Sermon, January 2, 2022
Sunday After New Years
Today we celebrate two traditions. The first is celebrating a brand new year 2022! May it be a year of goodness and God-ness. The second is celebrating the age old story of Magi visiting the baby Jesus.
Both of these celebrations can be for us epiphanies. You might ask “what is an epiphany?” An epiphany is seeing an ordinary experience in a new way, a way that causes you to think outside of this moment in time. Epiphanies keep us from being self-centered. They encourage us to look beyond ourselves for some interaction or meaning that changes us, or makes us feel special, or cared for.
A New Year’s celebration usually involves a gathering of some kind, a party or a family dinner, and the making of resolutions to improve your life in the coming year. You think ahead. You make plans. You move forward. Moving forward in life is a must, otherwise we are prisoners of our past...for good or ill.
The visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus was also an epiphany. In the story these people, sometimes called kings and sometimes called wise men, traveled along way, guided by a star, to see a baby in a feeding stall. They brought gifts to him and then they left. The story tells us they did not return the way they came, they took a new way. They moved on in their own journey of life, and so must we. The message, or epiphany here is, whenever anyone comes tp the realization that the Christ spirit is real, loving, and powerful, then he or she intentionally takes a new way, a new road, to a new destination. Especially a spiritual one.
Epiphanies help us see our very small selves as an integral part of this very huge universe. Think about yourself as one atom in the entire universe...that if you were not here in it the universe would be different. It would be less, because you, as you are, are important. Your epiphany will be life-changing if you accept the fact you are important to God...that means you do not ever belittle yourself. If you belittle yourself, or put yourself down, you are telling God he made a mistake. And God does not make mistakes. It is us in our self-protective cocoon that sees life as less then it actually is.
Consider this fact: You would not exist today if God had not wanted you to be here in this place and at this time. You are important.
That’s why epiphanies are essential to us as humans. An epiphany emphasizes a light in the darkness. That light of which you are a part of reminds us that life continues on, that growth and new beginnings are always hovering on the horizon, and that new paths will appear and take us into new challenges, new opportunities to be the people God asks us to be.
You are alive now because God has a purpose for your life. Please know beyond all doubt that God is with you, in you, around you, and guiding your every step of the way if you are willing to partner with God.
Like the Magi we all have traveled a long distance over many years to be here at this time. What have you learned? What do you now see as vital to your life? How do you choose to live this coming year...with fear or optimism? With faith and hope or with dread?
Let us be the light of God shining out from us to brighten those around us. If so, the Grace of God will fill you with joy and peace. Believe it. Believe it. For in your belief is your life.
Happy New Year. Spend it with love.
Sermon, January 9, 2022
Matthew 5: 14-15
The words radiant and radiance are used throughout our Bible. So what do they mean? To be radiant means you send out light. And radiance means the state of being radiant. When was the last time you felt radiant? When you sent the light in your heart to someone? Have you ever felt spiritually radiant? Have you ever experienced radiance in your relationships with God or other people? Have you ever experienced any kind of light or lightness in your being?
If not, perhaps you have and were not aware of it. Sometimes a person’s smile lights up the eyes and face...you can tell that person is feeling happy, or glad, or love.
When people are excited about something even like a football game, or a new job, or finding friends of like mind, those people do exhibit a kind of radiance that lets us know they are feeling good about themselves or their hopes and dreams.
Perhaps one goal of this new year is to be radiant in the light of Christ. There is no power like the power of his love for us. There is no grace grander than the grace he offers us. There is no forgiveness as absolute as his forgiveness of us. There is no compassion more encompassing than his. There is no love greater than the love he freely gives to all of us regardless of our status or position in life.
So if radiance, the giving of light, is that important to our Creator why is not important to us. It should be.
And it doesn’t always have to include other people. When was the last time you caught yourself smiling when no one else was around? How many times in a day do you experience a gratitude for who you are in God’s view? How often do you laugh with and by yourself?
Well, if radiance is not part of our self esteem and self worth we need to make it so. During the first months of 2022 smile more often when you are alone. Find something to laugh out loud about. Close your eyes and feel the power of your brain as it acts unconsciously to keep you alive. There are so many gifts given to us every moment of every day that we neglect or fail to be aware of. All too often we rely on our circumstances or other people to make us smile, laugh, enjoy the moment when we should experience these acts every day even when alone...if we do not do so we have failed in our efforts to be human, to be powerful, to be loving, or to be as Christ to one another. When we recognize God with us we can be self-sustaining for a while...not always relying on others to provide what we need or want. We have that strength, though it is not used as often as it can be, or should be.
Do you have to have a reason to be happy? If you don’t think you have one then think again. The very knowledge that God has created you to be with him in this life of yours should make you deliriously joyful. The fact that after all the days you have already lived and are still here able to think and feel is a great reason to smile all the time with gratitude and thanksgiving. The fact that you have at least one other person who either likes you or loves you just as you are is worth an hour or so of joy, smiles, and even laughter.
All of us are strange creatures in some ways and in other ways we are all so alike it is astounding. Nonetheless, we all share equally in the love God freely gives us, the guidance he offers us, and the patience by which he waits on us to respond to him and his love.
Now having said all of that, let’s look forward to this new year. Can we resolve to be more radiant knowing God is in us and his radiance is just waiting to burst forth from us! Can we resolve to be radiant with the fullness of what life offers rather than limiting God or ourselves. Can we resolve to allow God greater access to our emotions and behavior to further mold them into joy? Can we together, as a church, resolve to try to make our community a little bit better because you are in it? Can we resolve to commit ourselves more to God’s will for us than our own...knowing God is wiser than we are and far, far more loving than we are?
You are in worship today because you are a follower of Jesus, the Christ. In the book of Hebrews we are told that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the representation of God’s being...and so are you, so are each of us.
All of us who believe do have the radiance of God within us. However, we are to show that radiance and not keep it hidden in any way. We are to display the character of our God to the people around us. We have the responsibility and opportunity to unveil God to the world through our own words and our own actions. We must be about radiating God’s compassion, joy, peace, and love every day of our lives as a first priority.
So together may we resolves to radiate God’s character to people we meet wherever that is...perhaps that is the first and most important resolve any of us can make today and all of our tomorrows.
Pray about about it. Think about it. Then Live it. Let it be resolved.
Sermon, January 16, 2022
2nd Thessalonians 3: 6-12
All of us at some time in our history have made promises we did not keep. Some of us may have thought little of that violation of our character; others may have suffered for that supposed failure. In spite of breaking promises, and doing things we should not do, we know they are wrong or harmful because of the basic teachings in the Bible that have been translated into civic laws.
When God created humankind he told his people they were to labor in the fields and take care of themselves and each other. You might remember the story of Cain and Abel. While they were in the field working together Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel. The Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain answered, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course the answer to that question for all of us is “yes.” We are our the keepers of our Christian brothers and sisters ...meaning we pray for one another, we encourage one another to do what is right in the eyes of God, and when a neighbor is in need we respond with love, grace, and sharing what we have. But those honorable actions come after we realize we are responsible for our own lives, our choices, our words and actions. We are not allowed to play the blame game...ever. If someone treats you badly, you have the choice of how to respond, or to answer that challenge. The people who follow Jesus will not respond in kind, will not repay wrong with wrong. Rather, they answer bad behavior in a healthy way without being wrong themselves. That seems to be contrary to how we see the world and relationships today. Revenge is everywhere and it makes every problem, and encounter worse. We are to speak and act as lovingly as possible to any person or situation, whether we feel like it or not.
How well do we do we as individuals and as a church react when we are mistreated?
We have a scriptural answer. In the book of Romans, we are taught, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine: I will repay, says the Lord.’ The teaching continues, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Where does that leave us in regard to our personal responsibility to live up to God’s law? Each one of us has a personal relationship with God through the living Christ Spirit. It’s all about love, grace, joy, peace, and compassion. Yet, if we are not constantly on guard we allow someone who is acting badly toward us to steal from us our own kindness and goodness, and take away our Christian responsibility. In effect, if we act vengefully, we are just as wrong as the person who hurt us. Being personally responsible for who we are, meaning how we behave, what we think, say, and do, makes our lives whole, livable, more peaceful, harmonious, and much more loving. All too often when asked, “why did you do that?” The answer is usually so and so made me do it, or I treated him just like he treated me. No wonder we are warring people, no wonder psychosis is rampant, no wonder the mental health institutions can not take care of all the people who need their help. When we choose to act in any way that is different from the way we are taught by Christ, then we are on the wrong track and will make things worse for ourselves.
The largest resource we should use in dealing with one another is kindness. Being personally responsible for who we are and how we act determines our mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Now, having said all that I am assuming some of you are thinking...well that’s all pie in the sky spiritual stuff and it’s not realistic. It’s just sacred, holy stuff that has nothing to do with my day to day life. If you think that, perhaps you might need to re-think. If you meet with a skilled psychologist you will hear the same advice, perhaps spoken in a different way, but basically the same. Being holy actually means being wholly human...living into the highest form of humanity which is based on love, kindness, goodness, genuine authority, and personal responsibility! When we feel that we are our own authority, we have to ask where does that authority come from? In the western world, which up until now has basically been Christian, our authority is God illustrated through the human Jesus, the main representation of God that we have.
To summarize, each of us must learn to respect our responsibility, be humbly proud of our loving choices and responses. All of us need to learn to appreciate the fact that we have the ability to choose loving options. We must develop a habit to practice, practice, practice choosing the right option in all our interactions, behavior and self determination. Our Christian responsibility must be protected, nurtured, and well-fed throughout our lifetimes.
