Wholeness

Gen 28:1-29:35, Matt 9:18-38, Psalm 11:1-7, Prov 3:11-12

I write today as I sit in the family waiting room in the hospital for a sister in our church family undergoing major surgery today.  I pray today that we reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and may we listen for his voice, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

Today’s gospel reading is about healing and wholeness.  Touching his hem, her faith made her well.  To the two blind men who followed, in their faith they were able to see.  And through a community that cared, one found his voice.  Faith and following Jesus is intimately connected to being whole and alive.  I pray today for healing for our friend.

Let’s pray together and keep walking.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

Wisdom

Gen 24:52-26:16, Matt 8: 18-34, Psalm 10:1-15, Prov 3:7-8

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.

Our Proverbs reading fits well with today’s sermon on Luke 4.  Like Jesus, we know the wilderness.  Yet our outcomes include responding, “The devil made me do it.”  We know turning rocks into bread.  We do this when we use our gifts, our status, and leverage our opportunities for our self-benefit, regardless of the impact this has on others.  We like to strive for gaining the whole world.  But today’s reading reinforces for us to not be wise in our own eyes.  But with our eyes on God, we will find health for our body.  With our eyes on God, we will build health as community and nourish the common good.

Question for today.  We see the words, “fear the Lord” often throughout our story.  What do you think this means?  What does it mean for ‘fear of the Lord’ to bring health to our body?

Let’s keep on walking.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

Great Faith

Gen 23:1-24:51, Matt 8:1-17, Psalm 9:13-20, Prov 3:1-6 

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

How wide is the love and mercy of God?  Consider the examples of who Jesus calls out as with great faith?  The Centurion, the Samaritan, the Canaanite woman…  All three are outsiders.  How does this help us understand our community at Spirit of Life?  How do we define our congregation?  What is our mission?

And consider Jesus meeting the man with leprosy, the most unclean.  Who in our communities have the social stigma of being the most unclean?  What does Jesus do?  How does this help us to see where we are called to go and walk following Jesus?

Let’s keep walking together.  Day ten already in the YOTB.  Hope this is as helpful for you as it is for me.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

Doing

Gen 20:1-22:24, Matt 7:15-29, Psalm 9:1-12, Prov 2:16-22

We continue to see division and consternation over orthodoxy.  It becomes a test over who is in and who is out over who believes the most correctly in a place where the narrow gate really becomes about narrow minds that open to a road called dogma.  Today’s Matthew reading challenges to think differently.  Perhaps Jesus is less concerned less about orthodoxy and more concerned with orthopraxy–less about right belief and more about right practice.  The theology is in the doing.

Don’t hear me wrong, we are saved by grace by nothing that we do, but by what God has already done.  The question then becomes, how do we respond to the fullness of this gift of love?

Today’s reading is rich in how we are to live.  We are known by our fruit. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”  May we bear fruit, follow the will of God, and act on God’s word building firm foundations.

Let’s keep reading and walking together.

Pastor Rob

 

 

 

Narrow Gates

Gen 18:16-19:38, Matt 6:25-7:14, Psalm 8:1-9, Prov 2:6-15

Today’s reading of narrow gates is why I like reading the Bible.  I have read this passage many times and tonight am drawn to the line, “ For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life…” Think about this in the full context of where the story is heading?  Following Jesus is not easy because he takes us to some pretty hard places within ourselves so that we can therefore reach outside of ourselves.  We become less so that God becomes more in our life.  Consider that this is located right next to the Golden Rule.  By becoming less, by following Jesus, by loving our neighbor, and ultimately loving God, we find the road that leads to life.  It is on this path that we find that fullness of being alive. It is not saying for some future life of paradise, but a road that leads to life–now.

Let’s keep walking.

