Archive for the ‘Suffering’ category

Spiritual Practice #9: “Care for the Needs of Others”

December 7, 2016

leastThe Old Testament reading for this morning tells the story of how Isaiah came to be called to share God’s message with the people of Israel. I sense there is a lot here about how to share God’s love with people as well.

This final week’s spiritual practice for building up the body of Christ is: “Care for the Needs of Others.” Clearly, this is one of the most obvious and necessary practices for building up the body and being a Christian community. As a pastor, I feel humbled and taught by so many of you who make this spiritual practice a priority in your lives. But as with any spiritual practice or biblical truth, there is always more to learn, isn’t there. I wonder if the Old Testament reading for today, Isaiah 6:1-13, may shed more light.

Isaiah is suddenly transported into a worship service that’s happening in the heavenly temple. There are angels or seraphs with six wings whose voices are shaking the door posts and thresholds, and the temple is filled with smoke.

Isaiah starts to think, “I’m ruined. I don’t belong here.” He becomes self-conscious about having just snapped at his wife (okay, a bit of literary license here), and bemoans the fact that he’s a man of “unclean lips,” and that he lives among a people of unclean lips. (more…)

No Offense

October 5, 2016

Friends holding hands outdoors

A line from this morning’s gospel reading: “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” So why would anyone take offense at Jesus? Frankly, I can think of a number of reasons. Here’s a couple of them.

In this instance the “someone” is John the Baptist. He’s pining away in Herod’s dungeon, no doubt wondering why Jesus hasn’t done anything to remedy the situation. Then there’s the fact that John’s reputation is on the line. John had predicted that the one coming after him would come with a winnowing fork in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, and then burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. John probably figures that if Jesus was in fact the Messiah, there should have been some winnowing and threshing by now. (more…)

Coming Clean

January 17, 2012

Let’s face it. There is a deep resistance in all of us to growing spiritually — heck, to growing at all. That may come as a shock to some of us who pride ourselves on being very intentional about our spiritual lives, including our spiritual growth. Many may even deny that it’s true; at least it’s not true of them. They know other people who dig in their heels, but that’s because ‘those people’ aren’t as committed to Jesus as we are. (more…)

God’s “Perfect” Will

April 15, 2011

I asked Janet G. if I could share her questions with the rest of you:

I don’t know if this qualifies as anger or wrath but I’ve been having a very big struggle with the disease of cancer.  Art and David and Brian are all having to stop and face this tool of the devil. Today a co-worker told me about his 3-year-old granddaughter who has had a brain tumor since she was 8 months old. She is on her 7th round of chemo because of this tumor that doctors can’t remove. (more…)

Living the Present in Light of the Future

October 1, 2010

In today’s lectionary reading Jesus says, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Jesus encourages us to live our present lives in light of the future. In another place he says,“In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, I have overcome the world!” In other words, we can expect deprivations and hardships now, even as we look forward to a time, a very long time, in fact, time without end, when every form of poverty and pain will cease. Jesus’ resurrection assures us of this future — a future that lies on the other side of whatever crosses we must take up today and tomorrow, till whenever we see him. (more…)

Divine Alchemy

September 18, 2009

BeatitudesYesterday’s Gospel reading contains the Beatitudes. I’ve been intrigued with the Beatitudes, in fact the whole Sermon on the Mount, for many years. Like so many other teachings of Jesus, we may find ourselves “strangely drawn” to them, and at the same time mystified by them. I have personally interpreted them in all sorts of ways, and I’ve heard others do the same. Opinions differ not only about the content of the Beatitudes but about how they are ordered and arranged. I wouldn’t pretend to know the way to read the Beatitudes. But I would like to offer to you a way to read and understand them — one that fits for me personally and also squares with Jesus’ historical context.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Kingdom of heaven” is simply a Jewish way of saying “Kingdom of God.” It’s Jesus’ Big Idea. It’s what’s supposed to happen, what’s supposed to come. It’s God’s reigning over the whole world and the whole world living according to God’s ways. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of shalom, peace, prospering, justice, healing, reconciliation and community. It’s what we were made for. It’s what Jesus’ first coming began and his second coming will complete. (more…)

God’s Will in 3-D

September 10, 2009

Will3-DYesterday’s Old Testament reading raised some interesting questions for me about the will of God. God’s prophet, Elijah, gets in trouble with Israel’s King Ahab because Elijah told Ahab there wouldn’t be any rain for the next few years. In order to protect Elijah, God sends Elijah outside of Israel to stay with a widow who, with her son, is about to prepare their last meal. They have no more food. Elijah tells her that if she feeds him first, her jar of flour and jug of oil will never be empty until the rain comes again. (more…)