Category: Discipleship

Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistles Passage – Being inspired and gifted by the Divine Lord God

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Corinthians 12:1 – 3)
Words can have power – when spoken from the heart. It is easy to speak any number of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs etc when you are not speaking with meaning or intent but are merely “flapping your gums”! The writer of I Corinthians wants his readers to understand that. I hope you do too, beloved reader. Think of all the people you know, beloved reader, who speak only to hear the sound of their own voice. Do you sincerely believe that they say? On the important matters of life then, only listen to those who speak sincerely and from their heart and soul.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” (Verses 4 – 11 [Emphasis mine])
I really need not say more. Just as in the first section the writer of I Corinthians cautioned his readers to discern who was able to say what in praise or curse of Jesus the Christ, so too the gifts of the Spirit are for everyone’s good; and not for the adoration and adulation of the spiritual “performer”. Those who are authentic in the Spirit use their gifts for the uplifting and aid of others. Those who do it for the “wow” factor may not be sincere in the practice.
In the youth group I was a part of we had several natural leaders, those of our age group that we looked up to and wished to emulate. Their commit to their faith and to those they lead was inspiring. The most inspirational though was when two of them made a mistake and confessed their mistake publicly to our group. Their honesty and transparency actually set a better example then the “saintliness” that they tried to portray to the younger members of the group. I wish I could tell them how their courage in the face of “sin” meant to me. I believe that even in their supposedly “sinful state” they had a great lesson to teach.
May you beloved reader have people within your faith circle that show forth the best gifts and attributes of authentic believers, and may they teach you a great deal. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Loading

Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Being the beloved of the Divine Lord God

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, . . . “ (Isaiah 62:1a)
Another day that was a struggle. There will probably be lots of them in the next few weeks. (Yes, beloved reader, you are probably correct that my struggle with psalm passages is related to my difficulties in life.) Old Testament passages, however, are much more helpful. And the book of Isaiah usually has passages and excerpts meet my needs quite well. I would like to be Jerusalem for whom the Divine will not rest until she feels better.
“. . . . until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Verses 1b – 3)

It is said the the relationship between the Divine and the followers of the Lord God Jesus Christ is like that between committed spouses. That might be one reason the traditional marriage relationship is held as the only acceptable option for marriage – in or outside of the church. Often we read about the “bride” of Christ as what the church is. At a young age I took that very literally; and wondered how that left a place for males in the church. How, I wondered, could a man be a “bride”? Yes, I decided, church is much more a place for women. But then why, I wondered, are so many men in charge of churches if the church is the “bride” of Christ? Men are not the same as the Messiah. It left me very puzzled. Not as puzzled as some of the actions and behaviors of people who say they profess Christianity. I guess in my adult years I have exchanged one confusion for another.

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Verses 4 – 5)
I have never asked any male in my acquaintance how he bridges or understands that analogy. In my younger years I wouldn’t have had the nerve. In my older years I understand that each man must take the analogy, understand the premise and underlining meaning, and allow himself to subject and place himself in submission to the Divine. And that, beloved reader, is such a sacred thing that I would never ask any male of my acquaintance to reveal to how that works.
May you, beloved reader, experience a Divine Lord God who does not rest until all things are done on your behalf. And may you be loved by the Lord God in that most intimate way. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

First Sunday After Epiphany 2019 – Baptism of the Lord: The Gospel Passage – The Naming of Jesus by John the Baptist and the Lord God the Divine

“As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:15-17)

As I sit here and ponder this passage (I am moving slowly this evening) I have to wonder how John the Baptist knew these things? As the one who prepared the way, he would have realized that Jesus the Messiah was greater and that he, John, was lessor – so we can set that aside. But how would he have known that Jesus would at some point baptize with the Holy Spirit, and with fire? How would he know that at some point the Lord God would gather up the believers, but dispense the unbelievers? There are two ways (well, maybe three ways) this could be explained. One, the Lord God the Divine could have told John as a part of the total message he was to preach. Two, John and Jesus could have had conversation together as each was preparing for their ministry. Or three, the writer of the gospel of Luke placed this preaching in John’s mouth.
Any one of the three does not diminish the message. If God the sender of Jesus told him, it gives strength to John’s message. If Jesus told him, it means that John was indeed a very vital part of Jesus’ ministry. And if the gospel writer “imbued” John with this message, it is because it became very apparent through the course of Jesus’ ministry. Of course, we could chalk that up to the gospel writer’s perspective of what Jesus was about. But that is true of any of the gospels, and it has been considered before that each gospel gives a slightly different perspective of the Messiah.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Verses 21 – 22)
I thought some more about this passage, or more precisely these last two verses. And I am struck by the fact that this occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the other gospels where Jesus’ baptism is told of, this blessing happens at the time of the baptism; sometimes with a dove and sometimes with a loud voice – here we have both. We could take this to mean that Jesus requesting baptism is the act that the Lord God is proud of. But after pondering I am more inclined to think it is a blessing on Jesus’ entire ministry. Some of the broad stroke details of Jesus’ ministry have been given by John the Baptist; might not those details be accurate and it is also that which the Lord God is proud of?
And what of us? Are we making the Lord God proud? Consider that, beloved reader. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

