Monday Morning Meditation 11-30-20

Advent is a time of waiting.  But what exactly does it mean to wait?  There are different definitions that offer a complexity to the simple word “wait”.

We all know what it means to wait for things.  I often take the train when I travel to Philadelphia and have to wait at the station.  We wait in car line to pick up our children at school or an extracurricular event. We wait for someone to finish getting ready so we can go somewhere.

Then there are the unhealthy waits – waiting for the “right time” to start the exercise program, or to have a hard conversation.  This type of waiting tends to be more about procrastinating or avoiding something.

But biblical waiting is different.  Over the past few Sundays, the Gospel lessons were all about waiting for Christ’s return.  Jesus would tell these stories of waiting and watching, combining the two words.  And this type of waiting is more of a time of preparation.  To wait expectantly means you works towards that event as you anticipate it.

Think about having a child.  You must wait nine months – but you do not go about your business as usual, rather you prepare.  You create a space for a crib, you get baby furniture and clothing.  You start to consider changes in schedules.  You rest (and we know the importance of proper rest).  This waiting is filled with action and contemplation. 

This is the same waiting Jesus calls us to.  When we wait or keep watch, we continue to prepare for Him by doing those things He calls us to do.  And each of us have different gifts, talents, and abilities, but all are from God and all can be used for God. 

During this time of Advent waiting, prepare yourself to receive Him again.  Make Advent a time of prayer, contemplation, rest, and action.  Consider one thing to do each week that might make a difference for another.  Try a new way to pray, or an additional time of day for meditative prayer.  Learn a new (for you) song or hymn.  Contemplate on the words to some of the traditional Advent hymns.  Practice random acts of kindness. 

And wait with anticipation for God.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 11-23-20

1 Chronicles 16:31-34

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Normally for Thanksgiving we have family members over, but like many of you, not this year.  We will celebrate with our household.  As every year, we will rise, eat breakfast, and put on the Thanksgiving Day parade.  During the parade, I will be busy in the kitchen working on the meal. 

But this year we will not have family over. 

Yet we remain thankful.  Even through all this mess of 2020 we must remain thankful for God is good and his love endures forever.  While our worship services are different, and our congregation is scattered, God is with us.  Even though we wear masks, and limit our contacts, God is with us.  No matter what happens, God is with us.  That is God’s eternal promise.

As you sit down for your meal this Thanksgiving, remember to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Happy Thanksgiving,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 11-16-20

Gospel Reading Luke 17:20-21

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

It is all around us, the kingdom.  It is not fully here, but it is here, nonetheless.  You can see it in the smile of a child, in the kindness of a stranger, in the power of a sermon, in the softness of a musical note.

The kingdom of God is all around us.  But it is hard to see – because we are so focused on seeing everything else.  Our society is so busy right now, so busy with day to day living (and that makes sense, as our days are pretty difficult) that we miss signs of the kingdom.

On the other hand, we do not want to be so “heavenly minded that we are not earthly good” as the old saying goes.  We must pay attention to our surroundings, we need to know what is happening, we must be prepared for each day.

Yet, what will we do with that information, that preparation?  Will we just read, watch or listen to the news and get bogged down in it?  Or will we use it to be informed – and then go out and share the kingdom?

There is political discord – so we should stop the political anger and instead offer peace.

There is racial divide – so we should reach out and embrace all no matter their color or ethnicity.

There is concern and fear regarding the pandemic – so we should offer comfort and understanding rather than divisive opinions.

And these are just a few examples.  Being informed and knowing the situation is a great way to spread the kingdom of God.  It allows us to enter into someone else’s situation and offer the comfort of God.

As you start this new week, consider how you can spread the kingdom.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Church 3.0 The Church WILL Survive Video Two

Church 3.0 The Church Will Survive Video Two

The Nazi Government tried to control the church in the 1930’s.  Why do you think some churches went along with this?

How strict should we adhere to separations between the Church and the State?

In what ways could the Church and the State work together for the good of the people?

Here is a link to the Barmen Declaration https://sacred-texts.com/chr/barmen.htm

Monday Morning Meditation 11-9-20

James 1: 5-8

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

I know I could use some wisdom right now, how about you?  We are almost one third of the way through November and I am starting to plan the Advent and Christmas seasons.  And that will take lots of wisdom.

This is one of those passages that we all need to read more frequently.  Asking for wisdom is a good thing to do – but look at what James says, “ask in faith, never doubting”.  And as I said in the sermon yesterday, doubt is the greatest tool Satan has.  When the seeds of doubt are planted, mayhem results. 

