Saturday, March 28, 2009
Scripture for reflection: Galatians 3:26-29
Prayer: Holy and reconciling God,
Through Jesus you seek to embrace all people. Your good news is for people
of every tribe and nation. The love of Jesus breaks down barriers and offers
new hope to all. Spirit of God, I pray for an outbreak of peace across the
nations that will bring the walls of racism tumbling down. If there is any hint of
prejudice or intolerance within my own heart, convict me, that I might repent
and be set free. Amen.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Scripture for reflection: Luke 10:25-37
Prayer: God of my enemy,
I need to learn that those I see as different and on the other side are people
whom you love. You have called me to love them also. I know this in theory, but
it can be so hard in practice. Help me to love those I find difficult to love. Help
me to see others as you see them. Grant me the strength to walk the tough
yards of sacrificial agape love. Amen.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Ed's sermon title is Written on Our Hearts and the Scriptures are:
As usual, Ed will bring his guitar along and join Cornerstone for some music. Ed is a gifted preacher with a genuine compassion for people. Don't miss this Sunday!
Scripture for reflection: Luke 4:16-21
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we
must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes
complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be
saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone;
therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the
standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must
be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness. Reinhold Niebuhr
Prayer: God of power and care, every day you speak your Word who is Jesus Christ.
Every day you point us to signs of your life among us. Every day you whisper
your guidance, nourish our spirits and reveal your truth. How lost we would be
without your leading. How closed we would be without your light. You bless
people with stories that lift them beyond themselves, connect them with others
and hint at your presence and purpose. We thank you for writers and artists,
poets and prophets, comedians and musicians. We pray that in Australia and
Sudan, everyone would have access to affordable education. Bring to Nachipo
early learning and as children grow literacy, skill and the will to develop. We pray
that as people teach and learn, in the words that are read the wonder of your
world and the precious nature of your children would be revealed.
Through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Scripture for reflection: John 15:1-17
Prayer: Spirit of grace,
Jesus called his followers to a life marked by love. It was to be by love that his
followers were to be known. May it be the same today. May all followers of Jesus
be known for their love. Where there is infighting, may there be God’s grace. Where
there is apathy or indifference, may the passion of Jesus stir us. Where there is
coldness, may the fire of the Holy Spirit burn in us again. Amen.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Scripture for reflection: James 2:1-13
Prayer: I come in confession today, O God.
I have at times played favourites. I have exalted those who are successful and
powerful. I have subtly excluded people who are not ‘lovely’ and put my efforts
into avoiding those with whom I feel uncomfortable. I look at the example of Jesus
and the way he included all people, the way he reached out and touched the
untouchables, the way he challenged those with influence. I ask your forgiveness
for my weakness and my imperfect love. Help me to be like Jesus. Amen.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I'm sharing a post from Don Heatley's blog. Good reading, especially around Lent, Good Friday, and Easter.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve explored different images of God, how evolution may be part of God’s creation, and whether or not Christianity is the only way to God (and whether that should even matter if you’re a Christian). For many people, perhaps even for you, those are scary topics. They are the kind of subjects that make you nervous, get your palms sweaty and your heart beating faster. So you will be relieved to hear that today we are discussing a concept most of you will find safe, Jesus as Lord.
Lord. Often it’s used merely as a synonym for Jesus. For some, this interchangeability of the words “Jesus” and “Lord” extends back into the Old Testament. In the Hebrew Bible, some translations print LORD in all capitals. Contrary to common belief, in these texts, LORD refers not to Jesus but God. For instance, when we read the story of the LORD giving Moses the Law, LORD refers to God, not Jesus. More specifically, LORD is how many Bibles translate the divine name Yahweh, often written YHWH to prevent it from being spoken aloud. This name is the “I AM who I AM” whom we met a few weeks back in the story of Moses and the burning bush.
Even so, “Lord “ and “Jesus” are used interchangeably with no regard for what Lord actually means. In certain circles referring to Jesus as “Lord” or “the Lord” functions almost as a code which conveys that you are the right kind of Christian. “I’m spending time each morning in the Lord” brings to mind a very different type of Christian than someone saying, “I begin my morning with contemplative prayer.” In other Christian subcultures, “Lord” functions almost as a punctuation mark. I have been a part of communities where it was expected to begin each line of my prayers with the word “Just” and end them with “Lord”. It made me fit in and sound like a Christian.
As you can see, due to bad experiences in my life, I have hot button issues too. For me, when people start doing a lot of “Lord” talk, my palms get sweaty and my heart beats faster. Someone says “Lord” to me and I brace myself for an anticipated onslaught of judgmentalism, apocalyptic theology and right-wing ideology. I get afraid of the word “Lord”, but I am afraid that I am afraid for the wrong reasons.
