Being In the World and not Of the World

I’m writing this in response to a comment that was made to me a month or so ago that I have been ruminating about.  The comment was  “But we need the strip clubs and gentleman bars because of all the sexual offenders  being released and other perverts. Let them go there instead of after our women and children.”  And someone else agreed – saying they knew more than I do about this issue.

I disagree with their thinking – and maybe the other person does know more than I do about this issue – but it just doesn’t jive with any of my Christian learning.  We are taught that no one should put a stumbling block in front of another person.  And that everyone who puts a stumbling block in front of a weaker brother or sister will be held accountable for that persons downfall.  This is serious and I’m sharing my thoughts with you.

First – I’m not sure that released offenders have the legal right to attend those places.

Second – I am pretty sure that any offender who gets out of prison has to prove himself (or herself) to be rehabilitated.  So we don’t need these places for them.  Especially because as Christians we are supposed to help them become and remain mature in Christ Jesus with the Power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.

Third – Christians are called to be different – Christians are called to a life of purity and holiness.

Christians aren’t the only ones called to purity and holiness – other religions also call people to a life of self-control and discipline.

Those who are strong are always supposed to keep in mind those who are weak.

That being said.  I don’t agree that we need strip clubs and gentleman bars or male strip shows.  I don’t think Jesus would say we need them either.  I think  people need to avoid going to them –  I’m pretty sure Jesus would agree.  I always pray for conversion of the owners of those places – that they would close shop – and rebuild into a business that would bring glory to God and draw their former clientele into a relationship with the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the book Praying Our Way Through Stress: Drawing Wisdom from the Lord’s Life and Prayer I discuss Manifestations of Unresolved Stress and sexual promiscuity and misconduct is one of the manifestations.  We need to help the clientele and employees find better ways of managing stress.  We need to pray for people to rescue the employees and clientele – for them to seek first The Kingdom of Heaven . . . . on earth . . .

 

Lord, Pour your Holy Spirit Out Upon all people and fill them with your power to resist temptation and overcome improper manifestations of stress.   AMEN

 

At the table with Jesus

I’ve been thinking about the TED video Leaders Eat Last that I watched yesterday.  It made me think about all the times I’ve eaten last in my life.  Of course there were times I ate last as a child – and when I served at church events or my mother hosted a party.  When I was a ministry leader at church I always ate last and sometimes the food was cleared and put away before I had time to eat, sometimes the host or hostess for fellowship time would ask, did you get anything to eat yet?  But most notably I would have to say that becoming a mother put me in the leaders eat last category.  And now that I’m a grandmother it’s interesting to watch this happening with my children.

And then it dawned on me – Mary and Joseph fed Jesus before Jesus fed the multitudes with his disciples. I know this isn’t a profound thought but it seems like one to me.  So often we think about what we can learn from Jesus’ life and ministry is during those 3 years where he did so much.

And this thought also makes me wonder about expectations that people put on children or even expectations placed upon new parents.  How often when we sit down at the table with our families do we remember Jesus?  Maybe as Christians we would answer that we remember him whenever we say Grace.  And while that is true, I wonder if we remember that he is present with us in spirit?  How would our conversations and service be if we were to imagine Jesus’ presence with us.  Would we sit down and speak with him, or would we be running around the table and back and forth to the kitchen, answering the phone, and all the other things mothers do.    And then I wondered – is that why he had that famous conversations with Martha and Mary?  Was he tired of people always running around serving each other and everyone instead of spending time with each other.  I wonder what mealtime was like for Jesus?  Was it harried and hurried?  What kinds of conversations did they have together?  There weren’t any fast food restaurants to run out to back then.  I think as a whole, life was less rushed, I think about hard working farmers and how they are a little tuckered out when they come in from working, I think about Joseph and the hard work he must have put in every day as a carpenter.  Perhaps people who work hard all day enjoy relaxing around the table and unwinding.  What about mid-day meals?  Breakfast?

I used to have people at the table with me for 3 meals every day.  Then my children grew up and I had people for two meals and the before school breakfast wasn’t always with all of us at the table at the same time – when they were little, yes, but by the time they were in the pre-teens, breakfast was scheduled around who got the bathroom at what time so they could all be ready for school on time.

Now, I have one person at the table with me for one or sometimes two meals a day.  I confess, my table is far too often cluttered with things and stuff of the day – my family will attest to this – I am always having to move stuff around and off the table before we can sit down to have a meal together, or play a game.  I clear it off – it stays that way for a day and then it’s a mess again, covered with mail, newspapers, books, and loose papers . . . I’m pretty sure Jesus would sit down at this cluttered table with me – and my husband actually does (Thank God!) but really – I’m going to make a more concerted effort to remove the clutter before we sit down together next time.

Mary and Joseph fed Jesus before Jesus fed the multitudes with his disciples.

When is the last time, as a leader, you allowed someone to feed you in body, mind and spirit?

 

Mary and Joseph were at the table with Jesus before Jesus was at the table with his disciples.

When is the last time you sat at the table with your family members or your team members?

 

What do you think Jesus would be talking with you about tonight as you sat at the table together?

 

What would you be talking about if you were at the table with Jesus tonight for supper?

