Monday Morning Meditation 10/14/19

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  “For some time he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you; he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”                                                             Luke 18:1-8

This is another of those quirky Jesus stories that often makes us scratch our heads.  We try to figure out who is who in the story.  Is the Judge God?  Is the widow us?  And yet that doesn’t really fit, does it?  The Judge cannot be God since the judge is so unjust.  He only gives in because the widow in her persistence starts to bother him.  But the widow; who is she?

Now we have to do that little “bible trick”.  Whenever a passage begins with “Then” or “Afterwards” or any of those type words, we need to read what happened before.  Jesus was teaching on the Kingdom of God and how it is in our midst. Jesus refers to the flood and the destruction of Sodom as things that happened without a specific calendar date.  So will the coming of the Kingdom – it is here in our midst as well as coming fully one day.

And we are to remain ready for the kingdom – by living as Christ teaches us, with love towards God, our neighbors and ourselves.  We are to persistently be in communication with God through prayer.  Our prayers should be consistent and in accord with Christ.  We cannot just pray once and say “that’s done, its up to God now” rather we are to pray as we breathe.  Constantly.

Is there something going on in your life?  Don’t just take it to God in prayer, but consistently pray, asking God for God’s perspective, wisdom and guidance.  And then listen for God’s answer with faith, for God will answer.  As Jesus said: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”

Peace,

Pastor Bill

 

 

A Day in the Life

The plan for the day was simple.  Get the mail, go to the church office, do some administrative work, make a visit, go to a meeting and then work on the Sunday sermon.

Then everything changed.

I got the mail and went to the office.  There was a letter addressed to me from a barber supply company (yeah, I was confused).  It seems that someone has stolen my church credit card.  I called the credit card company and discovered four charges that I did not make.

I tried to finish up some administrative work then headed out to my visit.  The member (who is 99 btw) was in much better shape than my visit on Thursday.  We talked then prayed and I headed out for my meeting.  As I was driving to my meeting, the tire pressure indicator began to flash.  I found a Wawa (I love Wawa), checked all the tires and proceeded to my meeting.  But the indicator came on again.

The meeting was about Alzheimer’s and gave me some good information to share with the congregation.  I was even asked to close the meeting in prayer.

But that indicator was still on so I drove to the same Wawa and filled the tire again.  Realizing it was a problem, I decided to find a tire service station.

On the way a call came in – a hospice nurse telling me that one of our members has had a “change”.  This means she is actively dying.  Unfortunately, this was an hour from where I was, and I still had that tire problem.  I called the nurse and asked her if the next morning would work – she said “yes” to the best of her knowledge.  But something gnawed at me.  I needed to get there.

I let my wife know of the situation and she changed her work schedule to pick up our daughter at school so I could go to the congregation member.  But I was still at the garage.  The manager told me of some needed work – and I told him my situation.  He said to the mechanic “get this done”.  He told the front desk person to handle everything immediately so I could get out fast.  Then, while I was paying the bill, he asked me a name to pray for (YEAH!).  I got out of the garage and headed towards the nursing facility.

Some family members were there when I arrived.  We talked, I listened to stories, I was present.  More family came as did more stories.  Then it was time to pray.  Honestly, sometimes it is hard to pray for a person actively dying.  While I’m confident in the resurrection, I still find it hard to say goodbye (don’t we all?).  And after the prayer I told the person I would see her again – because I truly believe that I will.

This was a day in the life of a minister.  Plans change, unpredictable things happen, and God is glorified.

God is good.

Monday Morning Meditation 10/7/19

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

I was in sales in my “previous life”.  And often in the office of a Purchasing Agent was a sign that said; “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for me.”
Often Purchasing Agents were given the task of quickly getting needed materials and parts because somebody made a mistake.  This was their way of saying “your crisis is not my crisis.”

As I thought about this, I realized that often in the church we tend to create crises out of things that are not crises – or more important, we tend to make big things out of little ones – all the while missing the call of God.

In this passage from Matthew, Jesus and the apostles are on a boat getting away for a bit of rest.  The apostles have just witnessed Jesus heal a man with leprosy (Mt 8:1-4), a Roman Centurion’s servant (8:5-13), Peter’s Mother in Law and a host of others (8:14-17).  As crowds approached him, Jesus wanted to get away for rest.  They got in the boat and began to cross the lake.

But a storm arose and the apostles panicked saying; “Lord, save us!  We’re going to drown!”  Jesus, however, was not worried – this was not a crisis situation.  He simply rebuked the winds and the waves and the storm ended.

The interesting part is the reaction of the apostles.  They have just (again) witnessed Jesus perform miracles in all the healings but for some reason, they lose all knowledge of this and panic.

We often do this.  Our first reaction to bad news or situations is panic.  We lose our grip, we lose our cool, we lose sight of God.  God, however, does not panic.  God is in control – even when we may be out of control – and God will see us through.

The next time you find yourself in a panicked situation, stop, breathe and pray.  And then let God take over.

Peace,

 

Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 9-30-19

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I woke up “on the wrong side of the bed” this morning.  Actually, I woke up quite grumpy – it was one of those mornings wGrinchhen I kept falling asleep and waking up over the last two hours of sleep and it wasn’t refreshing.  You see, I have some worries.  But today’s daily lectionary text (one of my favorites, btw) addresses this.  Jesus calls us to a different way of life than worrying because worrying will neither solve the situation nor bring us closer to God.  Instead Jesus calls us to look at the creation and see God’s handiwork and care.  The flowers do not worry about their beauty, they just show it.  The birds do not worry about their food, they just go and get their “daily bread” (see what I did there?), for God provides.