For an Outstanding Christian

I’ve been spending a good portion of this week preparing for the funeral of my grandmother. Good words are always important, I think, but especially at funerals. I feel this even more acutely when it’s the funeral of someone that I have known and loved. This morning, I was drifting around a rarely accessed bookshelf in my study and I came across a dusty old book called The Complete Handbook for Ministers. A number of books like this have found their way into my hands over the years, usually as gifts from retired pastors or people with a pastor in their family. I located the “Funerals” section and turned to the first page. There, I encountered a very peculiar section heading:

For an Outstanding Christian.

I’m not particularly proud to admit that my first reaction to this heading was a snort of unholy derision and the rather rapid return of the book to said rarely accessed, dusty bookshelf. An “outstanding” Christian?! Seriously? We have different funeral words for “outstanding” Christians as opposed to… well, as opposed to what? “Mediocre” Christians? “Terrible” Christians? “Blundering and foolish” Christians? “Bored and timid” Christians? “Passionless and uncreative” Christians? “Incompetent if well-intentioned” Christians? The list could obviously go on but I decided to constrain my adjectives to a cursory analysis of my own performance as a Christian for the first half of this week.
The phrase raised my ire not just because I interpreted it as a personal reproach. It also brought to mind the pain I’ve heard in people’s voices over the years when funerals were treated as not-at-all subtle performance reviews or post-mortem theology exams. Angry sermons exhorting those in attendance to avoid the sins and errors of the deceased. Relatives of someone who committed suicide in anguish at their loved one having to be buried in a separate part of the cemetery. The general awkwardness of conversations around fruit platters and burnt coffee… So, where do you think _____ ended up? We struggle with death in countless ways, not least in reducing it to the same crude scorekeeping calculus that we so often use to evaluate the merits of the living.
And yet. There are such things as “outstanding Christians,” at the end of it all. My grandmother, for example. I have been inundated with messages in various forms this week from people who were loved well by my grandmother, who experienced a welcome, a kindness, an expression of care, a note at just the right time, a meal, a smile, even a stern rebuke. I spent some time yesterday reading the family history that my grandmother wrote several decades ago. I was struck, over and over again, by the devotion to prayer and the Scriptures, to the simple legacy of faith expressed in deeds that her life bore consistent witness to. My grandmother was not perfect, and she would be the first to (loudly and insistently) say so. But she stood out.
I have lost my last two remaining grandparents in the past six months. I feel enormously blessed to have had them for so long and to see the witness of such outstanding Christian women, so extraordinarily selfless and giving, so unfailing in prayer, so devoted in and kind. Their Christian faith was forged in a life that was far harder than mine, in countless ways. Theirs is a legacy that I will struggle enormously (and almost certainly fail) to match. I was talking with one of my grandmothers once about some theological matter, and she deferred, “Yes, well, you’re quite a bit smarter than me, so…” I don’t think that was remotely the case, but even if it was, I found myself thinking, “Well, perhaps, but you’re quite a bit holier than me.” And when it comes to “outstanding Christians” I think that holiness—or, “Christ-likeness,” if the word “holiness” rankles too much—is more important than theological acumen. Smarty-pants theological types don’t fare very well in encounters with Jesus in the gospels, after all. Humble, simple, merciful, devoted faith tends to garner a few more words of praise from the one Judge that really matters.
I don’t think that there should be different funeral liturgies for “outstanding” Christians vs. the rest of us. I think that the death of every human soul should be an occasion for reverence, grace, and the very best words we can summon. I will attempt to find a few later this week. But some lives do stand out, and they can be both a mirror and a guide for the rest of us. If we are looking, listening, and willing to follow.
——
The image above is called, simply, “Harvest.” It was created by Keith Brabender and taken from the 2014-15 Christian Seasons Calendar.

