Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Go Jesus' way


          “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown . . . They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.  But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”—Luke 4.24b, 29-30

         In his sermon, On Friendship with the World, John Wesley said, “Whatever it cost, flee spiritual adultery. Have no friendship with the world. However tempted thereto by profit or pleasure, contract no intimacy with worldly-minded [people].”  Jesus illustrated this principle in his dangerous interchange with the members of his hometown synagogue.  At first, things seemed to go well.  He did the Scripture reading.  He promised that the Scripture was being fulfilled.  But then doubt set in: “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?  Hey, didn’t we grow up with his sisters and brothers?”  If the people of his hometown had their way, it would have ended with homicide. 
         When we follow God’s agenda, there will be a parting of ways with “worldly-minded people.”  We cannot please everyone.  We cannot always follow a path that leads to worldly praise and success.  We cannot please God and all people.  The part of this Scripture that hooks me is: “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”  Jesus perceived the tension.  Jesus knew they were not trusting in him.  They kind of like what he said.  But they could not see past the familiarity they had with him. 
         Sooner or later, if we follow Jesus, there will be a parting with the world and its agenda.  This is often painful because it is not played out in abstract ways but with people we know, people we interact with.  As Jesus warns, it may even be with brothers, sisters, mother, or father.  It may be with friends we have known for many years.  What I speak of is not a reckless or prideful rejection but a prayerful and deliberate walk.  It is a walk that ultimately leads us to a cross . . . and to an empty tomb.  It is a walk that we share with others who have chosen to not be friends with the world.  It is a walk that will lead us through many dark valleys and many mountaintops.  It is a walk that will lead us . . . home.  How is God calling you to go on Jesus’ way today?    

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Darkness and Light

All sufficient Grace
When I stand in your Presence
I am blinded by your light
I must close my eyes and
Feel your burning warmth 
On my face 

Lead me out of the present darkness
Into your perfect light
I have journeyed
Into the heart of my darkness

And now, O Glory!
I come into your 
Radiant Light
Give me respite
From the dark journey

That I may come at last
To the side of your manger
And adore with the wise ones
And contemplate 
As the Virgin
And encounter
The Very Light of the World

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


"Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."—Mark 6.31

Of course, after Jesus tells the disciples this, they go apart.  How long were they apart?  I don’t know.  But the people figure it out and start there on foot and eventually find them.  When they do, it says that Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And he begins to teach them.

There’s a rhythm in the gospels of rest and action.  There were even times when Jesus seemed to be slow in responding to people.  (Lazarus dying, Jairus’ daughter).  But Jesus knew the right rhythm.  He knew how to play his part. 

I pray daily to live out that rhythm, the rhythm of God’s piece of jazz.  It’s a difficult tune.  Sometimes the chord progression surprises you.  But, oh, when you catch the melody, it’s heaven!  Sometimes the rhythm is slow and methodical.  Sometimes, the rhythm speeds up in the heat of an improvised section.  And sometimes, you just hold on for dear life. 

How about you?  How is your rhythm?  Are you in tune with God’s rhythm?  Are you taking time to be with Jesus?  Are you doing the work to which you are called?  Are you in sync?  Have you been away with Jesus lately?  Have you responded to those who are in need?  Are you paying attention to the beat that the Heavenly Band Leader is snapping out?

O Lord, it’s so difficult to find that balance, to make those priorities, to play that perfect rhythm.  And you know I’m going to mess up!  You know, I’ll miss a beat now and then.  You know I’ll miss an intro or chord change.  You know I’ll even play the wrong note now and then.  I plead for your grace and patience with me.  I’m still learning to play.  So, help me God.  So, help me, God.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


         Acts 2.1:  When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”

