Blanket

Blanket

A blanket of snow covers the ground this morning. Last night I walked my dog in 52 degree weather and today he didn’t want to go out. I couldn’t blame him. However, in spite of the change there is an artistry to the way it falls in the first dusting. It covers the pine needles of the bushes in front of my house and coats the railing of the deck. I try to remember that it is January here in the north and that this is normal. The normal high is 33 degrees and the record high for this day was only 59 degrees in 1967.

So I sit, coffee in hand, keyboard sitting idle for a few minutes, cat perched on the sill, read the Word, and pray.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

The prophet describes the deep stains of rebellion as scarlet or crimson – like blood stains. The gift of God is that they are made white as snow. It all begins though with reasoning together. We dialog. We communicate with God and each other. I’ve always believed that faith was like a conversation. It was ongoing and not relegated to a set time of day or night. Likewise it seems that in education, business, family, or religious institutions reasoning together is a good idea. There is an honesty and forthrightness in reasoning. And then God blesses the reasoning and honest communication with a pure white coating of artistic love – like snow covering the dead of winter.

Be Well…

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Dead is Not Dead

Dead is Not Dead

A section of the Dead Sea Scrolls was just translated recently. These mysterious fragments discovered in a cave give insight into a religious community that existed near the time of Jesus. The BBC reports that, ” the sections of the scrolls were pieced together by Dr Eshbal Ratson and Prof Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University. They were written in code and some of the fragments were smaller than 1 sq cm (0.155 sq inches). They detailed special occasions celebrated by the ancient Jewish sect, which observed a unique 364-day calendar. These included festivals of New Wheat, New Wine and New Oil, which were related to the Jewish festival of Shavuot.”

 

The priceless Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves in Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They were reportedly first discovered by a young Bedouin shepherd searching for lost sheep. Lost sheep – does that ring a bell? Jesus was always talking about looking for lost sheep. How he loved the lost – the forgotten – the estranged. Perhaps we could learn something from that.

Some have suggested that Jesus may have been an Essene but that is pure speculation. He did turn the world upside down. I guess looking back in history has its advantages. We learn what is priceless and vital to being fully human. That is what I think of Jesus most often – a fully human – fully developed person. God wanted to show us an ideal as well as to forge a New Covenant with us. He wanted to love the hell out of us, so to speak.

Be Well…

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Good Fridays

Good Fridays

Most people say “TGIF” but I say “TGFGF” – thank God for Good Friday. Most of us value independence but I can not forgive my own sin. Jesus shows me what a kind and loving parent does – how forgiveness – deep down real forgiveness feels. He even forgives his enemies. I’d like to see more of that. Dependance on God, our family, and our friends is the way we are designed to live. That design is good not just for individuals but for society. We love the slogan, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but we act as if “everyone is an island.” We are not fully independent people nor should we be. Even our system of government is designed for us to work together and compromise – as well we should. The Church is built with the idea of community at its core but we are suffering from the cacooning of society. Independence is not good for everything.

As the weekend draws near, think about community. You may like your privacy and independence from time to time but we are built to depend on one another. Seek out that community this weekend. Let Church become what it was always intended to be – true community. A place of dependance on love generosity, service, praise, learning, sharing, support, meditation, and prayer.

Be Well…

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Apart

Apart

One of the passages I read this morning came from 2 Corinthians 6:17 which says, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.” This is a scripture that the Amish use to identify with and undergirds their culture, society, and religious beliefs. This is always a struggle for us as Christians. We are in the world but not “of the world,” as Jesus said. I keep thinking about how we engage in the culture today – can we be relevant but hold on to doctrinal truths. The church and state issue has been difficult from the beginning. It seems that there is real danger in culture and political activism taking over if we are not careful.

What cultural trends do we see in the church today? Entertainment, politics, marketing, and even the cult of personality with some mega church pastors and TV personalities. How can discipleship look different in a media age? What practices are you using to remain true to your personal calling. Withdrawing or “being apart,” is a radical escapism from only some elements of society. There are Amish settlements not far from me and modernity creeps in for them as well. Buggies and bicycles dominate but they will hop a bus or a van driven by someone to visit relatives or go shopping. Being apart only goes so far – whatever the Bishop approves is ok.

One of the things that I want to really focus on in the upcoming pilgrimage to Israel is to think about how faith in the modern world can be relevant. Disciples need to develop disciplines of the faith to stay strong and live out beliefs. We are not called to mouth our religion – we are called to live our faith. What will you do today to live it out? Will you share Jesus with someone? Will you care for the poor in some way? How about clothing the naked? Will you care for someone imprisoned by doubt, fear, drugs, or even incarceration? What about someone who mourns – will you visit them or tell them you care? Your devotional life includes the Beatitude Life as well. We think and act. “Ora et labora” we pray and work as the Benedictines would say.

