Second Sunday After Epiphany: The Epistle Passage – An Invitation from God and the Lord Jesus Christ, by way of Paul

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

While this is a very open and gracious letter, there are a few qualifiers. To be brief, you need to believe firmly and unshakably in God. Do not mind the part of being Corinthians, or from Corinth, or going to Corinth. Because those who believe in Corinth or of Corinth are placed together with “all those who in every place”; and I think we can safely assume this qualifier transcends time. Having qualified according to Paul, grace and peace is extended to us, not only from Paul but also from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So here I need to pause. I need to take in what has been bestowed so far and let it sink into my being. Maybe it is the same for you too, beloved reader. After hurry and worry of the day, the soul must pause and rest, withdraw from all that is a part of this earthly world and enter into to what is of the spirit, and the Spirit. Because that is who and what Paul is invoking on his reader’s behalf – the breath of God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. And if you have qualified according to Paul’s admonition for faith (because that is what Paul is doing – both inviting and exhorting/admonishing his reader to have faith) then the blessing of the Spirit of the Divine is yours – to enrich you and strengthen you, guide you and instruct you, and give you every good spiritual gift.

Breath it in, beloved reader. It is there for you. Breath it in as I have breathed it in. Let it fill you and banish all things in this world that pull on you and weaken you. That is not what Paul intended, and not what the Spirit of the Lord God intended. According to Paul (who I am not doubting) the intention is what when Jesus Christ returns, we will be “blameless.” I don’t know, and I don’t think, be pulled and harried by the world makes us “blame-able.” But if we have sinned or strayed from God because of the world, we must make our way back. And if we have not yet found our way to God and Jesus Christ, we must hasten to do so – so that the blame will be taken from us. We, all of us, are called into fellowship with the Divine. Not us not turn aside from the fellowship, but enter into it with joy. Selah!

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Baptism of the Lord: First Sunday after Epiphany – The Gospel Passage: A Pat on the Head, so to speak

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:13 – 15)

This is part of the “after Epiphany” part, where Jesus’ ministry is starting but has already been alluded to as being for both Jew and Gentile. Jesus’ ministry would turn many things topsy-turvey, but at least for right now it is being done “properly” where the “evangelist” baptizes all comers. At some point further down the road of ministry Jesus will baptizes his followers with the more powerful baptism that John the Baptist points to in one telling of this story.

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Verses 16 -17)

We all want that. Being told that we are the Lord’s beloved and that God is well pleased with us. It has motivated many a Christian. Another one is, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Not the same fanfare as a dove, but not bad. I like to believe that God whispers the same thing to us, again without the dove – although I have nothing against doves. What I mean is that God shows us in many ways we are the Lord’s beloved and that the Lord is well pleased with us. After my yesterday, that’s a good thing to keep in mind as I end my day. Shalom!

Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; A True Day of Rest

I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior
in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”  (Isaiah 63:7-9)

I feel like I am in a transition time tonight. The work week has ended early, a day early than I thought. And I will be having a 4 day weekend and then light duty next week. It feels strange to have so much “down time” coming, and I am having a hard time letting go of work concerns. But work concerns are also concerns for the caregiver who work for me and report to me, and the clients whose care I over see. It feels like a betrayal to them to not go to work for such a stretch of time. Yet I know I need the time off if I am going to do my best work for them.

So as I mulled over all these thoughts I looked through the scripture passages that were available this week, and found the passage from Isaiah 63. It’s not quite a praise passage, or at least not the way I am reading tonight. It seems more of a reflection on the the Lord and what the Lord has done. The Lord looking down on humanity and saying, “These are my people, my chosen beloveds. They love me and I love them. And because of this love I will act for them, in ways that only I the Almighty can.” I would like to think the Lord is looking down on me in that way, seeing me in my concern, care and worry for so many things.

And it occurs to me – if I could only let go of all the concerns and worries I have, pass them over to the Lord, the Divine could deal with it so much better than me. I am made numb with it, but the Lord can act in ways that I could not image or conceive of. So I will try very hard to stand back, lift up to the Lord my cares, and then recount the wondrous ways the Lord has acted and will act. And I am captured by the idea that it is the Lord who does this, the Divine, the God-self and not an emissary or appointee. Neither is it the Lord acting through me, but the Lord directly ministering to those I have concern for. I am not a conduit or a means. That is restful and soothing to me.

May you, beloved reader, feel the Lord directly in your life this season and in the year to come. Selah!

Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; Decisions, decisions, decisions!