Today let’s take action to be personally responsible for all our own actions and see to it that they for the most part are the ones of which Jesus approves.
Sermon, January 23, 2022
How To Live “In Christ”
Our Bible, that is our guide to healthy meaningful living, teaches us to live in Christ. What does that mean and how do we do it?
Let’s look at some analogies. Have you ever been to a college football game or a pro-game where you really liked one of the teams, so you go to the ball games, you scream and holler words of praise or encouragement to your team, sometimes you even Booo the other team. But you show up, you are present, you participate in the emotion and attitude of the entire scene, you belong. You feel part of it all. It gives you pleasure. Even if your team doesn’t win you still feel you had an experience that gave you some joy, fun, and some sense of worth. You lived in that excited moment where you had hope for your team. Have you ever experienced that kind of participation over a football game?
Look at another analogy. Have you ever attended a musical concert, classical, country, or popular music? If you have, you bought a ticket, you showed up, you swayed to the music (depending on what kind of music you yelled and writhed around in complete surrender.) If you were at a classical music concert you sat quietly, thrilled with the music, the skill of the musicians, the beauty of the composer’s works and you were lifted up to a state of bliss, complete enjoyment, swayed emotionally by the loveliness of it all? Again, you participated. You were part of the scene. You belonged. You felt as one with other concert goers. When it was over you brought some of those feelings home with you and enjoyed remembering the experience. You lived in the musical moment and felt better for the experience.
Living in Christ is similar. However, living in the experience of a ball game or a concert is temporary. The pleasure lasts just for those few hours and the few hours you recalled the experience when you returned home.
Living in Christ is permanent. You show up a church, bible study, or any other group which focuses on spirituality. You participate. You support the work. You have the attitude of Christ that carries over even into ballgame or concert experiences. In Christ you are a hopeful person, sharing your faith, uplifting people, offering niceness and kindness to all you encounter. You make sure your moral compass is the same moral compass that Jesus exhibited. You worship the same God Jesus worshiped with the same assurance you are doing what God placed you here to do. Before you act, you check yourself to make sure you are taking with you that loving, sharing, compassionate attitude Jesus had for every life experience.
We are human beings created to live only a short period of time in our infinite universe. We are physically frail weak figures when compared to oak trees or other longer lasting natural creations. But within those short years of time, we are like a usable vessel able to carry a powerful treasure...the life of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul teaches “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Christ in us means we live, breathe, think, say, and act with the same loving attitude that Jesus showed the world. May we try to do the same? When we live in Christ we can almost feel his spirit wandering through our minds making sure we are thinking loving ideas, peeking around in hour hearts to make sure we are acting lovingly, kindly, compassionately. He looks at our hands to see how we are serving his people. He looks at our feet to see if they take us where love and forgiveness are most needed in our communities. He checks out our eyes to see exactly what we are seeing in movies, television programs, video games to insure we do not let our eyes bring into our bodies evil, revenge, hostility, aberrant sexuality, and madness. We owe ourselves and our God the very best of being human. How can we spread God love, Christ love if our minds and hearts are filled with evil images, negative ideas, hurtful messages from creators who are anything but holy. How about our younger generation. They live by electronics...phones, media, video games, etc….so who are their real teachers? What exactly are they learning? These are important questions to discuss in families, because to not do so makes us participants in efforts to dehumanize humanity. We are on this planet at this chaotic time to live in Christ. To live with love as our primary motivator. But don’t forget, love, genuine love, always involves sacrifice. Giving up some of what we think we want, or what we do want, for the betterment of those we love. If love is not sacrificial it becomes sentimental and often fleeting.
To live in Christ means to participate in his life, show up, live as he did as much as possible. And you do that through prayer, communal worship, sharing with each other what the God element in life means to you. You live every day with the love and the attitude of Christ Jesus as the best and most rewarding way to live...become a person of the way...the way of Jesus. Then see what miraculous changes might occur in how you think of your self and others, the level of your personal esteem, and the nights of peaceful sleep.
If Christianity is to survive it is up to each one of us to live into it, its beliefs, its morals, and most importantly to live in Christ.
Sermon, January 30, 2022
How many of you know how tall you are? Do you know how much you weigh? Do you know how many teeth you have, or are supposed to have? Do you know what your blood pressure is? Most of you seem to know a bit about your body. Indeed, your body is important but not necessarily in and of itself.
Your body’s primary function is to be a residence for your brain, heart, lungs and soul. At birth God gives you a body with brain, heart, lungs, bones, muscles, blood and tissue. However, we can be born with all of those elements in perfect shape, but we do not live until we take our first breath. Biblically speaking, our first breath is God breathing into us and bringing us to life. Likewise, when we take our last breath, we die.
According to scripture, human beings are souls. In Genesis 2:7 God did not make a body and put a soul into it like putting a letter into an envelope of dust; rather he formed a human body from the dust, then, by breathing divine breath into it, he made the body of dust live...the dust did not embody a soul, but it became a soul...a whole creature. The bible refers to people as souls...the entirety of a person is soul.
Soul is crucial because it unites every part of us into one creature. It is through this uniting that we are able to invite and accept Spirit into our lives, the Holy creating Spirit. We can not fathom Spirits shape or form...but we do sense its power. This living spirit comes from outside of us and enters us by invitation. A mind or brain can believe. A heart can be compassionate. Lungs breathe without our thinking about it. But are we energized, vibrantly alive as loving, giving, and forgiving people unless God’s spirit within us? I don’t think so. Our vibrancy, our energizing elan comes from the Spirit within.
Often in our language, two words “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably. However, they are different. Spirit is like this: “If we follow the precepts of our God, we are spirit beings who have a soul and live in a body. Spirit comes from outside of us when all else about us is included at birth. Spirit is God in action in us. Spirit comes from outside our bodies by invitation and lives within us as a powerhouse for loving self and others. It guides our morality. It provides joy by giving of ourselves and to others. It rejoices in compassion and is strengthened by forgiveness of self and others. To know your God Spirit, at least as well as you know you body, then you know God/Christ/Holy Spirit is your all in all.
We when are born we are physical bodies. We become spirit beings when all our parts together realize we are not whole, nor holy, until we become vehicles to house the God Spirit. When we invite the Spirit to be part of us, we too become part of the Spirit that has always existed and always will exist, in some form, that impacts a universal goodness and safety for all.
If we understood the difference between living just physically, mentally, and emotionally without including spiritually, we are only half souls. We need the power God gives us. God showed us that power through the life of Jesus, the anointed one, who teaches us how to live meaningful, helpful, loving lives.
When you wake up in the morning do you say, “Oh I slept wrong, my neck hurts.” or something like, “Do I have to get up and go to work?” Are most of your early morning thoughts negative? If so, you are living in your body which is waiting for you to choose to live into your spiritual body and see all of life worth living, all people worth loving, all sins completely forgiven, and peace only a decision away.
We are built to be smart and most of us live into that smartness. But what about enlightenment? Which means to willingly co-exist with the God spirit within us as co-creators of our world today and all the days that follow.
Please think about this concept of being fully alive as a human being only when you invite and accept the God spirit within you….then your desire is to love like Jesus did, and to become Christ to one another.
Sermon, February 6, 2022
25th Birthday of The Nourishing Place
Can you believe this church began as an idea, an unlikely one at that. Through obedience to God’s nudging, and through hope and faith, the church happened. We turned a 16x20 foot shed, that had been my home, into a chapel. We held our first worship service there on Sunday February 8, 1997. That first Sunday 9 people had breakfast together and then we worshiped our gracious God. Within 5 years we had out grown the shed and two additions we had added to it. Miraculously, we moved into an old church that was rebuilt for us by the Grand Casino in Gulfport! Could you ever imagine a casino volunteering to build a church for us? Through Tom Brosig’s leadership the casino rebuilt, wired, and lighted the new facility. Attached to this new church we screened in the back deck which we used to freely give away clothing, food, and household items. We called it the Back Porch. Hundreds and hundreds of people were blessed by being able to receive needed items at no cost. We based this outreach ministry on the biblical verses from the gospel of John. Jesus says, “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love for people is extravagant. While we are not asked to lay down our lives for others on a daily basis, we can choose to give of our selves extravagantly in smaller practical ways. We can choose to go out of our way to help and serve someone in need even though it may be personally inconvenient to us. Jesus teaches, do it anyway.
Through the spirit of love and giving of ourselves, more and more people came to join us in that old church that we lovingly called Chapel in the Oaks. Our music ministry in the shed was a piano in my tiny kitchen. But in our newly reconstructed church our music ministry grew. Some of you might remember GiGi Hines and Bill Kelly, both night club performers who became our pianist and singer. Then Betty Bittner, Linda Machi, Michelle Kidd, and Helen Evans joined in to enhance our music. We remained in that church for nearly 15 years cooking breakfast every Sunday, and serving a hot meal on Tuesday night bible study. Through your asking people to join us, they did, and gradually we outgrew that wonderful old sanctuary, the Chapel in the Oaks.
With faith that if God wanted us to have a new, bigger church and fellowship hall it would come to pass. And four years ago it did. Many people, including each and every one of you, gave something of your selves, your creations, your prayers, hands-on help, and your resources (some dollar by dollar in tens and twenties and hundreds, and some a bit more) to make this holy space a reality. The building was built, furniture was specially hand made and upholstered for us. Original art work was donated to decorate our sanctuary, and many of you brought a cross to hang on our wall of crosses. And here we are! You are still donating time, food, funds, effort, ideas, and participating in church and Bible Study. How grateful we are to have such a loving, caring, unselfish congregation who continue to give and give and give. Our dove on the altar on Sundays is filled as is our Post Office Box during the week...and we never ask, you just give from the loving hearts you have. But most importantly you continue to give friendship to this whole community in and around our church building, and you continue to invite people to join us at worship and Bible Study. That’s how we grow, by living the life Jesus knew would enhance God’s kingdom in the here and now. And each one of you is an important part of ministry.
