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

 

Making Things New

If you look into the Scriptures and start underlining the word ‘new’ you notice that making things new is not a new thing for God.  It might seem like it’s bad news to some people that God makes things new while to other people it’s good news.

Interesting isn’t it.  We have this conflict even within our own selves, in our hearts, minds and relationships much less think about what this new stuff means to God loving and fearing people when it comes to their religious and spiritual experience.

I don’t think it matters what denomination you are a member of, changes have occurred over the years and it probably occurs in other religions as well – people don’t like some things to change.

Don’t change the liturgy, the prayers, the pews, the songs, the windows, what else don’t people like changed?

I thought about this last night as my husband and I were on our way to an Ascension Service.  We listened to WOW Worship CD’s on the way there.  Then my husband listened as I sang in the choir with people in their 40’s and up, except for two young children, old songs from the 1982 Church Hymnal.  It was a sung service with a chanted psalm and there really were very very few young people there.  I could probably count them on one hand.  And while the older people sometimes ask, where are the young kids – I had received an invitation to another Ascension Service advertising a Handbell  and Youth Choir.

I don’t know how many young people were in the pews at the other service.

I don’t know how many other denominations celebrate Ascension Day – I believe most of the churches that do move the celebration to a Sunday Service.   I don’t know why Ascension Day gets moved to Sunday – maybe it’s for the same reason we move secular Holidays to Mondays – so they don’t interfere with our regular weekday lives.

Does moving the remembrance of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ matter?  Or is it more important that we help more people remember His Ascension and what it means for us?  Maybe the answer is both and that’s why some churches have Ascension Day and Ascension Sunday.

The Disciples were deeply grieved after the Lord’s Crucifixion, they were overjoyed at the knowledge of his Resurrection, they were comfortable enjoying his presence with them as he broke bread and ate with them after his resurrection and when you read about their response to his Ascension – it sounds like for a moment or two they were dumbfounded.  (Acts 1:1-11)

And then, they gathered their wits about them and went back to the upper room and waited with the others.  And there were new things happening shortly after that and then the disciples went out and proclaimed the Good News of God’s Love in a New Way – With the Bread and Wine becoming the new elements of sacrifice – no more bloody sacrifices to the Lord.   That was hugely new and there were many people in that time period who didn’t appreciate or understand the new covenant symbols that Christ raised at the Last Passover meal he celebrated with the disciples until they taught them about it.  And in teaching about that, they taught about so much more – they taught about the Unconditional Love of God for humanity and God’s desire for people to love each other so much that violence becomes a thing of the past.

In the Old Testament we’re told a day will come when war will be taught no more (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3)

Jesus taught about peace in hopes that wars might cease – he told us we’d have trouble and there would be wars and  rumors of wars before he came back.   And I always remember the Scripture that says he’ll come back for us after our room is prepared.  (John 14:2)

But the most important new thing God makes for us, begins with us having a loving relationship with God.  When we have a more loving relationship with God, then we have more loving relationships with each other.

Lord, please give us love for you, love for ourselves and love for other people.  Please help us to teach peace and live in peace with one another.  Help us to participate with you in the creation of a new heaven on earth atmosphere, to the Glory of your Name.  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