There seems to be a wide variety of celebratory days for the week following Christmas. I guess having Christmas on a weekend, and a Sunday no less, tends to bunch up the occasions. So I am left with the task of which to choose. Should it be a “normal” Sunday? That would mean we look at Isaiah 63, Psalm 148, Hebrews 2 and Matthew 2. If I choose Holy Name of Jesus day we would look at Numbers 6, Psalm 8, Galatians 4 and Luke 2. And if I choose New Year’s Day that would mean Ecclesiastes 3, Psalm 8 (again), Revelation 21 and Matthew 25. The different choices whirled around in my head!

What seemed evident beyond a doubt was that I was going to need more days! So, I decided I was just write a lot, filling days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, picking passages that seemed to fit well and carry us into the New Year.

Now after they [the Wise Men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Matthew 2: 13-15)

I decided for today we would continue the story of Jesus’ birth. After my recent admission [see December 20, 2016 ] that prophecy from the Old Testament really can point toward happenings in the New Testament I am content to let stand that God’s son was called out of Egypt.

This was not the first time that Joseph was given guidance and direction. When he found out Mary was pregnant, and not by him, he thought to quietly just not marry. But a dream and an angel let him know to proceed with their plans. That Mary was pure and innocent, and being used by God for a fantastic purpose. Praise God that Joseph was open to receiving Divine guidance and direction.

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Verses 16 – 18)

Again, with this prophecy from the Old Testament being fulfilled in the New Testament! But what is a person to do? The Christmas season is filled with prophecy fulfilled. God’s plan is being carried forth. But . . . in a unique way!

“When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” (Verses 19 – 23)

And again, Joseph is instructed by a dream and an angel – seems to be quite a pattern. I have to wonder if that was a pattern and a blessing that Joseph had all of his life. That would be quite a benefit in parenting; especially a Son of the Divine. Or perhaps it was exactly Joseph’s being open to hearing God and angels of God that made him qualified to raise Jesus. Sounds like God was doing some prep work for the coming of baby Jesus, designing a family where Jesus would be nurtured from infancy on up.

What I take from all this is (besides prophecy does come true and what is spoken in one context can fit in another) that if we are unsure of what to do or if calamity surrounds us, or if there are many options and we are not sure what to do – all we need to do is look to God. And actually, on the day I sat down to write this, that was a message I needed to hear and take into my heart! How’s that for scripture from long ago informing our present!! Selah!

 

Week Leading Up to Christmas: The Gospel Passage Year A – Journeying with the gospel of John; or not

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” 
(John 1:1 – 5)

In the beginning . . . . . at creation, or before creation . . . before there was time . . . there was God. And with God was love; love for something that was not yet created. For something that was an idea. The idea? To create a way for there to be more love. Love is not love unless it is shared. While the Divine might be love, perfect love, love is not love unless it can be expressed and shared with another. So, there had to be another. But God is One. There is only one God. Therefore, another must be created. But that other, that creation, will be less than perfect. Thus, there had to be a way to make creation perfect. So Perfection had to be divided, that Divine Perfection might be above all of creation and also with creation. And the idea grew and took shape . . . slowly.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Verses 6 – 9)

Light and enlightenment . . . to know where one is and who one is . . . and to know what perfect love is. To see perfect love, and experience perfect love. And to be made perfect through love.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (Verses 10 – 13)

How can one not see Perfect Love, not feel it, not know it, not experience it? It takes faith, and a willingness to set aside the known and belief in Someone who is like no other. Some do not want Perfect Love, cannot believe it is possible. And so for them, it will not be. But for those who believe, who see and hear not with human eyes and ears, but sense that come from the Source of Perfect Love – the will be called children of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (Verse 14)

Flesh amongst us, that we might believe. And idea that has grown since before time began. Perfect Love that would not rest, would not give up, would not cease. Each year at this time we stop and think about the Perfect Gift that has been given to us. Each year we have the opportunity to experience anew. Each year we have the opportunity to renew our belief, or belief for the first. It is an opportunity that should not be missed! Selah!

 

 

P.S. The gospel of John can be a confusing and complex message. I have chosen to use the same obscurity in my posting today. The simple story is – God at creation wanted to do more than just plant some trees and make some animals. God wanted humanity, but knew that humanity’s imperfection would also be a barrier between God and God’s creation. So Jesus was sent to bridge that barrier, taking the form of imperfection and making it perfect – showing us through his life and death, how to believe without ceasing. And by being raised from the dead, showing that even death could be conquered. Kinda straight forward. May you, beloved reader, either take the way of spiritual allusion and metaphor that fills much of the gospel of John or the straight route that is the clear message of salvation. Either way, may your arrive at the throne of God as a blessed child of God! Selah!

Season After Pentecost: Thanksgiving 2016 – Moving from one season to the next

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (John 6:25)

I am breaking with tradition and writing this on the eve of Thanksgiving. I have completed all the advance preparations – that is, the household is as clean as it going to get for tomorrow and the pies are baked. It is late; in fact, if I post this when I am done writing it, it will appear at the usual time for this blog posts.

