Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Work of Christmas Begins

Work of Christmas Begins

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                 By Howard Thurman
"When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…

And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.



Adapted from The Mood of Christmas
©1973 Howard Thurman

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Emmanuel, “God with us.”  עִמָּנוּאֵל

Matthew 1: 18-25
     We serve a God who seeks us out. A God you desires a loving relationship with us. The news, delivered to Joseph in the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday in Advent (Matt. 1:18-25), that God wants to walk this earth with us is nothing new. God walked with Adam in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, Genesis 3. God visited Abraham in Genesis 18. God appeared to Moses, Jacob, Elijah, Isaiah, and many other prophets.
     Even beyond special appearances, God wants to walk with us. In fact, God does walk with us, everyday and everywhere we go. This is the meaning of what John Wesley calls “Prevenient Grace.” God is always there, waiting for us to turn to Him, to embrace Him, to make Him a part of our everyday life.


I like to think of Prevenient Grace like this:
     Let’s say I’m driving down the road with my radio turned off. I want to hear the traffic report or the news, or maybe music, so I reach down and turn my radio to “ON”. Immediately voices or music begins to come through the radio and I can here whatever it is being broadcast. Now, when I turned my radio “ON”, there wasn’t a person at the radio station that was alerted I wanted service and then beamed radio waves directly to me. The whole time I was driving, even with the radio off, I was surrounded by radio waves. Music, news, sports talk and even Rush Limbaugh were bouncing off my radio receiver, surrounding my car and even bouncing off me. Maybe even penetrating and passing through me. (What a horrible thought that even though I don’t listen to him, Rush Limbaugh is bouncing off my body daily.)
     God is like the radio waves, always there whether we are tuned into Him or not. Emmanuel, God with us, God around us, God within us. Christ’s birth would be a physical manifestation of a reality about God that existed from the very moment He created humankind.
     Joseph’s dream and the announcement of the Angel of the Lord was conformation the God loves us. God loves us enough to become Emmanuel. God loves us enough to live a human life. God loves us enough to become a vulnerable and helpless child. Born to an obscure teenage girl from a poor village on the fringe of the Hebrew world.


Emmanuel !!!! Emmanuel !!!!! I just can’t seem to say it enough. Emmanuel!!!!

I think I see a tattoo in my future, עִמָּנוּאֵל

Friday, December 17, 2010

"A Christmas Card" by Thomas Merton

by Thomas Merton

When the white stars talk together like
 sisters
And when the winter hills
Raise their grand semblance in the
                       freezing night,
Somewhere one window
Bleeds like the brown eye of an open force.

Hills, stars,
White stars that stand above the eastern stable.

Look down and offer Him.
The dim adoring light of your belief.
Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire.

Shall not this Child
(When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice)
Conquer the winter of our hateful century?

And when His Lady Mother leans upon the crib,
Lo, with what rapiers
Those two loves fence and flame their brillancy!

Here in this straw lie planned the fires
That will melt all our sufferings:
He is our Lamb, our holocaust!

And one by one the shepherds, with their snowy feet,
Stamp and shake out their hats upon the stable dirt,
And one by one kneel down to look upon their Life.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent, 2010

     The lectionary readings for this week really get me fired up! The prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist echo through the centuries with the promise of Emmanuel, God With Us. Isaiah promises “a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse...”  Isaiah 11: 1-10
     John the Baptist shouts in the desert, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand…” Matthew 3:1-12
     Both prophets tell us: “Something big is about to happen. Clean up your act! Wash off your sin! Make room in your heart for God!”
     We have to do that, to make room in our lives for God. We have to put away our toys and distractions. We have to turn off the phone, we have to be still and wait for God.
     "Hurry up and wait", as the saying goes. Prepare yourself but don’t get so caught up in the preparation that you miss God’s coming. We will never be fully ready to greet God. We cannot be clean enough, righteous enough, sinless enough, but we have to try.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Sunday in Advent 2010