How ironic things like evolution, on the one hand, and fundamentalism o the other, scare us. But we find the idea of Jesus as Lord comforting. Jesus as Lord ought to scare the crap out of us. If it doesn’t, it’s because we do not fully understand the meaning of the word. It’s like that scene in “The Princess Bride” where after Wallace Shawn repeatedly exclaims “Inconceivable!” in response to events that keep recurring. Andre the Giant’s character responds, “You say that all the time. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
When I was twelve, I came forward during an altar call at a youth event and made a conscious decision to follow Jesus. Afterwards, I was given a pamphlet which stated Jesus was now the “Lord of my Life” and had an schematic diagram depicting Jesus on the “throne of my heart”. At the time, I had no idea what that meant. It was presented to me as pretty much reading my Bible and praying every day, staying away from sex and drinking and doing “Christian” stuff. But to call Jesus “Lord of your Life” means much more than just having a moving experience at evangelism event, coming forward and saying a special prayer. To say “Jesus is Lord” is to confess a radical reorientation of every aspect of life.
The history of the church is marked by creeds, the Apostle’s Creed into which we are delving during this series, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and so on. However, all of these find their genesis in the first creed of the church which was simply three little words, “Jesus is Lord.” Many a theologian has suggested we should go back to it. Remember that for the first followers of Jesus, declaring him as Lord was a subversive statement. In the Roman Empire, “Lord” was a title reserved only for the emperor. It conveyed your submission to him as the ultimate authority. Confessing Jesus as Lord meant that Caesar was not and declared your allegiance to a different authority.
When we hear Jesus tell that parable describing his followers as servants who are only doing our duty, something inside of us cringes and says, “Well that can’t be right.” In our day, we resist having “Lords”. You and I prize our autonomy, democracy and our authority as individuals. To hear Jesus’ followers called slaves brings up the whole ugly specter of slavery in our country’s history. The whole idea of lordship and submission to it is distasteful to us.
However, if we were to be honest about it, we do have Lords. In fact we have multiple Lords. Take a look at the most important things in your life and you will discover that each area has someone or something who is the Lord or authority over it. Each item of our lives whether it be career, time, sex, checkbook, family, talents, or possessions has some person or institution that has control over it. Sometimes we are conscious of it. Sometimes we are not.
Take how you spend your time. How do you decide how to set your calendar? Someone or something has control over that. When you work sixty hours a week, it may well be your own choice. However, it may also be your spouse’s or your children’s demands for a particular lifestyle which control you making that choice. Your talents - who has control of them? Chances are, you do. You are the one who decides how to use them but more than likely, you seek that they bring attention and rewards to you.
What do those daily details of life have to do with the calling Jesus Lord? All these little day to day compartments of our lives; career, time, sex, checkbook, family, talents, or possessions are the very substance of Jesus’ preaching. He didn’t talk much about belief systems, spiritual platitudes or Sunday morning niceties. He spoke of people, relationships and money. If we are to confess Jesus as Lord, it means we have to let Jesus into each of those compartments and have authority over it. Following Jesus entails overthrowing what has control in our life and allowing Jesus to have full authority instead.
Scared yet? This stuff much more consequential than whether or not we are related to apes or if Buddhists are going to heaven.
It would be more palatable if the Bible described Jesus as an elected official in God’s representative democracy. But it doesn’t. It says Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords in God’s Kingdom. What is so scary about Jesus as Lord is that he is Lord of everything. You and I don’t get to pick and choose over which parts of life he is Lord. That has radical implications for how we do life.
We may be comfortable with Jesus as the Lord of Sunday morning, but not the Lord of Wednesday morning or Saturday night. We may like Jesus as Lord of social justice, but not as Lord of salvation. We can handle Jesus as Lord of our spiritual life, but not Lord of our possessions. Keep him in the Bible but keep him out of my checkbook.
Of course there are some areas into which we don’t mind letting Jesus in. Volunteering for a ministry sounds reasonable to us. But even that language betrays our need for control. The Bible never speaks of volunteers. It speaks of servants. Think about it, volunteering is something we associate with the rich or retired. It connotes something done by choice or out of an abundance of leisure time or wealth. Jesus says we are not volunteers but servants. When we serve the cause of God’s Kingdom, we aren’t doing God any favors. We are merely doing our duty. Scared yet?
To say Jesus is Lord goes way beyond even our lives as individuals. If Jesus is Lord, it means he is Lord of all the world, not just a particular Christian subculture. Here at Vision, we celebrate this through the creative arts. Jesus is not just the Lord of hymns and praise music. He is the Lord of U2, Coldplay, country music and and hip hop. Okay, no one wants to see a bunch of middle-aged white guys do hip hop. His reign is not confined to Christian TV and movies but extends to summer blockbusters, independent features, art films, and even, as we saw last week, to South Park. To confess that Jesus is Lord, acknowledges his presence everywhere. He is not confined to particular humanly-defined genres of art or music. He is not confined to particular cultures. Most certainly, he is not confined to our personal tastes and preferences.
