Sweet Things

The bee is small among flying creatures, but what it produces is the best of sweet things. (Sirach 11:2-20)  Some are allergic to bees. However, for those of us who are not, it seems unfortunate that to encounter a “bee” causes us only to think about being stung. Unlike honey bees or other animals, humans aren’t born with those kinds of defense mechanisms. We create or develop them on our own.

Lord God, help us not to judge, examine or criticize merely by what we see or hear. Help us to truly seek out the sweetness that is produced in all of life. Help us also to stand firm by our faith in you and in all that you have allowed us to be for your purpose, in order that we may find rest even in the presence of a bee.

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Who Am I?

Judge not, lest you be judged.  Matthew 7:1-12  We often see judgment as negative thing, when in reality it is simply an opinion or conclusion about something or someone. We make judgments all the time. Unfortunately, we sometimes make judgments without full consideration and knowledge of a situation. I was recently asked to participate in a group that is charged with assisting the discernment of individuals who believe they are called to ordained ministry. My initial response to the invitation was “Who am I?” I was concerned that I might play some part in “weeding out.” I began to think about my own process and experiences that lead to my own ordination and subsequently to where I am today. What initially was a scary thought I now see as a gift. Every day we sit at a table of discernment or judgment, primarily for our selves. God has given us a brain, a heart and some “art” (preaching, teaching, mending, etc.) to use for the encouragement of every good work of the Gospel. In our own discernment and judgment, our practice should be to listen to the voice of God, the Spirit of Christ. On the occasion that we are called to overtly discern or judge someone or something other than our selves our first response will be to remember that “God has so graciously heard my voice. Who am I not to listen?”

Controversy

If I am not doing the works… then do not believe me…  John 10:31-42  What would the Olympics be without some controversy? The Russian skater performs a slightly more technical program but flawed. The South Korean skater performs a slightly less technical program but is perfect. Although judging in figure skating has gone through some changes over the years, there are still times when disparities occur and judging is unclear to the viewer. As viewers we see the works. Our eyes see perfection and we think surely that person belongs on top. We see imperfection and nothing else the person does seems to matter. Though we are held accountable for wrongdoing, the human factor in judging is what makes the difference. Praise God that from a spiritual perspective, God’s relationship with us is not held by human factors! Thank God that we are judged by our heart, the faith within and the love we express for God and one another. These are the works we must continually put forth with confidence knowing that God sees past not only the imperfection but the mistakes and shortcomings as well, even when no one else can. Eventually we learn to focus on the works pleasing to God rather than the works that please other people.

But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works…

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Faithful Cries

a Canaanite woman…came out shouting… but he did not answer at all…  Matthew 15:21-28  After a long night, I awoke to rare early morning barking, but payed no attention. Apparently, my Italian Greyhound needed to go out, but it was 6am! By the time I came down it was clear that indeed his barking was an emergency cry. The mess he created left me frustrated as I had far more important things to do that day than clean up his mess. Today, Jesus focused no his ministry, ignores the cries of a Canaanite woman, and his disciples, for their own reasons, implore him to send her away. To be clear, me ignoring my dog isn’t anything like Christ ignoring the Canaanite woman. My reason for ignoring Orpheus is more like the disciples – selfish and self serving. He was bothering me and interrupting my rest. Although it was the will of God that caused Jesus to keep his focus, in no way could he keep ignoring her. To do so, I believe would support the disciples insensitivity. At the very least Jesus must acknowledge her and make clear his mission. For that, God makes clear his mission. Even the faithful cries of the broken, marginalized and the forgotten are heard by Him and are healed.

Breath Of Favor

mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:1-13  …for there is no one who does not sin 2 Chronicles 6:32-7:7 Of the things that please God, mercy is high on the list. Mercy has been defined as something we give to one who clearly does not deserve it. Yet God gives mercy everyday and we accept it, sometimes without graciousness and he in turn continues to be merciful. At times it seems the doses of mercy are quite small but when you think about it, it’s always just enough to bring us into the next day. The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

Straight Talk

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ 10:19-42  Maya Angelou said that people will forget what you did but never forget how you made them feel. This can go both ways. Judging by the desire to stone Jesus, the Jews in this passage felt angry. It is very difficult to accept a truth about yourself that is unflattering and negatively judgmental. Criticism is sometimes used as a defense mechanism when people want to protect something about themselves. Although his words (scripture) were true, it didn’t change their minds about Jesus and it did not change their mind about who they believed themselves to be. Suffice it to say, the criticism and anger was not about Jesus as much as it was about them not wanting to accept straight talk concerning the scripture and life. No body likes to be criticized or judged negatively, but as we follow Christ, the Word of God should not only be our strength but our examiner as well.