I chose to write on the eve of because I wanted it to be as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Thanksgiving is a time of advance thinking and last minute preparation – feast advice notwithstanding!

“Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” (Verses 26 – 27)

I did not, however, do any pre-thinking or planning as to what I was going to say/write, other than determining the order I am going to list/address the scripture passages that the Revised Common Lectionary has for this Thanksgiving season. It seemed to me to be good to think first about what Jesus said about food and spiritual food – seeing as tomorrow will be a day of fooding!

Whether your Thanksgiving planning was done weeks or months ago, or like me this year who did all the planning and shopping very last minute, the food of tomorrow will not last much longer than the day – leftovers exempted! My point is that what we celebrate with tomorrow will “perish”; but the care and compassion we have for those around the table will endure for our lifetime and beyond. And the spiritual food that the Lord God provides will last from this world into the next.

“Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” (Verses 28 – 31)

The food we eat tomorrow will be set in front of us – at least that is true for most of us. While I might have prepared the food for those who gather around my table tomorrow, the acquiring it and preparing it was relatively simple – as if it came down from heaven. I did not have to sacrifice myself for it, nor did it cause me pain and toil (at least not comparatively speaking along side my next comment). But the spiritual food which we partake of comes to us at the cost of Christ’s life. And our partaking of it obligates us to be followers of Christ, which could involve great sacrifice.

“Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Verses 32 – 35)

While we satisfy our hunger Thanksgiving, let us remember that we should not settle for the food that the world gives, but should crave and seek the spiritual food that is promised us by and through our Lord God Jesus Christ!

When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.”
When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.
When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)

Giving thanks for the bounty and abundance that the Lord has given. So we turn from considering spiritual food to the blessings of this life that the Lord has given us. And we remember, or should remember, those who still struggle for sustenance and the simple basics of life. Charity was an important aspect of Jewish life; this verse from Deuteronomy specifically mentions the “aliens” who resided among the chosen people of God. Reminding them that God’s favor does not just rest on them, and that they at one time struggled in their daily lives. Let us be thankful that our struggles are small. And if, beloved reader, your struggles are large, I hope and pray that there are those who reach out the hand of compassion and assistance to you!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

With spiritual food given to us, and blessings and abundance bestowed on us, we have much to be thankful for. What response will we make to the Lord God, and how will we show our praise and appreciation?

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Verses 8 – 9)

As you have been reading, this year Thanksgiving comes within the first week of Advent. The end of the lectionary year is thus intermingled with the beginning of the next lectionary year. Beginnings and endings do sometimes get entangled. Let us not try to untangle them, but reside in the blessings of both. We celebrate what the Lord has done for us this year, and look forward to the blessings of the coming year. Let us rejoice that the Lord is with us and keeps us. And let us draw closed to the Lord so that we might feel that Divine blessing, and share that blessing with others. Selah!

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

Season After Pentecost: The Pseudo-Psalms Passage – Ready, Set, Go! Advent’s coming!

Zechariah’s Testimony

Praise to the Lord God of Israel. He has come to help his people and has given them freedom.
He has given us a powerful Savior from the family of his servant David.
This is what he promised through his holy prophets long ago.
He will save us from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us.
God said he would show mercy to our fathers, and he remembered his holy agreement.
This was the promise he made to our father Abraham, a promise to free us from the power of our enemies,
so that we could serve him without fear in a way that is holy and right for as long as we live.

Now you, little boy, will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go first before the Lord to prepare the way for him.
You will make his people understand that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven.

With the loving mercy of our God, a new day from heaven will shine on us.
It will bring light to those who live in darkness, in the fear of death. It will guide us into the way that brings peace.” (Luke 1:68-79 Easy-To-Read Version )

While this week commemorates the Reign of Christ, it also prepares us for the coming of Advent. We has spent a good part of the year looking at the theme of confession, penance, and forgiveness. In the coming weeks we will prepare for the arrival of the One who made the forgiveness of our sins possible, who oversees our penance, and hears of confession. And that would, at first thought, feel like a daunting preparation for Someone who may not hear with ears of love. But then we realize, it is Jesus Christ! The Author of perfect love! And our minds are at rest, our fears relieved, and our joy starts to overflow!

The pseudo-psalms passage today it the introduction to the herald the news of Christ – not the baby we will welcome in four to five weeks time, but the man Jesus who will live as an example for us and die for an atonement of our sins – if that is your faith philosophy. Jesus’ death was inevitable from the time of his birth. He was born in turbulent times when politics and the social environment were oppressive and destructive for the Jews. I think, beloved reader, that this Advent season will be filled with poignancy, and the hope which our times need.