Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 5:19
In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.
Thought for the Day: This reading of scripture is part of the daily reading for our Catholic brothers and sisters on this day. As I was reflecting on the verse, I was taken by a single word: trusted. The idea that God has trusted us with the message of reconciliation is both humbling and frightening. Though as those who have been trusted, the question for us is whether or not we have lived up to that trust. Reconciliation assumes humility, patience, forgiveness, kindness and grace. In our current culture, I believe we are batting a big zero. Reconciliation requires people to eat their pride on occasion, to listen with the intention of actually listening, and to realize that the definition of winning might need to be reinterpreted. As those who have been entrusted with this message and ministry, let us take a good long look at ourselves and whether or not we can be trusted.
Prayer: Push me with this calling, O God of the Reconciling Christ. Push me to be about the work of sharing the good news of Christ’s reconciling power. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 139:13-14
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
Thought for the Day: I love this quote from the figure skater, Johnny Weir:
Love myself I do. Not everything, but I love the good as well as the bad. I love my crazy lifestyle, and I love my hard discipline. I love my freedom of speech and the way my eyes get dark when I’m tired. I love that I have learned to trust people with my heart, even if it will get broken. I am proud of everything that I am and will become.
In a world where too many people, specifically our young people, feel as if they are not good enough or are without value, I love the poetry of the Psalm and the delightful words of Johnny Weir. Let these words inspire us to speak to our youth in such a way that they may begin to glimpse their splendid and beautiful nature. If our words touch even the life of one, the world is a better place.
Prayer: Give me your grace-filled words, O God of All Creation, so that what I say to others will help them to see the beauty and value that rests within them. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 1:7
To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thought for the Day: Excuse me for drawing upon Brian McLaren two days in a row, but this one was too good. McLaren writes in his book, A Generous Orthodoxy:
…the more one respects Jesus, the more one must be broken-hearted, embarrassed, furious, or some combination thereof when one considers what we Christians have done with Jesus. That’s certainly true when it comes to calling Jesus Lord, something we Christians do a lot, often without the foggiest idea of what we mean. Has he become (I shudder to ask this) less our Lord and more our Mascot?
I have a lot to say about McLaren’s words, but I think I’d rather just let them sit with you for a while. What does it mean to you to claim Jesus as Lord? Let me know your thoughts…
Prayer: Where my faith has slipped to a second rate cheap seat fan, please forgive me, O Lord of Life. Call me again; guide me by your gracious Spirit; show me again the ways of Jesus. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 11:17-20
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.
Thought for the Day: In his challenging book, A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren writes:
I’m sure I am wrong about many things, although I’m not sure exactly which things I’m wrong about. I’m even sure I’m wrong about what I think I’m right about in at least some cases.
With those words, I am going to ask some questions – How much more would the world respect followers of Jesus if they spoke as McLaren does? Is there not a humility and honesty in his words that is refreshing? Some who are looking for certainty will probably dislike what he is suggesting, but I don’t think Jesus ever promised certainty. He asked us to have faith.
Prayer: Blessed God, I continue to pray for experiences of your love and encounters with your presence. Such moments do not bring a cocky confidence, but a contagious joy. Thank you! Amen.
Scripture: Romans 10:17
So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
Thought for the Day: The reaction to yesterday’s sermon was a wonderful example of how the people of Cypress Creek Christian Church are mature enough to hear something that might push them without freaking out. There might have been some who disagreed with what I preached, but again, what makes our tradition so wonderful is our ability to listen for the word of Christ while realizing that no one person is going to get it all right. Sadly, there are a lot of churches who would have fired their minister for preaching the sermon I preached yesterday. Such a reaction would not lead a community to a place where it could better hear the word of Christ. Faith comes, not from a single person’s understanding of faith, but from the church continuing to listen together. Thanks for being that church!
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, and allow your word to dwell among us. Give us discerning heart that are willing to listen for you in the rich diversity of voices. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thought for the Day: I have worked with numerous people in my ministry who, in their brokenness and pain, can provide you a long list of why they are separated from the love of God. They are quick to explain all their mistakes, flaws, sins and shortcoming. In guilt (often guilt imposed by others), they have become convinced that they are beyond the love of God. When guilt consumes people, and they no longer feel of value, it is hard to imagine a love big enough to redeem and reclaim them. Paul offers one of his most powerful lines when he offers this long list of things that are incapable of separating us from the love of God. Was this an exhaustive list? I don’t think so. He was writing on expensive parchment, and he was trying to give a broaden enough list to encompass anything anyone could imagine. Today, we are headed to the Museum of Modern Day Slavery (after the 11:00 service). So many women remain enslaved in a system of sexual exploitation, and one of the tools used by their captors (pimps) is to strip them of any self worth. They are often left feeling as if no one, including God, could love them. This is where our voice is so important. We need to join Paul and saying, “There is nothing in all of creation that can or will separate you from the love of God.”