(And a side note, did you read Genesis today? What’s up with that?  To begin, did you read Genesis today?  More going on here than Days of our Lives.  Angels visiting, the whole town closing in wanting them, Lot offering his daughters instead out of hospitality for his visitors, all the men going blind, Lot losing his sons-in-law because everything else was not strange enough for them to believe, Lot also losing his wife who becomes a pillar of salt, and then his daughters (who’s husbands just died) get their father drunk so they can sleep with him to bear his children.  Whatever our narrow teaching has been on Sodom and Gomorrah, I would suggest reading this whole thing again and consider that the whole story is pretty messy.  More questions than answers, but this is also a fun part of the journey of reading our story.)

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

 

Be Perfect?

Gen 16:1-18:15, Matt 6:1-24, Psalm 7:1-17, Prov 2:1-15

I am going to cheat today, and go back to something I have been thinking about from yesterday.  (Today’s readings are loaded, so happy reading.)

Included with the whole love your enemies thing is a conclusion that says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Be perfect?  And on the same week that includes New Year’s resolutions?  I have already disappointed myself by not working out every day.  I already have not been as patient as I promised with the kids.  I am working on being a better husband, but didn’t listen very well to my spouse’s concerns last night?  I have enough trouble with perfection with those closest to me, and then I am supposed to give a stranger my coat, and love my enemy, and go another mile?

As I have wrestled many times with this ‘Be perfect’ thing, maybe the wrestling is exactly the point.  What in your life are you striving to improve?  I recall how much I practiced on saxophone.  I was pretty good at it.  But this was not without a great amount of effort.  And the more I practiced, the better I became.  The better I became, the more I enjoyed playing.  The goal was perfection.  But this was always nuanced with the reality that perfection is impossible.  The journey was better combining the enjoyment with the goal.

I believe this is what Jesus is talking about.  Being a great sax player? Not.  But striving for our perfection in a vital and alive faith.  One where our practice is focused on loving God and loving neighbor in all we do.  Other than the master, no one did this perfectly.  But with this goal in mind, our desire leads us to improvement.  And as we improve, we find life has more meaning and we become more fully alive.

So this New Year, let us strive to be perfect.  Even though I fall short, I am thankful to have a community surrounding me that helps encourage me to be better and picks me up when I fall.  Being perfect is something we work on together. Faith is a team sport (or a marching band).  And it is worth it because we have a heavenly Father who created us perfectly, loves us perfectly.  One who is perfect.

Happy New Year!

Pastor Rob

 

Beatitude Attitude, Loving Enemies (YOTB Day 6)

Today’s Readings

Gen 13:5-15:21, Matt 5:27-48, Psalm 6:1-10, Prov 1:28-33

Loving enemies?  How’s that working for you?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?…”

Recently, we have been confronted in the news with reports of our country justifying the use of torture.  In short, we call it something else (enhanced interrogation techniques) and then defend because the end justifies the means.  Pastor Rob Bell writes concerning torture,  “There’s a debate about this? The issue isn’t just what torture does to the person being tortured, it’s what torturing does to the person doing it. We’re already in trouble when people debate the use of torture as if it’s only about what it does to the enemy. Our own humanity is at stake.”

No doubt, we are in trouble.  As Christians who seek to follow in the way of Jesus, I would like to think that we would be bothered by our country’s use of torture, but recent polls suggest otherwise.  In a Washington Post/ABC Poll, 69% of white evangelicals supported the use of torture.  In contrast, 53% of those who do not identify as religious opposed the use of torture.  This is troublesome and a direct reflection on why Millenials want nothing to do with organized religion.  How can we better live in the way of Jesus?

From yesterday’s reading, Jesus says that he didn’t come to replace the law, but to fulfill it.  Jesus radically transformed from a worldview of retribution and ‘eye for an eye’ ideology by suggesting we change our hearts.  Fulfillment of the law is love.  He changes the system from retribution to restoration.  Love can break the chain of violence.  I would suggest we could look at the inverse of the quote above and say, “The issue isn’t just what love does to the person being loved, it’s what love does to the person doing it.”  As much as our influence has the capacity to change those around us, the change starts with me.

