Friday, October 31, 2014

What do your feet do?

JOSHUA 3:14-17
When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.
who knew feet were so powerful?!

Is that why you knelt at the feet
of your disciples to wash them?

Is that why you praised the woman
who anointed your feet with tears, kisses, & oil
then wiped them with her hair?

Is that why you said Mary was doing the better part
as she sat at your feet and listened?

Is that why Ruth uncovered Boaz's feet?

Is that why the prophet Isaiah writes,
"How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" Isaiah 52:7 ?

I'm reminded of what Teresa of Avila wrote:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,

I wonder, Lord,
what do my feet do?

May my feet carry me to the places that need your grace.
May my feet move me to places that need your Good News.
May my feet make a mark where you need me most.
May my feet change the flow of the raging waters
that separate the Children of God from the Promises of God.

May it be so today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Lament for a friend

Psalm 77:1-10
I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, that he may hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
I think of God, and I moan;
    I meditate, and my spirit faints.
You keep my eyelids from closing;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    and remember the years of long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night;
    I meditate and search my spirit:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love ceased forever?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
And I say, “It is my grief
    that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”

O Lord,
when the news came,
I was sick.
The words were written carefully,
"he just couldn't fight anymore
and now he can finally rest.
Our little buddy's pain ended,
though ours is just beginning."
But all I could read was
death, loss, heartbreak, grief.

And my prayer became:
Be close to them.

And then,
just silence.

Words failed.

Then I remembered what the faithful of the Bible do --

So today I join the psalm writer and lament:
I cry aloud to you -- loud enough to rouse you to action.
My soul refuses to be comforted -- too soon for that.
Tears -- there are not enough.
Nausea comes in waves.
My worst fear -- the death of my son -- 
has come for ones whom I love.

I know, Lord, you have been faithful in the past,
but right now, I'm blinded with grief.
My eyes cannot see your grace, mercy, peace, hope.

Weep with us, Lord, as you did for your friend Lazarus.
Hold us in your embrace, while our shoulders shake with sobbing.
Press your hand to my chest and ease my heartache.

I lift my cry to you.
That is all I can do.
Today, may that be enough.

Monday, October 27, 2014

For All the Saints

Revelation 7:13-17
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

I pray for those who are going through the "great ordeal".
the ordeal of separation --
hopes and dreams of marriage now no longer,
the ordeal of anguish and pain --
condemned by the world but loved by you,
the ordeal of illness --
standing beside hospital beds helpless,
while loved ones suffer, slip away, and die,
the ordeal of persecution --
torture and terror because of their faith in you Christ Jesus.

Remind them --
they are not the first to walk this path,
they are not alone,
many of the faithful have passed through the great ordeal,
Lord Jesus, you yourself,
walked this path, the via dolorosa, this way of pain.
And you walk it still, everyday, for our sake!
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for Thou art with me."

And me too, Lord,
help me walk the path with them,
sharing in their suffering,
sharing a cup of living water with them when they are parched,
breaking the bread of life for them when they cannot for themselves,
bringing the cup of salvation to their lips when they are too weak,
praying for them when they can no longer pray.

And on that day,
"They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

May it be so.
May it be so.

All Saints Day is November 1 -- a day to remember and celebrate those who have preceded us in faith.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Prayer for School Transportation Employees

Gracious God,
Thank you for your care for us and all creation.
You watch over us and keep us safe.
Thank you for these servants who have gathered today,
for their commitment to excellence and safety,
for their work to provide safe travel
for all the students of Bladen county.
Remind us that no matter our position
doing the small things well
leads to care for those entrusted to our care
and excellence in our work to your glory.
We pray in the name of the One
who does ALL things well.

The above was written for a gathering of county employees who are responsible for the transportation of students in our school district.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Simple, practical ... so hard!

MATTHEW 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. and a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
I love simple.
I love practical.
When asked about the greatest commandment of the law,
I really appreciate how simple and practical you made the law.
Love God.
Love neighbor.

That's it.
That's enough.
So simple; so practical;
so hard!!

I looked it up
"love" here is the greek "agape"
that unconditional I Corinthians 13 kind of love.

Loving you and loving our neighbors
being in loving self-giving relationships
is what I am made for.
And yet it is a daily struggle.

Unconditionally loving you
with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind
is total commitment, nothing held back, ALL IN!
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
I'm trying!

Unconditionally loving my neighbor (all of them!) as myself...
What does that mean?
Well, I think about myself, my needs, my worries, my fears, and
what other people think of me all the time...
If I thought of my neighbors like that, their needs, their fears, their worries
I would treat them differently
with more compassion, more grace, more forgiveness, more love.

By the power of your Holy Spirit,
help me unconditionally love.
In the name of the One
who demonstrated how to unconditionally love you
the One who was/and is ALL IN!
In the name of the One
who unconditionally loves all neighbors (even those who killed him)
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Planting trees...

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain — that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees — as far as Zoar. The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

I've never understood why 
Moses was not allowed to "cross over" to the promised land.
After all that time leading
your stubborn, grumbling, never satisfied people,
the least you could have done is to reward him
with a little piece of promised land to call his own.
But instead all he gets is a mountain top survey.
Talk about delayed gratification!

But entering the land wasn't Moses' calling.
You chose him to confront pharaoh,
to lead your people out
and so that they could worship you on your holy mountain.