All of you without exception have been essential in creating and maintaining this Nourishing Place... both the gathering of people and the sanctuary….so it is not my church! It is God’s church and your church... It is ours together to tend, care for, nurture and grow this ministry and this mission to help bring God’s kingdom of love and compassion to an ever wider area. So today is a celebration of thanksgiving. We praise God for miracle after miracle, one nearly every day, to live as Jesus lived, enhancing love, treating all people with dignity, and walking the truth that God is Love.
Please this week, take your church directory and look through every single photo and say “thank you God” for this loving friend of yours and mine...and let’s keep the love going on and on through faith, hope, and possibilities we don’t yet know about.
I want to take this minute to say a personal thank you to each and every one of you for making this dream, this idea, a reality that is playing an important part in the Christian development of this community. You have put up with me for 25 years, that’s nearly 1000 Sundays and a thousand Tuesdays and I have loved every minute getting to know you, your stories, your challenges, and your faith. Each one of you is an inspiration to me...I need you. God’s mission on earth needs you. Please, let’s all keep coming to church and bible study, keep praying, keep singing, keep the blessings going and do so with joy, peace, and love every day, all day long. Be a God-filled person who offers kindness and goodness, and who makes those two traits your hall-mark and your motto.
Today is truly a day of celebration and thanks...you live to serve, and by so doing you are wonderfully expressing God in your daily walk.
Let’s pray and hope we continue to live, love, and worship together for years and years to come.
Sermon, February 13, 2022
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Why do we celebrate LOVE just one day a year? Love is the most profound, fundamental trait all humans beings need and want. Love is a basic characteristic of being human. Our primary goal as Christians is to love: love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves. That in one sentence is what it means to follow the teachings of Jesus. Do we?
We all love someone in special ways like spouses, family members, close friends. But what about the rest of humanity? We don’t know all people on a personal basis and neither did Jesus. Yet God’s command and Jesus’ focus is on offering loving acts to all humans because all humans are made in the very image of our Creator.
Even when we accept these truths and desire to live by them, how do you love people you do not know? How do you love people you don’t even like? How do you love people who do evil to others? How do you love people who are so very different from you? We certainly can’t personally reach all human beings; but we can reach out to those we come in contact with in our church, neighborhood, and community. Those are the “all” Jesus is talking about.
Just this week, as I was thinking about today’s sermon on love, I was talking to Max and making some broad statements about love, what I think love does for us. I said, love makes hurts and disappointments bearable. Love creates harmony when things get tense. Love energizes us when we get tired. Love lifts us up when we need to keep going in spite of failures. I asked Max, what do you think of those things. He said, “love sounds like a blowout patch to me.” Well, two things about that. Men always see things from a different perspective than women do, and I did not even know what a blow out patch is, or was. I was enlightened. When bikes and cars had inner tubes there was a patch you could put on the inner tube enabling you to ride a bit further, to keep on going.
I laughed but the more I thought about it I liked his answer. We all need a sort of blow out patch in our lives. In talking to many of you I understand life is tough...times are demoralizing...money to purchase needed items is often less than we need...loved ones are sick or hurting…and we are tired. So, what kind of blow out patch could help heal these trying times. I think there are many. Let’s list a few.
First and vitally important, you must tell God how you feel and what you need. God is an awesome listener and just by telling him your feelings and needs you have identified things you can work on. Sometimes we just need to state clearly and precisely what would help and how we might possibly find that help. So God is your first contact. That’s called “take it to God in prayer.” Then know there is a divine solution for any and all problems, challenges, and emotions. You have the one who created all as your primary resource. I think God is greatly underused in solving daily issues!
Second, it would be helpful and soothing if someone would affirm you, that is speak to you, smile at you, and say something kind to you. That is a good booster for many of us. Importantly, as Christians, that is exactly what we need to be doing and must be doing for each other. It would be wonderful if each and everyone of us spoke to everybody else who is in this church. It could be a smile, a wave, any kind of acknowledgment, and when possible to speak and say glad you are here, it’s good to see you, hope you are well. Are we willing to do that for each other? That is why we have public worship...to share God’s love with one another in one place and at one time. Let’s not be lazy or complacent...let’s really show each other the face of love.
Third, we need to carry that attitude of acknowledging others wherever we go. In the post office you have time to be gracious to someone else in line; in the grocery store you have time to say something nice or encouraging to other shoppers who are feeling the crunch of empty shelves and empty pockets. How do you treat the people who wait on you in stores or restaurants? How do you treat the person who brings your mail? How do you treat the men who two times a week pick up your garbage? Do you ever wait to speak words of thanks to these laborers who help our lives be cleaner, better, healthier, and more convenient.
One of the most grateful lessons of my young life was from my grandmother. When I was a child our garbage truck was an open air truck with wooden walls around the garbage. A cloud of buzzing flies hovered over the piles of open garbage. We could smell and hear the gears grinding as the garbage truck approached us. On hot summer days twice a week, when my grandmother heard the garbage truck approach, she handed me a large pitcher of iced lemonade she had made and 4 glasses. I had to wait by the road til the truck arrived then pour the lemonade for the garbage men. They were so grateful and spoke such kind words of thanks that I could face the ridicule that came from my friends...teasing me about my best friends were garbage men. Not only that I also waited for the mailman on those hot mornings and served him too. At first I dreaded those tasks. But when I complained, my grandmother would say something like, “Janie, that’s what Jesus did. He found ways to make people’s lives a little bit better and he did it with joy. Just think how happy you would be if you were the garbage man and someone gave you lemonade. Then she would say, those little things you do for others makes their lives a bit better and yours as well.
What a great philosophy! That’s what I hope we will commit to doing as individuals and as a church. Create kindness wherever you are. Seek out people to say nice things to. Go out of your way to encourage, energize, and love people...those you know and those you don’t know. Our world is crying out for kindness, people are hurting because we are too busy going about our own business to stop even for a minute to offer an affirming word, a kind gesture, a helpful hand. If we don’t do these things why bother calling ourselves Christian.
As a reminder on this day before Valentine’s Day, that love given away without any expectation of a return, is the foundation of real life. Love produces good mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Love produces good times. Love produces good behavior. Your ever expanding love is what God desires for you and from you. Let us not disappointment our holy and gracious God. So maybe today or this week you can be a blow out patch for someone who needs to be acknowledged. It could change a life.
So today I wish your tomorrow to be a Happy Valentines Day..and may all your tomorrows be a Happy Love Day.
February 20, 2022
Matthew 12: 33-37
Be As Christ to One Another
If God came in physical form, approached you, and asked you this question, “who are you?” how would you answer?
You might tell him your name and what job you have...that’s how many people respond when meeting someone new. However, God is not meeting you as someone new...God has known you since your birth and since the first moment he breathed his breath into you to bring you to life. So, maybe he wants to know who you think you are...because God knows you better than you know yourself...God is all knowing.
I’ll ask again, who are you? Most people find that question very difficult to answer. We fumble around and murmur something like, I’m Jane, I live in Gulfport, and I’m married with 5 children and 9 grandchildren. That is basic factual information but it is boring and doesn’t say at all who we are in terms of personality, values, beliefs, interests, or skills. All the intangible things that make life meaningful are who we are. Perhaps a better question to ask you is, “what is the most important thing in your life not counting your family or job? Is that easier to answer? Some might say yes, others might say no.
Most of us can provide facts about who we are: where we live, who we live with, what we do job wise to survive...but facts are seldom what makes us interesting as people. What we think and do when no one else is watching is a great clue as to who we are internally, emotionally, and spiritually. Those are the things our God is most interested in. He knows what you look like...he helped create you, remember? But he wants to know how you have used the life he gave you up to now...what have you done to make life better for yourself and others? What have you done that has built your faith? What have you done to make yourself more hopeful? Peaceful? Happy? Whose life have you influenced that made a positive change in that person? What positive changes have you made in your own life?
Having said that and asking those questions help you determine just how important your God is to you, and how much you try to emulate the life of Jesus. Those are the most essential questions we ask, and the answers are truly revealing.
You are here today because you claim to be Christian. Christianity is unique among religions because it is more about a relationship than religious practices. Instead of adhering to dogma and doctrine, the goal of a Christian is to cultivate and develop a close walk with God...to communicate with God, sharing your hurts and joys with God. That close relationship is possible because of the Christ Spirit in you. That spirit is always there and available, but how often are you in tune to its presence?
One of the most important things a Christian must be mindful of is to know your words and behavior are the most powerful witnesses to your beliefs. Our nicest words are meaningless if our actions go in an opposing direction. Whether we like it or not, people of faith are to act a bit like Christ...that is to be as Christ to one another...treating all others as we want to be treated. That’s the golden rule for a reason..when we act on it we are reflecting God’s love just like gold reflects light. Acting on what we say means we are honest and authentic...and people are drawn to honesty and authenticity.
To be Christian is to be hopeful, to be forgiving, to be loving and caring. To be Christian is to look for the good in others, in life, and in ourselves. God gives us ample love to share...but how often do we share unconditional love, that is offering love without expecting anything in return? So back to the question of “who are you?” The answer God might want to hear is this: “I am a child of God, a traveler on the path of Jesus, and a caring friend to all I meet.”