Romans 13:11-14

     In this week’s Epistle reading from Romans, Paul reminds us that “we know what time it is…”
     We know who Christ is and why He came into this world and into our lives. Still, we hold Christ at arm’s length, never fully embracing the Way in which he calls us to live. Never fully knowing Emmanuel, God with us.
     Paul goes on to encourage us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh.”
     Just what does that mean for us today? How does that look? If we wore the mantel of Christ, what would others see?
     I believe it is especially important to wear the mantel of Christ and Live out our Christian faith during Advent and Christmas. As Christians, we are always being watched, being judged. “Does she live up to what she says believes?” “Are his actions the actions of a Christian?” “Is he imitating Christ?”
     At Christmas, and Easter, the world is watching us even more closly, judging us more harshly. That judgment falls on us and, because we are Christians, judgment of us f falls on Christ.
Paul’s call in Romans 13 is for the Church to live our beliefs, to fully live out our faith. To put on the mantel of Christ and live so others will know the joy of His love.
     Beyond the commercialism of Christmas, beyond the excesses of the season, we are called to live as Christ lived. To live as models of love, peace, hope and joy. As the world hustles and bustles around you this Christmas Season, be still. Show others the joy you have in Christ by taking the time to live out the promise of Christ’s coming into this world.
     Even those most cynical toward Christianity get that there is more joy in giving than getting. Show the world that the REAL JOY of Christmas comes from both getting and giving. From getting Christ’s love and giving Christ’s love. Real Joy comes from welcoming Christ into the world and into your life and then sharing the gift of Christ with others.

Prayer
Gracious and loving God, give me the courage to be still as the world swirls around me. Help me find ways, simple ways, to express your love and to express the joy that comes from Your love to those around me.
We pray this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.
Amen

Monday, November 22, 2010

Preparing For Advent

 As I prepare my heart for the season of Advent, I find myself repeating the lament of so many Christians at this time of year. "Why has Christmas become so commercial?" This is not a new lament for me or for the church, but I'm ready to do something about it in my life.

This year, I have decided to celebrate Advent rather than the co-opted version of christmas forced upon me by American culture. Who cares if store clerks in the mall say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas?" Mall shopping has N O T H I N G to do with the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. The American christmas has nothing to do with the Christian celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. The American christmas has nothing to do with the Christian celebration of Christmas, Christ's Mass.

In his 1950's book "Season's of Celebration", Thomas Merton wrote:
It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendency to regard Christmas, consciously or unconsciously, as a return to our innocence and our own infancy. But the church, in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior, and a Prince of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The Advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, history, humanity, the world, and our own being. In Advent, we celebrate the coming, and indeed the presence, of Christ in our world.

There is so much more to Christmas and Advent than commercialism and there is more to the season than complaining about the commercialism. I choose to ignore the American christmas and celebrate the coming of Christ and the realization of God with us.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tikkun Olam: Restoring God's Light

     Tikkun Olam is a beautiful concept that comes from the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah. Roughly speaking, Tikkun Olam refers to repairing the world or restoring God’s Light in the world in order to repair the broken relationship between God and humankind.
     The concept is derived from a mystical re-telling of the creation story. When God, the source of all life and pure light, created the world He took part of Himself, His Light, and placed it in clay jars in the world to be the source of life and light for all of creation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We Cannot be Christian Alone

      I have come to believe that Christian Accountability, as modeled by John Wesley and reformed by present day Methodist scholars, is key to true Christian Discipleship and true Christian Community.
     Retired Bishop Kenneth Carder wrote, Practicing the individual and corporate spiritual disciplines in a community of mutual support and accountability are means of being and becoming individuals and communities that reflect the gospel.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Service as a Means of Grace

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
1Peter 4:1

     My view of service as a means of Grace has always been that Grace flows from God, through the servant and into the one being served. In time I came to see that through my service, God's Grace flowed through me into those He sent me to serve as well as flowing back into me from those I served. Those I served in the name of Christ were a means of Grace and a blessing to me. I call this the "blessing of sacrifice."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God's Grace to Adam & Eve

     I have a wonderful professor for Old Testamena Survey.  Dr. Charles Odium, a South Africian and former Southern Baptist seminary professor. He made a very intresting statement the other night in class.
     The statement was in regard to the story in Genesis where God bans Adam and Eve from the Garden then protects or conceils the Tree of Life from them.

22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side [e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 3: 22-24


      God exhibited love for Adam and Eve by taking away their ability to eat from the Tree of Life and, therefore, live forever. Denying access to life eternal was a gift of Grace from God.

