Month: May 2012
Scripture: Isaiah 6:3-5
And one called to another and said: “Holy, decease holy, sildenafil holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Thought for the Day: We could learn much from Isaiah’s reaction to God’s presence. Immediately, he falls to his knees and proclaims his unworthiness—and not just his unworthiness, but also the unworthiness of all his brothers and sisters. For Isaiah knew that no human has any right to claim they are somehow more worthy of God’s love than another, and that indeed, none of us is truly worthy. Yet God loves us all still. Equally. No exceptions.
Jesus spent most of his ministry with the orphan, the widow, the leper and the outcasts of society, never condemning them for their lot in life. In fact, it was the least of us who Jesus proclaimed would be the first in God’s kingdom. Jesus had no use for judgmental hypocrites. Jesus’ message is one of God’s universal love for all of us. Equally. No exceptions.
Perhaps our greatest duty as children of God is to be humble in the face of the Lord. It’s so simple. Yet it’s nearly impossible to turn on the radio or the TV without hearing somebody call someone else a name, want to lock them up behind an electric fence, and worse, use the Bible or Jesus or God as a reason to do so. What happened to humility?
Prayer: I know I am unworthy of your presence Lord, but I thank you with all my soul for your activity in my life. May I constantly remember that through you, we are made complete, and that, no matter what any human says, all of us are welcome in your loving embrace. Equally. No exceptions. Amen.
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
All this is from God, troche who reconciled us to himself through Christ, ed and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, store in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
Thought for the Day: In the fascinating book, The Master and His Emissary, neurological psychologist Iain McGilchrist, describes an ongoing evolutionary battle between the two hemispheres of the human brain. The right hemisphere is responsible for empathy, the subtleties of relationship, faith, and emotional reactions to speech, sound and music. It’s our sensitive side. The left hemisphere is responsible for math, motor control, and the “re-presentation” of life in words. It’s our reality perceptor.
McGilchrist claims the two hemispheres are in constant competition, and that one of the left hemisphere’s strengths is its ability to declare itself dominant. Hence, the history of humankind, especially of the 20th century, is the history of the left hemisphere’s ability with math, tools, computers, and verbal thinking, to the point that left-hemisphere thinking has become institutionalized. The left hemisphere of our brains has been in control the last several thousand years, so that we now live in a world of its construct: mechanized, manipulative and competitive. It is an unsustainable model. The right hemisphere’s capacities for empathy and compassion have been marginalized.
Obviously, this has been a model for self-destruction. We need to reconcile the two halves of our brain as God has reconciled humanity to God’s self, so that our incredible capacity for technological innovation is tempered by an equal amount of empathy and compassion for each other and our planet. We are living half a life when we ignore our right-hemisphere’s request to allow God’s reconciliation to make a change in our behavior.
Prayer: Remind me constantly, merciful Lord, of my Christ-like capacity for compassion and love. May I re-present the world through Christ, spreading the message of reconciliation by displaying in my life, endless and unceasing compassion for my brothers, sisters, and this glorious planet. Amen.
Scripture: Esther 3:6 (NRSV)
“So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
Thought for the Day: The book of Esther tells the story of the Persian King Xerxes I, his young Jewish (unbeknownst to him) wife Esther, and two of the King’s closest advisors, Haman and Mordecai. Through a fascinating, twisted and completely ego-driven series of events (the entire book is only about 10 pages long and an intense read—check it out), Haman hatches a plot to have all the Jews in the kingdom murdered. The genocidal act is only averted by Esther’s intervention (in an ironic twist that becomes apparent after reading the story).
Haman’s ire isn’t about religious differences though, it’s about his perception that his human power has been disrespected, for Mordecai, an equal in status of Haman, refuses to bow to Haman, even though King Xerxes has proclaimed all should prostrate themselves before Haman. So Haman goes on an ego-driven tirade that almost causes the elimination of an entire population.
The recent massacre of over 100 people by the Syrian government–nearly an entire village–has frightening parallels to the events described in the Book of Esther 2500 years ago. The Syrian government fights because it’s authority has been questioned, ruthlessly eliminating anyone who fights for freedom. But an authority that is maintained by fear and intolerance is not a true authority and can never be held. Eventually, God rasies an Esther and a Mordecai. It’s disconcerting that humans continue to wield power through oppression and murder, rather than recognizing that a position of authority is a gift and responsibility to serve the least of us, not a right to viciously attack those think differently.
Prayer: Merciful God, you are the only authority, and to you I pledge my soul and my life. Through you, Holy One, may we all learn the Divine traits of compassion, love, and mercy, so that our petty human differences might be settled without resorting to intolerance and mass murder. Amen.
Scripture: 2nd Timothy 1:6-7
For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, sickness but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Thought for the Day: I finally saw the movie, seek We Bought a Zoo. If you haven’t seen it, sildenafil take the time to rent it this week. It is based upon the true story of Benjamin Mee who begins an amazing adventure when he buys a dilapidated zoo. In the movie, Benjamin is talking to his son and says, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” In my years of ministry, I have served alongside people who have been willing to risk so much more than I ever was willing to risk. Whether it is someone choosing to start again after the death of a spouse, an individual giving an amount of money to a capital campaign that truly represented a life-altering sacrifice, or a community of faith selling the facility that had been their home for decades, I have witnessed insane courage that has returned blessings beyond measure. The cautious among us will warn against such behavior, but I am a firm believer that the world is looking for some embarrassing bravery…and who else to offer it than the followers of one who risked everything.
