It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Heirs of God, a Reflection on Romans 8:12-17

Paul reminds us that we are children of God. God's Spirit is within us. The idea did not originate with Paul. Israel spoke of God's Spirit dwelling within their community (Exodus 25:8). Paul recognizes that the Spirit lives within Gentiles as well. 

Trinity Sunday is a good time to look at the people around you and consider what it means for you that God's Spirit is within each of them. And it's a good time to consider what it means for your congregation that God's Spirit is dwelling within your church body. What kind of witness are you viewing? What kind of witness are you showing?

(again, I'm thankful to Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Letters.)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Voice of the Lord, a Reflection on Psalm 29

Isaiah spoke of experiencing the presence of God--whose voice would shake the doorposts. The psalm chosen for response also speaks of how we are struck by God's presence in our lives by using the metaphor of a thunderstorm

"Abscribe to the Lord..." the NRSV begins. I'm told by Robert Alter's Book of Psalms, that this verb means "to give" or "to grant." The Psalm begins by speaking to the heavenly court (a group that modern day Christians don't talk about much) telling them to grant praise to the Lord, and ends with the prayer that the Lord will give us strength and wellbeing.

We cannot see the invisible God but we can see the impact that God has on earth and within our community. Last week, in the reading from Acts 2, we remembered how this presence was described by the witnesses at Pentecost.

Friday, May 29, 2015

An unclean prophet, a Reflection on Isaiah 6:1-8

Verses 1-4 describe an overwhelming sense of God's glory and the appropriate response to it. On a throne. A high and lofty throne. So large that just the hem of his robe fills the temple. Heavenly beings attend him. They sing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts."

Verses 5, in contrast, describes the great contrast with this glory with the human condition. Isaiah realizes that he is unworthy.

Verses 6-7 give us reassurance. Since we are not worthy, God has a way of redeeming us, of overcoming our sin. Isaiah's guilt was removed.

Verse 8 reminds us why we need this redemption. We have a task. Isaiah accepted his call.

(much of this from or inspired by Isaiah 1-39, by Walter Brueggeman)

How much of this is repeated in a typical church service? Do we recognize an overwhelming divine presence? Do we recognize our own sinfulness? Can we receive redemption? If so, what are we prepared to do with it?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eternal Life, a reflection on John 3:16-17

Surely, all football fans have seen that sign in the stands saying John 3:16. Please don't stop with that verse. God's intention is that this eternal life is for us all.

Jesus said that those who believe in him may have eternal life; also see, John 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27: and 17:14 (with thanks to The New Interpreter's Study Bible).

What is being promised? Not just heaven later after we're dead. The word we translate as eternal carries the meaning of a different quality of life, a new life free of the worldly, temporal concerns of the old life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Still True, a Reflection on John 3:10-15

Jesus has been talking to Nicodemus, but now is speaking to a plural you.

Jesus says to his hearers, "The Son of Man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

We take "lifted up" to mean the crucifixion or the resurrection or the ascension, or all of these. He is in Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry yet his words will be understandable after his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Or, will they be? Nicodemus had seen signs as had the other Pharisees but he was unwilling to come publicly to Jesus. The audience for John's Gospel had seen even more signs; were they able to believe?

Since we are now approacing Trinity Sunday, I'm adding a paragraph from Fred Craddock's contribution to Preaching Through the Christian Year B, who explains that Jesus Christ reveals the truth about God and that the Holy Spirit is the active presence of God. Then, he stresses:
But the overall affirmation of the text is that God is a life-giving God. This is no new word, as though God had ceased to be a wrathful judge and had now mellowed into forgiving love. The Hebrew Scriptures had declared God's grace in the story of the brazen serpent in Numbers 21:4-9 (vv.14-15). Our text proclaims, then, what has always been true of God, and what is comforting to hear again: God loves the world; God desires that none perish; God gives the Son that all may live; God has acted in Christ not to condemn but to save. To trust in this is to have life anew, life eternal.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Who is Everyone? a reflection on John 3:3-9

After being asked about how anybody can have a second birth, Jesus answers him by asserting the necessity of the Spirit.

"What is born of the Spirit is spirit....The wind blows where it chooses..." Remember that the Greek word translated as wind also means breath or spirit. God breathes on us; a force moves us like the wind moves us and that force is as invisible as the wind as it is as potent as the wind.

"So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Who is this "everyone"? Who has been born of the Spirit? Am I reassured? insulted? puzzled? grateful?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Risk v. Safety, a Reflection on John 3:1-2

Jesus has been upsetting the insiders. One of them, Nicodemus, comes by night. I am told by Bible commentators that "night" implies more "not understanding" than a time. I had always taken "night" as literal and read that Nicodemus was hoping not to be seen by anyone important when he approached this trouble maker. After thinking about it for a moment, I've decided to keep both meanings.