Be Well…

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Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage

As many of you know I was nominated and selected to be a part of a pilgrimage to Israel. It is an honor and privilege that I did not expect. I want to publicly thank Scott and Janet McAlpine for being so kind and supportive and for making this possible. Having the chance to walk in Jesus steps and be in the land of the “Book” is so exciting. I will travel with about thirty other pastors on the pilgrimage tour led by Knights Templar.

One of the things that I have been trying to wrap my mind around is the question, how will I take it all in? What will be the most impressive part of this experience. I’d like to hear from you. What would you want to see? What would do you think your experience would be? What impressions do you think you would take away? I want to bring your thoughts and prayers with me. It is the Holy Land for three religious groups of the world; Christians, Jews, and Muslims. How can we better understand one another so that we care  for this planet and each other? We are all stewards of this world.

It has been a challenge to try and get ready physically for this trip during the winter weather. It’s been brutal for many. Trips to the Y are not the same as climbing and hiking. Pray that I will be able to be a good pilgrim and that I will stay strong and well for this once in a lifetime kind of experience. I will share pictures and experiences with all of you when I get back and I will share the itinerary in an upcoming post.

“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.” Jeremiah 3:17

Be Well…

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Let’s Talk About Jesus

Let’s Talk About Jesus

Moments ago I went to my national church web site. Their was a donation button, news feeds, a statement about President Trump’s “racist remarks,” and some directions on how to contact different parts of the organization but what was missing? Nowhere did I see anything about Jesus. Let’s talk about Jesus more. Let’s place the Prince of Peace front and center. In this post-Christian era we need to be the voice of the one who identifies with  the least, the last, and the lost of our world. They are on the margins but our Jesus walks right up to the margins and shares good news. We can talk about all the good works we do in the world. We hear of all the causes that need our money. There are just causes that need our support, but if we fail to talk about Jesus we miss the whole point of our existence. The politics of our nation is toxic but as Jesus once said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Let’s not dwell on politics – let’s talk about Jesus.

We belong to God. The Church exists to tell people about the love of God. We are the “Bride” of Christ, as Scripture says, so let’s focus on that. Nothing will change in our nation, our world, or our faith communities until hearts are changed, transformed, and reborn. Let’s talk about Jesus and how he cures, heals, and challenges us to be in the world but not “of the world.” That means we rise above the fray and the divisive dialog that is taking place. Just look at how Jesus lived and treated people. Let’s lead people to know more about him. Let’s not avoid talking about Jesus in the internet presence of the Church or in our daily life. We need to be bold and proclaim.

Be Well…

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The Bride

The Bride

The drive to Illinois yesterday may have been the most windy stretch of driving I have ever made. It surpassed the winds crossing Iowa in tornado season – even the Kansas winds as I was heading to the mountains. Yet, I arrived safely, the sun came out, and the bride was happy that I made it in time for the rehearsal. As I sometimes do, I hovered over the rehearsal scene mentally while conducting the bride, bridesmaids, and groomsmen to their appointed places and ran through the liturgy, the readings, and the all important vows. They all expect this to last for an hour and thirty minutes later we’re done. The bride is nervous but so happy. Her eyes light up as she approaches the room on stage waiting to step down and give her his arm. There is always nervous laughter, giggling, and some back slapping with the men. And that’s when my mind drifts…

Is this what it’s like for us – the “bride church” to walk toward our groom, Jesus? The excitement builds, the nervous energy kicks in, the groom is there to greet us and welcome us and not just wait for us to climb the steps alone but to walk down, put his arm out, and escort us into the sanctuary of heavenly bliss. Bliss – that’s it. That is what I feel so often with happy brides and grooms. There is this unexplained revere that is not explained as lust but as love – coming home to the security of complete faith in the other. We meet in a moment of time – time above time. That is where Jesus – the Triumphant One wants to meet us.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Rev. 21:2

Then I snap back as my stomach growls and realize that the rehearsal dinner awaits. Oh these base human needs that must be met. “OK, that’s it, any questions – good.” Ask the bride to tell everyone when to be here for pictures and we’re off to the dinner. I’ve done hundreds of these but each time my mind floats above the scene and I think of the beauty of how John describes meeting Jesus. Let it be so.

Be Well and Happy Sabbath…

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