…many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:1-14 After all it was last minute! Nevertheless, to be called to a wedding feast is a privilege and a blessing, definitely something to be excited about. While it’s easy to spend time on the gentleman who was thrown out, I think the parable is more about God’s desire to be in relationship with his people and the wedding feast symbolizes his everlasting commitment to that relationship. One might say that the first group got the formal written invitation while the second group just got a phone call. It doesn’t matter. The one who has hope in such a blessing will always be prepared to go.
How often do we look back on the “days of old” and wish for certain aspects of our lives to be possible again? When Joseph and Mary, after a days journey found there son not among the group returning to Nazareth, any parent could imagine the overwhelming fear of having a lost child not realizing that his destiny was beginning to come into fruition. Having been told the prophecy on his life, surely not at such a young age would they have to accept that his childhood would be forever changed? I know for myself I loved the infancy stage of my children’s life. However, what is most rewarding for me is seeing the flashes of maturity, as they get older until they reach the fullest manifestation of God’s purpose in their lives. At birth, Joseph and Mary knew that Jesus was, is, and would be today the fullest manifestation of God’s purpose. Yet my guess is, Joseph and Mary weren’t ready and would have thoroughly enjoyed the occasional flashes of maturity. They wanted their little boy along side with them as long as possible. The question for us today is now that we know, are we ready for his return within us? Are we rising or falling on his every word? Can the childhood days of old really compare to the promise of reward in the life of the risen Christ?
No longer do we need to take things at face value. Face value is based on “what you see is what you get.” Faith value is so much more. It is belief in what you don’t see but know that God is working it out in your favor. It’s not enough just to hope for something. We must also believe and work towards that belief. Who works towards some “thing” they don’t believe in? Further, what we must believe is God’s ability and purpose and not the “thing” itself. For example, I may not like the situation that I am in, but I must believe that God’s ability and purpose is preparing me for the situation that I want to be in. In other words there is something about the situation that I am in that I need to learn so that when I reach the situation that I hope for, I will be fully prepared to receive it. Face value simply says that it’s an unfavorable situation. Faith value says that we believe it is an opportunity for growth because no matter what the situation we know that God is faithful.
Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. For us, Baptism is the sacrament by which one is initiated into the Christian faith. It is the rite of the church that symbolizes the washing away of the old self, behaviors and beliefs, and the beginning of a life in Christ as a new creation. Many of us (including myself) who have taken this crucial step in our journey find that the old self isn’t necessarily washed away like the dirt from our clothes in a washing machine. It’s more like a process by which we learn what behaviors are self-destructive and which ones help us to live into Christ’s baptism, according to God’s Word. The process isn’t perfect nor is it full proof. Some days we find our selves putting on the old self, kind of like putting on dirty clothes, which of course has nothing to do with what is in our heart. It just means that others aren’t able to see the “new” you; the Christ, that God intended people to see. The rite itself is just the beginning. It is the first day we begin to understand the need to separate our selves from the darkness that is in the world. It is in fact a daily process that involves the entire community of faith and not merely a one-time miracle event. It may help to remember something my maternal grandmother once told me. If you wash your underwear out every night you always have a clean pair. Is baptism necessary? For me both figuratively and literally I say unequivocally yes.
Merry Christmas! I know for myself that allowing God time isn’t the easiest thing for me to do, but when I put God first, time is always on my side! God’s word reveals that waiting on the Lord assures us of some kind of reward, whether it is an answer to a problem, strength for our journey, or the jackpot of wisdom in all circumstances. Each of us has our own truth that we don’t always fully perceive in one another. God alone knows all truths and has to work that truth out in each of us. Every day, as we relate to one another we have to allow God time to work in us while he is also working in other people. Eventually, “the Bridegroom will come,” and in the meantime, when he does, always be prepared to move forward and be blessed in the process. Let the Christmas Spirit of faith, hope and love reign!
No doubt, we grow tired from waiting. We grow anxious. If something takes too long we get worried. We begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, the “something” that we’re waiting for is not going to happen, even when we are assured that it will. We all have experienced events that didn’t happen within the time we expected and while we were waiting all kinds of interference took place. Today I am remembering the story of Jesus falling asleep in the boat while he and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). When Jesus became tired he took the time he needed to rest. Even as they were waiting to get across the sea through a storm, Jesus slept. We often forget that physical rest is very important in this journey. We know that one day a year we celebrate Christ’s birth. One day a year we commemorate his death and one day a year we rejoice his resurrection. Throughout the rest of the year we are awaiting his coming in Glory. Amidst the pushing and the shoving, the constant attacks and distractions and the rising and calming of storms, our preparation for the coming of Christ will need to include some rest! If we have an intimate relationship with Christ, the peace of God within us is the faith and confidence we have to take the rest we need as we wait, even in the midst of those storms. When the bridegroom comes, will we be ready?
Matthew 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise…As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.
Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion..
A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:1-11). It’s been my experience that there are times when I am crying out from a place of wilderness but the only person(s) hearing my voice is another person in the wilderness. For the past week I’ve been on a boat ride, well actually a cruise. In the middle of that cruise, as I sat gazing at water while the passenger were busy milling around, for a moment I wondered what if the boat didn’t make it. Would I find myself in wilderness or in peace? To my pleasure, the answer came rather quickly. He said, “Be prepared to look for the peace in the wilderness.”
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A Note of Thanks!
It’s wonderful to be back! For the past week I had a much needed vacation. I hope the short messages of encouragement I wrote before leaving helped give some bread for thought. It’s been a rather long year but the journey was well worth it. God is faithful and I am looking forward to somehow enhancing Crustybread as the year turns. This is an early Thank you to all my followers and God bless each of you. If you have some ideas I would love to hear them. Until tomorrow, continue to be blessed.
Let’s face it. There are times when we have to say no. We can’t say yes to everything. There is a limit to our ability to accommodate one another. It usually comes when there is a last minute request, or your own life or the life of your loved ones is jeopardized. Saying no does not mean we don’t care. We say no to our children and sometimes God says no to us. Never once do we stop caring for our children and never once does God stop caring for us. The kingdom parable about the wise and foolish bridesmaids (Matt. 25:1-13) helps us to understand that there are times when we have to say no. On any ordinary day we generally have plenty of time to help someone in need, but when requests are made at the last minute, often it’s just not possible to do. At the last hour we can hope that someone will be able to help us, but only God makes it possible for us to receive what we have not prepared for (grace). The wise bridesmaids are not called wise because they said no, but rather because they were prepared, they remembered to bring extra oil. Although wisdom may come with age, it mostly comes with discipline, experience and how quickly we learn from our mistakes. We too have to plant the seed of self-discipline. If we don’t discipline our selves to be prepared (keeping awake), neither will we remember to bring the oil.
Matthew 25: 1-13 The kingdom of heaven will be like this… The foolish said to the wise “Give us some of our oil…” But the wise replied, “No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
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.