Syndicated from Rumblings

First Sunday After Epiphany 2019 – Baptism of the Lord: The Epistle Passage – Naming gifts and blessings that are bestowed by the Lord God the Divine

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17)
It seems like a straightforward passage. The people who were preached to in Samaria believed and professed faith in Jesus the Messiah. In order to assure them of full faith that would not be shaken, Peter and John when down (Samaria being south of Jerusalem) to pray with them and lay hands on them. But what does it mean to “receive the Holy Spirit” as opposed to being baptized in “the name of Lord Jesus.” All Christian believers at some point are baptized as Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (as opposed to the apostle/disciple John). My favorite biblical commentator Albert Barnes says it was not conversion because this happened upon profession of belief. It was not sanctification because (he says) this is progressive work. It was not then salvation, redemption, or forgiveness of sin. Or a changing in the way one lives their life. Barnes says it was “those “extraordinary” influences that attended the first preaching of the gospel – the power of speaking with new tongues Acts 2, the power of working miracles, etc.” In other words, it was something outside of what most of us experience in our Christian faith. Or is it?
In the New Testament people saw evidence of the Holy Spirit by “signs and wonders” that were tangible – speaking in a language that was not known by others, someone getting better/healthier/healed when traditional understanding said they should still be sick, or other anomalies to ordinary life. As Christian faith progressed (or became the experience of a larger part of the population) this understanding changed. It came to be more inner signs than outer manifestations. Think Desert Fathers/Mothers who lived different lives apart from settled areas; people who exhibited extraordinary faith and compassion; people who gave up comfort and wealth for service to others. We all can probably think of believers in our faith circle who just seem to live an authentic Christian life, and whose faith seems to never be shaken. This too is the baptism of the Holy Spirit – biblical commentator Barnes notwithstanding.
You, beloved reader, may have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. It is an inner realization. And if you do not think you have, pray that you might be. And then see what new blessings arise in your life! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – The Coming of the King and the Messiah; One & the Same?

“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.” (Psalm 72:1-7)
The question that underlines the exegetical understanding of this psalm . . . . what did King David know about the coming Messiah and the tenure of Jesus’ reign, and when did he know it? According to biblical scholars this psalm is written for and about King Solomon as he was coming to reign in his father’s, King David, stead while David was still alive. It is David’s hope and prayer for his son; but it is also (supposedly) looking toward the reign of the Messiah.
“May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Verses 10 – 14)
It is an ambitions for a king, doing all of these things that David lists; being revered amongst (other) earthly kings, looking out for the poor and needy, and undoing the foul outcomes of violence. This sounds like the Messiah that Jesus was. But take note that verses eight and nine are missing – “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.” Not quite as peaceful Jesus like; but wishes that one earthly king might have for another, especially his successor and child.
Now you know, beloved reader, I am sort of a purist when it comes to apply Old Testament prophecy etc to New Testament and Gospel events. I think there should be controlled and well examined cross-over. In the commentary I read there is caution to be aware that David wrote it primarily for his son; but there is also optimism that David might have been looking down the generations to the promised Messiah that came from his line. If he was aware of that. What did King David know, and when did he know it?
But . . . . . there is no harm in saying that everyone should live their life according to the Messiah example and guidance ONCE that example and guidance is made known to them. Not all that King David writes about will be a reality for us – the kings of Sheba and Seba are not going to bring us gifts. But if we can extend compassion and care to others, lighten their load, and ease their pain – we will be fulfilling as much as earthly king could, and in doing so will be glorifying our Lord God. King David would be proud of us! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – Paul, messenger to “others”

“This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. “ (Ephesians 3:1 – 4)
Jesus preached not only to his fellow Jews but to others who lived in the area of Galilee. Several times his disciples were astonished that he cared and preached to non-Jews. There acceptance of “others” who were not them/like them is mirrored very much in our current society. The fact that Jesus was for not only the Jews, but Gentiles (read non-believers) is a fact that our current society needs to be reminded of. The stranger and foreigner is to be as welcomed as those who are more familiar to us. In fact, the Jews historically the Jews were to welcome foreigners also, as they themselves were once foreigners in a strange land. Paul puts in gently . . . .
“In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Verses 5 – 6)
What had been the “called and chosen people” (as I have named them) are now called from all nations and all ethnicities. It is “jostling” to me that this mystery was only now made known. The Hebrews/Israelites were to be a light to the nations. However, thinking and looking back over the history of the Israelites and Judahites I can see where the light might have dimmed a little.
“Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.” (Verses 7 – 12)
It is one of the ironies of the Divine that a man so determined to uphold Jewish standards that he would plan and carry out the killing of those who grated against and defied his belief system – would now be given the calling and mission to carry and preach the news of Jesus to those completely outside his historical faith circle. If the Magi were the first hint that Jesus the Christ was for all people, then Paul is the crowning confirmation of that fact.
Yesterday I asked the question and set forth the challenge as to what you will be doing this year, beloved reader, and whether they will be positive things. One positive thing would be to spread the new of Jesus, and spread it to all who express interest. Of an even more positive nature would be to accept other people, no matter they faith beliefs and ethnicity. You know, the way Jesus did. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Holy Name of Jesus Day & New Year’s Day 2019: The Psalm Passage, the Epistle Passage, & the Old Testament Passage