It reminds me of the time 
my grandfather, Pappaw, and I planted a chestnut.
Just a nut in a hole in the ground.
Pappaw planted the seed.
He told me to water it and keep it.
I did.
Pappaw didn't live to see 
that seed grow into a tall tree.
His task was to plant; mine was to grow.
Pappaw didn't live to see
me become a pastor.
His task was to plant; mine was to grow.

what seeds do I need to plant today?
Seeds that I will not get to see grow tall and strong.
But with eyes like Moses on a mountain top survey,
help me behold far in the distance of space and time
the fulfillment of your promise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What belongs to God?

MATTHEW 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?“ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

I too hear this and stand amazed
and humbled.
"Give to God the things that are God's"
What belongs to God?

Psalm 24 reminds us
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.
Paul writes in Romans 14
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
What belongs to you, O God?
All that we have.
All that we are.

Lord we stand amazed and humbled.
You took a tricky question about taxes
and made it into a question of our commitment.
Giving a tithe, 10%, seems easy compared to giving our WHOLE selves.

Lord Jesus,
you are a WHOLE self giver.
You committed your living and your dying to God,
even from the cross you said,
"In to your hands I commit my spirit."

I'm reminded of the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own but belong—
body and soul, in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

It's that last phrase Lord,
"makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."
That's really your point isn't it.
It's not about taxes, or money, or tithing.
The question is:
Am I wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for you?

Only by the power of your Holy Spirit, 
do I dare answer: YES.
May it be so in my life today, Lord.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I too have a question...

MATTHEW 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?“

Lord Jesus,
I don't know if they were trying to butter you up
or flatter you with their comments...
No matter what their motive was,
they spoke the truth:

You are "teacher" --
a master teacher who pushes
to think larger, to ask bigger questions,
to engage in critical thinking about issues,
seeking not simply to confirm what we already believe
but to push through to new discoveries,
which may challenge us at our core or
deepen our already deeply held beliefs.

You are "sincere".
You never tried to trick or corner us,
but rather you point us
to consider a bigger world view
to consider God's perspective on life and love.

You "teach the way of God in accordance with truth".
In John's gospel you state that you ARE the way and the truth.
To follow you is to walk in God's true way.
However, as the advent hymn writer says,
"the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight".
Your way is hard.  Your truth convicts me to the core.

"You show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality"
or as another translation puts it,
"You are not afraid of what others think about you. 
All people are the same to you."
You are CONFIDENT of who you are -- a child of God.
The Holy Spirit confirmed it at your baptism -- 
"This is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased."
And you treat ALL people the same; you treat us as your siblings.
We - ALL of us - are the beloved children of God! 
and that is how you treat us.

Lord Jesus, like them, I too have a question,
but mine is not to trick you...
Search my heart and see that there is no malice there.
My question:
In what ways can I be faithful to you today?

For the rest of my days,
I will keep alert to your answer --
opportunities to be faithful,
chances to be like you:
a sincere one
who walks in the way of God's truth
treating all people
with the dignity and respect due the children of God.

So may it be today.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Think on these things...

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.
Lord Jesus,
There are so many 
good things,
Novel things,
Worthy things...
Excellence is all around us.

And Paul tells us -- urges us
To "think on these things".
Think on -- meditate on -- invest our minds in

Lord, today I will invest in 
the good things of my life:
My son's new interest in golf (one of my hobbies)
My wife's thoughtfulness to me (what a gift she is to me)
My parents' love, support, prayers for me (They mean more to me every day.)
My friends who really care, really listen, 
stand with me when life is hard, and celebrate with me when life is good.
My calling to be a pastor who can embody your love 
to the least, the lost, the lonely, the forgotten,
 the confused, the sick, the sad, the dying,
The rich, the poor, the leaders, and the followers, the young, and the old.

A beautiful sunset
The laughter of children playing in the backyard
Music that soothes, inspires, moves me, and makes me dance!
Dreams fulfilled - 
to be a firefighter... have been a volunteer fireman.
to be a radio DJ... Have been a guest on cool 105.3

So many good things,
Too many to list
And best of all Lord, 

You have been present through it all.
You are the source of all blessings.
And so I thank you and praise you,
For my life is in your hands
That's a good place to be.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Don't worry...

Philippians 4:4-7
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.

Paul charges us saying,
"Don't worry about anything..."

Don't worry??
But people I love 
are hurting in hospital beds,
are depressed and lonely,
have marriages falling apart around them,
are dying in mind, body, and spirit.

Don't worry??
But the images of western aide workers beheaded 
won't leave my mind...
But there are children in my community 
who don't get the support at home they need, they deserve...

Don't worry??
But families are divided against each other.
Even your church is divided and hurting.

But Paul doesn't mean 
Bobby McFerrin's "Don't worry be happy".
No, Lord, Paul's charge not to worry
is rooted in his prayer, 
in his confidence that "the Lord is near"
In sharing with you our worries, our fears, our anxieties -- real and imagined.

So here it is Lord:
I am worried.
Worried about my church.
Worried about my family.
Worried about my community.
Worried about my world.

I need your peace;
We need your peace -- 
peace that surpasses and goes way beyond 
anything that I can imagine, 
for too often I imagine the worst.

I need--
we need your peace 
to guard our hearts and our minds.
Guard us, O Prince of Peace,
you who are nearer to us 
than our next heartbeat, our next thought.