If someone answered you with that response would you find it arrogant, holier than thou, meaningless? Many would say yes...and we would say yes because we have been taught to judge rather than to accept; we have been conditioned to look for the negative first instead of the positive because negatives make it easier to ridicule and gossip about...and those two things are top ingredients in too many social conversations.
If we truly honored our God, respected our faith, were exuberant to have such a loving God and encouraging Christ, then we would welcome those responses and perhaps even practice saying a similar sentence about ourselves and others.
We have a powerful faith, but do we use it? We have many reasons to be hopeful, but are we? We are called to be Christ to one another all day long, every day, but is that really how we act? There is another question that is of equal importance. What about Jesus do others see in you? And like the old standard comment: you might be the only face of Jesus someone else might ever see.
I think it is time for all of us to take the joy of Christianity and be more forthcoming with its goodness to self and others. I think it is time to make statements through our actions as to who our God truly is tous in our practical day to day living. I think it is time to put away the childish fun of criticizing others and begin to encourage, affirm, and love one another. The basic goal of life in our faith tradition is to be as Christ to one another….all day long, every day.
Those of us here today could commit to making a more intentional effort to be and do more of what Christ does for us...extend love, forgive all, assist people in need, and live life everyday as though you are being watched, even when you are alone...because in truth, you are never alone and always watched, nudged, and loved by Grace Himself our Almighty God and the Christ spirit within.
It’s worth an effort.
Sermon, February 27, 2022
Much of what makes us human today has been with us since the beginning of time. Not just our physical being which has been relatively the same, except for growth in height, from the earliest humans. Also, our image of God has essentially not changed since humans first thought of a god or a life force.
The earliest know religion was sun worship. Sun worship was the dominant religion in all ancient civilizations from Babylon, to India, China, Africa, Greece, Rome, Mexico, South America, Egypt, and Europe. The eminent Sanskrit scholar Jata Jha, says the concept of sun worship is as old as mankind. Very early societies were primarily agricultural and dependent on the sun for life and sustenance, it is no surprise the sun became deified...or God. Surya, the Hindu god of the Sun, is considered the creator of the universe and the source of all life. He is the supreme soul who brings light and warmth to the world. In Egypt, RA, their sun god, is believed to be the source of life. The Greeks honored Helios who was similar to the Egyptian Ra in many respects. Also, in many native American cultures the sun was recognized as a life-giving force. Worship of the sun was also important to the Romans as well. When people worshiped the sun god they looked up to the sun and were grateful for light and warmth.
Later in time, religions began to flourish in areas that had mountains and hills that often blocked the sun throughout the day unless they were on the mountains and hills. Very early on, being up, looking up, became a metaphor for a spiritual experience. Even in our own modern day bible mountains or hills are mentioned 570 times.
Many of the mountains mentioned in our bible had at least one or more major events tat occurred on them. For example, Mount Ararat is where Noah’s ark came to rest after the flood. Mount Carmel is where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to show his God was more powerful than Baal. Mount Moriah was where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac..is also where Solomon built his temple. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, where he prayed before his crucifixion and where he descended into heaven. All of these and many more were locations for spiritual experiences and guidance.
The Psalms in our bible speak about the up-ness of God’s presence. Psalm 122 says “ I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from which cometh my help.” Psalm 19 “ The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
Looking back at our spiritual or religious history, is it any wonder modern day believers still think God is up? Up in the sky? Up in the clouds. Up on the mountain tops? We are told over and over again the life force which created all things and all beings can not be known except through experience, but that abiding spirit of God is within each human. It comes to us at birth when God breathes into us to bring us to life. That spirit within us is our life force. Yet when we talk to God, or his earthly representative the Christ, we usually look up, or we look down with our eyes closed, while thinking of God as above us. Certainly in the way of wisdom, power, and love God is far more than we are...however he uses the planet we live on to assure us of our resurrection. Look at how many plants and flowers, vegetables and seeds, are resurrected year after year without our tilling the soil.
We know God is infinite...that his grace abounds in every direction...but to relate to him the way God desires we must begin to fully recognize his spirit within us. It is that connection that is real for us. It is that connection that makes life full, abundant, and meaningful. Whether you know it or not now, I pray you will know and recognize God’s holiness of love and assurance that is indeed God within. We are not God, but we are part of God...in fact his most precious creation so says Genesis. He has given us, humans, dominion over his creation here on our planet. Sometimes you might think God doesn’t listen to you, or God has abandoned you, or God did not give you what you wanted, at those times don’t look up, look inward. Put your hand on your heart and hear the beating of the universe in you. Put your hands over the area of your lungs and hear God’s breath still inhaling and exhaling without you having to remind your lungs to breathe. If we want to become all that God has made us to be we must, absolutely must, altar our thinking about who we are in God and God in us and we are a vital part of all nature and of the unfathomable universe that is within each of us.
If you still need to look up to see God, then look up to your brain where your thoughts are...your thoughts become your actions, and your actions become your character...and to live fully our characters must emulate that of Jesus, our guide, our guard, and yes, our God.
Sermon, March 6, 2022
What Have You Done With What You Have Been Given?
The season of Lent began this past week. Traditionally it is the 40 days before Easter. The observation of Lent emerged after the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Throughout its nearly 1700 years of existence it has focused on fasting on all forty days until today when fasting is required only two times during Lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. However, during that time the idea of “giving up” something became an important part of the Lenten Season. Lent is more than giving up something like chocolate, or smoking, or alcohol...it is truly a time to think about the mind of Christ throughout his life and how closely developed is the mind of Christ in you.
You have been given many things to use and enjoy while you are on this earth: you have been given a body, a mind, and a spirit. You have been given a brain to think, a heart to feel, hands and feet to serve. You have been given an inspiration, a god-like role model, to illustrate how you are to act and behave in responsible and loving ways in every circumstance. You have been given opportunities to be schooled, to learn, and opportunities to work to support yourself and your family. You have been given hardships to show you how vitally important faith and hope are in order to have a meaningful, healthy life. You have been given moments of joy and excitement to show you how important these elements are to living fully.
So my question today is what have you done with what you have been given? Lent is a great period of time to ask yourself that question and then answer it. To answer that one question involves answering other questions such as: are you more selfish than giving and sharing? Do you know that real love is always sacrificial...that is to truly love someone makes you vulnerable...and are you willing to be vulnerable in order to have and give love? What are the obstacles in your life that make you veer away from commitments, self-responsibility, and thinking of others before yourself? Then the ultimate question is who or what do you really worship? Who or what do you give most of your thoughts, time, energy, and resources to? How you answer that question will tell you who your God is. Maybe Lent is a period of time to ask yourself if you are really participating fully in life? Are you? Maybe its time to ask yourself what is your basic attitude toward your life? Most scholars who study human beings will tell you life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your attitude toward what happens to you. What is your basic attitude? Is it one of joy that you like to share with others? Or, is it one of complaints, dissatisfaction, un-caring? Is your attitude basically self-centered, other centered, or God centered? Only you can truthfully answer these questions. And how you answer them continues to shape who you are and what life is to you.
As Christians, and because you are here today I assume you consider yourself Christian, we are asked to have the attitude and mind of Christ and to use those traits as paths for our daily journeys. These are some of the ways Jesus showed us his attitude and his mind: he seldom noticed differences in people, rather he looked for the common bond of being human in all people. He almost never looked for the dark side of people, rather he sought the light of love in others. He did not concentrate on the illnesses of others, rather he offered healing that is possible from belief and faith in God. Jesus did not often use words to tear down others. He used words to build up others’ esteem and worth. He tried to turn people away from dwelling in sorrow by showing them the joy of the presence of God within them. He also asked others to stop worrying and fretting and instead trust God, use the faith you have been given. Jesus maintained an attitude of forgiveness always. Every person and every evil act can be forgiven if the person repents. He encouraged people to ask for forgiveness, receive it, then forgive themselves. Let go of hatred and embrace love.
We as people of God have a responsibility to use what we have been given to help create God’s Kingdom here on earth. We are to enhance what we have been given so that we have even more energy and enthusiasm to work toward bringing that Kingdom of God into fullness now. We are to acknowledge God as our creator and Jesus as his best representative in being god-like day in and day out.
That is our purpose and the closer we come to fulfilling our purpose the happier, the healthier, the more joyous we will be and all that will bring personal peace. Also every act of kindness no matter how small, still adds another aspect of kindness in the world.
During this time of Lent please ask yourself the question: what have I done with what I have been given? As you answer that, please then ask yourself what can I do from this moment on to continue to develop the attitude and mind of Christ in myself? Be assured, with God’s grace, patience, and strength every effort on your part will be blessed and you will see a more exciting, peaceful, worthy self emerge day by day, moment by moment.
Let’s prayerfully do so.
Sermon, March 13, 2022
Alternative to Original Sin
Has anyone here at times felt unworthy? Or, felt you don’t measure up? Have you ever thought of yourself as a failure?
Perhaps we have all had fleeting moments of these negative emotions, and others allow them to control their lives. When we experience these hurtful feelings perhaps we need to remind ourselves who we are, each one of us. We are offspring of our Majestic, Almighty Creator, Loving God. We were created in God’s image of love. Our human nature is God’s own nature. Look at our universe and our natural environment on this planet and we see first hand some of God’s attributes, and they are our attributes as well.
God is a creator. Humans create. Humans create everything from delicious meals every day to building space stations where people actually live for a while.
