Ecclesiological Etchings:07-21-17

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Scripture: Hebrews 4:12
…the word of God is living and active…

Thought for the Day: Christianity has taken a singular focus on the words of scripture at the expense of the word of God that took on flesh. Let me be clear – the scriptures are central to my faith, but the word that is referenced in scripture is not a book. It is an expression of God through which life came into being. This word is revealed in scripture, but cannot be contained on the pages of a book. Today, allow for the word of God that is living and active to shape your life toward the life embodied in the word that took on flesh.

Prayer: Life-giving God, speak through the words of scripture and allow us to glimpse your word that is actively moving among us in this moment. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-20-17

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Scripture: Matthew 22:2
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son.

Thought for the Day: Rev. Dr. Mike Graves is one of the best preachers I have ever heard. He still holds two of my top five sermons ever. He is currently working at a church in the Kansas City area and teaching preaching classes. In a recent newsletter article, Mike wrote:

Every Sunday morning the preacher of the day dares to set a story from the Scriptures next to the time a dear uncle was hospitalized or tasting some amazing ice cream recently. Preachers set everyday stories next to the ones in the Bible, and no one bats an eye. That’s because properly understood, there is no distinction between sacred and secular. Well, there is nowadays, but that’s a modern construction. Our ancestors in the faith considered pretty much everything sacred because God’s creation is good, a doctrine backed up with Jesus becoming flesh.

Now I do not believe Mike is suggesting we should be cavalier about comparisons that are made, but even Jesus made extraordinary connections between the Kingdom of God and some of the most common experiences in life. Not only did he create a window through which we glimpsed the character of God’s Reign, but he also challenged us to be aware of how our daily experiences contain hints of the eternal.

Prayer: Merciful God, may the scriptures teach us to look for your revelation that never ceases. Amen.



 


 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-19-17

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Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Thought for the Day: Barton W. Stone, one of the founders of our denomination, suggested that Jesus’s “apostles were forbidden to leave Jerusalem and preach the Gospel till they had receive the Holy Spirit of promise, endured with power from on high… The Lord will have no servants in his Church without this qualification.” He concluded his thoughts by asking how exactly can a person without the Spirit minister to others? I believe many people would echo Stone’s observation, but what exactly does it mean to receive or have the Spirit? The scriptures are strangely silent on this subject, or at least the scriptures lack specifics. Of course, the scriptures are more interested in the outcome of those who have the Spirit. As Paul describes the Spirit, he describes it in terms of the fruit it produces within us. Like Stone, many within the Restoration movement of the early 1800’s, believed the Spirit within us had an impact upon those around us. They all seemed less concerned about the Spirit’s influence upon one’s own life and more interested in what the Spirit dwelling within self means for others.

Prayer: Dwell within me, O Spirit of the Living God. Dwell within me; change my heart where you see needed change; make my roots run deep within your grace; allow for my spirit-filled life to produce the gifts needed for this world. Amen.

 

SEE YOU SUNDAY

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-18-17

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Scripture: Proverbs 31:8-9
Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable. Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.

Thought for the Day: On this day in 64AD, Rome experienced what is often called the Great Fire. There are theories to what caused this devastating fire, including that the Emperor Nero intentionally set it to make room for a self-serving expansion. No matter the actual cause, the blame was put upon the Christians and this started the first systematic persecution of Christians. Human beings have an inherent flaw that seeks to blame others for the problems of life. Often it is used to direct people’s attention to one group so that the real source of suffering and brokenness is ignored. Throughout history, it is the poor and weak who become the scapegoats. For Nero, it was easy to distract the attention of the people and create a mob-mentality against the followers of Jesus. Christians had no power or authority, and so their denials were easily ignored. In today’s world, things have not changed. For that reason, I am skeptical when someone blames a group within society that is powerless. Most often it is a smokescreen that hopes to have society ignoring the greed or abuse perpetrated by those pointing their fingers at the powerless.

Prayer: Give me eyes to see and a voice to speak, O Righteous and Just God. Allow me to perceive behind the smokescreen. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-17-17

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Scripture: Leviticus 19:34
Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.

Thought for the Day: As I reflect back on our denomination’s General Assembly and the installation of our new General Minister and President, the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, I share with you these words from her sermon on the last evening:

We do not have the authority,
standing or even knowledge
to say: you are in and you are out.

