Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-31-17

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Scripture: Romans 2:4-8
Or do you have contempt for the riches of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience? Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life? You are storing up wrath for yourself because of your stubbornness and your heart that refuses to change. God’s just judgment will be revealed on the day of wrath. God will repay everyone based on their works. On the one hand, he will give eternal life to those who look for glory, honor, and immortality based on their patient good work. But on the other hand, there will be wrath and anger for those who obey wickedness instead of the truth because they are acting out of selfishness and disobedience.

Thought for the Day: Ok, it’s Halloween, and I decided I’d share a passage that was a bit scary to me. Paul speaks of God’s generosity, tolerance and patience, but also wrath, anger and judgement. I think most of us are drawn to the positive attributes, yet Paul does not hold back in regard to those whose life-witness does not appear to model good works. This may sound a bit contradictory in Paul’s theology, for in other places, he claims we are saved not by works, but by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. So which is it? Is my “eternal life” attached to grace or my good works? In the end, I believe Paul leans entirely upon the grace of God, yet as Romans was written much later in his ministry, I can only imagine that he saw folks who cheapened grace by enjoying its benefits and ignoring its demanding call. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote about the cost of discipleship – the expected cost to those who through faith had come to enjoy grace. Yet there were many who seemed unaware of the real cost. Bonhoeffer wrote,

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Let us give thanks to God for the grace, the unconditional love and kindness, bestowed upon us, but let us never cheapen the sacrifice this grace required.

Prayer: I love you, Lord, for you have been kind and generous with your love. May I humbly honor the crucifixion of your incarnation – the sacrificial witness that revealed your grace. Encourage me each day to honor your gift through a grace-filled witness of my own. Amen.

TOMORROW NIGHT
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-30-17

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Scripture: Romans 2:1
So every single one of you who judge others is without any excuse. You condemn yourself when you judge another person because the one who is judging is doing the same things.

Thought for the Day: Is it ok to judge people who are judging people? That’s a hard call, for though Jesus (and Paul) was clear about not judging others, it feels as if we need to call out judgement wherever it occurs. Yet after reading Paul, it appears as if he was suggesting that the act of judging others is ultimately self-condemning. Of course, we need to be careful that we never give support or even appear to give support to the judging of others, but in the end, it should not be our place to serve as the judge. With all that said, it is a very difficult line to walk as a Christian.

Prayer: Provide me the wisdom, O God, to know how to represent your nonjudgmental grace without giving the impression that I approve of something hateful or destructive. Amen.

Praying For Our Church’s Stewardship

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-29-17

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Reformation Sunday
Scripture: Romans 1:17
God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness for faith, as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith.

Thought for the Day: As you will learn in worship today, this is Reformation Sunday. Among Protestant Churches, we remember and honor the faithfulness of those who often risked their lives in the reforming of the church. The 500th Anniversary of Reformation is this Tuesday, and it was 500 years ago that Martin Luther nailed 95 concerns on the doors of the Wittenberg Church. It is thought that Luther was opening up an academic conversation, but it turned the church on its head. The verse that changed Luther’s thinking was the above verse. He could not fathom how he could achieve Righteousness. No matter how hard he tried, his sinfulness seems to overshadow any attempt at living the right-life that Jesus displayed. It changed only when he came to realize that righteousness was not something we achieve, but instead, it was a gift given from God. Later in the 3rd chapter of Romans, Paul will help spell that out when he writes:

But now God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, which is confirmed by the Law and the Prophets. God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.

God is the One who makes the relationship right, and when we acknowledge that gracious gift through faith, we are able to access it and live into it. We shift from trying to be righteous in the eyes of God to accepting God’s gift of rightness and then living passionately and joyfully in that beauty of that gift. It transformed Martin Luther’s life, and it ultimately transformed the church.

Prayer: Though there is a constant push to earn my goodness and salvation, I know, O Merciful and Kind God, that such a place is not in my power to achieve. Through your spirit, let me learn to enjoy the gift you have given and place you have so generously created for me. I see this in the gift of Jesus Christ. Amen.

