And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Acts 2:1-21 Music is both a native and universal language. I’m a music lover from a very early age. I’ve always appreciated the creativity of the art. I’d listen for the bassoon in a Motown tune or the triangle in a classical piece. I was always intrigued by the composer’s use of instruments in places you didn’t expect to hear them. Of particular influence in my young life was Sergei Prokofiev’s musical composition to the tale of “Peter and the Wolf” which helped me understand that instruments have the ability to tell stories which reflect the spectrum of emotions from joy to pain and everything in between. So at the early age of six, I new I wanted to play an instrument. The story of the Gospel is like music to me. I don’t just hear the joys and the pains of Christ’s experience, I share in them. But the language I hear, which holds up all of these emotions and allows me to endure, is the native and yet universal language of God’s love.
As for you, always be sober (not drunk, serious, sensible, solemn), endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:5-13
Since I can remember, for a long time, I’ve been guided by my emotions. In some situations it’s been very good and in others very destructive. It is quite possible I believe, to be drunk with strong feelings, to respond emotionally in ways that either create change on one hand and/or chaos on the other. The solemnity of our faith is not to be without emotion but rather to be able to distinguish the influence our emotions can have in creating that change and/or chaos. Various groups have adopted the serenity prayer in modified versions. I think today’s scripture warrants our attention to this original and untitled serenity prayer attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943.
- God, give me grace to accept with serenity
- the things that cannot be changed,
- Courage to change the things
- which should be changed,
- and the Wisdom to distinguish
- the one from the other.
- Living one day at a time,
- Enjoying one moment at a time,
- Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
- Taking, as Jesus did,
- This sinful world as it is,
- Not as I would have it,
- Trusting that You will make all things right,
- If I surrender to Your will,
- So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
- And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Weeping may linger for a night, but joy comes in the morning. The Apostle Paul called it a better hope; a better covenant. No longer do we need to depend on the fallible. Through Christ, we have the infallible, never failing, absolute love. Praise God and enter into his harvest!
Do you think that if Jesus told a parable when he entered his Father’s House, and found the Temple being used as a market place, he would have been just as effective in cleansing out the violators? What sermon could have been given to the flesh of the earth to keep God from flooding it and destroying them, save for the family of one righteous man? How many times do we have to reason with our own children before concluding that they just don’t get it? Most times, the authorities in the Temple didn’t understand the parables. Noah in his time, was apparently the only one actually listening for God, and let’s face it studies show that youth today generally don’t access their fullest capacity for thought until they are around the age of 25. Sometimes the only thing that works is immediate action. I suppose you could call it “tough love” even though in my own experience the only one it seems to affect initially at the time is the one taking the action. That surely includes me, and my blunders in life. We are fortunate to have Good News in all of this. If we can be frustrated with our own children, God must certainly get frustrated with us. Are we always listening? Are we always doing the right thing? Have we really thought it all through? God will always remember who we are but will also take action in our lives when he wants to get our attention. After all, who enjoys frustration? In the end is it not our goal and His, to enter in to God’s peaceable kingdom and not his wrath?
Sometimes when we have strong feelings about what’s going on in our life, we like to presume that God feels the way we do. Clearly the prophet Isaiah (55:8-9) tells us that it isn’t so. When we are feeling angry God loves. When we are feeling frustrated God loves. When we are feeling disappointed, burdened, defeated or ashamed, God loves. If we can remember only one thing about who we think God is, we should always remember that God’s love for us does not change. If all we have is hope, then we do well to put our hope in the knowledge that God’s love is perfect (1John 4:18), endures forever (Psalm 136) and does not change (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). We are often reminded that God’s love is greater than our fear. How much more of his love will we experience in abundance when we realize and accept that God’s love is also greater than our joy. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice (Philippians 4:4)!
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Psalm 139:21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
Many of my classmates in high school watched soap operas. Since I didn’t watch, I was never able to be a part of the lunchtime conversation. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I decided to begin watching soap operas and one week passed before I became incredibly depressed. It wasn’t long before I realized that it was the drama from the soap operas. Today I make a conscious decision not to watch. The continuous backstabbing, jealously, prejudice, vengeance, never seemed to bother my classmates and that’s okay, but for me, joy from watching misery to others simply felt like hatred in disguise. I wish that I could say that I am as loathed by those of whom the Psalmist speaks concerning hate, but sadly I would have to loathe myself for some of my own past actions, which were clearly against God’s purpose. Instead I simply try to do what is right, which I think most people try to do. I returned to school in September satisfied that I did not need to be a part of that lunch conversation. If we are created in God’s image, every time we rise against one another we rise against God even in a soap opera. Besides, for me at least, real life drama has enough issues of its own.
