known on earth they had to ignore the order of their political leader, Herod. As Christians, we too may have to ignore the message of elected officials if it is counter to the teachings of Jesus. What is that message? Jesus came to fill us with Joy and he teaches us to this day to love our neighbor and our enemy. To feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, welcome the foreigner. We live in a diverse country, and that is wonderful, but I still hear messages of banning, deporting and even kill them before they kill us.  Church, we are at a crossroads and we have a choice to make. It is a choice between nationalism and God. It is the choice to let go of fear or hold onto hate. It is a choice to let Jesus’ birth fill us with Joy and Peace. To love unconditionally, to extend hands, to open doors and borders. It is a choice to show the world that we believe in the RADICAL gospel of Jesus Christ. A man who died for us and did the impossible by rising from the dead. The impossible of this world is possible with God. I believe the hour has come for us to boldly embrace the call Jesus presents before us now.  For truly, as Jesus himself said, “The harvest is ripe but the workers are few.” Mary welcomed Jesus into her womb to birth him into world. Will we welcome Jesus this Christmas into our lives? Will we do as Mary did? Will we give our Savior the chance to transform not only our own personal lives but our country and our world? If we are to do this we must submit to one another. We must love without condition and we must honor EVERY life. I would have said this may not be possible in 2001 when we were attacked by terrorists, and I was filled with fear. But today, I do believe. I believe the impossible is possible, I believe that the God that raised Jesus from the dead can raise us out of our fear. In the words of  Austin Channing Brown -

“I believe in the death of injustice, in the life of hope, grace, mercy, and love…. I believe there can be healing where there is violence. I believe reconciliation is possible- hearts can be moved, minds can be changed, politics broken.   - Austin Channing Brown with The Impossible

 I also believe in a new way of thinking: May this become our new prayer: May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering. May my thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute to the happiness and free for all beings.  Can you live so that all are happy? Can you chose your thoughts, words and actions in a way that they promote freedom and happiness for all? This is what Christ is asking us for. This is the gift we need to give him.