…don’t forget:
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Today’s Worship

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-28-17

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Scripture: Romans 1:16
I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Thought for the Day: I don’t know if I have ever been ashamed of the Gospel, but I can say with certainty that I have been ashamed a number of times in regard to how the Gospel has been presented. Let me be clear, it is one thing to disagree with a person or another tradition in regard to some theological point, but we all know times when the evening news shows some church or Christian who offers a vision of Christianity that is hateful and destructive. My friend, Rev. Kyle Harris, serves in Shelbyville, Tennessee. If you have watched the news recently, you may have heard how white supremacists will be descending on this town over the weekend. They cloak themselves in the Gospel and all sorts of Jesus-talk, but their message is hate and hate and more hate. Kyle and many other religious leaders are preparing the community to offer an alternative message. In our current culture where nearly 35% of people have not had a positive or healthy experiences around Christianity, it is essential for those who follow the loving way of Jesus to present with clarity a vision of Christianity so beautiful that hate trembles and falls. We have no desire to be ashamed of how the Gospel, but when it is offered in a ugly and destructive way, we must show them the Jesus who welcomed the outsider, healed the sick and loved the most vulnerable.

Prayer: God of all humanity, continue to encourage our close walk with Jesus – a close walk that demonstrates his healing and transformative love. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-27-17

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Scripture: Roman 1:7
To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people.

Thought for the Day: As part of Paul’s greeting to the Christians in Rome, he speaks of those loved by God and called by God. Those two aspects of the Christian faith are too often separated or even severed. Many people like to worship and give thanks for a God who loves them, but in all honesty, they are not looking for a God who will call them. Now let me add that I do not believe God’s love is tied to our willing acceptance of the calling. God’s love revealed in Jesus is unconditional, yet the very nature of such love is powerful and demanding. As a professor of mine often said, “And so what?” When you make a dramatic theological statement like, “God loves us,” there should be someone sitting close by who asks, “And so what? What does that really mean to you?” God loves and calls us to live a life of love. That might be oversimplifying the idea, or maybe not.

Prayer: Thank you, O God of all people, for the love you share and the love through which you call us to be people of love. In the name of your gift of love, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Don’t Forget Your
Estimate of Giving Card
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-26-17

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Scripture: Romans 1:1
From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news.

Thought for the Day: As I shared in my class last night, this single verse of scripture summarizes Paul and his vision of God’s calling upon his life…and maybe on all followers of Jesus as well. As we discussed, some translate slave as servant or even helper, but the word here is without question the word for slave. Paul is communicating his dependence, along with his devotion and allegiance to Christ Jesus. For a slave, there is no decision or action done without the full permission of the master. In our culture today, slavery is not an metaphor we like for the simple reason that we continue to fight real slavery in the trafficking of human beings. At the same time, we can explore the question of what it means for a person to think of every important decision and action coming with the full permission of Jesus?

Prayer: I wish to be deeply connected to you, O Lord of my life. I am striving to do more than just follow, but to be in line with you and your values in every decision I make. Amen.

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…are you praying?

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-25-17

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Scripture: 1st John 2:17
And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.

Thought for the Day: Continuing from yesterday, I want us to look at the very next verse from 1st John. In these words, it appears as if the writer is contrasting finite and eternal. The world and our worldly yearnings are passing away, but the will of God is eternal. When an individual ‘does’ the will of God, it is more than simply acting the part. The word in Greek is Poieo, and it means does, makes, produces, prepares or makes ready. When an individual is that involved in the will of God, s/he is drawn into the eternal nature of God. Our lives and actions, words and dreams, begin to not only align but merge with God. Such an experience does not mean that an individual earns eternal salvation upon death, but begins to participate in eternity while still existing in the temporal.

Prayer: By the wonderful gift of your Holy Spirit, O God, make my finite existence fully engaged in your eternal work. Amen.

TONIGHT
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