      Had God allowed Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever, they would have spent eternity living in sin. That IS HIS Grace.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thomas Merton's Prayer for Peace

Almighty and merciful God, Father of all men, Creator and ruler of the universe,
Lord of all history, whose designs are without blemish, whose compassion for
the errors of men is inexhaustible, in your will is our peace.

Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to you from the tumult and desperation
of a world in which you are forgotten, in which your name is not invoked,
your laws are derided and your presence is ignored. Because we do not
know you, we have no peace.

From the heart of an eternal silence, you have watched the rise of empires
and have seen the smoke of their downfall. You have witnessed the impious
fury of ten thousand fratricidal wars, in which great powers have torn whole
continents to shreds in the name of peace and justice.

A day of ominous decision has now dawned on this free nation. Save us then
from our obsessions! Open our eyes, dissipate our confusions, teach us
to understand ourselves and our adversary. Let us never forget that sins
against the law of love are punishable by loss of faith, and those
without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!

Help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us.

Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and
destruction. Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries
in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and
suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now
grow beyond belief and beyond bearing. They are at once a torment
and a blessing: for if you had not left us the light of conscience,
we would not have to endure them. Teach us to wait and trust.

Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace.
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily
your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your
designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth
reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.

Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm,
O God of holiness, merciful to men. Grant us to seek peace where
it is truly found. In your will, O God, is our peace.
Amen.

International Day of Prayer for Peace

Prayer for Peace
Remember, God of Peace,
the peoples of the world divided into many nations and tongues.
Deliver us from every evil that obstructs your saving purpose,
and fulfill your promises of old to establish your kingdom of peace.

From the curse of war and all that creates it,
O God, deliver us.
From Believing and speaking lies against other nations.
O God, deliver us.
From narrow loyalties and selfish isolation,
O God, deliver us.
From fear and distrust of other nations,
from all false pride, vainglory, and self-deceit,
O God, deliver us.
From the lust of the mighty for riches,
that drives peaceful people to slaughter,
O God, deliver us.
From putting our trust in the weapons of war,
and from want of faith in the power of justice and good will,
O God, deliver us.
From every thought, word, and deed which rends the human family
and separates us from the perfect realization of your love.
O God, deliver us.
Amen.
Bshop Susan Wolfe Hassinger
United methodist Church, New England Conference

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Terry Jones Promotes Hate & Fear

      Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center plans to burn thousands of copies of the Qur'an on September 11, 2010 as a protest and a warning to Islamist extremist. In an interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Jones defended his planned Qur'an burning saying, "We have declared September the 11th 'International Burn a Quran Day' because we want to send a very clear message," Jones continued, "It is indeed a radical message but a very clear, radical message to Muslims, to Sharia law, that that is not welcome in America."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Recovering Joy

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
                                                              Plalms 30:11-12 (NIV)


     Recovering Joy is what following Christ has meant for me. We often like to say, "You and I share the same history." or " We've walked the same path through life, hell, and back to God through Christ Jesus."
     The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe we ran into each other in a beer joint or a bar room. Maybe we had a common connection in the particular poison we chose to use to numb our senses and erase our pain, but that is pretty much where it ends. That’s not a bad thing, it's simply reality.

John Wesley's Covenant Prayer

 This prayer was written by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in 1755. Wesley wrote the prayer to be used in a worship service he called “the Renewal of the believer's Covenant with God” United Methodist still celebrate Covenant Services as a reminder of who we are as Methodist and the call has on our lives as Christians.

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

John Wesley’s prayer is a powerful prayer. It echoes the commitment God makes with us with through His son Jesus Christ. Not everyone can pray this prayer truly believing in their hearts the words written by Wesley. Knowing we cannot live up to the promise we make in Wesley’s prayer today, we pray we will some day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grace

Grace
by Wendell Berry
for Gurney Norman, quoting him

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”


Wendell Berry is one of my favorite poets. 
     Berry's poem Grace reminds me both how to live and why I live. "Running or walking, the way is the same." What a beautiful reminder we are to slow down and take in all we can, while we can.  God plants us in "the place (we) have been coming to forever".

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hiaku for Zimbabwe

why ask the question
"am i my brother's keeper?"
we know the answer

Support United Methodist Emergency Relief in Zimbabwe

A $20.00 gift to UMCOR can help feed a family of five in Zimbabwe by providing about two months of maize meal.