God is spiritual but not religious. He is spiritual because he is not about dogma and doctrine, rather God is love. We too are spiritual people when we share love with each other and live within the framework of giving and receiving love.
God is intelligent. Look at the orderliness of nature: the sun and moon rise and set at precise moments and have done so for eons. Rain comes when needed as do droughts. God balances all of the infinite universes. Humans, too, are intelligent. Humans have the ability to think, conceptualize, imagine, to dream and to make choices.
God is relational. God seeks relationships with every one of us. We too are relational. We are at our best when we are in relationships that inspire us, care about us and that we enjoy.
Knowing these few things about God and about ourselves we must come to the conclusion since day one every human is born with original blessings, NOT original sin. The concept and belief of original sin was not one Jesus or the disciples believed. It was not one the early Christians even knew. It was not a biblical law. The concept of Original Sin is not in the bible in any direct way. Rather it was developed as late as 370 AD when Augustine of Hippo, a priest, offered an explanation for sin to the church’s council. Augustine proposed the Doctrine of Original Sin and blamed Eve as the reason for sin in the world. If you read Genesis carefully you will note that the serpent and the ground were cursed not Adam and Eve. Augustine was famous for his dislike of and disregard for women. So by his blaming Eve and encouraging the church fathers to do the same, he thought he had proved women to be evil, therefore not allowed as leaders in churches. That idea quickly became paramount...and only very recently have women been brought in to churches as leaders, teachers and even priests or preachers. That false doctrine of Original Sin reigned supreme for 1700 years.
Even the idea of Original Sin seems to belittle God’s view that all life is good, holy, sacred. Original Sin puts a negative connotation on all that is human and it has caused pain for many believers in God and Christ. Belief in the idea of Original Sin causes guilt, fear, anger, and unworthiness. All the things that lead to unhealthy lives.
Humans are worthy not because of any acts on our part. We are worthy because we are born, and born in the image of God, and we breathe the breath of God.
Now, yes, we all sin; we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. And when we ask we are forgiven. That is a blessing. What is equally important is to disregard the idea that sin is part of our nature...it is not. Sin is a choice we make. Toddlers at times do hurtful things because they explore the world...it takes time and training for little humans to learn about choices. They need parents, teachers, friends and churches to educate them about the power and intelligence they have to make wise choices. In fact, children and adults alike need wisdom to order their own lives in healthy ways by choosing loving acts not harmful ones. If you ever want to slap someone, hug that person instead. If you want to say something unkind to someone, stop and bless them instead. If you want to do real harm to someone, offer to help them in any way instead. Change your patterns of behavior by changing your frame of reference…doing wrong is not natural...giving love is natural because it is of God.
If you think the doctrine of original sin has been harmful to you, perhaps its time for you to make a wise and healthy choice. Disregard Original Sin and opt for the greater, wiser choice of Original Blessings. You as a human are unique among all other animals. Granted God created animals and does love and care for them. But he made us have dominion over all creation.
How are we doing? How do we treat animals? How do we treat our earth? How do you treat yourself? As a sinner or as a person of worth, dignity, and love? Choose the right way to see yourself because that is the way God sees you.
Sermon, March 20, 2022
Today I would like us to reflect for a minute on church...what it is and what it is not. As we said in the call to worship, the sanctuary or building where people gather to worship is just that...a sanctuary, a safe place to be totally yourself...sins, faults, and all. We as a group of believers can gather in the woods or on the beach or anywhere else and still worship our God. We can do this because we, us human beings, are the church. Church is the gathering together of believers that have a God and a message in common. In other words, church is the Christian community as a whole, or a body of Christian believers.
There are many reasons our faith has through the centuries encouraged people to gather at least once a week for many reasons. Here are just a few:
* the gathering of people who worship and serve a God in common is an opportunity to feel connected...to God and to each other. It helps us realize our beliefs in common put us in touch with something far bigger, greater than ourselves. By making the effort to attend church once a week, we are clearly making time for God...and that helps us grow spiritually.
* when we attend church we usually read a psalm or sing a hymn and many times the focus of those is gratitude. Science has proven that even in hardship, times of stress and distress, gratitude is an attitude that helps us cope more easily without us panicking or falling apart. Gratitude reinforces the truth that the inventor of gratitude, God, is with us especially in the hard times. We are never alone.
* attending church can be a pleasure because for the most part, Christians who do attend church, are usually nice and kind to others. That’s a blessing in today’s world when it seems many people are stressed, unhappy, and too distraught to be mannerly, or friendly. And,we who do attend church are the ones who should be friendly and mannerly
* being in church, sitting in a pew or chair, looking at an altar that usually has on it a cross, or flowers, or some other holy symbol, puts us in touch with reverence. Reverence is something everyone of us needs whether we admit it or not. To understand and acknowledge there is something holy about a spiritual gathering, gives us a sense of peace. In today’s chaotic and disruptive world our psyches need peace and reverence. It helps us feel complete, whole...or in the words of scripture, holy.
* being part of church also might help us all with forgiveness. Some people say the ability to forgive all is a huge barrier to internal peace. When you are in church, sitting next to someone you either know and love or don’t know, you might come to the realization people everywhere struggle to forgive. Some people sitting close to you have forgiven huge enormous sins committed against them and others have forgiven small offenses. Being with believers who have struggled for 2000 plus years to follow the path of Christ just might help you realize if Jesus can forgive the people murdering him while they are murdering him, perhaps forgiving others, and yourself, just might become less stressful and far more necessary. The rewards of forgiveness are peace and joy.
* attending church, and participating in the liturgy, we more fully understand there is a large portion of our local community that are in need of special assistance….the first of which is love...then when we offer love we have opportunities to help and assist with items families need to keep on going….like food, shoes and clothing, household items, books and toys. When we are part of a giving program we not only bless those who receive these gifts, we as givers are also blessed. Any time we offer comfort and help we are doing God’s work. Now having said that, we are out of food to give away. So this week please clean out your cabinets and bring canned or boxed goods so we can continue to offer food to children and families.
These are just some of the ways being part of a church family or gathering helps us and others. There is one other way that is vital. This idea was delivered in one of my seminary courses. The guest was a brilliant student of the bible. He was also an older, country gentleman who led a rural church in northern Alabama. The speaker was entertaining and had a way of speaking that some students found offensive. The speaker moved back and forth between what he called high-falutin’ words and local jargon. One day in class he said “Being in a sanctuary as part of a spiritual gathering, fully participating in the words of our ancient liturgy, fills our souls with ecclesiastical fervor.” He paused and looked around the class. One very young man in class raised his hand and asked, “What did you say?” Very slowly the speaker restated his sentence, “Being in a sanctuary as part of a spiritual gathering, fully participating in the words of our ancient liturgy, fills our souls with ecclesiastical fervor.”
The young man asked, “Can you put that in plain language?” “Sure”, said the speaker, it means ‘get yor ass out of bed, go to a church house, be an active part of the spiritual gathering, cuz that’s where yor blessings begin.” “Is that plain enough?” He asked?
Of course we laughed. And laughed. But then in a more spiritual way he said, “spiritual gatherings help deal with stress, ease our burdens, and they give us hope for the week and beyond. So do it. Do it every Sunday! Be the church that God builds!”
That might be a message to all of us today, maybe especially those of you who are able to attend our church gatherings but prefer to watch more comfortably in your pj’s. But please, re-think that decision. come to church. Come to the gathering of believers. You may not need us but here in this sanctuary in the midst of these loving people we need you. Please come. Take part. Be the church.
Sermon, March 27, 2022
Psalm 8: 1-9
This Psalm helps us realize how essential and important human beings are to God’s universe. He created us to be like God, to care, to love, to tend, to manage plants, animals, and all living beings. How are we doing?
Most of us remember or know about an ethos that was shared in churches, schools, missionary works, bibles, and stories from the year 1 AD to about 1950. That ethos was the characteristic spirit of western culture manifested in the beliefs and aspirations taught to all of us through those centuries. That western ethos was all about God, country, family where the large majority of people in Europe and America lived by same standards of goodness, personal responsibility, and the rule of law. That is until the Viet Nam war when young people began to rebel. They did not want to go to war. They began to disavow the religious teachings and the civil laws that had kept us primarily as one group with the same ideals...for us, the American Dream.
Since that time, in both Europe and America, we have witnessed lawlessness, a generation of non-church goers, and a disregard for the traditional family. So, who are we today? Are we still aiming for the great American dream? Or have our values so changed that what we live in now is more of a nightmare than a dream. And if it is a nightmare when, if, or how will we wake up from it?
Here are a few statistics we might need to know: From the Pew Foundation’s latest polling only 43% of respondents say they attend religious services at least once a month while 27% say they never attend any religious services. Evidently interest in church is rapidly declining. What about interest in the political landscape of America. In the 2020 Federal Elections, 220,000 Americans were eligible to vote, yet only 66% submitted ballots. Does that mean 40% of Americans don’t care about who governs us and by what policies? Now, what about education? In the latest U.S. poll only 66% of eighth graders are proficient in math and reading. In 2019 in the US, 34% of white adults had a bachelor’s degree or higher, 26% of Black Americans and 18% of Hispanic Americans had a bachelor’s degree or higher. That means nearly 64% of Americans have no college experience. We are guided by working Americans whose livelihood is primarily technical, vocational, or nonexistent.
The amount of money spent per year per U.S. public school student is $13,118. Yet for prisoners the cost is between $60,000 and $70,000 per year per prisoner.