Prayer: For your immeasurable and unconditional love, O Lord, I am grateful. May my gratitude find tangible expressions of this amazing gift. Amen.
SERMON: All things? ALL THINGS!
Scripture: Romans 13:8
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Thought for the Day: I have always loved these words – we are not bound by (owe) anything, but there is a duty for us to love one another. Paul is clear that we are not bound by the law, but to love is the fulfillment of the law. Paul points to the free gift of grace, yet for those who understand grace, there is an expectation and responsibility. Grace remains free, but once you’ve accepted the free gift, you realize you owe everything…and the everything is to love others as Jesus taught us to love.
Prayer: May I always enjoy the blessings of your grace, Heavenly Father, but may I also accept the responsibility that comes with understanding just how blessed I am by the free gift of your grace. Amen.
Glimpses of Heaven
Worship Services Tomorrow Morning
8:15, 9:30 & 11:00
Sunday – After the 11:00 Service
back to the church by 3:30pm
Scripture: Romans 16:17-18
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.
Thought for the Day: A friend from Seminary, Phil Gulley, wrote in his book, The Evolution of Faith, about a congregation that split in his home town during his youth. According to Phil…
…the reasons given for the schism were theological, those close to the fray said the division had more to do with a long-festering struggle for power. Religious divisions are rarely attributed to petty motives, so the separation was attributed to the noble cause of spiritual purity.
We see this happen on a very regular basis in American Christianity, but it is not new to us. Christianity (and religion in general) has continually used by those who wish to gain power or maintain power, and desperately wish to have a religious rationale for their less than religious yearnings. It is made to sound so admirable and righteous, yet so many good people with good intentions are drug down a road that is decorated with Jesus, but is in fact the road to Golgotha – it is the road to another crucifixion. Christians will disagree with one another, and there is nothing wrong with it, but don’t allow yourselves to be drawn into someone else’s power grab because s/he has wrapped it in scripture.
Prayer: Mighty God, may your Spirit walk with me and keep me on a path of faithfulness. I wish to serve you and the reign of grace, and not someone else’s self-serving agenda. Amen.
See You In Worship
Consider inviting a friend…
Scripture: Psalm 88:3-4
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I am like those who have no help…
Thought for the Day: Have you ever visited Sheol? For many, that is a strange word. Some translators have translated it as hell, but that is a lousy translation. It describes the pit where the dead were buried, often a mass grave of sorts. It was a dark and ominous place, but dark and ominous for the living…not for the dead. The idea of Sheol would often be used in figurative ways throughout scripture to speak about hopelessness or despair. So the answer to the question is YES, we all have been to Sheol. We have all, at one time or another, gone down in an emotional pit, but the scriptures remind us that it is not beyond hope. As Psalm 139 tells us, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” It may feel as if we have fallen beyond the reach of God, but no such place exists.
Prayer: Let me find life and hope and peace in you, O God who will never let me go beyond the divine reach. Amen.
THINK ABOUT GOING THIS SUNDAY
After the 11:00 service
Scripture: Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Thought for the Day: These words from Philippians echo the prophet Isaiah who wrote, “Surely every knee will bow and every tongue will confess” (45:23). It speaks of a time when all the idols of surrounding nations shall fall away, and everyone will know of the one true Lord. The prophet speaks of a word that is reliable going out among the nations. Paul builds on this idea centuries later when he writes about the proclamation of the Gospel, the word of grace. A day is coming when just one word, the name of Jesus, will cause everyone (all things) in heaven, on earth and under the earth to bow and take a knee. It is a powerful image, and it ultimately points to the power of God’s love and grace to transform even those things that everyone else has tossed away.
Prayer: May your incarnate word of grace, O God, be for us all a clear vision of what love and grace are all about. Amen.
TAKING A TRIP
Leaving the church
after the 11:00 service
(return by 3:30pm)