 

 

 

Our Father or My Father?

for me the emphasis in this prayer is focused on the word Our rather than the word Father. . . In the Christian Church no one has more special ‘access’ to Our Father than another – we can all pray to God, we can all listen, we are all called to be in God’s family.
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When the Spirit Leads

Photo of JuneI spoke at a gathering sponsored by Methodist women recently and as usual prayed the evening before and the morning of for preparation of hearts and minds and for the Lord to lead me in the preparation and presentation.

In the morning I read the readings assigned in the RCL for the Morning Reading.  One of the readings was about the parts of the body all needing each other and how no part can say they don’t need the other.  I was compelled to share this reading that morning.  Unity in the body of Christ is so very important.  We are, regardless of denomination, one body of Christ.   After the presentation we shared Communion and while speaking with women after the presentation I was both surprised and  honored to discover I had been in the company of women from Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, Assembly, ELCA and WELS churches.

When we focus on the life of Jesus Christ, minor doctrines fade away and God’s love shines brightly.

The mixture of people in attendance reminded me of an experience I had while attending The School of Evangelism many years ago.  I spent a full week at a Seminary where the students were mostly clergy and many were clergy in the process of leaving one denomination and switching to another, or who had been raised in one denomination, failed the discernment process in that particular denomination and were ordained in another denomination.  There were Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican and  Episcopal clergy in attendance.  The only non-clergy persons were me and 1 or 2 spouses of the clergy.  I was encouraged to attend the course by the then Sr. Warden of the church and I still thank God for Bill and his encouragement.  He saw a gift in me that I hadn’t recognized, a love for the church and God’s people in the church and outside of the church.

We are indeed, one body – each part has a different way of functioning externally and sometimes people get caught up in arguing which denomination has ‘it right’ – but when we remember that each  denomination is called to have the same heart and mind of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church eternally, then we will remember how important it is to love each other in spite of some differences in sacramental rites and beliefs – wine, grape juice – or neither/ wafers – substantial bread / infant and/or adult baptism.  Sacramental rites are outward expressions of inward grace.  That is what God is most concerned about – our inward grace because the more of that that we have, the more outwardly graceful we become and treat ourselves and each other.

Jesus Christ did not get hung up matters of tradition – he was caught up in proclaiming the love and grace of God for all people no matter what their tradition or position in society was.  I believe we are called to be like him today – to open our hearts and minds to each other and when we do that – our church doors will open and the altar rails will also be open to more people, regardless of tradition.

When we break bread together in Word and Sacrament it is truly a blessed day!  I might add it was also made beautiful in singing together the Love song – lyrics and melody included in the book.

God gave His Son to the whole world and Jesus died for the whole world but the story doesn’t stop with his death – it begins anew with his resurrection and continues beyond the Ascension, the story and His Life continues on through all who believe and receive His Life through the forgiveness of sin.

Lord, keep leading your church in this generation through the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through all people.  AMEN

Leaving the water jar behind

Water Jar (John 4) Praying Our Way Through Stress Post 001In hearing the gospel reading today about the Samaritan woman the part of the story that really stood out today was that the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.  (John 4:5-42)

This woman came to a well expecting to draw water, she found someone there from another place, a place that pretty much had an instruction not to go to that particular well for water – (simply speaking there were issues of ownership rights and a social structure that kept people from mingling with folks who weren’t ‘their own’) But Jesus, called and calls everyone to be ‘his own’ – and Jesus was always reaching out to people who were considered outcasts – this woman had three strikes against her – according to baseball rules she was definitely a “three strikes and your out” kind of person.   First strike against her – she was a woman;  Second strike against her – she was a Samaritan and Third Strike – She had been married 5 times but now had no husband.  (Had all those previous husbands died?  Had she been divorced? Was she an adulterous woman?  Well – that’s not the point in question is it? And if it is for anyone  the answer is probably found in the story about the men who wanted to stone a woman who had been caught in adultery – Jesus basically called them all adulterers when he said if anyone is without sin cast the first stone – they all left their stones behind.)  The point is that this man Jesus knew everything about her and she was so astounded that she left the water jar behind, without getting what she came for.  The underlying truth is – Jesus knows everything about each one of us, women and men, children and grown ups and Jesus Christ is filled with spiritual truth that wells up in and through him to us and when we continually drink from the water of life he freely pours out upon us and into us, then we speak with words full of eternal life to one another. We stop treating others as outcasts . . . we stop treating ourselves as outcasts, we have courage to let others know we’ve experienced a conversation with someone who considers us worthy to be in his presence and he in ours.

Have you ever gone to a place expecting to get something? Have you ever gone to a store or a restaurant or maybe a public well or spring expecting to get something and unexpectedly have someone say something to you that was so astounding you left what you came with behind, you left without getting what you came for,  just to go tell people about Jesus and ask them to come and hear some spiritual word of truth?

Have you ever been called ‘out’ by the world?  Can you hear Jesus calling you to ‘come into the presence of the Lord’?

Have you ever left the water jar behind?  Have you been willing to let Jesus fill you with words of truth that give you life instead of tear you down?  So that the words that come out of your own mouth build people up instead of tear them down?

I don’t know about you – but I know I can tell when I am spiritually dry and I don’t like the words that come out of my mouth during those times. It is then that I know I must return to Jesus for yet another filling.

Scanned Book Cover