Do these stats show us who we are today as Americans? How about this one? Every young person needs to know this statistic: When the last of the baby boomers turn 65 in the year 2029 (that is 8 years away) every single penny the federal government collects in taxes will already be allotted based on decisions made decades ago. The funds will NOT be used for education, research, defense, transportation, or any other federal priority. The funds will be allocated to mandatory programs, mainly entitlements or paying interest on our debt. Thomas Jefferson, brilliant man, warned of this when he said, “If the first generation could charge the second generation with debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation.” We are already there.
In light of these statistics, that don’t seem very promising, the conclusion we must reach is that schools, churches, values that support human growth and creativity must become relevant not only again but even more so in the current state of our being.
So, what are the solutions? Here is a brief list of possibilities:
*vote in every election and vote for policies, not personalities
*get involved in school board meetings, attend your children’s classes to know what is being taught, and advocate for a strong PTA
*invite your churches to be more meaningful and truthful about our Bible and what Jesus truly thought and taught… it is universal not denominational!
*speak loudly and often to your local and state governments to have consequences for lawlessness
*encourage families with children to have both good and corrective consequences for behavior
*you personally decide who your God is, what your God asks, then do it...God works through human beings...and that is us.
So, having said all that, let me encourage you to be faithful, spirit filled, fearless, open to discussions with others who think differently from you, and be involved in life and not just a spectator.
There are things we as individuals and as a church can do to make life better here. That is to stay involved in a church, learn more about your own spirit and how it relates to the truth about the bible and God’s prescribed way to live, then find the inner strength to offer real, honest caring and love to yourself, your family, and your community...that means you must be responsible and helpful to others with whom you share your life. If you as an individual do as God asks, that Godly power will spread your care and love to where ever it is needed most without your ever knowing it. Be a partner with God to make all lives better, healthier, happier, and more meaningful.
Let’s help make living more pleasurable as God has directed us to do. It will take all our faith, trust, hope, love, and to walk the path of Christ.
Sermon, April 3, 2022
If our world and country ever needed real prayer, it seems now is the time. This morning let’s talk about prayer.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a prayer...a prayer to God? I think we are, or we certainly can be. Some actions that we as humans do are practices that began thousands of years ago among the first hominids who existed...beginning with the very early human type creatures, primitive people, then us...homo sapiens (thinking man). One of those actions that has been going on from the beginning is prayer. Every religion around the world prays and always have prayed. Prayer is part of our religious or spiritual heritage and it takes all forms.
Basically to pray is to petition something larger, wiser, more powerful than ourselves to give us assistance. It comes as a result of our human needs...need to survive and need to be safe.
Very early on, human types began to live in groups for reasons of safety. Groups are stronger together than one alone. Animals often ate humans and therefore humans were fearful. Sometimes lightening, floods, fires killed people, again those acts caused fear in humans. When the sun became too hot for them or snow froze their babies, they feared these events...therefore they sought refuge in caves where they felt more protected. Sometimes even caves did not protect these primitive hominids. To hopefully increase the possibility of safety, early people began to talk or gesture to the things that frightened them...like large animals, rain, rivers, lightening, and the sun. This was the beginning of nature worship. These early kinds of humans petitioned these events to not hurt them and to keep them safe. When they said these words and did not die or were not harmed by these events there was a desire to show some kind of thanks, or gratitude. They wanted to reciprocate the “favor” of living to these entities. They began to give gifts. They might decorate the entrance to their caves with stones, some even painted with the juice of fruits, or they might put food outside of their caves...tangible, touchable ways to say “you helped me so I help you.” Gratitude became reciprocal. Even today, that exchange among chimpanzees, gorillas, and gibbons as well as in primitive cultures still exist today. As it does in our own culture...especially at times of festivities like birthdays, valentines, Easter, and Christmas.
Basically, prayer exists between the spaces of two phrases: “please meet my needs and thank you for meeting my needs.” That is prayer in its simplest form...and you and I do it every day using many different words but with the same basic intentions.
When these activities began to be institutionalized, like church taking beliefs and making them the same for a group of people, rites and rituals began to be the focus of “worship” rather than just the simple acts of living day to day what those beliefs were and are.
Take for example, early Christianity...the religious groups that existed at the time of Jesus were the Jewish people who worshiped Yahweh, their God, and the Gentiles who worshiped gods and goddesses that were idols...some idols made by human hands. Prayers and gifts were given to these entities who seemed to be wiser, more powerful, and longer lasting than humans. More and more rituals were formed, so the words eventually had to be written down or specific people were chosen to remember them for everyone...hence shamans, priests, popes, then preachers...and ultimately creeds and bibles.
In that confusing meld of different faiths and faith practices, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray...they had long prayed the psalms to their God, but Jesus taught them through prayer a way of life that gave meaning to their existence. He taught them what we call the Lord’s prayer. The English translation of the prayer is very different from the prayer Jesus taught them in his own native language which is Aramaic. Here is the original Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. “Father/Mother who is every where all the time.” You create all that is and it is light. Focus your light within us making us as useful as the rays of a beacon showing the way. Unite the words “I can” with Yours, so that we walk as kings and queens with every creature, every person. Create in me a divine cooperation-from many selves comes one voice, one action. Grant what we need each day in bread and insight. Forgive our hidden past, the secret shames, as we consistently forgive what others hide. Deceived neither by the outer nor the inner, free us to walk your path with joy. From you is born all ruling will, the power and life to do, the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews. Amen (From Dr. Douglas-Klotz)
I gather from Jesus’ original words we as human beings, made in his image, are ourselves prayers. To ask and receive, to show gratitude and thanks. The way we live is to honor and respect our God and one another. Think about your life...what you are doing with your life, your time spent here on earth. Perhaps your life is a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings you receive. Maybe your life is a prayer of connection where you and God are a partnership...God’s values and ideas and you as the way to live them, manifest them, pass them on to others. If we can begin to think of ourselves as prayers we may be a bit more conscious about how we spend our time energy, and resources each day. It might be worth considering.
The basic ideas of “Please, please, please, God” to “thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord” are the foundations of every prayer thought or said aloud. From those two statements come our hopes, our faith, our praise. It’s just that simple.
I hope you will continue to pray heartfelt expressions whatever they are, because our Eternal and ever present God is with you and within you, urging you on toward healthy, happy, trust-filled living. We are God’s partners in this endeavor, and our own faithful lives are prayers to God.
Sermon, April 10, 2022
Always a Possibility of Joy!
In our faith tradition today is the day we celebrate or recognize the first day of the last week in the earthly life of Jesus. As he rode toward Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey, he had a few friends and several curious people follow him as he rode. Those who knew and loved him, put palm branches or cloaks down for him to ride on, simply as a sign of respect. The friends were not sure what this coming week was all about; they were apprehensive. Yet, they wanted to be with Jesus, their friend and teacher.
On the other hand, Jesus was very aware of what would happen this week of Passover. He knew his life was coming to a brutal end...but he rode on, fearful yet faithful to his God and his calling.
Many Christians around the world see Palm Sunday as a sad, sorrowful day….one to weep over rather than celebrate. And I suppose anytime we lose a friend, a loved one, a respected influential person we do feel a bit sad, a loss that is hard to explain. However, we celebrate these people and their kind because they teach us about faith and love and hope. And that is what Jesus was doing at that moment in time. In spite of his approaching death, he celebrated with his friends, enjoyed their presence...maybe just for a little bit longer.
The Jewish hierarchy and ruling class were aware of this small parade and the celebration. They knew the people thought of Jesus as King of the Jews. But Jesus only wanted to be a worshipful man offering love, peace, and hope to all others. This ride would not end at the palace….that was for another, different king. Jesus’ ride would end at the Temple...the seat of spiritual power.
Now, present day time, can you tell from the media’s newscasts who the true leaders, the real heroes are? Are you open minded enough to realize the most influential people in the world do not seek their own fame or fortune, rather they seek to help others achieve their own. That is one trait of worldly living that has gone on as long as humans have lived on this planet. The real truly important people are humble, grateful, helpful, and see themselves as servants not as kings and queens, not as heroes, just people who care and love. It is the greedy ones, the ones who desire power over others that flaunt their status and supposed superiority. Life and literature are full of both true heroes and false ones.
In the stories about the life of Jesus, that we have all read and heard, we know Jesus was born as an outcast, living in poor, humble surroundings. The people in religious power thought of him and his ilk as ragamuffins, marginalized because they were considered unworthy. These religious powerful people thought Jesus and his group of outcasts were disgusting and wanted very much to get rid of them all. But in spite of these prejudices, these spiteful sayings and hurtful comments, Jesus was finding joy in his life, in his friends, and in his decision to follow the path of faith no matter where it ended.
The ride on the donkey did end at the temple where Jesus, offended by what he found there, ran in and turned over the tables of the money changers, the sellers of birds and animals for sacrifice. He said to them, “My house is called a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.” Jesus was a brave, courageous man who became a holy man by his faithful actions.
In today’s world we need true heroes; not fake ones. Who are the young people our children and grandchildren can look up to, admire, and imitate? Many are sports figures, media and music celebrities, but also drug addicts, rioters, and some who joke about being a Christian is being a wimp and a loser. So where can we go to see truth in action? Where can we go to find joy and fun even in the midst of war and terror? Where can we go to see faith in action when these acts are not mentioned or shown on tv, u-tube, or other places young people have access to?
It’s worrisome and certainly counter to what we believe and expect to carry on through the next generations to come.
