Friday, February 19, 2016

Just a Second Hand Emotion?

Marc Chagall, The Exodus, 1966

For almost every wedding, many funerals and memorial services, there is a request to hear the familiar thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Often referred to as the love chapter, this passage concludes:
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 
In our times, love is a word that is in desperate need of recovery from so much abuse and misuse. Hackneyed to the hilt, love has become much understood. Yet, we still utter it indiscriminately. In the original Greek of the text, the Apostle Paul used a very specific word for love here. There are three other Greek words that can be translated into the single English word love. They all have different meanings and, consequently, specific ramifications.  So, Paul used one of the four.  And the one was ἀγάπη agapē - (affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love).

Interestingly, Paul uses the same word for love in the passage we will ponder together on Sunday morning during our Faith Formation Forum.
. . . God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2:4-9)

Here is something to think about in the meantime. Is the love that you experience more often unconditional or conditional? Have you experienced love as a gift or as a reward? As you consider your spiritual well-being keep in mind the question that Tina Turner (in a different context!) so famously asks, What's love got to do with it?

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I spent part of Ash Wednesday afternoon at a local Starbucks nursing a Venti coffee of the day while making myself available to impose ashes on interested inquirers. It was a good experience.  Most of my time there involved conversations with folks who just wanted to talk and share. So I listened much of the time. The experience reminds me of the need to be intentional about getting out of my comfort zone. Being present in public with the unfamiliar, unknown, and unexpected is part of our call as Church. I hope to reflect more on this and share my thoughts here more thoroughly in future posts.  

Meanwhile, this Sunday is the Second Sunday in Lent.  Here are some particulars for your preview:

Prayer of the Day
God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross you promise everlasting life to the world. Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy, that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings and Psalm

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 
Psalm 27 
Philippians 3:17--4:1 
Luke 13:31-35 

When was the last time you were amazed?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cherry-Pick or Broadcast

I almost always find it interesting and curious, especially during a contentious election cycle, how tempting it is to selectively cherry-pick passages of scripture that support a politically expedient position. I suppose we also have this tendency at other times too. But it becomes more obvious, for example, once Presidential Primary season rolls around.

Considering our own call, brothers and sisters, may we be attentive to a primary passage from Matthew's gospel that gives us direction as disciples of Jesus:
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:18-20
This commission that Jesus lays at our feet is meant to be written on our hearts, rather than relegated to a function handled by so-called professionals in our stead. This is the mission of the whole people of God. It remains a daunting task -- one that overwhelms while simultaneously intimidates. What are we to do when we grow hesitant, comfortable, and functionally indifferent?  As we seek to grow as Christ followers, let's consider these questions as we anticipate our weekly gathering.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  1 Peter 2:9
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First Sunday in Lent

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Deuteronomy 26:1-11 
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 
Romans 10:8b-13 
Luke 4:1-13 

Why is the number forty observed, if not that the excellence of the Ten Commandments is perfected by the four books of the gospel? For as ten multiplied by four makes forty, so we perfectly fulfill the precepts of the decalogue when we faithfully observe the four books of the holy gospels. And if you wish, there is yet another way to understand this time of Lent. From today until the joyful solemnities of Easter there are six weeks, that is, forty-two days. Subtract the six Sundays, and there remain thirty-six days for Lenten abstinence. Since a year contains three hundred and sixty-five days, we, when we mortify ourselves for thirty-six days, give to the Lord as it were a tithe of our year.
Gregory the Great   [in Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, II, 34-35.]

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Go Figure

This Sunday the church celebrates the festival of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.  We'll hear the gospel from Luke 9:28-43.

I suspect that this story of the Transfiguration of Our Lord is ultimately as much about a transformation of the disciples as it is about the transfiguration of Jesus.  I love the way God interrupts Peter and basically tells him to stop talking, stop doing, stop worrying and take time to listen to Jesus. Sometimes I think we need to stop and listen more than we do.

As you read Romans 12 in preparation for our Faith Formation Forum this Sunday, consider the following:
1. What does it mean to be transformed?
2. What is the goal of transformation?
3. What should motivate us to undergo transformation?
4. What does one do in order to experience transformation?
Meanwhile, I encourage you to be a congregation this Sunday. Congregate! Come together to participate in worship and fellowship. Assemble as brothers and sisters in Christ. While you are at it, invite a friend or relative to come and see.

Heads Up!
Ash Wednesday Services, February 10th at 11:00 and 7:00.  I'll also be at the Starbucks at Target on Ash Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00 for Ashes on the Go.  If you are unable to attend one of the services, drop by and say hello.