Church Folk

Who do people say that I am?  I’ve often heard people say; “I’m Spiritual but I don’t go to church,” or “ She goes to church but she’s not very spiritual.” It would seem a natural relationship, a mutual magnetism of the physical and the mystical. Yet, I am finding that for many they are mutually exclusive, or at least they are treated as such. Spirituality and the Church in many instances is confusing. It’s so much easier to feel, see or smell, and accept that these things are the presence of God. While these things draw people toward that spiritual knowledge, that knowledge is not always grasped and claimed as ones’ own. Instead they would rather cling to the tiffany window, the sterling silver communion service or the third row pew on the far right side. Then there are the ministries; the music, the ushering and the reading of the lessons to name a few. Many have said that participating in these ministries has some spiritual affect of being just a little bit closer to that higher power. Yet when I ask about anything outside of the church that brings them a bit closer they always seem to struggle. Why does the church provide such comfort, but as “church folk”, our home, work or other environment not have the same affect?

Mark 8:27-9:1

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Centering Prayer

Saturday’s Meditation: Last Sunday after Epiphany

Proverbs 8:32-36

‘And now, my children, listen to me:
   happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
   and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
   watching daily at my gates,
   waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
   and obtains favour from the Lord…

The Best We Can

…everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 1 John 5:1-12  I remember the time I felt courageous enough to share with my mother how I felt as I was growing up and her part in making me feel the way I did. I had recently graduated from college and working at my father’s business. I’m not exactly sure why it seemed the right time but I just needed her to know. It wasn’t pretty. She was gracious enough to listen to everything I said without interruption. After a moment of silence, she simply stated, “I did the best that I could.” If I had thought that I wasn’t her favorite daughter before, I certainly didn’t win any browny points that day. Although I had no way of knowing how much of life was ahead of me because of her, I immediately realized my mother’s perfect love up to and including that moment; how much life I had actually lived because of her. Coming from very humble beginnings herself, she had a college graduate as proof. She had done the best she could. It took me a while to forgive myself for being so cruel that day. In spite of my “audacity of the self”, she never held it over me. So much more is God’s perfect love deep enough  to forgive things we think are unforgivable and not hold our selfish feelings against us. Each of us in our journey towards love through Christ must do the best we can.

Perfect Love

…perfect love casts out fear… 1 John 4:7-21  Truly, who among us can perfectly love? Who among us walks without the occasion of some doubt? Who among us occasionally reconsiders decisions to be made or regrets decisions already fulfilled? As much as we strive towards this perfection it is not ours to perfectly attain. Try as we might there is always some wonder if we’ve done the right things or if we are moving in the right direction. How is the fear ever removed? If we could live with perfect love – would not the world be a perfect place? We have to settle for striving for perfection and recognize that we will make mistakes. When we make mistakes we must learn to forgive ourselves. Christ, the perfect love of the Father, understands this about us. Himself, called to the people of Israel, time and again stepped out of his own box to which he was called, to heal, bless and forgive those who brought their faith before him. So too we are called to love, knowing that what ever our dreams, desires, frustrations or fears, God’s perfect Love for his creation encourages us to continue striving towards him in spite of our imperfectness and because of our faith in him.

Image Credit: Kerry Shook; worshiphousemedia.com

Never Alone

“Lord if you had been here…” John 11:17-29  I remember the last night I spent with my mother in the hospital. I didn’t really want to go but I was scheduled to preach and I only had one day to write a sermon. I waited as long as I could, leaving my mother’s care to the evening nurse who assured me she would call if anything changed, and acquiesced knowing that my sister would be returning first thing in the morning . Exhausted, I took my time getting home taking an hour and forty five minutes as opposed to the usual hour and a half. No sooner had I walked into the house and sat down on the nearest chair, my cell phone rang. Along with my brother and sister we never left her alone. We spent evenings, nights and weekends making sure she knew that we weren’t going to leave her side. When we weren’t there one of her sisters was there to give us some time to do the things we needed to do in our our own personal lives. This went on for weeks. I hadn’t thought of what would happen when no one from the family was able to be with her. I only knew that I wanted to be there if she passed away. As time would have it she died while a stranger was in the room. Had I remained with her would she have lived another day? Jesus loved Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. His ministry didn’t allow him to physically be with them 24 hours a day. He assures the Martha that her faith in Him makes the difference. So it is with each of us who believes in the presence of the Spirit of God. Even in death, we are never alone.

Centering Prayer

Saturday’s Meditation: Eve of 7 Epiphany

Psalm 19

The law of the Lord is perfect,
   reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
   making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
   rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
   enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
   enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
   and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
   even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
   and drippings of the honeycomb. 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
   be acceptable to you,
   O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

Our Challenge

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you…   Matthew 16:13-20  The closer we are to one another the more opportunities we have to reveal ourselves. As I matured in life, I got ever closer to my mother. The time that we spent with each other revealed more about her that made me love her more and more. When she died, the voices of others who knew her revealed even more. Some of that revelation from her childhood wasn’t so appealing. It didn’t matter. I had become close enough to her to know that from the very beginning of my life, she was all that I needed her to be. To this day I carry the strength of her life with me. It can be challenging when we believe those closest to us to be something that others see differently from another perspective. As the relationship between Jesus and his disciples get closer he asks them; “Who do you say that I am?” I believe our challenge is to get close enough to know who he is for ourselves and prayerfully in the relationship the closer we get to the Word of God, graciously more will be revealed.