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ John 10:19-42

Councils

Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to be his teacher or counselor? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good or what is best? No, for all the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him…. Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God — the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to him like grasshoppers! He is the one who spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. Isaiah 4:12-23

reconciliation1I had some very interesting experiences this weekend and as I begin this week of my journey in Christ, this message from the Prophet Isaiah stood out for me as part of todays lectionary readings. When we find ourselves with those who think they are the smartest persons in the room this passage speaks loud and clear – remembering that we all are but dust and unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain (Psalm 127). From company meetings to general conventions, I suppose sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. However, for the believer, through Christ reconciliation is always at hand we must remember that it begins within us and makes its ascent upwards and then the process of grace, mercy, healing and growth begins to  re-shape.

 

Neighbors

“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” ...‘Go and do likewise.’ Luke 10:25-37  The lawyer in this passage of Luke thought he was being rather smart by asking Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” However, his question reveals that what he was asking, is about who is to be the neighbor that he should love. It’s one of those kinds of questions that has the potential to separate and divide the haves and have-nots, the righteous and sinners; if we allow our sense of who we are, to be defined by the world’s standards rather than by God.  I like the way Jesus addresses the question with a question after first telling a parable about four men. Jesus challenges the lawyer to identify himself in the parable. Of course the lawyer would not see himself beaten at the side of the road. How many of us would? He could however see himself as the Priest or the Levite. That is until he realizes that both in the story show more folly than compassion as would be expected from a Priest or Levite. At the very least, Jesus’ question briefly forces the lawyer to identify with the Samaritan (considered to be “unclean”). The parable helps the lawyer and us to understand simply, that the one who acts is the neighbor. At all times, each of us is to be the neighbor because in Christ it’s who we are. A scripture from Ecclesiastes 10:1-18  …folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place, really begins to take shape in times of need. We don’t always have the luxury of determining who will help us. Perhaps one day we may find our selves “fallen at the hands of robbers.” Which of the three would we want to pass by? Is it not the one who acts on our behalf?

Matthew 7:1-2  “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

Love And Judgment

Do you see this woman? …she has shown great love. But to the one whom little is forgiven, loves little. Luke 7:36-50

I had an Aunt once tell me that sometimes it is very difficult to watch our children make destructive decisions particularly after you’ve given them solid advice to which they refuse to listen. Essentially they go their own way. What’s a parent to do except to love them more. It was the most profound advise I’d heard and desperately needed to hear since my mother died in 2005.

This morning I read this passage from Luke with a far different perspective than in the past. I realize that we often spend far too much effort judging ourselves and one another. The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures were highly regarded and the Pharisees assumed Jesus didn’t know that the woman who had bathed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair was a “sinner”. But the woman’s consciousness of her sin impressed Jesus to love her more rather than push her away. This is the message Christ gave two thousand plus years ago. It is the message my aunt gave to me nearly a year ago – and it is this enduring message of love that we must hear today and to which we must learn to respond to the “sinner” in each of us. Thank you Aunt Bernice who never pushed anybody away and all Glory be to God who continues to love us in spite of our “righteous” selves.

Luke 7:36-50 Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 

Micah 3:5  Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths. 

Acts 24:1-23  “Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience towards God and all people.”

 

Rebuilding God’s Temple

Friday:

My momma always said, “Life was like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Forrest Gump 1994 Let’s face it chocolate is delectable, and delightfully pleasing until you bite into one and find something inside you could care less for. Some of you may be different but if I don’t like what’s inside I won’t eat it. If it’s bad enough I look for something to drink behind it to get the taste out of my mouth. I know it’s a bit extreme but its only candy right? What about the beautiful homes or buildings we go in to only to find that the toilets are dirty. Do you use the bathroom or wait until you get home or some other place where you feel more comfortable? In terms of one another, physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thankfully, in God’s eye we are all beautiful and God couldn’t be more pleased when we take the time to care for ourselves and the things God has blessed us with. Again, in terms of relationship with each other and things, are we not disappointed when we unwrap the gift and don’t like what we find inside? I believe that when we neglect the gift of the spirit force that God has placed within us God becomes very disappointed and he will spit us out or simply stop using us altogether. Funny thing though, whenever I sit down with the same box of chocolates I work hard to remember the chocolates I enjoyed and I don’t always remember which one had the filling I despised. Moreover, a dirty toilet doesn’t always keep me from returning to a place I thought was overall a very nice place to visit. I just hope that the bathroom is clean. The good news is that when we care for the good of the spirit within (confess, repent, reconcile and forgive), God forgets our past experiences and will always give us another chance to be everything plus more of what He always intended us to be.

Haggai 1:1-15 These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?… Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.

Matthew 23:27-39 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.

Psalm 31 Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am driven far from your sight.’ But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.