But at least here, in today’s story of Jesus, we find joy is still a possibility in the midst of fear and trembling. Perhaps we need this example to follow in our own lives when so many situations seem dire, serious, even deadly. Our first nature when God formed us was one of goodness and joy! How to we reclaim those traits in our own lives? We must find a way or the grayish days of discontent will turn into true darkness...it is up to us as believers in a better way to live, to act on love, faith, hope and joy that are available to us every minute of every day. This day, may we accept those godly traits as the ones to live by, and share.
I pray we will do so...the opposite is not even to be considered.
Sermon, April 17, 2022
Welcome to Easter Sunday...the high, holiest day of our Christian faith. We know it is Easter because of sun rise services, new clothes and shoes, dyed eggs, and chocolate bunnies...all relics of celebration of the ancient Sumerian goddess Ishtar, the goddess of love, fertility, and war. Reproduction of humans and animals in ancient times was essential because people had to grow their own work force to labor and to protect. If a clan or tribe could not produce enough children to do the work and be the protective force, then the clan had to make war and conquer others to meet their needs. People worshiped this goddess by making animal sacrifices to Ishtar and praying to her in temples. Around 500 BC many people in Western Asia converted to Buddhism or to Zoroastrianisn. At that time Ishtar gradually became less important to them. However, she became the goddess Oester, goddess of love and light in England.
History shows when one culture diminishes, a new one emerges and looks back to previously successful events, festivals, and celebrations. The celebrations surrounding Ishtar or Oester began to be associated with the celebration of springtime...the sunlight lasted longer each day; plants and animals reproduced and grew more quickly in springtime. So the spring festivals with the theme of new life and relief from darkness or the cold of winter became connected explicitly to Jesus. He conquered death, and brought light and life eternal. Many of the pagan customs associated with the celebration of spring eventually became absorbed within Christianity as symbols of the resurrection of Christ. For example, eggs, as in Easter eggs, are symbols of new life. Rabbits are also associated with fertility and were symbols linked to the goddesses Ishtar and Oester.
In many ways our Christianity began to grow and move toward an institution. It then placed its holy days and festivals on ancient pagan celebrations in hopes that new converts to Christianity would have some idea of the new life in Christ based on their old ideas of life. It was a common practice.
Today, how do we keep the idea that Easter is based on a new life in Christ?
That is where you and I enter the picture and history.
The only way to keep Jesus’ presence alive and active is to believe it, live it, and share it. It depends solely on how you and I as Christians live our faith, how we express our hope, and how we exist as an example of Jesus, the Christ, himself. Toward that end, let’s look at some essential questions.
When you were younger did you ever say “no” to your parents? If so, did you experience consequences? I’m almost certain you did. Second question: do you ever say “no” to God? God laid out for us a plan of living that provides inner peace, confidence, and joy. Things we all want; yet everyone of us on a daily basis say “no” to God. We are often self-centered or too busy to care about God’s way. We hoard more often than we give, we speak God’s name in vain along with may other offensive words, and we don’t take time to care about all people as we are asked to do. Yes, we say “no” to God every day and we do have consequences: we don’t sleep well, we get easily frustrated or angry, we are impatient, and we often rely on emotional crutches to get us through a day or night. Emotional crutches are addictions of all kinds. All in all we are a rebellious people.
If we used the little bit of wisdom God provides, we would understand God is the creator...he makes and manages things like the universe, planets, foods of every kind, and all humans of every age. He is the great creator. But God only speaks, uses words, through humans. Jesus, a mid-eastern human, was God’s favorite chosen spokesperson. He talked for God. In the Gospel of John we read “Jesus is the Word of God.” The logo. Jesus put into words and actions the teachings that God wanted all of us to learn and live by. The primary teachings was and is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, then love your neighbor as yourself.” Just as Jesus was the spokesperson for God in his time, so in our time, we too are spokespersons for God. We are to live as He planned. Based on current actions of all of us, it is clear we do not know how to love God, self, or others appropriately. We skimp, we cheat, we lie, we pretend, and we do disobey! Then we wonder why we are not deliriously happy, content, and at peace.
Today, Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact that the spirit of Jesus is still today very much alive and available to each one of us. He lives within us, usually awaiting us to recognize his presence. And when we do we have the energy, the time, and the wherewithal to live every day as a Christian, that is a follower of Christ. Let’s be clear about something. Jesus never once told his disciples or anyone else to worship him. He never did ask that. What he did ask is to follow him. That is to do what he did to enhance love among the people, speak as he did with compassionate words, and to accept that God’s way and God’s timing are different and wiser than ours.
The night before Jesus was arrested, he had supper with his best friends. He had told them he was going to die very shortly. But they did not want to hear that. Instead of celebrating Jesus that night, serving him and maybe even toasting him, Jesus himself did the serving. He broke the bread, blessed it, and served it to each friend. Then he poured the wine, blessed it, and served each one of them the wine. Then he said to them, do this and remember me. That is, serve one another all the time not just on a occasion or two. And serve not just food, serve whatever you have by sharing it every day. All that we think we have and own actually belongs to God. Everything single thing on this planet belongs to God. He allows us the pleasure of using what we have as long as we share it, tend to it, care for but never abuse or misuse, destroy, disrespect, or hoard. Share as Jesus did, even his life.
When Jesus was murdered, he could not stay murdered or buried. His spirit rose like the flames of a hot fire… so much so his disciples and friends saw him as a presence not just of the past but of the now. Jesus’ love and ways are risen….notice it is present tense. Is still rising, still lifting each one of us up, up for healthier, happier, more meaningful lives. Today, when we choose to honor and respect Jesus’s spirit and live by his teachings, he encourages us, energizes us, strengthens us, and reminds us that joy, glee, love are ours to spread abroad every day to everyone we meet.
So, just how risen is the Christ spirit in you? Did you awake this morning filled with joy that you can attend worship, celebrate the life of Jesus with others of like mind...or did you hesitate to get up, dreaded getting dressed to go out, and came with a glum attitude or chose to stay home for the sake of convenience?
I’m just asking.
Each one of us has our own set ways of doing things; we have our own set values and attitudes, and we have our own set ways of being. And that just may be the problem...they are set. Set in that context usually means not changeable. When we live in the status quo and avoid the necessary changes, we like all of nature begin to die...mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We may not be inspired from the outside to make changes that will add to the joyous fulfilling kingdom of God in the here and now….but we are absolutely inspired from the inside. That risen spirit of God urges you to think, act, say, and do love. That spirit often bangs on your heart and says “I’m here. Let’s do this together.”
Look at our combined lives...together they are like a jigsaw puzzle. If just one piece of the puzzle is missing, the whole picture is distorted. Therefore we know it just takes one person not doing his or her share of love that creates havoc for us, those we love, and the broader community.
On this Easter day, please think about how you spend the time of your life and what the quality of it is. If you want something better, look no further than what Jesus offers you...his love to share and his life to live.
Sermon, April 24, 2022
The Gospel of John is not like the other three gospels. It is a spiritual explanation of who and what Jesus is. John’s stories are by and large metaphors...that is he tells a little story that is to enlighten us about a much larger story. For example, there is a story only found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11. It tells the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. We have all either read or heard this story. But let’s recap for a minute the major points of the story.
Lazarus lived with his two sisters Mary and Martha. Those three people were dear, close friends of Jesus. Lazarus’ sisters sent word to Jesus that his friend and their brother was quite sick. The women asked Jesus to please hurry so that Lazarus could be healed. When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, he did not hurry to them. Rather he stayed where he was for two more days.
When Jesus finally arrived near the home of Mary and Martha, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days. Many people had gathered at their home to give comfort and support. But when Martha heard Jesus was on his way, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home. Martha went to Jesus and said, ‘Master, if you had been here my brother would not have died. Jesus replied to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said, “I know he will in the resurrection at the last day.” But Jesus said, “I am the resurrection.” Then he asked Martha if she believed this? “Yes,” she said, “I do believe.” Martha left, found Mary and said the teacher had asked for her.”
Mary immediately went to find Jesus, and others in her company joined her. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and those with her weeping as well, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him? Jesus went to the tomb which was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take the stone away,” he said. “But, Lord,” Martha cried, “By this time there is a bad odor for he has been dead four days.” Jesus asked Martha, “Did you not tell me you believed?” So they took away the stone. Jesus prayed, “Father, thank you that you have heard me. I know you always hear me, but I said this so the people here will know you sent me.”
Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Don’t we too need to unwrap Jesus and bring him to light and life in our own lives? Don’t we too need to let him go to be who he is without our restraining disbelief? There is spiritual power in this story that is available to everyone of us IF we believed that Jesus is who he says he is.
There are two very practical things we need to know about this story that might add to our understanding of Jesus.
1. God’s timing is not the same as ours...his time is always the right time! Most biblical scholars agree this story is about the power of Jesus’ God to give new life to all who believe, even those who are dead in their hope or faith, dead in their commitments. In the story, Jesus waited to go to Lazarus to make sure Lazarus had really died and was not just asleep or unconscious. Jesus waited for two more days so that when he arrived at the burial cave Lazarus was certainly dead. The story was written 70 years after Jesus’ death...and whoever wrote the gospel of John and included this story was trying in his own way to make sure followers of Jesus know God’s timing is always the right time. Christians pray daily for events to occur “right now” for we are impatient people. But John’s Gospel assures us even death occurs at God’s timing, not ours. In fact, when we focus on time, it often comes between us and God.
There is a popular song about this story of Lazarus which is sung by Karen Peck. It’s called “Four Days Late.” The chorus of the song says, “Jesus, you are four days late and all our hope is gone. Lord, we don’t understand why you’ve waited so long. But his way is God’s way, not yours or mine. And isn’t it great when he’s four days late, he is still on time.” Healing message for all of us to learn to wait patiently for God’s guiding hand.