Prayer: You have created us to do great things, God, and we need just a little foolishness if we are going to let go of our inhibitions and realize the potential we have within us. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Thought for the Day: I am continually baffled at what people mistake as the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul was also a bit perplexed on this matter as certain people in the community were willing to abandon their relationships within the community over rather trivial issues. Paul will later write, malady “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God,” yet many have been willing to sacrifice righteousness, peace and joy for the sake of the insignificant. On this Pentecost Sunday, let us be mindful of the Holy Spirit’s leading which always seems to find a way of refocusing our vision on what is central to the Kingdom of God.
Prayer: Lord God, when my spirit finds itself focused on the inconsequential at the expense of the essential, let your Holy Spirit guide me back to the work needed to see your kingdom revealed. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 5:32 (the Message)
[Jesus said,] “I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders – an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”
Thought for the Day: There is an excellent post found on David Lose’s website (CLICK HERE) entitled, 10 Things the Church Can Learn from the Apple Store. In the post, David used an article written about the Apple Retail Stores by Guy Kawasaki, but David then expanded on the article by asking the question, “What can the church learn from this amazing success?” The first item on the list was Stop Selling Stuff. The ‘Stuff’ the church has been trying to sell for the last 50 years is membership, and when people realize they get more out of a membership at the local gym, they stop coming to church. Apple Stores ask you what you need, and then invite you into a whole new world…that is, the world of Apple. They do so believing that their product will not only meet that need, but will permanently hook customers. In the church, we need to listen to people and find out what it is they are longing for. At that point, we need to invite them into a whole new world…that is, the kingdom of God. And then walk with those individuals as they explore this new reality, the reality exemplified in the life of Jesus. We do so believing that the experience will sell itself, hooking them as followers permanently.
Prayer: Let us never attempt to sell of membership into an institution, but invite others into the life-changing experience which is your kingdom, God. Amen.
Scripture: Acts 2:4-6
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, patient as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, ampoule because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Thought for the Day: I have been grieved lately by the clergy who have made horrific statements against the LGBT community. I’m not naive enough to think our country is going to be of one mind on this issue, doctor but when segments of the Christian community give up their soul in their pursuit of hate, the whole of Christianity is damaged. On the day of Pentecost (which we celebrate this Sunday), the spirit didn’t say, “Go rogue, forget Jesus, use hate and threaten those you don’t know with violence.” On that glorious day, the spirit came among the people, a diverse people, and yet the people were able to understand one another as never before. That is a beautiful image! I don’t hate these clergy who have preached violence…hate isn’t in my nature. But I do condemn their misguided theologies, and I might go as far as saying that I hate the repercussions of their violent threats. Jesus is no where to be found in these threats of violence, yet too many people who do not know the Jesus of scripture are coming to believe that ugly depiction of Jesus is the real thing. Let us counter this depiction with spirit-filled love that is unmistakeable.
Prayer: O God who has given us a spirit of understanding, come upon us once again with compassion and appreciation of those who we do not yet know. Amen.
Scripture: Revelation 5:1-5
Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, cure sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, online “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, discount “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Thought for the Day: Many people have created fanciful explanations of this text that entirely jettison the context and ignore the specific genre. The Book of Revelation is an amazing text offering insight into the struggles of First Century Christianity, but never was intended as a detailed roadmap for our current context. It is only as we understand it as a rather straightforward message for a very specific group of early Christians that we can gain insight for our current circumstance. Simply put, the scroll represents God’s hope for the world, and though the hope is right before the early church, there does not appear to be anyone worthy of bringing this divine dream to fruition. As a sense of despair comes over the author, he is told that there is one (Jesus) who is worthy and has made it possible for others to be worthy of participating in the fulfillment of God’s dream. That’s basically it, folks (somewhat simplified)! So next time someone offers an absurd explanation of how the scroll represents certain modern day events, you just respond by saying, “By the grace of God in Christ Jesus, I have discovered that I am worthy to participate in making the divine dream come alive in the here and now.”
Prayer: When foolishness is preached, O Merciful God, may I offer a witnessed more fully grounded in the Bible’s original context where the Good News is first revealed. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 52:8-9
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, for sale because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
Thought for the Day: I was following a locksmith truck a few days ago, and it had a number of bumper stickers. I’m always intrigued when a business puts very specific political stickers on its trucks. I would think neutrality is a better business tactic. But what really intrigued me were two other stickers. Again, this was a locksmith, yet he had an “NRA” sticker and another sticker which read, “I sleep with a Smith & Wesson under my pillow.” Now I guess he has a legal right to do so, but wouldn’t you think a locksmith would be trying to promote trust in his products? Along the side of the truck, there were statements about the security and strength of the locks he sold, but the bumper stickers seemed to indicate that he placed his trust elsewhere. How often do we claim our trust in the steadfast love of God, but other things in our lives state something completely different? I doubt any of us live our lives fully trusting in the love of God, but I think we need to continually critique ourselves with the question, “What does my life really communicate?”
Prayer: O God whose promises can be trusted, help me to grow in my ability to live my life as one who trusts in those promises you have made. Amen.
Thought for the Day: As Jesus was sending out his disciples, he gave the instruction to kick off the dust of those towns where they were not well received. I don’t know if they really stood at the edge of the town and shook off the dust that had collected along the hem of their clothing or if this was simply a figure of speech. Whatever the case, I was wondering what the disciples were supposed to do when leaving a town where they were welcomed and felt nothing but love and acceptance? Here at First Christian Church of Naples, I don’t feel as if any of us have slowed down long enough for dust to settle. And as I get ready to leave this congregation, I need to express my gratitude for a welcome that made my ministry much easier. There will be no dust shaking ritual at the edge of Naples…only words of gratitude.
Prayer: O God of Grace, I give you thanks for all those along life’s journey who welcome strangers into their lives. Amen.