“O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)
I know that in light of some of my posts where I give voice to my discomfort at times with the psalms, it may seem odd that I am using the psalm passage designated for Holy Name of Jesus day. But I think is equally odd is that psalm that is written in praise of Jesus/the Lord God/the Divine’s name seems to make frequent mention of humanity. Does the psalmist mean that the Lord’s name is majestic because of what the Divine has done in creating humanity & nature? If that is so, maybe my latest posted position on the psalms is not so left/right field. (See The template for praising the Lord God for a discussion on the two main categories of praise psalms) The other reason this psalm does not grate on me is because there is not command or exhortation to praise – I can appreciate the psalmist sentiments without feeling like I am being pushed to my knees for a praise that I may not necessarily feel in my heart/soul/spirit.
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
In the same way Paul is (gently) drawing our attention to an important piece of theology concerning the name of Jesus the Christ. It gives good evidence why Jesus the Christ’s name should be honored, but it gives the reader/listener room to respond in a way that is real and authentic for them. As I am pondering on this, I am coming to see where some psalms passages can be for me a little too much at times. It is good to praise the Lord God the Divine; and I am coming to believe that each person should do praise to the Lord God the Divine in a way that is genuine and true to them as a believer. A good resolution to have. Which reminds me, this day, January 1st has another name and other attributes. Ironically though, they share Psalm 8 as the psalms passage. Let us see what other passages the RCL has chosen for New Year’s Day.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 8)
What will you do in this new year beloved reader? What will you use your time for? In the past year, I am guessing, there have been times of doing, being, seeing, hearing and experiencing all that the writer of Ecclesiastes mentions. I would hope that some of the negative things you have not seen or heard of; but you probably have. I would fervently hoped that you have not done some of the negative things. May God’s mercy and forgiveness be with you if you have. And so in light of that, I ask again, what will you be doing this year?
“What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.( 9 – 13)
In light of this past year, I think a few more qualifications need to be set along side the writer of Ecclesiastes’ words. I could list them out . . . . but maybe it would be a good exercise and starting point for New Year’s resolutions if you did that yourself beloved reader. If you need a little guidance and parameters, I would refer you back to the passage of Philippians above. Consider obedience as Jesus the Christ exhibited it. And Jesus’ adherence to the spirit (Spirit) and intent of God’s commandments.
In summary beloved reader, may you have a blessed New Year; and as the year unfolds may you bring honor to the name of Jesus and your faith traditions. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: The Psalm Passage – The template for praising the Lord God

“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:1-5)
I have read descriptions of heaven where hosts and choirs of angels are continually raising and singing praises to the Lord God, the Divine. I wouldn’t wonder if those songs and praises sound a lot like the psalm passages. And before I understood that humans who have passed from this life to eternal life do NOT become angels, I thought it must be awful boring to be a part of the angel choir that sings praises . . . . . continually.
I know, beloved reader, that must sound very strange and not a little eerie that I would not want to praise God constantly. Maybe you wonder about the depth and breadth of my faith. It’s not that I don’t believe in praising God, and I do not believe that God is praise worthy; it’s just that there is so much more to the Christian life than just praising.
Most psalm and praise passages commemorate one of two things; who the Divine is and what the Divine has done. Large categories. Important categories.
“He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” (Verses 6 – 10)
The subcategories (broadly defined) of what the Divine has done are creation and salvation; and the two are not exclusive. I am sure somewhere some psalm talks about creation being saved and salvation coming about through creation – or some intermingling there. As to who the Divine is that’s praise worthy – well it would take more room than the entire internet has to list all of that. I mean that truly!
“Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” (Verses 11 – 13)
So maybe the Divine’s praises need to be sung continually by every heavenly voice that is available, in order to cover all the praiseworthiness of the Lord God.
“He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!” (Verse 14)
And I appreciate the psalmist for writing and creating all of the psalms we have in the bible. And others in more modern times who have add to the body of praise writing. And when one stops to consider the salvation aspect and that the Divine the Lord God gave to us Jesus in order that salvation might be accomplished, that alone is worth a couple of eternities of praise.
But as for me, to just and only praise is not nearly enough. Because as I realized when my faith and personal theology developed, praising God is to be such a small slice of what we are called to do. We are to take the example of our praise worthy Lord and to the best of our human abilities live out that holiness and praise worthiness. If the angels and heavenly hosts sing praises to God – we are to be the conduits of the love and compassion, care and care-taking that makes the Lord God praise worthy. How will people who do not know the Lord God know the Divine is worthy of praise if the children of God do not show them?!
Christmas has come and gone for the year. Now is the time to continue our Christian journey. And to beacons of hope, mercy and compassion in the world. So that someone might be moved to say, “Praise God for what the Lord has told you to do for me!” Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: The Gospel Passage – The template for being a member of God’s family

“Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.” (Luke 2:41 – 43)
Bring yourself before the Lord often and regularly. Observe the important days in your faith journey but do not confine yourself to only festival and high holy days. Everyday is special when walking with the Lord.
“Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Verses 44 – 46)
Your place of learning faith & belief, worship, and meditation is your home – not your “home away from home” nor your second home, but your primary home. It is the place you journey out from and come back to.
“And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.” (Verses 47 – 50)
Your faith journey is your own. There may be people who are also on a faith journey, and for a time you may travel with them, learn with them and learn from them – but your faith journey is your own and your Lord God the Divine will guide you.
“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (Verses 51 – 52)
I was very pleased to see that this passage came soon after Christmas. We last saw Jesus as a new born baby in a manager, and glory and honor being according to him. But after the shepherds and the wise men, the escape to and return from Egypt Jesus, Mary, and Joseph settled down to build a live together. You can tell from the passage that large groups of people made regular journeys to Jerusalem; it was not just Jesus and his family. I imagine the events of Jesus’ birth faded into the background and Jesus was just a boy going up. It was events like this (apocryphal scripture has other stories of Jesus’ growing up years; but those are not as verifiable) that probably reminded Mary and Joseph that Jesus was not your “run of the mill” boy. Mary being a ponderer remembered these things and turned them over in her mind. I know how that goes. Day to day activities take up time and thought but in idle moments you think back over things and wonder what their place has in one’s life, and what place they should have in one’s life.
As to my comments interspersed amongst the verses, I wrote them with straight-forth intent. We talk about Jesus as our model and exemplar. The choices Jesus made in his life are choices we can make also. We may not be able to perform miracles as he did, but we can have an active faith life; attending worship services, studying scripture, praying, learning with and teaching others, caring for others, and seeking the Lord God are things we can do with the same devotion that Jesus had. It does not take special skill or abilities. It does, however,k take dedication to a faith-filled life. And a desire to be a child of God. As we move into this new lectionary year, may we chose well. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

First Sunday After Christmas Day 2018: Epistle Passage – Acting like members of God’s family

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12 – 14)
Everyone has good days and bad days. Yesterday (that is, the day before I am writing this) was a bad day for me. Just in a grumpy mood. The strange thing is, no one can tell when I am in a “bad” mood. I am told by others, my “bad mood” days look like other people’s regular days. My philosophy is, just because for some reason I am not in good spirits doesn’t mean I can, should, or will dampen other people’s good spirits. Now when asked, I will admit I am in a bad mood. And I can’t remember anyone saying, “I can tell.” I am not bragging; what I am doing is explaining that as Christians our exterior should reflect (as close as possible) the image and example of Jesus Christ.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Verses 15 – 17)
You think we can be less than what Paul is extolling and exhorting his audience (which, beloved reader is us now) to be just because we are having a “bad day”! No, uh-uh, ain’t happening! You don’t have to be cheerful each day; but your woes and problems don’t need to be anyone else’s, and certainly do not need to be piled on someone else.
I was going to see that we need to act like loving, caring family members. But I have seen some families, and the care isn’t there! I have an agreement with each of my children; we do not do the “screaming me-mes.” That means we never say or act like our own personal agenda is more important than the other person’s. If there are problems, we work through it together, each person stating with care and honesty what the situation looks like for them and what they are feeling. Through listening and working together we resolve the problems that face us. We are not perfect – no, not perfect at all. We are a family with tight bonds though, and a deep sense of being there for one another.
I hope and pray, beloved reader, you are part of such a family; a family of origin, a family through marriage, or in a circle of faith family. And may you hold each other with care, compassion, and mutual respect. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Fourth Sunday: The Psalm Passage – How the Divine’s called and chosen people have, and have not, kept faith (A Preacher and Seeker presentation)

