April 14, 2015

Poem: Seeking


Where the sun shines in the street
There are very many feet
Seeking God, all unaware
That their hastening is a prayer.

Perhaps these feet would deem it odd
(Who think they are on business bent)
If someone went
And told them, “You are seeking God.”

—Mary Carolyn Davies

photo by: J. Royle 

April 12, 2015

Hebrews Chapter 11

Hebrews chapter 11 reminds us that without faith there is not much a Christian can accomplish. Faith feels a lot like taking a risk.  Is being part of Christ’s kingdom risky?  Yes.  There is no 401K spiritual safety net.  Is it costly?  Yes.  We seldom have the resources we need.  Is it hard?  Yes.  But there is a great return on our investment.

How does this apply to our spiritual growth?  We are the follower's of a risen Lord.  We have been blessed by a generous Master.  We are the ones in a position to do something with what we have been given.

Whatever has been put at our disposal, 
we are the ones in charge of putting into motion a plan 
that moves us into the future, fruitfully and faithfully.

The only power on earth stronger than fear is faith.  We have to believe that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do.  We cannot believe our doubts.  Faith is the substance of things yet to come. Faith calls us to go and do and not worry too much about our perceived needs and supplies.  Faith calls us to risk something for God.

“The Lord works out everything for his own ends… 
In his heart a person plans his course, 
but the Lord determines his steps.”
–Proverbs 16:4, 9

Inside the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

April 7, 2015

Doubting Thomas Poem

Doubting Thomas Poem

These things did Thomas hold for real
  the warmth of blood, the chill of steel
the grain of wood, the heft of stone
  the last frail twitch of blood and bone

His brittle certainties denied
  that one could live when one had died
until his fingers read like Braille
  the markings of the spear and nail

May we, O God, by grace believe
  and, in believing, still receive
the Christ who held His raw palms out
  and beckoned Thomas from his doubt

—Thomas Troeger

Washington D. C. walk through park 

April 1, 2015

Jesus as Messiah

One of the most important ways in which the Bible speaks of God in both the Old and New Testaments is that he rules as king.  A king who creates, though was never created.  Who doesn't defy gravity, but created it. Who reaches out to the elements of nature, but whose kingship extends beyond nature.
The New Testament speaks often of Jesus as king. The English word “messiah” comes from the Hebrew which means “anointed one.”  When taken into the Greek it was translated as “christos.” Jesus the Christ, is thus, the anointed king par-excellent, the matchless authority king, the unequaled superiority king―the Messiah King.

"What is so difficult about accepting that
the claim of Jesus might be true?
Aye, there's the rub: to do this will cost everything."
―N. T. Wright 

The person of Jesus as Messiah is the center of all that is announced in the gospels concerning the kingdom. The kingdom of God is not about some realm―but about supreme reign.  Not emanate domain―but everlasting dominion.  The kingdom has come; the kingdom will come.  But it comes by way of the cross, for the king of the kingdom is also the compassionate Lord of souls.  And his resurrection brings in a new era―an era that brings new life! 

March 30, 2015

The Lord needs it.

If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” 
tell them, “The Lord needs it.”
Luke 19:28-37

Who of you, if you came out of your home and found that a stranger was getting into your car and was about to drive away would ask the question, ‘Why are you taking my car?’ And who among you would accept the answer,“The Lord needs it.”  My reply to that statement probably wouldn't be very hospitable, and indeed, what the owner of the donkey says isn't repeated in Luke’s gospel.  But the next verse begins, “They brought it to Jesus,” so there is the implication that the owner gave up the donkey willingly for the Lord’s work.

Some theologians believe that the owner’s reaction shows a prearranged agreement between Jesus and the man who had what he needed. In this case, the phrase ‘The Lord needs it’ becomes a sort of password to let the owner know that the right people had come to take the donkey away.

Others believe that it is indicative of Jesus’ authority: he asked, and it was given to him. The original Greek seems to support this.  The Greek word for Lord used here could mean both a man in authority and the Lord God—so even though the disciples were ambiguous about who needed it, it was given to them.  Interestingly, in Greek, the phrase translated as ‘The Lord needs it’ literally means, ‘The Lord of it has need.’ Jesus was telling the donkey’s owner that all things belong to Him, and that he had need of this particular possession at this time.

Tradition held that if a king rode into a city on a horse, his purpose was war, but riding into town on a donkey was a symbol of peace…so Jesus rides into Jerusalem not as the head of a military army but on a docile animal as the head of a spiritual army.  He came as one who must borrow a donkey in order to stage his royal entry into Jerusalem, and who makes his entry with clear awareness that he is going to be denied and executed.  He came not to play God, but to empty himself in the form of a sacrifice.

Easter is here, and once again, the Lord needs it (you)—what, in your life, 
does the Lord want you to untie and turn over to him?  

If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” tell them, “Because I want to draw closer to God.”

Puppy Love

March 26, 2015

Easter: Look Up and Out

I don’t know which we do first―looking upward or looking outward?  Sometimes having a powerful worship experience helps us feel more connected with Christ, which causes us to reach out to the "others" God wants us to include in his family.

But sometimes it is looking outward first that leads to a fulfilling worship experience―as we reach out, we feel a need to worship the Creator of us all.

Easter reminds us to do both: look up and out.

The universe, human existence, and redemption are all gifts from God.  The greatest gift of all and the model for Christian giving is God’s gift of his Son.  For this reason, we look up.  Paul writes, “You will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contributions for them and for all others” (II Cor. 9:13).  Paul, here, is connecting the two truths of Easter.  Look up, acknowledge the gospel of Christ, and look out (reach out) to show others what God’s generosity looks like. 

By looking upward and outward, our spiritual lives flourish.  The same holds true when this principle is applied to the life and work of the church.  By looking up and looking out, through the church’s work, the gospel is preached and people are reminded of the good news of Easter.

To make the Easter journey, then, is to walk with others, caring for them and being supported by them as together we look to the cross.  This was the way Jesus made the journey; there is no other way. 

Historic St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Schaefferstown, PA

March 18, 2015

Jesus, only a man... they thought.

Men and women everywhere saw Jesus tired and hungry, weeping and praying, persecuted and killed and thought he was only a man.  They thought they knew what a savior would look like and should look like - we think we know too - we think we've journeyed as far as we can in our spiritual lives - that we have everything all figured out - and are shocked when God challenges us and our biblical concepts are stood on edge and our sound theology is flipped upside down.
BEFORE the resurrection Jesus was found in a manger - at a wedding - in a fishing boat - at a neighbor’s house - in the village market place - in the countryside - in the city - in a field - at a banquet - at a well - by a pool - in a desert and in many other places and with many different types of people.

Jesus went everywhere and avoided no one!

AFTER the resurrection Jesus was found in a cemetery garden - in an upper room that was securely locked where a group of men and women hid in fear - He was made known during a supper - He was discovered on a dusty road - He was seen on a mountain - and was recognized on the seashore cooking breakfast.  

Because of this, many people said that he could not be the Holy One because he was often found in the places where holy people would not dare to go. They missed out on recognizing Jesus because they did not expect to find a savior in any place other than in the only place where they believe God existed.         
How tragic it would be if we too go through life and end up missing-out on the Lord’s presence in our lives because we do not expect to find a savior in any other place than in the one place we believe God exists.