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

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About Anger and Stress

Our society seems to take two stances on anger – either it is 100% unacceptable or it’s funny. The Lord doesn’t think there is anything funny about our anger nor does the Bible teach that anger is 100% unacceptable. In fact we are given permission to be angry with an admonishment to not sin when we are angry.

Anger management is important. Learning how to discern what we are angry about is equally because it helps us express our anger in more appropriate ways and can move us towards taking some constructive action. Continue reading

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.

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Lent as a Season of New or Re-Birth

DoveOften Lent is spoken of in terms of repentance and/or forgiveness, and yet those two actions lead to a birthing of new love in our hearts and minds.
What are we to repent of? We give up stuff, but what good is giving up something if our minds and hearts aren’t changed? With New and with rebirth we give up old ways of thinking – Jesus began his preaching ministry saying – ‘Repent and believe in the good news.’ Maybe more people would participate in a Lenten discipline or program of some kind if more churches began the season with those words instead of reminding everyone about how wretched we are . . . how we aren’t worthy . . . Think about when John the Baptist told his own followers he wasn’t worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandles – What was Jesus’ response? Jesus told John the Baptist to baptize him. To me this is certainly a message about John the Baptist’s worthiness according to Jesus, according to God. Later Jesus told his disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

So, what do you think about your own baptism? I’ve talked with people over the years who fear they are not worthy to be baptized with water much less the Holy Spirit. And I’ve talked with some people who say they don’t want the Holy Spirit because they don’t want something weird to happen to them. But the power that the Holy Spirit gives us is power to overcome wilderness experiences of temptation that Jesus overcame.

What do you think about forgiveness? So many people talk about the challenges of forgiving other people. I’ve heard people say “I’ll never forgive so and so!” And I’ve heard people say “I can’t forgive myself!” In having conversations over the years I’ve learned that if a person thinks they can’t forgive themselves or other people they often believe that God has not forgiven them. It seems to me that when we experience lack of forgiveness we are experiencing a sort of spiritual death. For our spirits to come alive, we must receive the Holy Spirit, in the same way that Jesus encouraged his disciples to receive the Spirit.

The Spirit helps us to Repent and Believe in the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness towards us and other people. We have not received authority to condemn, we have received a command to forgive. Let your spiritual birth or rebirth begin with forgiving yourself, for seeking forgiveness for your own wrong actions and thoughts and then forgive others.
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