To donate, click here: Zimbabwe Emergency Relief 

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Understanding of The Eucharist

     Taking Communion at Trinity Church, Bangalore, India radically changed my relationship with the Eucharist and my understanding of how the sacrament truly defines the Church. Trinity Church is an Anglican Church built by the British in the mid 1800’s. I was in India on a business trip and was lucky enough to have Sunday off. The entire service was in Tamil, a southern Indian language that is absolutely beautiful. Because it was an Anglican service, and I’m a Methodist, I was able to keep up with the order of worship. Several of the hymns sung that day were familiar as well, so I sang along in English to “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “Just as I am.” In fact, we sang “Just as I am” as we took Communion. I never realized how perfect that song is for Communion!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Might be a Samaritan if.......

I was making some notes on the characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan and had a weird idea as to how ancient Hebrews viewed Samaritans. I’m guessing Hebrews saw Samaritans as backward and rough around the edges, much like our cultural view of Rednecks. That naturally led to the thought of an ancient Hebrew Jeff Foxworthy telling “You might be a Samaritan if…” jokes.

I wrote a few, help me out with some more.

“You might be a Samaritan if …you read the Torah left to right instead of right to left”
“You might be a Samaritan if… Passover is just a polite way to ask for more fried chicken during a meal. 'Hey bubba, Passover dat fried chicken'.”
“You might be a Samaritan if…you go bass fishing on Saturday and to Temple on Sunday.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Masai Version of the Apostles' Creed

      This version of the Apostles' Creed was created by Fr.Vincent Donovan. Fr.Donovan was a Catholic missionary to Africa, working mostly with the Masai people in Tanzania from 1955-1973. Fr. Donovan was also a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers, a Catholic Missionary group with a rich history of serving the poor and marginalized.
      Fr.Donovan worked to incorporate Christianity into the Masai culture rather than transform Masai culture, making it Christian.  I highly recommend his book Christianity Rediscovered.

Masai Apostles' Creed

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe.
Amen

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Where is the U.S Going?

The 14th Amendment was written to protect children born in the US to parents who could never become citizens. Specifically, it was an answer to Dread Scott, a Supreme Court decision which held that people of African dissent, brought to this country against their will and their children, even if they were not slaves, were not protected by the constitution and could never become citizens of the US. Additionally, the 14th amendment protected the children of Chinese immigrants born in this country. Cheap Chinese labor, some say slave labor, was responsible for the growth and prosperity of this country from the end of the civil war well into the 20th century. Despite that contribution, neither legal Chinese immigrants nor their children, born on US soil, could become citizens.


In 1868, Racism and jingoism were quickly turning the US into an oppressive country. The 14th amendment was written to remind future generations of the importance of the Declaration of Independence in shaping laws affecting the lives of all human beings. That Declaration proclaimed all men were created equal, period.

It is interesting the repeal of an amendment which has been part of the Constitution for over 2/3’s of this nation’s history is put forward by those who vehemently oppose our first African American President, and question his citizenship based on his birth.

No, this is not interesting; it is frightening. Some in our country have learned nothing from our hate filled past and propel us toward a hate filed future. Angry people who proclaim patriotism seek to rewrite the constitution because of hate and fear. The goal of those who attacked this country 9/11/2001 was to morally and financially bankrupt this nation. It appears many self-proclaimed patriots support that effort.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sermon on the "Good" Samaritan

Sermon on the "Good" Samaritan
By Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber


From what I hear, if you are taking a trip to the Holy Land you can visit the actual road from Jerusalem to Modern day Jericho and local tour guides are happy, for the right price, to show you the exact spot where the Good Samaritan helped the Man found beaten by thieves. Many an earnest Christian has paid for such an “authentic” holy land experience before remembering that the Good Samaritan was just a parable.