Rev. Owens and these words from Leviticus stir and provoke our spirits. No matter who we are or what title sits before our name, we do not have the right to suggest where to draw the line in the sand. We are to be the moral voice of right-ness and welcome – we are to be a witness to unmerited grace and unconditional love. In a world where ownership of correctness is how too many define religion, we follow Jesus who echoes the liberating message that stretches back to the Torah and beyond.

Prayer: For all who have been clearly told they do not belong – we express our deepest grief, O Lord our God. Give us the courage to live with the boldness of Jesus who stretched out his hand to the marginalized and his witness to those who felt dismissed. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-16-17

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Scripture: Romans 15:1
We who are powerful need to be patient with the weakness of those who don’t have power, and not please ourselves.

Thought for the Day: Today I am in Lincoln, Nebraska, with my family to celebrate with my mother. She is being recognized for her more than two decades of service as a dollar/year employee. She has done much of the pastoral care in her church, and so many days we would talk and she’d give me a quick overview of all the things she had done – numerous hospital visits, organized communion for shut-ins, sent 22 cards, baked cookies and made a casserole for a funeral. As a well paid clergy person, I suddenly felt lazy. But with my mother’s recognition today, it provides me an opportunity to give thanks for all those who give so generously of their time…people, who in one way or another, are helping to fulfill the call of God to love and serve.

Prayer: Give us the grace, O Lord of Creation, to see those around us who need a kind word, a prayer of encouragement or some nourishment of the body and soul. Amen.


Let’s Come Together

In Worship This Day



 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-15-17

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Scripture: Genesis 31:2-3
And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

Thought for the Day: Has God ever surprised you with a gentle nudge to go back to that place where you didn’t figure you’d ever return? So much has happened since Jacob left home, and as a reader, I feel as if that’s old history. Initially, it almost felt as if returning would highlight failure. Yet God called him to go back home. Of course, Jacob was returning a different person. Something had changed within him and made him ready to return and share in the next chapter of the divine narrative. He had become something other than he had previously been, and it was his presence that would create the potential for change. When God calls us back, what we quite often discover is that it is not a step backwards. We have changed, and so our invitation to return is an invitation to be an agent of change in an old and familiar setting. 


Prayer: O God, may I trust your gentle nudge that has on occasion left me scratching my head and wondering what you had in mind. Amen.



 

 


 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-14-17

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Scripture: Genesis 29:1
Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east.

Thought for the Day: The word we translate as ‘journey’ is the Hebrew word for feet. That is an important reminder because too often our experience of a journey is something that might be long but not all that strenuous. For most of us, a journey consists of getting in an automobile or an airplane and making our way to our destination. We might complain how stressful it was to get everything packed or how exhausted we felt upon arriving. In fact, all that really was exhausted was our backside from all the sitting we had done. Let us remember that when the scriptures spoke of a journey, they were speaking of something that left the participant fatigued and sore. For Jacob, this was not only a demanding journey in which he moved to a new physical location, but a journey of the soul that would forever change him…in part, because he was willing to put forth the effort.


Prayer: Prepare me, O God of the Journey, for all that will be required as I participate in my trek of faith. Amen.


Have You Prayed

For Your Church Lately?



 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-13-17

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Scripture: 3 John 1:8
Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth.

Thought for the Day: I have had many co-workers in my years of working, but I cannot say I’ve ever thought of ‘the truth’ as a co-worker. Though quite often scripture speaks of truth and wisdom and other such things as more than things. They are viewed as living entities. Maybe the truth is not so much something that comes from God, but is a tangible expression of the divine character. It is more than simply telling the truth. It is the essence of God, the truth about unconditional love and unmerited forgiveness that is often contrary to what the world claims as truth. In those terms, I think I could use truth as a co-worker.

Prayer: Befriend me, O Lord, and may I work with your living presence as it functions in this world. Amen.



 


 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 07-12-17

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Scripture: John 16:13
When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come.

Thought for the Day: On this, the final day of General Assembly, I offer a word of thanksgiving for what has been shared; what I have experienced; what God has done. I always hear good preaching, but this might be the best I’ve experienced in many years. Later tonight, we will hear our new General Minister and President, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens. She will layout a vision for our denomination under her leadership. I am excited, and I enter into this time firmly believing the Spirit will guide us.

Prayer: Come, Spirit of Truth! Come and guide us! May we do more than feel your presence, but move with you and on your behalf. Amen.