Community and belonging

Still thinking out loud this week on God’s gathering community to come together, not just for worship but to proclaim in its local place and time the gospel of Jesus, the Christ. In that community is not just salvation, but also more powerfully reconciliation and restoration. With reconciliation, we hear God’s claim on us is made clear, and with restoration the tarnish of our rejection of God is removed, and we can truly again say God has made humankind in the image of God.

This is all summed up by the covenant of God announced in the bold words “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” God is not only with us, but we are with God, in Christ Jesus, who fulfills in completeness the will of God. So God’s love is both expressed as reconciliation and restoration, for that is most apparent will towards his creation, especially humankind.

Thus, our need for belonging is most fully met by God’s gathering, saving, reconciling and restoring. Thanks be to God. Amen.

To Whom Do We Belong

This past Sunday we began a Sermon Series that is built upon the human need to belong. As I reflect upon a text and the whole biblical story every week, it is hard not to recognize the need of God’s creation, humankind, for belonging and community as a narrative that runs all the way through it like an underground river. It may come from a similar reflection that Augustine of Hippo prayed: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The ministry of Jesus was, and is, a ministry of belonging. He invited young fishermen, tax collectors, and others from many walks of life in Galilee to “come and follow me.” Come and belong, and in time to learn a new way of life, and in time come to believe so that they exclaimed like Thomas in the Gospel of John to exclaim, “My Lord, My God” or like Peter and Paul proclaiming the gospel message to any who would listen. The point is that Jesus always began, “come and follow me.”

Waiting on Spring

The calendar says that we should be a few days into Spring. The weather reports disagree. Snow is on the forecast for the weekend, which has many asking where is Spring.

It has made me think about the disciples of Jesus and the Apostle of Paul who were waiting for the promised return of Jesus. I have read in several books on Paul which suggested that Paul and the other Apostles thought that Jesus’ return was imminent. I wonder at what time they began to grumble and ask when was Jesus returning.



A Thought on the tragedy at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School

The battle rages again. Every time we have a mass shooting in the United States, the ideologues on both sides get into their forts and begin to defend their ideology and take pot shots at the other various ideologies in their forts. Thus, we continue to fail to resolve the issue at hand, the violent use of military style weapons by mentally ill persons against are children and other citizens of the land.

I would argue that until we recognize that this is a complicated issue with disparate elements and tensions, we will can not enter into the necessary dialogue to solve this very real problem. And it will happen again, and again. We need to talk about mental illness, violence in various medias like video games and movies, the availability of weapons built not for hunting or protection, but for inflicting optimized damage to enemy troops, sufficient security at public venues, and most certainly to teach and live a moral law that recognizes the value of human life for every person and community.

I would also argue that those of the Christian community who decry the loss of prayer in our public schools are possibly barking up the wrong tree. I think we should begin with our own homes and hearts. What is the prayer life of your family? For if there is prayer in the heart of all Christians, then it will offset in lack of prayer in any public school or even government building. Prayer is that powerful and wonderful, especially when it is about communion with our God, rather than sticking it to those of other faiths, and non-believers.

So, I stand with the young people of Marjoie Stoneman Douglas High School. We need to leave our forts and the insane defense of ideologies and offer them the solutions they need to be assured they are persons of value to us.

The Day After

On Monday, Christmas Day, we recognized the birth of Jesus. We call this the Incarnation; God became flesh.

Now it’s Wednesday. So what has changed. For those who do not believe probably nothing. For those who are Christian, much has changed. As Christians, we are called to trust a new narrative that this birth announces. The truth of God has been revealed in a historical person of flesh and bone and Spirit. If we trust this as the truth and the reality of our life, our lives should be new and fresh today.

What follows in the life of this child is the unfolding of the fullness of that reality, lived out in plain sight.

The Lies We Tell

Since the Las Vegas tragic shooting, I have frequently heard pro-gun people say, “Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation. Look at the number of gun deaths they suffer from every year.” Reading it, I wondered to myself, since common sense told me that even if Chicago had the toughest gun laws, it was close enough to other areas, like Indiana and Ohio, for those wishing to have a gun could go and acquire a gun with not restrictions.

In my search, I found this article from the The Chicago Times. I think it is far closer to the truth about guns and Chicago than those of the pro-gun lobbies.

The truth is that once Chicago had tough gun restrictions. But the federal government has forced the city and state to gut it’s laws to the point, it is as easy to acquire a gun in the Chicago area as anywhere else. Besides that, Indiana has such weak laws, within an hour, a person can drive to Indiana, buy a gun with no background check, return to Chicago and commit a crime with that gun.

Something to think about.

Lectionary Reflection Matthew 18:15-20

Sometimes, Jesus does not leave us much wiggle room for interpretation. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus speaks to the contentious of the faith, in first-century Palestine, in just about any century that followed, and certainly today. Church, if one wrongs you, then speak directly to them alone, if you are unable to reconcile, then bring one or two with you as witnesses, and if there continues to be no reconciliation, then bring it before the entire body of faith community. If the offender refuses to reconcile, then consider him or her outside the body. Only remember how Jesus treated the Gentile and tax-collectors!

I think John Wesley knocks this one out of the ball park in his sermon “The Cure of Evil-Speaking“:

“Avoid everything in look, gesture, word, and tone of voice, that savors of pride or self-sufficiency. Studiously avoid everything magisterial or dogmatical, everything that looks like arrogance or assuming. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With equal care avoid all appearance of anger; and though you use great plainness of speech, yet let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of any warmth but that of love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill-will, no bitterness or sourness of expression; but use the air and language of sweetness, as well as gentleness, that all may appear to flow from love in the heart. And yet this sweetness need not hinder your speaking in the most serious and solemn manner; as far as may be, in the very words of the oracles of God (for there are none like them,) and as under the eye of Him who is coming to judge the quick and dead.”

Lectionary Reflections – Romans 12:9-21

I suppose it was as frustrating for Paul, as for us today. Paul had the task of not only bringing the word of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, or the pagans; he also had the call of helping them to grow into their new faith. We must never forget when reading Paul, that he wrote his letters to newly-minted Christians. They had not yet developed the character of Christ. They probably did not understand what it was like to have the nature of Christ, or even know how to obtain that character for themselves.

After all, none of them had ever met this Jesus in the flesh. They had not walked with him on the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea. They had not personally witnessed any of the great deeds that the gospel story recorded. And they certainly did not witness the fateful day when Jesus was brutally nailed to the cross. Our witness to the living, resurrected body of Jesus three days later.

They, of course, had experienced the Spirit of Christ released by Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of God, the Father. And they knew that the Spirit having rested on them, had convicted their heart to the separation they had between their Creator due to the sin of selfishness and idol worship that was in their hearts. And they came to know that Jesus died for their forgiveness. That Jesus had died that they would be grafted on to the vine that was Jesus. And that the Spirit that was Jesus would become their Spirit and guide them in their faith, which was not a noun, but was verb. Faith meant that they lived out their daily lives in the character of Christ – that is in faith in the Spirit of Jesus in them. The question was how to obtain that character. As it is today.

So is it a matter of spiritual discipline – or a matter of focusing on the person of Jesus. Or may it be that they are one and the same, or one as the means of achieving the other.