So as a new week begins, as the nation continues to struggle with the pandemic and division over the election, let us all faithfully ask for wisdom.

And believe God will grant it.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 11-2-20

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.

Do you remember getting a tooth pulled and your tongue automatically goes to the hole?  How about driving along the highway and there is an accident on the other side – many slow down to look.  It seems like part of the human condition, and we do it digitally as well.

I was reading an article on the election then started reading the comments.  I know, its like sticking my tongue in that hole, or creating a gaper delay watching the accident.  I had to turn it off and walk away. 

Tuesday is Election day, and this has been a very contentious election.  Many have their opinions and are willing to share them.  The problem is more people want to denigrate each other rather than support the right to opposing positions.  There is too much name calling, too much meanness, too much belittling of anyone who disagrees (and I see this on both sides of the political fence).

As I read the scriptures, I’m convinced that God is more concerned with how we behave towards each other than who we elect – especially since God calls us to love one another as ourselves.  And no candidate is any more elevated than any other human – they answer to the same God as we do.

As we travel these last few hours before Election day, and as we wait for results remember that each of us are created in God’s image and loved with an immeasurable love – no matter who we vote for.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 10-26-20

The Golden Rule.  We all know it.  How many of you remember a poster of it in your elementary school?  How many of us have said it to others, or taught it to our children?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

We can find it in Luke 6:31, Do to others as you would have them do to you, and we can find it alluded to in other passages, both Old and New Testaments.

But did you know that the Golden Rule is not a specific Judeo/Christian concept?  A similar teaching is found in nearly every world religion including Native American religions, indigenous religions, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam and more.  Here is a short example:

Buddhism Do not offend others as you would not want to be offended.

Islam None of you are true believers until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.

Confucianism Tzu-kung asked, “Is there one word which can serve as the guiding principle for conduct throughout life?” Confucius said, “It is the word altruism. Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”

Sikhism I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.

Taoism Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.

Jainism One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.

Aboriginal Spirituality Chief Dan George We are much alive as we keep the Earth alive.

When you stop to consider nearly every world religion has this same philosophy, it must be a universal truth (and I believe that God is responsible for this truth for a reason).

We are a week away from the general election in the most tumultuous political years ever with a lot of anger (on both sides).  So, I challenge each of us.  During this last week of politicking as we prepare to go to the polls, practice the Golden Rule.  No matter who your neighbor, friend or family member is voting for, practice the Golden Rule.  And after the election, practice the Golden Rule.  Afterall, you would want someone to practice the Golden Rule with you, right?

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Examples from:  https://medium.com/@leoserafico/the-golden-rule-of-different-religions-and-philosophies-1b58b8b55f80#:~:text=%20The%20Golden%20Rule%20of%20Different%20Religions%20and,what%20you%20love%20for%20yourself.%20%20More%20

Monday Morning Meditation 10-19-20

The Book of Psalm is one of the most incredible books in the bible.  It is not a book of church doctrine, or even theology.  Some of the Psalms are poetic thoughts, some are prayers, some are songs of praise, some are lamentations.  And some are all of these things.

The Psalms (and this is probably their most important value) give us permission to lament, to walk in our grief and pain, and to shed a tear at the events of our lives.  The Psalms can easily become our prayers.

Today, Psalm 6 seems to resonate with me:

Psalm 6:1-6

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger  or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

Now it is important to know that most of these Psalms of Lament end in continuing praise of God – but it is also important to know that if you are not there yet, God gives you the opportunity to feel your sorrow.  Just know that the Lord hears your cries, the Lord knows your pain.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 10-12-20

Luke 15:22-25

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So, they put out, 23and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”

Yesterday I said, “how can it be October 11th already?” Someone answered, “because it’s 2020.”  I don’t know about you, but I am tired.  This year has been exhausting.  Yet, on the other hand, I wake up early most every day.  Today my wife and I both work up an hour earlier than the alarm.  It seems there is always so much to do.  Last week we all took a day off together – and are now paying for it as we are completely behind. 

Add the stress of the ongoing pandemic, the political situation, the racial tensions, the economic crisis and you know the rest – you are living it as well. 

Jesus was tired too.  And Jesus did the right thing – he took a nap.  In the middle of a storm, Jesus takes a nap because he was tired.  When the disciples get “a little anxious” (actually, as some of them are experienced fishermen, the storm must have been pretty bad) they wake Jesus.  And Jesus does that typical Jesus-y thing – he stops the storm.

Perhaps sometime this week, during whatever storm you are going through, you should stop and take a nap.  Then let Jesus do His thing.

Peace,

Pastor Bill