2 Kings 5:1-27 Gehazi thought, “My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered…. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.”
Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s jealousy or resentment of God’s graciousness in your life? I have come to understand that, it’s not me of whom they are resentful. It’s God. All that I have, I attribute to God’s presence. He’s the one with the authority to make things happen. They are just taking it out on me because they have no offense with God. When Jesus was raising the dead, healing the afflicted and forgiving sins, are these not all things attributed to God? Yet Pharisees and scribes resented him because of his spirit of mercy and grace. The story of Naaman and Gehazi in 2 Kings proves God’s mercy and grace to those who don’t even know him. Why do we insist on begrudging God’s generosity?
Heavenly God, Jehovah-Jireh, we give praise to you, for you are a gracious provider even to those who are unaware of your authority, and we give thanks to you, for we know that in your provisions, you have not forgotten those who call you by name.
Romans 8:31-34 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Romans 9:14-18 For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’
1Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
When Pharisees wanted to “justify” themselves, they would ask Jesus questions like “Who is my neighbor?” Seeing that they are experts in the law these kinds of questions should be a “no-brainer”. Rather than answer directly, Jesus instead tells them a story. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) seemed appropriate for this one, so upon finishing the teaching moment, Jesus asks; “Who among the characters in the story was the neighbor?” Now the Samaritans were hardly neighbors to Jewish people in the contemporary understanding of the word. Although distantly related (descendents of the ancient Kingdom of Northern Israel), they were religious rivals. Yet Christ uses a Samaritan not only as an example of compassion, but also as an example of gratitude (Luke 17:16). Samaritans today (still religious rivals) believe themselves to be the “true children” of Israel. By adoption, as Christians today, we too believe our selves to be “true children” of Israel. The question I ask myself is, without love, kindness, patience and desire to understand, how will anybody know who any of us are? In memory of 911, I believe every nation has to be prepared to respond to purposely human created tragedies and yet, at the same time, every day give thanks to God for not having to do so, but when we do, how we respond will make all the difference in the world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Matthew 18:21-35 Peter came and said to him,…“How often should I forgive?”
Proverbs 25:11-28 If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads…
Romans 12:9-21 …leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Who remembers the days before a tragedy? I once met a gentleman who when he had hit rock-bottom in his life used to ask the question, “Why me?” But as he fought to get back on track and began to look back on the events in his life he began to ask the question, “Why not me?” A play (art imitating life) that depicts a tragic downfall of the main character, and often characterized by a series of events connected by dysfunctional relationships is called a tragedy. The tragic part is that the main character rarely sees the downfall or tragic event coming. All of the events leading up to the downfall are in place but they are either ignored, disregarded or go unrecognized. Only in hindsight when the events are pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, does the tragic event force the remaining characters (and the audience) to perhaps rethink, re-establish or reconsider their lives. The truth of the matter is tragedies happen in real life, both in the physical (natural) world and in the world of emotions. Days, weeks, months or perhaps even years of circumstances occur before a devastating event takes us by surprise. It happens to all of us individually. It even happens to nations. From lost pension plans to suicide-murders, civil riots to massive bomb attacks we can’t help but ask the question “Why?” because we arrogantly never considered the possibility “Why not us?” Ten years after the 9-11 attacks we know a little more about the days, weeks, months leading up to one of this countries’ largest tragedies. Most of us don’t know what we were doing in the days before. But today let’s take some time to rethink, re-establish and reconsider what we’ve been doing in these days, weeks and years before tomorrow’s remembrance of the 9-11 attacks. While the event will always be a tragedy remembered, hopefully it will also be a tragedy never repeated. Lord in your mercy; hear our prayer.
Romans 12:8 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Luke 21:34-36 Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.
Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…, They are like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper (Psalm 1). The beginning of this first Psalm really sets the foundation of our lives. Every day you have a choice to make. Choose to be happy. Make the good choices and enjoy the fluffy crumb.