Seeker:“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!”
Preacher: Pay attention to us, O Lord God! Hear us when we cry out to you! We know you are mighty and all powerful! We know you reign over all things!
Seeker: Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Preacher: Divine Lord God, look down on us and see where we are. You know our needs. You know our hearts. Divine Lord God, reach down to us and save us!
Seeker: “O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?”
Preacher: Have we angered you Lord God? Have you lost patience with us because for so long we have gone the wrong way and done the wrong thing?
Seeker: “You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.”
Preacher: We weep, Lord God, we weep. All is lost and empty. There is no solace or comfort to be found.
Seeker:You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
Preacher: It seems like everywhere we turn lately, someone is complaining about something. Humanity is turning on it self; neighbor against neighbor, friends turning on each other. Believer shuns believer. And all around us the enemy seems to be closing in.
Seeker: Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:1-7)
Preacher: Lord God, from all over the globe I hear laments such as this. From the time you called Abraham out from his home land your called and chosen people have called on you. Prophets, philosophers, poets, and the common people have lifted their tales of sorrow, claiming they have been abandoned. And maybe they did feel that way. But the birth of Christ Jesus proves that you have heard the weeping and lamenting of your people. You have tried time and time to reach out to them; but they have brushed away the Spirit of the Lord, instead yearning for a more physical interaction with the Divine. So you sent Jesus, Your Divine Face to live amongst Your called and chosen people. And when Jesus returned to you, the Holy Spirit was sent to live among us. Forgive us, O Lord God, if we too have brushed away the Spirit. Forgive us for falling into the same laments as our forebearers did. The words of Jesus have come down to us; the Holy Spirit has instructed us in their meaning. Grant O Lord God that we would learn how to listen to Your Divine Voice! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Season of Advent 2018 Year C – Fourth Sunday: The Gospel Passage – How biblical women keep faith

“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39 – 45)
I have often wondered if Mary knew that Elizabeth was with child or just wanted to visit with her (maybe) favorite relative. And I wonder if Mary knew that it was a child who would become John the Baptist. From Elizabeth’s greeting you can get the sense of the sort of person she was. Steeped in faith and aware of biology. A good housekeeper and wife. A strong confident person. But gentle and yielding with those who are fragile and unsure. I really do not think this was the first time that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist may have been destined to be who he was, the herald of Jesus the Messiah. And maybe John’s father had influence over him as he grew to manhood. But it must have been his mother, Elizabeth, who prepared him to take on the mantle of evangelist. It was good, very good that Mary was with her, learning about pregnancy and child birth. Learning how to manage a household, and learning how to grow into being a woman of God.
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Verses 46 – 55)
Over the years I have seen the question posted on many Facebook pages, “If you could, who from history would you most like to meet and talk to?” I rarely have an answer. But after reading these passages, I would be equally pleased to talk to Elizabeth or Mary.
I have long looked up to and admired Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a woman who pondered things deeply. And kept many things to herself. And if Elizabeth raised up John to be a preacher, Mary raised a Savior. Now you may say it must not have been hard, since Jesus was “hard wired”, in a sense, to be the Messiah. And that is not what I am saying. The Divine looked into Mary’s heart and saw that she was prepared and equipped to be an earthly mother of Jesus. Or the Divine formed her in that way; no, it was not sheer coincidence that Mary was chosen. It was her destiny. If Jesus was foreordain to be the Messiah, then Mary was also predestined to be his mother. I admire Mary both for what she did and who she was. Nurturer and Jesus’ first disciple.
As I age, I have also developed an appreciation for Elizabeth. Mary was young, a young woman the scriptures say. Elizabeth was seasoned with age and wisdom. And in my older years I yearn for that also. So yes, I would be just as pleased to visit with Elizabeth. In fact, I think my sit-down with Paul may have to wait an eternity or two while I talk to Mary and Elizabeth. We women of God need to share our stories and praise the Lord. May you, beloved reader, find people to talk to that aid your Christian journey – especially in this season of Advent. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Loading

Email Subscribe

Subscribe for blog posts sent to your email

Post Categories

MennoNerds on YouTube