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

 

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.
Continue reading

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

A Good Picnic Can Reduce Stress

Take some time to read it thinking about what compassion fatigue feels and looks like. Think about the stress a person or group of persons might feel when they think they have left work to get respite only to find what they left behind right in front of them.

Take some time to think about how the fact that Jesus started teaching the people right away gave the disciples a little bit of rest. Think about how well Jesus cared for and provided for everyone in this story.
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.

Scanned Book Cover

Wading or Waiting through Lent?

It seems that each generation is called to wading and waiting for the Lord. And sometimes it seems while we wade and wait, we forget that the Lord is near, indeed here, in spirit and truth through the end of the age. The Lord himself is wading and waiting with us, for us, to remember . . . Continue reading

Drawing Wisdom from the Lord’s Life and Prayer

Words and titles matter to authors and to their readers. The Subtitle of My book is ‘Drawing Wisdom from the Lord’s Life and Prayer’  I could have made this the title of the book, or I could have used ‘Gaining’ Wisdom . . .  But I chose to have it be the subtitle and I chose Drawing Wisdom.   Why?

I think the one thing Jesus did more often and better than human beings is prayer and living through stressful times without manifesting all the behaviors that much of humanity does when dealing with stress.  So, ‘Praying Our Way Through Stress’ is the title because it focuses on prayer as a way of helping us manifest more Christ-like behaviors.

Drawing Wisdom implies doing something and Gaining implies receiving.  More often than not we must ‘do something’ in order to become wiser.  That something is usually ‘study.’  Studying can be done in a variety of ways – but it requires another skill – one of listening with both our minds and our hearts. We can draw wisdom from the world or we can draw wisdom from Jesus or we can draw wisdom from both.  Jesus lived wisely in a world that was torn by strife, much like the world we live in today.   Jesus came so that we could live abundant lives in a world of strife.  What are we striving for?  I’m not going to answer that question for you, but I am going to tell you that at a very stressful time in my life I went away for 36 hours of quiet time.  No talking, only listening.  And in my prayer time the words – ‘Cease your striving’ kept rolling through my mind until they sunk deeply into my heart.

We are approaching the holiday season, we have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years coming up.  What are you striving for during this time, in all the preparations you are going through, what are you really striving to accomplish?