         Lately, I’ve been captivated by the story of Rachel Held Evans spiritual journey.  Rachel is a writer who grew up in a conservative, evangelical church.  Although she accepted Christ, she had doubts and questions about some of the beliefs of the church she was a part of.  Eventually, she stopped going to church.  After a time, she was drawn back to church (but not to the same tradition from which she had come).  What brought her back to church?  This is what she says in a recent interview:  “Norah Gallagher once said, “on those days when I have thought of giving up on church entirely, I have tried to figure out what I would do about Communion.” The same is true for me. It was the sacraments that brought me back to church. The sacraments of baptism and communion, confession and anointing reminded me that Christianity isn’t meant to simply be believed; it’s meant to be lived, shared, eaten, spoken, and enacted in the presence of other people. When I’d all but given up on church, the sacraments reminded me that, try as I might, I can’t be a Christian on my own. I need a community. I need the Church.”
         Being together has never been more crucial.  In our world full of individuals staring at 3-10 inch screens almost constantly, being together has become essential.  When I say being together, I mean REALLY being together, being present, being open, being vulnerable with each other as Christian brothers and sisters. 
         The early church needed this as well.  In the wake of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, they needed each other.  It was in this context that the Holy Spirit came in a mighty way at Pentecost.  They did not receive a supernatural gift for their individual entertainment.  They received the gift of the Spirit in community, for the benefit of the community. 
         How might we gather and really be present with each other, to the sacraments, to open ourselves to the gift of God? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Can you copy an expereince with God?

So many people seem to think the Christian faith is about arguing, constant, never-ending arguing.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like to argue and debate and talk theology most of the day.  But then, there comes a time to stop arguing and simply . . . BE.  To be still and know He is God.  That’s the life I really want.  I read recently that the toughest part about being the Church is this:  We have an experience of God that changes our life.  And then, we try to replicate that for other people.  (Is that part of what is behind all our arguing?)  The problem is: you can’t replicate it.  We can only try to help others get in a position where they can be open to the Holy Spirit.  That’s it.  You could say that our job is to put out chairs and tables.  (Or is it to throw out the chairs and tables???!!!) 
            I want Christ for everyone.  I want everyone to know the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that I have found in Christ.  But alas, no matter how good the music is, no matter how many stellar programs we have in the church, no matter how exotic our mission trips are, no matter how many youth lock ins we have, no matter how many visits I make, no matter how hard I preach, no matter how many children and youth workers we have, no matter how many lay witness missions we schedule, you simply cannot replicate that experience.  We can only invite others in, set the table, put out some simple elements, bread and juice, speak the holy words, invoke the Holy Spirit and  . . . . WAIT. 
         Those who will come, will come.  Just yesterday, I read once again the words of Jesus:  “a sower went out to sow.  And some seed fell on the path, some on the rocks, some among thorns, and some on good soil.”  That is my life’s work.  For some reason, I feel called to keep running after those on the path of this world, along the rocks of temptation, and among the thorns of distraction.  For some reason, I keep worrying about that lost sheep more than the 99.  Is there something biblical about that?  Or is it just spiritual ADD?  I’m not sure.  
         But I know this:  the first person that I need to worry about an experience with Jesus is me.  That may sound selfish to some, but really, I can’t help anyone else until I “attend the ordinances of God.”
         So, Lord, help me!  Come and meet me again this morning and use me in your service this day.  For you are the Lord who reigns, One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reaching out

Peter preached
And people responded
Those who were considered

Who is Jesus calling me
To reach out to?
Those who are considered

There is a thread that
Runs through 
All humanity
And that thread is
The life giving
Breath of God

That is why we are
That is why
Is truly open to all

Friday, April 24, 2015

I am

“I am the Good Shepherd.”  “I am.” 

            Lately, the phrase, “I am” has captured my attention.  In my times of prayer, I keep coming back to that phrase.  It is an assurance that, no matter what else is going on, God is.  No matter what the latest theological controversy happens to be, God is.  No matter what personal struggle I may be going through, God is.  In the times when I feel alone or abandoned or afraid, God is.  When I am confused, hearing so many conflicting voices, God is.  When I am struggling to follow Jesus through the specific twists and turns of my journey, God is. 
            Maybe you need to remember that today too.  Whatever the activities and tasks of your day, God is.  Whatever the dynamics of your friendships and relationship with significant others, God is.  Whatever the times of shadow hold for you, God is.  God is.