2. The second lesson we can take from this biblical story is that yes, Lazarus was raised. In this story, just one man, Lazarus, was raised from the dead. But, when Jesus’s spirit rose from his grave, millions of people throughout generations have received new life...a life of love, faith, hope, and compassion. That’s the life you and I live. As believers in the power of God’s love, We, you and I are the risen, active, loving body of Jesus the Christ. When we act on love as our primary motive in any action or reaction, we too are calling Jesus to life again and again and again in us. That is who we are in Christ, and that is who the Creator God is in Jesus. The power to love, change, grow, and rejoice are the gifts of the resurrection of the spirit of Christ lived out in every one of his faithful followers.
For each of us it should be a recognizable thrill to be included in such a dramatic, exciting, and faithful way to live each day. Be Grateful. Rejoice. Love and laugh because we are God’s and his timing is perfect, as is his love.
Sermon, May 1, 2022
Recharge Your Batteries
In the days of Jesus, 2000 years ago, there was not much documented science. However, the people were very aware of what we call energy, and they called spirit. Our nutrition and exercise and purposeful living provide energy for us, like a battery provides energy for flashlights, telephones, ipads, etc. When we take time to recharge our spiritual batteries we are filled with energy to think, act, speak, work, and play. The people in Jesus’ time relied on spirit to do the same for them. As far back as the time of Isiah “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Jesus is our hope. When we hope and have faith in Him He renews our strength.” How many of us feel that renewal flowing through us! Or do we feel tired or bored?
The true meaning of spirit is breath...actually the breath of God, the one who created all of life. In today’s hectic, fast paced world, many of us experience times when we are short of energy, or short of spirit, or even short of breath. Our batteries need to be recharged; which is another way of saying our spiritual lives...the true power we have, needs to be recharged often.
Each Sunday when I have an opportunity to either speak with you or see you, I can sometimes tell which ones of you are in need of re-charging, of re-experiencing the power available to you. Sometimes, some of you slump down in the pew, some actually go to sleep, some pick up something to read, or stare out of the window in what appears to be dis-interest. I am cognitively aware of what happens in this 35 minute worship service.
I know listening is difficult. We are so accustomed to listening only a few minutes at a time because we have been trained by television to listen to the news or the story for a few minutes then endure ads for minute or two in between. And when you are bored, or sleepy, or disinterested in what’s happening during worship it tells me you are here for something other than worship. You are here to get a warm breakfast, or to have a bit of fellowship, or to ask for a prayer or a need to be met, or to somehow feel recognized and special by at least one other person and all of that can and should be part of our worship together. But so should a brief homily/sermon/ which causes you to think, to think beyond yourself, to rethink the God within you, and to think of ways to serve God and others. That’s my job. To encourage you to use the brain God gave you at birth to rekindle your faith and hope.
Sometimes I think our time worship service here is so brief, perhaps it doesn’t seem as important as a service that might last an hour or two. Just wondering. While I was deep in thought about these ideas, my college age granddaughter called. She exudes excitement about learning, especially about the bible courses. I asked her, “What keeps you interested and excited about God?” Her answer was, “Jane, it’s pizzazz! God is the pizzazziest concept ever.
Have any of us older persons ever thought of God as Pizzazz? Maybe we need to think of God in that way. Look at what God is and does: God is in everything and every person, even in the worst of us. God’s is unceasing joy, God is excitement about life, God is the loving concern for every single person on the planet, God is the faith and hope within us, God is love incarnate, on and on and on. These are things we should think about often enough to rekindle some pizzazz in us.
Look at the colorful sunrises and sunsets we have every day. Listen to the birds that sing all different kinds of calls and whistles and even tunes. Be amazed at the spring flowers that bloom and burst forth with little effort on our part. Look at the people close by that we have daily opportunities to bless and serve...we lack nothing, nothing at all. So just maybe we are too busy or too interested in just our selves to recognize and worship our pizzazzy God through the ultimate pizzazzy human, Jesus the Christ. Remember this from the book of Exodus: The Lord God is your strength and your song. He has become your place of safety and wholeness.
Now, think about this place, the Nourishing Place. Is this sanctuary a place you come to recharge your batteries of faith, hope, and love? I want it to be. Do you?
In closing I have two other questions: 1. How nourished do you feel by coming here on Sundays to worship and for fellowship?
2. And how nourishing are you to others who come here?
I pray we will work together to appreciate and be grateful for the meaningful, joyful, helpful gifts God gives to each and everyone of us. Please let’s together make this place become a place to truly recharge our spiritual batteries and then pass on to others love, joy, and God’s grace..
Sermon, May 8, 2022
Read Micah 6:8 and Hosea 6:6
Today we celebrate not just mothers but the art of mothering...that is the art of loving one another, which often originates with a mother cherishing her tiny just born infant. However, the art of mothering goes on forever. I can’t really separate children from their parents.
We are more or less joined for life. Mothers are the primary vehicles to get our children to earth. And though we may live with them for years, there are usually a few brief moments in time when a child does something that indicates what he or she may become. Liz is gracious...even when maybe she shouldn’t be. One of our elderly neighbors lost her husband. A day or two after the funeral I took Liz who was 4 at the time, to visit the widow. Walking to her home I cautioned Liz to just be her sweet quiet self and not to mention Mrs. Evans husband because he had died a few days earlier. We went to Mrs. Evans home and she was delighted to see us. Liz sat very properly on the edge of her chair, smoothed out her skirt, and immediately said, “Mrs. Evans, just how is your dead husband.” Mrs. Evans smiled and said, “Liz after living with me for 60 years Mr. Evans is probably happier than he has ever been.”
So I survived that encounter. But Harry was another story. Harry loved the odd things about people and he never failed to mention them. One day I had to take him to a doctor and this Doctor had a huge nose...I mean it was an extreme nose. So, knowing Harry would focus on that oddity, I begged him not to mention the doctor’s nose. He said, OK. So the nurse puts Harry up on the table and the doctor walks in. Harry gasped, leans forward to get a closer look then turns to me and says, “Don’t worry mama, I’m not going to mention his nose I’m just gonna look at it.” But I think through many times like these we learned to love and respect eah other. When Harry was a senior in high school he had suffered through several different step=fathers. So on mother’s day of that year, even tho Harry lived with me, he mailed me a letter. It was addressed to me using all of may past last names. It was addressed to Mrs. Dr. Jane Ann Stanley White Lovitt Lovitt Borne. In the letter he said, “Fathers may come and fathers may go, but you are the only mother I’ll ever know.” Poor kid!
So let’s talk about Jesus and his mother Mary. How did Jesus know what traits to live by?
How did Jesus know to be loving, kind, humble, and just? I believe Mary, his mother, taught him the stories found in the Jewish writings by the prophets. Jesus was probably familiar with both the prophets Hosea and Micah. Those early heroes had fascinating happenings in their lives...some almost unbelievable. But what they taught those who knew the stories was information about how to live, act, and behave in daily activities to the glory of God but also to his own sense of peace and well being. These important traits were what God wanted each person to learn and to do and they still are the best ways for us to live .
From Hosea and Micah Jesus learned that God did not expect burnt sacrifices...rather God preferred acts of goodness. He wanted his people to be humble, not arrogant or self-important, and he asked that his people practice justice.
Many people feel justice means punishment, deserved consequences. That is not what scripture teaches. God’s justice is fair and righteous. In the book of Job, we find this statement, “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power, yet in his justice he does not oppress nor harm.” From the Psalms we know “God is full of unfailing love, and God is equitable.” God’s love is abundantly available to all people in the same portion, but we have to accept it by living it. We all have equal portions of God’s great love. Therefore, we as his followers are to love without prejudice and to stand up for what is right for all people...all races, all ethnic groups, all nations and religions. All too often we tend to shun or diminish those people who are different from us or worship a God that is different from our God. But remember God cares deeply for the well liked and accepted and equally loves the outcasts, the outsiders, and the marginalized. We too should emulate that all-encompassing compassion as well.
Look also at mercy. What God expects of us is mercy for self and others. Basically, in scripture, God’s mercy means when we deserve punishment God does not punish us. Rather God blesses us. We might punish ourselves through our poor choices and following actions, but God loves, forgives, lifts us up, and anoints us to follow the way of the Lord. We do find hate and harm in people, yet in spite of our emotions, we should pray that person or those persons who perpetrate evil will find love and peace enough to change their hurtful ways of acting. Remember we are here to do God’s will...and leave the results to God’s wisdom.
The third thing God requires according to these two prophets is to walk humbly with our God. That means we recognize God’s spirit of love and compassion is within us to act on. We have a very close relationship with our God because it is his breath we breathe and his energy or spirit that enlivens us and enlightens us. God resists pride in people but God gives grace to the humble. The more humble you are the more God works through you because you are willing to be a servant. Some folks think they are too good or too important to do the menial aspects of daily life. If so, they miss the joy that comes from serving others and loving those who need it the most. Interestingly, it is often the ones who act most self importantly are the ones who need love the most.
When we follow the will of our Creator, as spoken and lived through his earthly representative Jesus, we begin to live in a new light, and develop a newness in living. We will love ourselves and others in this new light. We know what we are here to do. We will receive the strength and guidance to do so.
This advice given more than 2000 years ago, and passed on to Jesus, then to us, is still the best advice anyone can ever follow to reap the benefits of peace and joy in daily living.
So on this recognition of mothers and the art of mothering may we remind ourselves and those in our realm of influence to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. May we desire to do so, because what we desire, we work toward. Be blessed and share the love.
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