But it’s one of the biggies…along with the prodigal son, this parable of a beaten and robbed man being shown mercy by a Samaritan is ingrained into the cultural memory of even those who have never stepped foot into a church. There are laws named after it. Long term care facilities named after it. Even a Boy Scout Merit badge named after it. We KNOW this story. And as happy as I am that at least some of the Bible is part of our cultural mythology, it actually makes it that much more difficult to hear these stories with new ears. It can be hard to hear the real power of this story precisely because we’re so sure what it means…when we already know the moral of this story, which is “it’s good to be helpful”. But I guess I started to wonder this week if maybe the teachings of Jesus have a little more to them than say, the flimsy moralisms we learned from “a very special episode of Saved By The Bell”. Maybe the story of mercy being shown to a beaten and robbed man has much more to it than “it’s good to be helpful”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taking a Look at John 10:10

     There was a time in my life that, if someone were to draw an editorial cartoon of my brain it would show a little man sitting in a chair next to a fire place looking through a window in my head and wondering "what would it be like to live out there instead of in here?"

     Living life in my head caused me so many problems. We are given the gift of life and the gift of God's creation with the ability to fully experience both. At the same time, however, our brains also have the ability to question that reality and keep us locked up and living in our heads. We can opt out of life but still be alive. We can simply exist.
     It's like we have a choice between living like a plant, rooted in 1 place and only experiencing the world as it comes to us; or living like an animal, living in the world, moving through it and taking part in the all of life.
     Christ's solution for "life in my head" is offered to us in John 10:10. Christ tells us "I (He) have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." (NAS)
     I use to be a spectator. I thought I was "living" my life, but in reality I was standing still. Trapped at a party I didn't want to leave. Like the Eagles’ song, Hotel California, "You can check out anytime you like but, you can never leave."
     I have a new view, a new perspective now that I’m living my life in Christ, “I can check out anytime I like but, I don't want to leave!!”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fish and Eggs, Snakes and Scorpions

Visit Day1.ORG for more
Luke 11:1-13  Proper 12 (17) - Year C
July 25, 2010
"As he finished praying, one of his disciples said, 'Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples to pray.'" The disciple approaches Jesus as a matter of observation and comparison.

This one disciple articulates what we all know privately within ourselves; we are an ambiguous construction of earth and spirit. We are as grounded as the adamah (the red clay) out of which we are drawn and we are as free as the nephesh (the wind) that fills our lungs. We are grounded spirits, the middle point of creation as Plato describes us. One testimony to this inner ambiguity is our felt anxiety over how we should then live. There seems to be no inner gyroscope to provide balance and orientation in our human life.

Animals have long astounded us with their ability to find their way. For humanity there is a strange void as though we are observers who look out on the world with a question mark as to our place in it. We lack the assuredness of a place; as Walker Percy notes, we are "lost in the cosmos." Inevitably, our eyes turn outward in the hope that the one we observe has something we do not. Hasn't the whole advertising industry been built on this inner ambiguity, this moment when we are poised in "reconsideration?" This unnamed disciple asks Jesus, "Is there a model we can follow?"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Martha the Missionary & Mary the Mystic

      The relationship between Christ and Martha & Mary, the sisters of Lazarus (John 11:1) is one of the most interesting in the Gospels. Many papers have been published and sermons preached in an effort to understand just who Martha and Mary are and what they have to say to Christians regarding relationships. Their story helps us understand individual relationships with Christ, Christian community relationships, and cultural / societal relationships. Much can be learned from Martha and Mary. I believe understanding Martha & Mary provides us a clear example the diaconal relationship all believers have with Christ (Craddock); the satisfaction of service displayed by Martha and the joy of spiritual union found in Mary’s close relationship with Christ. This dichotomy is often a source of tension, both within individuals and within the church.


     For the 14th century mystic and theologian Miester Eckhart, Martha is the perfect example of a life of Christian service and hospitality. A woman dedicated to tending to the needs of Christ and His followers and to proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; truly a missionary. Eckhart sees her sister Mary as representative of the contemplative life, dedicated to prayer and worship. Mary seeks, as all true mystics do, to always be in the presence of God. Preacher and scholar
Fred Craddock sums this up best in his commentary on Luke:
 There is a time to go and do; there is a time to listen and reflect. Knowing which and when is a matter of spiritual discernment. If we were to ask Jesus which example applies to us…His answer would probably be yes .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Captian Quaker asks us "What is Church?"

On his blog, Captian Quaker asked "What is Church?"

     Go to Captian Quaker's Blog to read some beautiful expressions of Church and Christ.
Here is my response:
"What is Church?" First of all I believe Church is organic. A Church cannot be manufactured or built. A Church can be planted. Planted in the Garden that is Christ Jesus; watered with the sweat of service, fertilized with the prayers of the people; and pruned by Christ centered accountability.