And then Jesus continues to provide the street credit to this crazy philosophy by loving all the way to a cross.  It’s not easy.  Perhaps this is why we still wrestle with this as Christians 2000 years later.

I would love to hear from you.  Let’s keep on walking.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

A Beatitude Attitude

Gen 11:1-13:4, Matt 5:1-26, Psalm 5:1-12, Prov 1:24-27

In our western, American understanding, how do we view what it means to be blessed?  Today’s reading from Matthew turns our world upside down as far as what our world is telling us to follow.  But then again, we are reminded that following Jesus is not easy.

What we want it to say is, blessed are the hard workers who pull themselves up by their bootstraps to achieve the American dream of being a major shareholder of a Fortune 500 company.  Or something like that.  We want approval for our desire for accumulation of goods and services.  But how does Jesus understand blessed?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted.  I find myself wondering why no one is arguing about placing this on the statue at the courthouse?  Think about that?  What if we truly had a beatitude attitude?  It would make a difference in how we share a concern for the common good of all God’s people.

Consider this through the call and blessing of Abram and Sarai in our Genesis reading today?

I think about our young people that are unchurched or dechurched.  If we listen to why they say they want nothing to do with it, the common perception is that the church is hypocritical in judging all of these things.  Jesus specifically confronted this by standing on the margins and finding blessings there.  May we meditate and pray on what Jesus is teaching us as disciples and our care for the common good of all of our neighbors.

Let’s Keep on Walking Together.

Pastor Rob

Rainbows, Drunkenness, and Naked

Genesis 8:1-10:32, Matt 4:12-25, Psalm 4:1-8, Prov 1: 20-23

The flood ends, the land dries, and God makes a new covenant.  The sign of the rainbow is a promise “that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  In our narrative, God appears saddened by the tragic loss of life and wishes to restore again this beautiful creation.  And then our humanity shines through to drunkenness, nakedness, and blame.

Love how our Psalm and Proverbs today are both following the theme, “How Long O Lord.”  We are given permission to be honest and share our moments where we cry out, “How Long.”

In Matthew, Jesus’ ministry begins with these words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  In Jesus presence is the kingdom of heaven.  And what is repent?  Instead of this being a negative about discipline, I like to think of this as turning towards God.  To turn to God is something beautiful.  Or this can be understood, as to turn towards Jesus.  And this is just what the first disciples did when Jesus called.  They immediately dropped what they were doing to turn and follow Jesus.

I encourage all of us to drop everything else for a few moments each day to turn towards Jesus in reading our story together.  For the kingdom of heaven is near.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob

Making Loincloths

Gen 3: 1-4:26, Matthew 2:13-3:6, Psalm 2: 1-12, Proverbs 1:7-9

That didn’t take long.  Creation went from, “It was good” now to this, from beautiful to now seeing our shame, from God creating and our wanting to be like God.

And already, by the second day of our Year of the Bible and I am already a couple of days behind…  I blame the fall.  At least it is convenient.  And seriously, this is why I don’t like “the fall.”  Or better said, this is what I don’t like about what we have done with “the fall.”
On it’s own, it helps us make sense of our condition.  How we can’t help but want to elevate ourself at the expense of others…even God.  But what I don’t like is that we tend to easily Scapegoat what two characters did thousands of years ago.  If I am honest with myself, I too often stand at the same tree.

We see the worst case scenario of “The Fall” in our Matthew reading today.  And like the fall, if we are honest with ourselves, we have tendencies that  more with Herod than with following Jesus.  Not to this extreme of the slaughtering of innocents, but in how we like power and maintaining our status quo rather than seeking common good for those on the margins.  What would the world be like if we instead learned to follow better in Jesus footsteps rather than eating forbidden fruit or seeking our own advantages?  (In the same line of thought, consider how today’s Psalm fits ‘The fall.”)

And so we make loincloths and hide in our shame.  This second day of the year, may we instead be comfortable and thankful that we are made in God’s image.  Let’s work on this together.  See you again on our journey tomorrow.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob