Monday, December 26, 2016

How it is Easy to Accuse but Hard to Forgive

John 8:7-10 (NRSV): Jesus Teaches Forgiveness

7 . . . [Jesus Said,] “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. . .”

While Jesus teaches in the temple, the religious leaders bring an adulterous woman into His presence, expecting Jesus to condemn her as they do. Jesus has another plan, however. He turns the tables and teaches a lesson about universal human culpability and forgiveness. All, as evidenced by not a person throwing a stone, are sinners, even the most pious, pride-filled legalists.

Jesus teaches us that we, too, make mistakes and sin. But if we seek Him in the midst and aftermath of those mistakes, we are not only forgiven but given the grace to do better, to love more, to forgive, and to sympathize and support others who fall. Through Christ’s forgiveness and love, we are given a new lease on living.

I pray that we all enjoy our time off and that our lives be a living witness to the forgiveness and love of God.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

How Being Obedient to God is not Easy

Matthew 1:18-24 (NIV): Joseph’s Obedience

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (1:24).

Sometimes our hardest choices are those that pose personal and public risks. What do Joseph's acts of obedience and trust teach us about our own tough choices?

Joseph is a man of devout faith with a merciful, kind heart (1:19). After Joseph hears God’s plan, he puts his faith and trust in God, saying “yes” with an open heart. This is not an easy choice for Joseph. By marrying a pregnant woman and taking on the scandal it brings, Joseph shows he is willing to make serious sacrifices in order to do God’s will. Joseph says “yes” and feels the squeeze of public and religious humiliation. But the angel tells Joseph, “Do not be afraid” (1:20). Joseph, therefore, puts his total trust in God.

How many times do we, too, find ourselves with tough choices to make in life? All too often I find myself leaning on my own preference for the path of least resistance. And when I know the more difficult path is God’s will for me, I lack the resolve and tenacious faith of Joseph. In my weakness, I often cave in to the easier, quieter way. When we know there is a tough, self-sacrificing choice ahead, let us recall Joseph and how, in the midst of adversity and rejection, he answered God’s call to protect, love, and provide for Mary and Jesus.

I pray that we take a moment to be thankful for the beauty of life, knowing that each of us is desperately loved by a God willing to be born helpless in a cold manger, live in poverty, run as a refugee, and bear the pain of the cross to save us and bring us to our eternal home with Him. Amen.

Have a blessed week and Christmas season!


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Why we Should Pause to Notice God in Creation

Romans 1:20 (NRSV): Noticing God in Creation

Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.

Crepuscular rays are beams of sunlight that radiate from the spaces between clouds. These rays extend downward and are sometimes called “angel lights” because of their heavenly appearance. These phenomena remind us of God’s presence in creation.

Driving home from work on Friday, I spied crepuscular rays cascading down onto a local farm field. Immediately, I was reminded of Paul’s words. He says God’s eternal power can be perceived “through the things he has made.” And in seeing those “angel lights” peer through the curtain of gray and white clouds, I sensed God reminding me of His presence.

Sometimes we are so busy and preoccupied with life that we forget to stop and look. As we progress toward the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us pause and take time to witness God’s “eternal power and divine nature . . . [in] the things he has made.”

Have a blessed week.

Why Being Obedient to God Should be Authentic and Rooted in Love

[Obedience] springs, rather, from the love of an order, and love of [God] who gave it. The merit of obedience is less in the act than in the love; the submission, the devotion, and the service that obedience implies are not born of servitude but are rather effects that spring from and are unified by love.
~ From The World’s First Love by Fulton Sheen p. 99

Being obedient to God isn’t about doing acts, performing works, and balancing the books of misdeeds with righteous ones. Obedience is doing all we can for the sake of love, even if we can only smile and say hello to a stranger. If we are obedient with authenticity and love in our hearts for God, then we follow Him for the sake of spreading the Good News of Christ and not for our own merit. Sheen is not suggesting that we abandon inauthentic obedience, but he implies that our obedience be given a new reason, one rooted in love.

Monday, December 5, 2016

How We are Workers for Christ

Matthew 9:35- 10:8 (GNT): Being Workers among the Harvest
As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So he said to his disciples, “The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

As Jesus travels through towns and synagogues, he makes a keen observation: There are many worried, helpless, suffering people who need God’s presence in their lives. Matthew says they are “like sheep without a shepherd” (36). The problem, as Jesus points out, is that “[t]he harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in” (37). This metaphor points to the needy people, the “harvest,” and the disciples, the “workers,” tasked to show them the kingdom of God. At the end of the passage, Jesus calls the twelve disciples together and commissions them to go out, heal, preach, give life, and eradicate evil.

In today’s world, the harvest is still large and in need of garnering and reaping. Jesus, too, calls each of us to be His loyal workers, serving and loving all people. Our commission is to be Jesus Christ’s extension of love in this world, for we are the parts of His body. We are called to forgive, care, love, be patient, sympathize, and to offer our individual skill set and vocation to those in front of us. We are Christ’s disciples of the modern day, and our commission is no different than it was 2,000 years ago.

If we take a moment to reflect on your daily routines, we will notice moments when we allow God to work through us. And this is a beautiful realization. There are tangible moments when we radiate the love and grace of God. On the other hand, we should take time to recall moments when we struggle to convey His love. It is there that God asks us to be open, to empty our self will, and to allow Him to work through us to reach the other.

Jesus says that by our acts of love in this world we will be known as his disciples (John 13:35). I pray that we all embrace Christ’s commission to be fruitful workers of the harvest, serving our neighbor with His gift of love.  

Have a blessed week!