     God willing, through the power of Christ’s love made manifest in the Holy Spirit, that Church will bear fruit. Fruit being true disciples of Christ. Fruit being more Church communities. Fruit being justice and mercy in society. Fruit being the courage to hold political, military, legal, economic, educational, and social institutions accountable for what they do to the people. Fruit being love and partnership with Churches walking along The Way as they are able, regardless of differences in opinion.
     Church is Christ doing the very same Kingdom Work that He did in the first Century. Now through His Body, the Church. People of The Way of Christ.

Now, how will you answer this question?

Friday, June 25, 2010

One Reason People Stay Away From Church and Christianity

I recently read a BLOG by Chris Rosebrough, "Where Does it Say That We Can "Practice the Presence of God"?, posted on The Letter of Marque that deeply disturbed me for many reasons. His attack on the Catholic Church and on 21st century believers (some of whom call themselves "Emergent") was brutal and bigoted rubbish. I ported a response in an attempt to tell him he was loved and that it takes different tools to get different people into relationship with God through Christ. That only produced more vitriolic yammering from this troubled soul.


What really bothers me is that it is Chris's brand of Christian self-hate that turns people away from the Church. Who would want to become a follower of Christ when people claiming Christ condemn fellow believers.
In becoming irrelevant so many Christians(?) like Chris have also become irreverent. Where's the love Chris?
I'll be praying for you brother.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The World's Oldest Profession

The world's oldest profession is a Gardener

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15

The theme for the 2010 Memphis Annual Conference held at Collierville UMC was “Tending God’s Garden”. Anyone who is a gardener knows how much work goes into growing fruitful and beautiful plants. As a matter of fact, those of us who are not gardeners avoid that hobby for that very reason.

Tending God’s Garden, of course, is a metaphor for the many ways we must take responsibility for bearing fruit in our own lives and in the life of our Church. To grow a fruitful garden the soil must be prepared. We need a fertile foundation, a deep desire for God, where seeds of faith are planted.

A bountiful garden requires daily attention. We can think of watering and fertilizing our Spiritual Gardens as reading the scriptures, daily prayer and quiet time to listen for God. Gardens must be weeded regularly; take a look at our lives through God’s eyes and see what habits or actions need to be pulled out by the roots and thrown on the compost heap.

Our community is a garden God has planted our Church in. As Disciples of Christ we are called to go out from the Church into the world spreading seeds of faith through our witness and service. To nurture our neighbors and prepare their hearts by praying for them and tending to their needs. Tilling and enriching their spiritual soil so God, through the mystery of the Holy Spirit, can bring new life into a hurting and broken world.

Take some time this summer and tend to your Spiritual Garden. Tend to your soul and thin out the weeds so God can bear fruit in your life. That fruit of life will produce the seeds of faith we then plant in the Community Garden God has given our Church to tend and care for.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Todays Poem: The Secret of Life

The Secret of Life

by Ellen Goldsmith

I grabbed the streetcar from Fisherman's Wharf
to the Ferry Building to save my feet for later.
My dollar bill, wrinkled and worn, resisted disappearing
into the slot. I stuffed the transfer
in my pocket without looking.

As the streetcar rounded the Embarcadero,
I called my mother-in-law with mother's day wishes,
imagined the conversation
I'd have with mine, were she alive.
On exiting, I asked the conductor
how long the transfer would last.
I gave you extra time, he said.
Just show it. Hardly anyone looks.
It's good until it's taken away.


"The Secret of Life" by Ellen Goldsmith from Such Distances. © Broad Cove Press, 2009

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why I get up early every Sunday


Sabbath Peace
by Larry Chitwood
From my porch I see
stray dogs old junk cars dope boyz...
"Mom-ma, the Church Bus!"


© L.Chitwood 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

John 21: 1-14 Haiku

 Relief
 by Larry Chitwood

They fished for refuge
from fear and uncertainty
while Christ cooked breakfast.
©2010 Larry Chitwood
 
 
Text from John 21: 1-14 (NIV)
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Moving Post from Dr. Richard Beck at "Experimental Theology"

Why I Pray: Part 2, Solidarity
by Dr. Richard Beck


I've looked but I can't find where I got this quote, but I remember it clearly and it is Reason #1 for why I pray:
"When you pray, you stand in solidarity with all those who pray."

