Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-23-14

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Scripture: Exodus 23:12
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

Thought for the Day: Shabath is the Hebrew word we translate as rest. It is also where we find our word, Sabbath. Shabath literally means to cease. Well as of this morning, I am ceasing. My Sabbath rest will be more than a day, and I have a feeling it will be a combination of rest and play, naps and hikes, general goofing off and sightseeing. My prayer for each of us is that we find times of intentional rest, in which the to-do list is of no concern and the alarm clock does not have a voice. With that said, I am taking a two week Sabbath rest from Devotional writing. This will be the single longest break I’ve taken since I started these Daily Devotionals in January of 2008. I look forward to returning, but for now, I’m not going to think about it. Blessings!

Prayer: Give me rest, O Lord, so that I am fully prepared when the opportunity to serve comes my way. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-22-14

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Scripture: Psalm 72:19
Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday morning, I took my car in for a little work. Donna was taking care of another project, so I asked if the car place could take me home. They had a shuttle available, but another woman would be riding along. The shuttle took her home first, but on the way, we were talking about a recent trip she took to Colorado. Near her son’s home, there are some beautiful hiking trails, and she would often ask the neighbors, “Have you ever stopped being amazed?”

Routine and predictability can often numb us just a bit, dulling our awareness to the spectacular, beautiful and awe-inspiring. My favorite poet, Wendell Berry, said that to “treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it.” How often does life shade our perspective, blunting – if not extinguishing – what God has set before us? As you step outside this morning, even if what you see is a rather boring suburban Houston neighborhood, declare to yourself that God’s glory fills the whole earth. And after declaring it, look for it.

Prayer: God, if your glory doesn’t leave me awe-struck this day, I ask that you smack me upside the head with a sign of your beauty. Please! Amen.

 

 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-21-14

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Scripture: Mark 7:32
They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.

Thought for the Day: Who is ‘they’? In Mark’s Gospel, this group of people is unnamed. Yet this ‘they’ brought another human being to Jesus, a man in need of a grace-filled touch. Do you have a ‘they’ in your life? Do you have some folks who are willing to put your needs, when necessary, ahead of their own? I hope so! There will be times in life when we simply are unable to make our way into the presence of Christ on our own. We need community. We need a Holy They who is willing to do what is required to bring us to the One whose touch will change everything.

Prayer: Lord, where I can be a part of the They, make it so. And when I need the They, I pray that you can make it so. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-20-14

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Scripture: Acts 2:17
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

Thought for the Day: On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and those on Earth waited anxiously to watch Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the lunar surface. It is hard to believe that was 45 years ago. As a kid who grew-up in the shadow of that event, I was fascinated by space. It would be eight years after Apollo 11 that we would be traveling to far away galaxies through the medium of film and the imagination of George Lucas.  Star Wars hit the theaters, and seven weeks after its release, I was in the theater to watch it for the first of my eleven times that summer. Those experiences and many to follow would stir my imagination, enticing concealed dreams to spring forth. My life, my reading, my language, my money – it was all fixated on space. I’m glad it has been tamed a bit, but what would it take to stir the imagination of the world today, enticing concealed dreams to step from the shadows and into the light…that is, the imagination and dreams associated with the reign of God’s love. That’s clearly a destination that remains far, far away. But when people begin to live as if the dream has arrived, others are inspired to begin dreaming dreams and seeing visions.

Prayer: Merciful God, present me a clear vision of your kingdom. Let the vision touch my soul, stir my imagination, and entice me to act in such a way as to tangibly portray that vision for others. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-19-14

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Scripture: Isaiah 43:19
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.

Thought for the Day: I referenced Albert Einstein in this coming Sunday’s Sermon Reflections, but in my research, I stumbled across another quote that has been rattling round in my head ever since. Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I know Einstein was not talking about the church, but his words punch the church in the gut. As the church, we are very good at demonstrating over and over again why something will not work, yet with every attempt, we remind people how it worked brilliantly that one time in the spring of 1971. We make those kinds of pronouncements like a guy with a dozen pairs of 1980’s parachute pants in his closet…still holding on with the expectation that parachute pants are making their return any day now. I’ve been known to be wrong, but it’s probably time to pack up the MC Hammer look. The church of today and tomorrow will require the same decision, as painful as it might be for some. We have so many old items tucked into our ecclesiological closet that will not make a come back, yet they are taking up room and keeping us from bringing in the fresh things God is doing. I won’t be naive and suggest this will be easy, but if you and I desire to be participants in what God is and will be doing, then it is time to make a visit to the spiritual resale shop…though don’t be surprised when they don’t want the old stuff either.

Prayer: Give me the courage, Lord, to make room for what you are doing in the world today. What was does not necessarily fit with what is, so assist me as I relinquish those things that keep me from embracing the new thing that is bursting forth from you. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-18-14

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Scripture: Mark 13:7
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.