Nicodemus asserts that the miracles they have seen Jesus perform have been persuasive. Yet apparently not completely so. It's night after all.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Group Groaning, a Reflection on Romans 8:22-27

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now," Paul writes to the Romans.

In labor pains? Creation was not complete in a week? I'm making a connection between this verse and Psalm 104:30, "When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground."

A difference--in Psalm, the Spirit creates, but there's no mention of pain.

So, I'm back to the word "groaning." I looked up the word in my Aland dictionary and my Thayer's lexicon and learned that it implies not only groaning but groaning together.

All of creation is groaning. And, according to Paul, even we who have received fruits of the Spirit are also groaning. Groaning while we wait for adoption.

As I read this, I don't think Paul is talking about some life after death, but is talking about a life here on this earth, a life in which the Spirit lives in and through and around us--and we are aware of that presence.

More groaning--in verse 26, the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Allen & Williamson in Preaching the Letters expand on this verse by saying:
The Spirit helps our praying. That the Spirit (roughly interchangeable with God or Christ in Paul) "groans" indicates that God is affected by us as we are affected (and effected--created) by God. God's passions can become our prayers, and our prayers can become God's passions.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How Manifold Are Your Works, a Reflection on Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Don't fall into the error of modalism--that at different points of history, God appeared in different forms. That is, God was Father during the Old Testament times, then became the visible Son, then at Pentecost became manifest as the Spirit.

The lectionary choice of Psalm 104 for Pentecost Sunday reminds us that God as Spirit was present at creation. Verses 24 through 28 cite examples of what God has created--the earth, ships, Leviathan.

These created things need the Spirit:
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground (29-30).
We have been through Lent and through Eastertide. In the church calendar, we are now entering what is called Ordinary Time. We, in the Scriptures and in our lives, have seen and will see pain and blessings. Verses 33-34 will be a good prayer for us this week and weeks to come:
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

Friday, May 22, 2015

What do Strangers Have to Say to Us? a Reflection on Acts 2:14-21

Here is part of the poem, "Pentecost," offered by Jan L. Richardson:
and I am not persuaded
that if we look alike
God will love us more.

I believe God loves the languages
of those struggling to speak
the words embedded in our flesh
of every shape and hue.

And I believe God blesses
every space where we are welcomed
to speak with tongues of fire
and hear with hearts aflame.
I found the poem in her book, In Wisdom's Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season.

Her thoughts have forced me to rethink the Pentecost message. Have I been too restrictive in my definition of language?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reactions to the Pentecost Surprise, a Reflection on Acts 2:1-13

The Holy Spirit appeared suddenly, loudly, and effectively. The reaction was mixed. Some were bewildered, amazed, astonished.

Even when they found themselves able to understand in their own languages what the recipients were saying, the first witnesses either didn't know what was happening or made up a reason that seemed reasonable--they must be drunk.

Miracles or any exciting phenomena do not necessarily generate faith.

Peter responded to the lack of understanding and the rude remark by preaching a sermon.

Nonbelievers will not agree with our explanations. At least right away. After all, why should they? Allowing experience to explain phenomena is not unexpected.

Be careful with those sermons. They don't always help the unbeliever. At least right away.

I'm wondering what fraction of the people listening to a sermon on any Sunday are unbelievers. I'm wondering what they think about what they see happening that we explain has come through the Lord.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dry Bones, Reflection on Ezekiel 37:1-14

Here we are, a bunch of individuals grouped together, yet not accomplishing anything. Economic times are tough. Where will the money come from to satisfy our needs? our wants? 

A bunch of bones lying in a field. Even when connected, they're not getting the job done.

God says, "I'll put my breath into you and you shall live again."

This Sunday on the Day of Pentecost, church congregations, fearful of their present and for their continued future, will celebrate receiving God's own breath into their midst.

O Lord, lift us from our fear.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Reassurance and Warning, Reflection on John 16:12-15

Jesus tells his followers that he is going and the Advocate is coming. This Spirit will guide the followers into all truth, will declare to them the things that are to come. We read this message as comfort--to them and to us, the continuation of the church.

I'm grateful to Fred Craddock for pointing out the implicit concern contained within this warning:
This text has been used to bless every fad and notion, but the fear of the new and different must not cause the church to abandon the promise.
When the church becomes protective and defensive, ... preachers become curators. The Spirit continually presses the question, What is the meaning of Jesus Christ today?
The apostolic and biblical witness remains as a canon for testing the spirits, for the Holy Spirit does not speak apart from or contrary to the historical Jesus....
If you want to read more, see Preaching through the Christian Year B.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Testimony of the Spirit, a Reflection on John 15:26-27; 16:4b-11

Before his death, Jesus prepared his disciples. "I'm going away," he told them, "but, I am sending you the Advocate."

"This helper will testify to the world and to you."