I pray because people around the world are dying and god-forsaken. They have nowhere to turn. They are helpless and powerless. Prayer represents that moment when all hope is gone and you turn your face heavenward looking for aid, comfort or solace. Looking for a miracle.

When I pray I stand in that hopelessness. I place myself in the position of those who can do nothing put pray. Prayer is their only option, only recourse. It is the only move available to them. Life forces people to their knees. So I go to my knees to be with them, to pray with them. In this sense, Jesus was God's prayer.

Click here to read the rest of Dr. Beck's post on "Experimental Theology"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sermon for January 17, 2010

John 2: 1-11
1On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."


His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

For a long time I just couldn't understand this passage.. I could not get past seeing this miracle as much more than a magic trick. Water to wine, keep the party going. Next maybe Christ would take some parchment, make a cone, and pour the wine into it only to disappear into thin air. Like the old magic trick kids learn.

Haiku

"Remnents of Grace"
by Larry Chitwood

God's sustaining Grace
flows through us, like a river
leaving pools of Love

 

"Bird Feeder"
by Larry Chitwood

Backyard bird feeder
goldfinch, black capped chic-a-dee,
tufted titmouse, two
©2010 Larry Chitwood



Friday, January 22, 2010

A Challenge to the Church by Bishop Will Willimon

Read this at Bishop's Willimon's blog, "A Peculiar Profit".

Monday, September 21, 2009
Christians as Consumers or Disciples?
Tony Robinson’s book, What’s Theology Got to Do with It? has some good insights on the theological basis of the church, insights that can help our efforts at congregational renewal in the Wesleyan spirit. This week I continue with some of Tony’s insights that I have found helpful.

Lutheran pastor Michael Foss argues that the central challenge facing many congregations today is to shift their dominant paradigm from being cultures of membership to cultures of discipleship. When Foss describes what he means by a culture of membership, he turns to the model of the now-ubiquitous health club.
Writes Foss:
I don’t want to push the analogy too far, but for the sake of illustration, let’s think of the membership model of church as similar to the membership model of the modern health club. One becomes a member of a health club by paying dues (in a church, the monthly or weekly offering). Having paid their dues, the members expect the services of the club to be at their disposal. Exercise equipment, weight room, aerobics classes, an indoor track, swimming pool—all there for them, with a trained staff to see that they benefit by them. Members may bring a guest on occasion, but only those who pay their dues have a right to the use of the facilities and the attention of the staff. There is no need to belabor the point. Many who sit in the pews on Sundays have come to think of church membership in ways analogous to how the fitness crowd views membership in a health club.3

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Read what Jim Wallis of " Sojourners" has to say about his newest book.


Dear Larry,
"I never expected to write this book, and it's different than anything I have written in the past

From the first outline, it was my hope that Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street would start a conversation about the deeper roots of this economic crisis, how we lost our way, and how to find it again. The book tries to provide A Moral Compass for the New Economy.

Yes, we need an economic recovery—but we also need a moral recovery. Sure, we all want to know when the recession will end. But it is more important to ask, "How will this crisis change us?"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Post from The Church Hisory Blog Site : http://lexloiz.wordpress.com/; © 2010 Lex Loizides

Don’t Become Weary of Doing Good
God gives us encouragements in the midst of difficulties. And each encouragement is deeply appreciated. Your leadership challenge may be tough for reasons that are entirely outside yourself.
It’s great to hear news of numerical breakthroughs and blessing in other places. We’re often helpfully stirred to pray and believe for greater breakthrough in our own towns.
But faithfulness to God’s call, with a heart toward God and a helping hand toward man, can sow spiritual seed that will produce fruit not only in our generation but also in the one to come.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace"

I was looking for a book that would explain the theology of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Kenneth Collins' comprehensive and thorough study of Wesley has proven to be just that and so much more. "The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace", though challenging for a newcomer to Wesley and theological study, delivers an in depth look at the historical Wesley and exposes the 18th century preacher's relevance to modern believers.

Collins presents John Wesley's theological system using the writings of Wesley and the historical and cultural atmosphere in which Wesley's theology  developed. As I lumber through this book, I hope to share both Collins's findings and my reflections on those findings.