Thought for the Day: In light of recent events in Israel, Gaza and the Ukraine — along with so many other places of war, injustice and suffering — this scripture from Mark’s Gospel makes a person wonder. Yet it is important to know that a decade hasn’t gone by since those words were penned that tragic and horrific events haven’t left people asking, “Is this the end?” As far as I know, the end has not come. Might I suggest that we read the verse again, doing so in its larger context that speaks of such events as only a hint of the birth pangs that are being felt prior to the genesis of a God-thing. More importantly is the word end, telos in the Greek. It describes the completion of many steps, yet according to the passage, those steps have not been made despite the wars and rumors of wars. This verse is not inviting us to look anxiously to the sky for the end, but to take notice of such events and to recognize how our task is far from complete. Despite many who make a lot of money from their books and DVD’s — despite the many who are encouraging you to remain passive except to order the updated version of their resources — despite many attempts to get us to take our eyes off the task, this passage is saying something very different. It’s a call to faithfulness, to take another step toward the kingdom of God, to act like midwives in the birthing of God’s reign here on earth.

Prayer: God of All Creation, my heart breaks this day for all those who are suffering, grieving and frightened. I believe your heart breaks as well. May the heartache I feel not lead me to the practice of passivity, but to the work of Kingdom-living. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-17-14

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Scripture: Luke 14:26
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

Thought for the Day: A week ago, our Ten Commandments’ Study focused on the Fifth Commandment which says we are to Honor our Mothers and Fathers. Alongside those words, I referenced the above words from Jesus who seems to indicate that if we are to follow him, we must hate our fathers and mothers and others as well. I have always found these words troubling and shocking, but the response in the class and outside the class was fascinating. I was told I should just ignore the passage from Luke because it opposes the Ten Commandments. I had someone else suggest that I mistyped the passage when I put it into our study sheet. Ignoring it would have been a nice option, and thinking it might have been a misprint would have made my life much easier. Neither one of those is the case, and for that reason, we cannot be afraid of any scripture…especially those we do not like.

Now my theory is that Jesus enjoyed shocking his audience, and in the same way that we will occasionally state the absurd to make our point, Jesus might have been doing the same. As much as it may sound like Jesus was undermining the Fifth Commandment, let us look at another possibility… that maybe, just maybe, our love of parents, brothers and sisters, children and spouse, should be absolutely unquestionable, unless this love keeps us from following Jesus. Then, we should hate the relationship that keeps us from loving Jesus, follow him fully, and then discover anew our ability to love the others while loving Jesus as well. It’s just one theory, but struggling and questioning is much better than ignoring or dismissing.

Prayer: Merciful and Grace-filled God, when faith or scripture does not fit my preconceived ideas of what it should be, give me the courage to seek understanding even if it is uncomfortable. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-16-14

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Scripture: Colossians 3:12
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Thought for the Day: Rev. Robert Fugarino, a Timothy of Cypress Creek Christian Church, made an interesting comment in response to a quote from Richard Rohr who wrote, “The Lord comes to us disguised as ourselves.” Robert’s comment was that in the movie, The Prince of Egypt (the animated movie depicting the Exodus Story) the actor Val Kilmer played the voices of both Moses and God. I chuckled at first as I had not realized that to be true, but it is…and to think about how the voices of the faithful have often been the means by which the voice of God has been communicated. When we are invited to clothe ourselves with Christ, we often think about the personal implications of Christ coming over us, but do we think about how we who have been clothed by Christ are experienced by others. Not in some arrogant way, but our choice to take the name of Christ (Christian) and to allow the Spirit to clothe us in the likeness of Christ, is to suggest that our lives and voices and actions just might be the only glimpse others have of the divine. That’s not to suggest that we are God, but God is pretty creative when it comes to finding ways of demonstrating the divine nature to the world.

Prayer: Clothe me in all that is you, God, and maybe I can assist in bringing others into a fuller experience of you and your marvelous gifts. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-15-14

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Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 10:15 (the Message)
We’re not barging in on the rightful work of others, interfering with their ministries, demanding a place in the sun with them. What we’re hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you’ll play a part within our expanding work.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday, I dropped off my son at church camp. He joined three other young people from Cypress Creek Christian Church at the Disciples of Christ camp ground near Gonzalez, Texas. I must confess the amazing memories I have of church camp from when I was a young person, but it is always important that a father not attempt to impose his experiences upon his child. With that said, I pray that Zach will grow in his faith and experience a richer relationship with the living God. This will happen, not only for him, but for all the young people because there are volunteer counselors and other camp staff who give graciously of their time and skills to make it happen. We are not only helping form young Christians, but we are helping to build the structure of tomorrow’s church. Church camp is not the only means for creating a strong church, but it is one of the most effective…one that is getting lost among the many other summer activities. For the sake of the church and its future leadership, let’s do what we can to make sure as many young people have an experience at the camp ground near Gonzalez or wherever they live.

Prayer: We give you thanks, Lord, for all those who have given of themselves to shape the lives of young people in the church camp experience. May your spirit dwell more deeply within the hearts of children and youth who spend time meeting with you in the great outdoors. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-14-14

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Scripture: Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.

Thought for the Day: I was reading an article a couple years back about a Christian man from Eastern Congo who has helped to create a University where more than 800 students now attend. It is located not far from where most of the violence was taking place in that country.  He was asked if there was anything that discouraged him, and though he talked about the violence and the young children who have been forced into military service, he explained that nothing caused his spirit to be disheartened.  He remained hopeful.  I read that story and I wonder why I am so easily discouraged over petty and insignificant things.  Let us gain strength from the great examples of hopefulness in the midst of difficulty and tragedy.

Prayer: Mighty Counselor, introduce me to faithful men and women whose stories will inspire and challenge my life.  Amen.

 

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