09-30-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 30, 2019

Prayer for the Week:

Love

Love a little…

Love a lot…

I have been invited by you to love

but I do not know where to begin

where to start

where to give it a try

Do I love a lot?

Can I love just a little?

The Incarnate Word

The Prince of Peace

The Bread of Life

Jesus –

it is his life that calls me to love

by enfleshing my words,

by enthroning gentleness,

by becoming sustenance.

May the love I share

no matter how imperfect

be more than lip service.

Create within me, Lord God,

the capacity to take a little risk

and just love.

…just love someone

who has become convinced

that love is beyond reach

convinced that love

is not for today

convinced that love

is only for others.

…just love someone

and in loving someone

this love might

just take on new life for me.

Amen.



09-29-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 29, 2019

Scripture: Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Thought for the Day: I have always read this passage one specific way, but a few days back, I was reading through Romans and my mind heard these words differently. We often think of God as the One doing the disapproving, but I wonder if the gift Christ Jesus offers has more to do with freedom from the condemnation of self. Guilt, shame and self-hatred are not of God, but we impose them upon ourselves as a form of self incrimination and denunciation. I have watched people who have experienced a lot of pain imposed upon them by others, yet you could still say that they are their own worst enemies. They beat themselves up, providing absolutely no self mercy or care. Paul, who states often that salvation is through grace alone, seems to be pushing a narrative of a God who is more kind to us than we are to ourselves. I can almost hear God saying, “I forgave you because I love you, so move forward with your life and enjoy it! You are beautiful to me!”

Prayer: Whatever it is that claims a disapproving power over me, I announce with your authority, O Lord, I am free to live as one who is loved without condition. In the joy of that news, let me speak those words to others who are beating themselves up and holding themselves down. Amen.



09-28-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 28, 2019

Scripture: Romans 6:22

But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life.

Thought for the Day: Set free and enslaved…it’s a bit strange if you think about it. Yet this unique and somewhat odd combination produces a holy life that results in eternal life. So often we move from point A to point D, without recognition of B & C. The first and last are gifts, but the two middle carry with them responsibility. Once again, it emphasizes God as the first actor and the final word. We did not conjure up the idea of forgiveness of sin or create the hope of eternal life. Those are God’s doing, but between God’s giving is the human response. There in the middle is a choice to serve God (to follow intently and humbly) and to live a holy life (to be like God/Jesus). No matter our success or failure in the areas entrusted to us, God remains faithful with the beginning and end. Maybe that’s the reason God is called the Alpha and Omega (basically the A and the Z in the Greek alphabet).

Prayer: Where you have acted with immeasurable love, O God, I give you thanks. Where I have a task to do, I pray for that love to encourage and inspire me. Though I have responsibility, it sure feels as if you are doing all the heavy lifting. Amen.



09-27-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 27, 2019

Scripture: Ephesians 5:2

Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.

Thought for the Day: Is anyone else a little troubled by the description of an execution smelling sweet to God? Isn’t that what Paul is suggesting here? In Leviticus 1, we find this language reflected in the description of the temple sacrifice, “…an offering by fire of pleasing odor to the Lord.” Does God actually have a nostril with the neurological capacity to sense smell? I believe there are plenty of folks who would say, “Yes,” because it says so in scripture. I wonder if such language is more poetic, describing the joy felt within God when people approach God with a symbolic gift of love. Let me describe it this way: You make one of those major blunders that negatively impacts your significant other emotionally. In the recognition of your major faux pas, you run by a florist and pick up some roses. You walk in the door and extend the flowers with eyes cast low. Will your significant other turn away, or even worse, grab the flowers and toss them on the ground? All options are on the table, but when the flowers are accepted ever so gently, and are brought to the nose for a long intake of the sweet aroma, it’s probably a good sign that your sin is forgiven or at least you are on the right track. The pleasing smell of the roses is not the rationale for forgiveness. It’s probably good that they did not smell like dung, but forgiveness has nothing to do with the smell receptors tied to a nerve inside our nasal cavity that trigger certain parts of the brain. For Paul, it is a way of suggesting – using the ancient Hebrew poetry – that the love revealed in Jesus, a love uninterrupted even on the cross, pleases God. And for those who strive to put this love into action, following the example of Christ, live a life pleasing to God as well. So I guess you could say that when you love you smell good to God…even when your love requires you to sweat and others would say, “You stink!”

Prayer: May my life and the life of my faith community be pleasing to you, Gracious God. May the aroma of our work bring joy to you, and if it does, may it provide us with joy as well. Amen.



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09-26-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 26, 2019

Scripture: Isaiah 43:19

Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.