Today, as I am mindful of my mood, I step back and thank God for all God has done.

Father, thank you for all your blessings.  May you remove our worries and fill us with your peace.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

In Remembrance

September 11th.  It is a day fixed in our minds forever.  It is a date such as December 7th is for those who grew up in the “Greatest Generation.”  It is a day we remember where we were, such as that day in Dallas in 1963.  It is a day we remember.

But what is it we remember?  Is it all about the attack?  Is it about the evil perpetrated on our land?  Or do we remember the heroic emergency workers trying to save as many lives as possible?

One leads to bitterness while the other leads to healing.

Now I’m not saying we should not remember the attack, and in fact, we must be always vigilant.  We need to take steps to keep our nation, our schools, our houses of worship and our homes safe.  As a person who lives with the memory of my home being robbed – of my place of safety being distorted – I understand this.  Places once thought safe are not anymore.  We hear of churches, synagogues and mosques attacked because of hate.  We hear of home invasions.  We hear of school shootings.  And we remember.

Every time one of these tragedies occurs we remember.  We remember heroes who ran into the smoke to save others.  We remember people who stood up to the aggressor.  We remember those who gave all so others may live.  And we remember God.

Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, instructed us to remember.  He said “do this in remembrance of me.”  And that word “remembrance” has power.  It is more than just thinking of the events of old, rather it is an ongoing act.  To celebrate the Lord’s Supper is to not only call to mind what happened, but to experience for ourselves His presence as we remember.

And God was very present on that eleventh day of September in 2001, as God is present today.

Psalm 46:1-3 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

On this eleventh day of September 2019, remember.  Remember those who lost their lives, remember their families, remember the emergency workers, the police, fire department, the soldiers and all who did (and continue to do) so much for our nation.  And remember our Lord who promises to be with us…always.

I Believe…Help My Unbelief

Doubts.  We all have them.  And we all have them concerning the faith as well.  Sometimes it is hard to “just believe” when you see so many problems in the world.  How can God be all powerful, but shootings such as El Paso, TX or Dayton, OH happen?  How can God be the God of love when His followers seem to hate each other over a multitude of issues?  And the list goes on.

But these questions are not new.  They are not something that just happened in the 21st century, or during the “Post-Modern” period of time.  They have been with us since the beginning.

In Matthew 11:3, John the Baptist sends a message to Jesus asking; “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  After all of Jesus’ teaching, Peter denies Jesus’ destiny towards the cross.  Thomas expresses his doubts (as did all the apostles, see Matthew 28:17).

Doubts are normal.  They are a part of the human experience and do not define us as Christ-followers.  And, doubts can lead to greater faith, for doubts force us to wrestle with the scriptures.  Doubts also force us to wrestle with the platitudes, Sunday school answers and other simple statements of the faith.  And wrestling is exercise – which makes us stronger.

Over the past few weeks some “prominent” Christian voices have expressed their doubts and claimed they have lost (or are losing) their faith.  As I read articles, blogs and social media reports, I seem to have missed anyone referencing the strength in doubting.  Nowhere does anyone mention “The Dark Night of the Soul”, in which Saint John of the Cross writes about his time of spiritual desolation (and renewal).  We forget about Jesus prayer in the Garden.  It was certainly a struggle for Jesus as he faced his death.  We forget about Ignatius of Loyola who taught that spiritual desolation is, in itself, a spiritual exercise, and a time to grow stronger in faith.  And there are countless others.

Brothers and sisters, doubts are okay.  Doubting can often be a sign of deep spiritual hunger, one that cannot be filled by your pastor (me included), your favorite musicians, writer, author or anyone else.  That hunger is only filled by God.  The doubts just mean you need to explore God more fully.

By the way, did you read Matthew 28:17 yet?  The Resurrected Christ is about to ascend into heaven.  He is gathered with his disciples and “they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Jesus didn’t respond by questioning their faith, or casting them out of the Kingdom.  He responded with these words:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

He gave them the Great Commission – a ministry for every Christian, and He gave them the ultimate comfort – His eternal presence.  Even when they doubted.

 

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

I recently returned from a mission trip.  It was five of our youth and four adults traveling to West Virginia to help do some home repair projects.  Our youth have participated annually for a while, but this was my first opportunity to go.  One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to talk with the youth – to work side by side with them and hear their stories.  And I got to tell mine.

Nobody expected the pastor to be very skilled at construction and home repairs, but they soon realized I could do a few things!  And there is a good reason for this.

When I was young, we had little money (and truthfully, little has changed!).  We could not afford to have experts come in and repair things, we did not have money for plumbers or electricians.  But we did have Uncle Bill.  Uncle Bill was married to my father’s sister, and he was the ultimate handyman.  Uncle Bill worked on aircraft during WWII, and held maintenance positions afterwards.  Uncle Bill would come over to fix the drain, replace a part on the dryer, or get the car to start.  And I would watch.

I learned how do to many things around the house that has helped us over the years (and saved us some money as well).  During the mission trip I truly began to appreciate Uncle Bill’s guidance.

But my dad also made an “appearance” during the trip.  I had the chance to tell some “dad” stories and jokes, and even his corny magic trick with a quarter.

This is part of the cloud of witnesses – those who came before us, who influenced us, who brought us up.  Uncle Bill’s influence gave me the skills necessary to help those in need.  Dad’s influence helped me to entertain our group.  Both are very much a part of who I am.

Who are in your cloud?  Who influenced you, taught you, mentored you?  Take a moment to give God thanks and praise for them.

 

Peace,

Bill