Month: August 2018

Changing from Within

Reflect:   Last Sunday, we talked about one of the greatest problems of humanity. As Blaise Pascale said, “All human problems stem from a man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Without this skill, we cannot know ourselves. Without knowing yourself we can’t interact with the world around us in a healthy way. The ways of the world will continue to tempt us towards greed, unfaithfulness, hopelessness, and violence if we do not learn to sit still in the room alone. Keeping our hearts pure, telling the truth and acting out of pure intentions are our defense against evil in the world.

Challenge: Have you noticed that there are more old trees in wealthy communities than in the poor neighborhoods? This is how the human fear of survival makes people think less of beauty and sustainability. Trying to survive, people lose the vision for the future. Organizations are like that. Stable organizations can afford to pay more attention to the quality of communications, relationships, and the environment. 

Go Deeper: ​Is God’s dwelling place external, or internal, or both? Psalm 84 confirms that God’s dwelling place is right here with us, in the surroundings and the people. If God’s dwelling place is within us, how do we make that place lovely for God? Perhaps God’s dwelling place, right here and now, is where eternal life is found. What words of eternal life is God speaking in your heart at this time and this place?

The Bible is not written by the powerful people who rule the world, but by those who found strength in God who is good, creative, active, loving, and resourceful. From the Bible, we learn about our world. God’s creation is beautiful and full of life. God didn’t paint the world in one color, and that makes our experience so diverse and exciting.

Reading the Bible we learn about God and God’s work in the lives of our ancestors, but the Bible is not a history book. The Bible continues teaching us about ourselves. There are a few important things about our identity as God’s children. We are creative; we are compassionate, and we are forgiving because our God is creative, compassionate, and forgiving.

In Mark 7, Jesus’ followers do not follow the religious purity laws about eating. Moreover, Jesus does not get alarmed. He speaks against the old law. The old laws and tradition were challenged by fast-growing and spreading new Greek and Roman traditions. Jesus’ response is direct and clear: he calls the Pharisees, who worried more about was the food clean and unclean, hypocrites. What is put into the body cannot make a person dirty or “unclean.” Instead, it is what comes out of the mouth that makes a person unclean. This all comes to our internal change if we want to grow.  For Jesus, religious purity is about really living the way of a loving God and God’s creation. Our creation depends on us and it starts from within.

 

 

 

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From Wisdom to Singing

Ephesians 5:15-20

Going Deeper: Character of a Methodist

The word “sanctification” can be an intimidating word. It is, however, an important concept for Christians in general and Methodists in particular. From God in Leviticus calling the people of Israel to be “holy as I am holy” or Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew inviting the new community to be “perfect as your heavenly father is perfect,” sanctification is a consistent theme and calling for the people of God. Sanctify comes from the word “to make holy” or “be separated.” Our separation is not meant to convey the sense of being withdrawn as much as it is a calling of uniqueness. We are called to be the unique people of God. The Israelites were called to reflect the holy character of God, which would result in strict laws (like resting on the Sabbath) and even a unique diet (not eating pork). The new community of Jesus’ disciples is similarly called to embody the unique way of Jesus (forgiveness, radical compassion, and selfless love). When John Wesley taught on sanctification, he was affirming God’s continual work of the Holy Spirit within us, confirming or shaping us into the image of Christ — the ultimate example of love.

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How Long Can I Stay Angry at Someone?

Church is a place where many different people come together to seek transformation. We know we are supposed to value differences and promote each person’s worth, but it’s much easier said than done. The words that Paul writes to the church in Ephesus speak to us today. Our emotions and frustrations sometimes make us angry and create real challenges for the church growth. The reasons we must manage our anger properly has everything to do with our Christian identity. If we don’t manage our anger, we are unable to forgive and we end up hurting others. If we deal with anger properly, if we get rid of all forms of anger and instead forgive, we are modeling the work of God in Christ “just as in Christ God forgave you” (verse 32). Paul encourages the congregations to give up practices that lead to broken relationships with God and others and engage in practices that build up the community.

Paul’s instructions for human life are so basic that many scholars think Paul has simply borrowed them from classic Greco-Roman ethics. Though there are plenty of similarities, Paul puts a Christian spin on each area of human relationships. The reason we must speak the truth is that “we are all members of one body” (verse 25). Not speaking truthfully destroys the trust. Without the trust, there is no unity in the Body of Christ. The way we speak is part of God’s work of grace in the world.

Going Deeper:

The letter to the Ephesians takes a completely different approach from anger management. It insists that we are members of the same body, and therefore we have a responsibility toward one another. And that applies as much to the way we speak to and about one another. From this perspective, Ephesians says that our words should convey “truth” and “grace” to each other.  “Speaking truth is a practical matter, as the prophet Zechariah puts it: “Speak the truth to one another. Do not plan ways of harming one another.” (Zech. 8:16-17 TEV). From this perspective, “speaking truth” is a way of fulfilling our commitment to relate to one another in ways that promote peace and justice.  This is in stark contrast to the anger and bitterness and strife that seems so prevalent in human experience. While we may say what’s really on our minds when we’re angry, that doesn’t mean we’re speaking “truth.” When our words are motivated by anger it seems they are much more likely to be “rotten words” (Eph. 4:29). “Rotten words” come from anger and they are like “rotten fruit”—they are the opposite of the “good fruit” that should characterize our lives in the body of Christ.

God does not forbid anger, which is a natural human feeling. But I think there is anger, and then there is anger.  Paul does not support anger that causes something like a road rage but the kind of anger that feels deeply the injustice of oppression. It is an anger that motivates us to do something that will relieve the suffering of the oppressed.  We need to avoid anger that destroys relationships. 

Paul calls it to relate to each other with love and kindness and compassion. Make no mistake: it grieves our loving creator when we fail to do that. It grieves our creator when we act in ways that destroy the fabric of humanity. Our Christian identity calls for telling the truth in a way that our words “convey grace”.

The way to keep the body of Christ whole and healthy is to practice forgiveness. It is the only true antidote for poison of bitterness and anger.[6] I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t easy. There are people who have harmed me in ways that still make me angry. But if I don’t forgive them, the bitterness consumes me. The only way for Christians to act is to be kind and sympathetic toward one another, to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to imitate our God by walking in love. It is the only way we can fulfill our calling to “be a sign in and for the world of the new reality which God has made available to people in Jesus Christ.”

 

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Your Highest Potential

Several weeks prior to this service, we began asking people to bring in types of bread that represent their heritage to share in today’s Eucharist. These can be placed on the communion table.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?  Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:24-35

Questions for this Sunday: What is my “job” as a Christian in today’s world? What must we do to perform the works of God? (John 6:28). 

“How then shall we live?” Each passage today considers a similar question. In David’s story, we see how not to live. In the psalm, we hear of apology and forgiveness. In Ephesians, we are encouraged to build up the body of Christ through love. And in John’s gospel, Jesus tells us to “work …for the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27). How shall we live in order to fulfill God’s potential for us? We have so many jobs in our lives—professional in our careers; personal as parents, children, spouses, and friends; and global as citizens of our communities, country, and the world. Most important of all, but often least considered, is what our job as Christians should be. That all comes down to love, and once God’s love is evident in us, our responsibilities in the other realms of our lives become clearer as well.

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