Thursday Prayer:

Give me the courage to act, not with self interest, but with the interests of Jesus. Holy and Humble God, you demonstrated courage when you humbled yourself – when you took on the form of a servant – when you chose to live the life of love – when you refused to take on the ways of violence – when you demonstrated peace in the face of death – when you showed mercy to the executioners – when the fullness of your heavenly nature hung upon the cross. Give me the courage to live for the sake of those who have no voice; have no hope; have no power; have no influence. When I live for them, I live for you. And when I live for you, I no longer live for the world that tells me lies over and over again. Give me the courage to follow your Incarnate Word, Jesus. Amen.



09-25-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 25, 2019

Scripture: Proverbs 11:25

Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

Thought for the Day: Let’s be clear, I don’t believe this scripture is suggesting that if you give away $100, God will give you back $500 or $1,000. Sadly, there are those out there who will try to convince you they know the special formula. Of course, their formula usually includes their names as the recipient of your initial gift. With all that said, I do believe those who are generous and seek to help others find a deeper meaning to life. There is a new found depth and breadth to what it means to be a human being when we choose to share, or look at ourselves as stewards of the resources entrusted to us. When my daily choices and major life decisions are made, not based upon what will enrich me but what will elevate others, then my life begins to have meaning…meaning that is actually meaningful. Let’s ask ourselves today, “What is one thing I can do that will require a conscious decision to give something up, yet will make the world in which I live a little better?” Let’s ask the question, and then actually do what we think we can do.

Prayer: Make me generous, Lord God, not because I need attention or accolades. Make me generous so that others may be enriched and encouraged, uplifted and loved. Provide me a vision of life that isn’t just me against the world, but the whole of creation seeking fullness of life. Amen.



09-24-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 24, 2019

Scripture: Psalm 119:68

You are good and you do good. Teach me your statutes!

Thought for the Day: This past weekend, I joined the men from the SW Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at the Lake Brownwood Retreat Center. It was a really good event, and Rev. Todd Adams was one of the keynote speakers. I knew Todd back when he was in high school, and now he is the President of the Pension Fund of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As a minister and participant in the Pension Fund, I am one of Todd’s biggest cheerleaders. In his second keynote, he quoted John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. Wesley wrote:

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

Do you ever feel like someone summarized all the random and disorganized thoughts you had in your brain? This is one of those moments. And one of Todd’s additional thoughts was to encourage us not to get bogged down in the immensity of the problems we face. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t discouraging us to think big. But too often we see some extraordinary problem and we think, “If only I could organize 100,000 people, then we could solve…” Maybe I can’t solve it, but maybe all I am asked to do is all the good I can do in all the ways I can do it to all the people I can for as long as I can. That seems to be a good starting place.

Prayer: You have taught us, Merciful Friend of Heaven, what is good and righteous and just. In Jesus, we have seen this good summarized in love. Continue to teach me, and then encourage me to implement what I learn. Amen.



09-23-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 23, 2019

Prayer for the Week:

Everlasting and Ever-Loving God, you have designed and shaped your church to look like Jesus. You have provided us wonderful examples of faithfulness in the words and lives of apostles, prophets and the kindness of those who served you without fanfare. With Jesus as our cornerstone, our model and mentor, your church shall endure. Today, let us be shaped anew, both individually and as a community. Let the stories about Jesus and those told by Jesus fashion us in such a way that the world is intrigued by what it sees in us. Let the sacrifice and selfless love of Jesus configure our life-choices and priorities so that what we say is duplicated in our daily actions. Let the Spirit gifted to us through the breath of Jesus be our encouragement as we make difficult choices in regard to what we have and what we relinquish for the work of your kingdom. Let the good achieved this day never be the limitation we place upon ourselves, for your Spirit makes possible what seemed impossible even a day earlier. Let us believe, even when belief is discomforting, that we can do so much more through your Spirit that renews and reshapes us. The moment we think we’ve done everything possible, you show up and inspire our imagination to do even more. With gratitude and a bit of apprehension, we give ourselves to you and to the way of Jesus. Amen.



09-22-19

ECCLESIOLOGICAL ETCHINGS

September 22, 2019

Scripture: Ephesians 1:22-23

God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

Thought for the Day: As you gather for worship this morning – wherever you might be – look around at those who worship with you. It doesn’t matter if there are 3 people or 300, look at them through the lens of Paul’s words: Christ’s “body, the church, is the fullness of Christ…” Let those words soak in for a moment. With all the flaws and faults found among the group, to see the community as the fullness of Christ in the world is quite extraordinary. We are not perfect, and any attempt to suggest such a thing should be squelched. At the same time, the perfect love of God made real in Jesus makes possible some near perfect expressions of love through this community. In fact, it might just be those flaws and faults that God will use to demonstrate and make real perfect love as only God can do.

Prayer: Give this body, your body in the world, the encouragement needed to become the mechanism by which your love is delivered and distributed to every person, no matter who they are or where they live or how they look. Amen.