Sunday, August 20, 2017

Our Struggles and God's Plan

Genesis 45:4-8 (NRSV): Our Struggles and God’s Plan
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.
We often suffer setbacks and disappointments. And when our lives take a turn for the worse, it is hard to gain perspective. Faith is key, however. If we recall the many moments in Scripture, like this one with Joseph, we can see that God has a clear plan for all creation. Even when our lives are at their lowest, when we are feeling the deepest difficulty and cannot see past the pain, God has a plan for us.
Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob. Due to jealousy and mean-spiritedness, Joseph's brothers first plan to murder him, only later agreeing to sell him into slavery. After being bought, Joseph flourishes in the Egyptian Potiphar’s house. Soon, however, Joseph suffers hardship again through the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife. Imprisonment, human trafficking, false accusations, humiliation, separation from family, and betrayal are all pains that Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers. And Joseph could have fallen into anger and rage, taking revenge on his brothers. His brothers, moreover, even expect it. Joseph, instead, sees that God has a greater plan for his suffering. Joseph says to his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Our lives are no different. Not one of us can say that life has been perfect. We have all suffered at one point. And if we can predict anything about life, suffering and setback will be part of our future. How do we handle hardships when they come? Scripture poses this question. Joseph has the right answer. He sees God’s hand in the good and bad moments of his life. St. Paul, furthermore, writes in his letter to the Romans that “... all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (8:28). The greatest example of sacrifice for God's purpose is seen in Jesus offering His life on the cross. Christ’s suffering and sacrifice liberates the world from perishing in sin.
Through God’s grace, we, like Joseph, can turn away from the bitterness of our life’s breakdowns and toward the light of God’s purpose. So let’s reflect on the difficult spots in our lives -- past or present -- and see with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and in the context of faith, that those difficulties have purpose and serve a greater good for others and ourselves in Christ.
Loving God, let us see our struggles in the greater light of Your purpose. Let our lives preserve those around us in Your love. In Jesus Christ we pray, amen.  
Have a blessed week!

Stan

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Giving ourselves to God

Matthew 22:19-21 (NIV): Giving ourselves to God
19[The religious leaders] brought [Jesus] a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
While my family and I were driving the other day, my daughter was curious about a song that was playing, “Love Bug” by Raffi. Her question stemmed from the following lyrics:
Everybody’s got a love bug, deep inside.
Everybody’s got a love bug for their own.
Love bug — where the hugs come from.
She asked, “What is a ‘love bug,’ Daddy?”
And I formulated an imperfect answer about God’s presence in each of us. “A ‘love bug,’ sweetie, is God’s spirit working in us. God’s spirit lives in our hearts and gives us the ability to love others,” I said.
We are made in God’s image and likeness. And it is no mystery that we were created to be vessels of God’s love. But there is a choice we must all make, and Jesus reminds us of that crucial choice in the above passage. Like the Roman denarius that bore Caesar’s image, Jesus likens us to coins of great value. The image that we bear, however, is that of God. And although it is our free choice, we are called to be ambassadors of God’s love.
In a very real way we all contain God’s “love bug” inside of us. We bear his image, and as Christians, we are privileged by grace to offer ourselves to God through the love, hope, and mercy we offer to others.
I pray that God’s holy “love bug” branches out of us to everyone with whom we come in contact. Let our lives reflect the loving image of God in all we do. Amen.
Have a blessed week!

Stan