Most importantly, to say that Jesus is Lord means that there is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do, that will separate you form his love. No matter what you mess up in your life or what mistakes you make, there is nothing that Jesus as Lord cannot restore in your life.
Our lives are characterized by little compartments. We make neat little boxes into which we put the things that matter to us. There’s a box for family, for friends, for school, and for our career. We have compartments into which we hide the darker parts of our selves. Some compartments hold the secrets, the shames, the hurts, and parts of ourselves that we fear, that if anyone knew of them, they would rejects us.
All this compartmentalization causes dysfunctions. It erodes our intergrity. It dis-integrates us. It shatters our wholeness. It makes us hypocrites.
All this dysfunction stems from confining Jesus to limited compartments. If we say Jesus is Lord, and still keep him in that little box, we don’t mean what we say. To say Jesus is Lord is to let him into all the compartments of our lives. It means letting him into the dark compartments where he can shine some light and clean things up. It means letting him into the painful compartments so he can heal us. I means letting him into the shameful compartments so he can forgive us. It means letting him into the compartments we value most and are proud of, so we can reorient those things to serve not our purposes, but his purposes in the world.
By saying “Jesus is Lord” we integrate Jesus into all those compartments and create integrity. So we can say those words, “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, Our Lord” with integrity - because those very words create it. Our Lord - it’s more than a title or a nickname. It has the power to transform everything about us and everything about our world.A message on Luke 17:7-10 from Don Heatley, pastor of Vision Community Church in Warwick, NY
This article comes from the _awakening blog by Mike DeVries. Original post is here.
The Whole of Scripture?
Once again, James McGrath points out the painfully obvious:
Perhaps the most important point to note, however, is how those who claim to be "defending traditional marriage" or "defending Biblical morality" in fact are picking and choosing in ways that suggest ulterior motives on their part. This part of Leviticus includes laws about honesty in business, payment of workers' wages, and treatment of foreigners living in one's territory. Why are such topics ignored by some in favor of a focus on homosexuality? Clearly it is not a desire to be faithful to the Bible that is at the heart of this, since the other matters mentioned are scarcely less pressing issues today. Why do those claiming to "defend marriage" not focus more on divorce, which is the subject of much clearer Biblical teaching and is more obviously a threat to heterosexual marriages? It seems obvious that there must be other motivating factors than those claims. Indeed, one possibility is that this simply reflects an instinct we all have, if we are honest, namely the tendency to focus on that which others are doing, to shift blame, find scapegoats, and see the shortcomings of others more clearly than our own. But on this matter the teaching of Jesus is clear: our focus ought to be on the beams in our own eyes, not on the splinters in others'.
Scripture for reflection: 1 John 4:7-12
Prayer: God of love,
In Jesus you have shown us what love can look like. So often our world offers up
shallow replicas that pale in comparison with the determined love of Jesus. He
touched lepers, he ate and drank with those who were outcasts, and he offered
forgiveness where others would not. I thank you, God, for the depth of love that
you have shown for the world; a love that encompasses all people. Help me to
mirror that love to all I meet and to extend it to those I will never meet. Amen.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Scripture for reflection: John 3:14-21
Reflection – ‘Ruach’
‘Ruach’, ‘Pneuma’ − Holy Wind.
Blow sense into our senselessness.
Breathe hope into our despair.
Whisper love into our hearts.
Come when we don’t expect you and
make a miracle of the mundane.
May your fire warm the coldness of our lives
and may the flame be seen burning in the mirror of our eyes.
Blow Ruach, blow!
Come Holy Wind of God.
Prayer for Lent Event project : Sudan
Scripture for reflection: Luke 1:46-55
When we pray, we move our feet. African Proverb
Prayer: Gracious God, Mary, the mother of your Son, sang a song of revolution, praising
you as she looked for the blessing of the lowly, the scattering of the proud, the
dethroning of the powerful, the emptying of the rich and the filling of the hungry
with good things. With her we hold to your promise for that revolution. We long
for it, pray for it, and ask you to make us part of it, until your way is known in
every corner. Especially in Sudan, where for too long oppressors have ruled,
weapons have killed, women have been abused and people have fled while
others have stood by. Show your care in the holes that are bored, the fresh
water people drink, the improved health and the strengthening lifestyles. As we
make our response, we seek your Spirit so we can cooperate with where you
are bringing life, offering hope and building a new future of justice with peace.
Through Jesus Christ. Amen.