In Preaching through the Christian Year B, the always-excellent Fred Craddock says:
The Spirit will bear witness to Jesus just as the apostles who shared his earthly life bear witness.... The church is not left with only the promptings of the Spirit, opening wide the door to ... all sorts of nonverifiable claims by inspired speakers. Neither is it the case that the church is left with just the reports of men of antiquity. Rather, the church has both the Spirit and the tradition, and the gospel is located where these two intersect.
The Spirit came to the original disciples and continues to come to disciples. We are left with this reassurance and the implied problem of discerning which spirits come from Christ.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Believing is Knowing, a Reflection on 1 John 5:9-13

We don't have to wait until after we die for eternal life to begin. Eternal life promises more than by-and-by. Eternal life begins now. Here. 

The first witnesses saw this promise fulfilled in the Son.

We are asked to share this eternal life. We are asked to know that we share this eternal life.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Succession, a Reflection on Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Succession, a Reflection on Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Some of the readings I have listed for this week are preparing us for the Ascension of the Lord; others, including today's, are in the lectionary for the seventh Sunday of Easter. 

During Eastertide, the seven weeks after Easter, we have been focusing on the early church during the period after the first Easter. The readings from Acts have told of unlimited sharing of resources among the believers (4:32-35), a call for repentance (3:12-19), a pushback against religious leaders (4:5-12), acceptance of an outsider (8:26-40), and acceptance of a lot more outsiders (Acts 10:44-48).

This week's reading from Acts goes back to the first chapter soon after Jesus had told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. And he was lifted up. Heavenly messengers told them that he was to return.

In order for the church (yes, I realize that it wasn't called that yet) to continue, they are going to have to tell what Jesus had done and they're going to have to do the work he was doing.

Witnesses are essential to knowing what has happened and then telling about it. In that the church continues to live, continues to do the work that it was created to do. The question that the Ethiopian convert asked Peter remains a good question, "How can I understand what the scripture says unless someone is willing to explain it." I would add, "or live by its teachings right in front of me."

Matthias is chosen to replace Judas. The team is complete, again.

Yet, I am troubled that we never hear any more about Matthias. We're left to wonder whether he did a good job preaching and healing and teaching or not. Or, maybe, I should be reassured by the omission of Matthias success or lack of it. After all, the job did get done even if we don't know all the details of who did what work or how well.

Big and Little Trees, a Reflection on Psalm 1

I'm living now in a place with lots of rain, thus, lots of trees, big trees. It's quite a contrast from where I grew up, a place without much rain, not many trees, and the trees we had, even those decades old, were short and sparse.

Driving down the highway, you could easily tell where the creeks were because you would see that curving line of trees.

I'm thinking about those trees and the trees I see now when I read how Psalm 1 describes the benefit of God's instruction. "They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper."

Like water for trees, God's law protects and enriches us.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jesus Prays for the Church, a Reflection on John 17:1-11

Those of us who may limit the meaning of "eternal life" to heaven can get a richer meaning from this prayer. Jesus defines eternal life as a life shaped by knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ who has been sent by God.

In the days to come, these disciples will come together and scatter apart. The church still does. Jesus prayed that God would protect us so that we would be one. How unified are we? In what ways do we demonstrate that we know God? In what ways do we demonstrate that we are part of the world?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Power to the Church, a Reflection on Ephesians 1:15-23

"I pray that God will send you the Spirit," Paul writes to the Ephesians. 

Here's what the Spirit does for the church: enlightens the eyes of your heart--that is, helps you to catch on to what God intends for you to be doing and what God has already done for you.

To these early Christians as they began to form congregations and missions, he is emphasizing power and what power is to be used for.

To these Christians adjusting to their life after the crucifixion of Jesus, he writes of the power available to them through God. God put this power to work in Christ and has made him the head of the church. The church is the body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all."

As I regularly do, I have been reading Boring & Craddock's People's New Testament Commentary. And, as I regularly am, I am glad that I do. For example,here's their discussion of the phrase, "glorious inheritance":
The phrase refers to God's inheritance, not the believers'. In Old Testament theology, Israel as God's chosen people is often called God's inheritance (Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29; 2 Sam 21:3; 1 Kings 8:51, 53; Ps 28:9; 33:12; 68:9; 78:62, 71; 94:14; 106:5, 4-; Isa 19:25; 47:6; 63:17; Jer 10:16; 51:19). For the author of Ephesians, to be in the church is to be incorporated into the continuing people of God, Israel (2:11-12).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Over All the Earth Psalm 47

This week, we read Luke's accounts of the ascension. In Acts, the resurrected Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. In the gospel, he was carried up into heaven.

In the accounts of the ascension, we can hear echoes to this psalm--God has gone up with a shout. ("Gone up" anyway, but I'm not so sure about the "shout").

Walter Breuggemann discusses this psalm in Texts for Preaching:

When we say of Jesus in the creed, "He ascended into heaven," in the first instance this is the language of ritual enthronement and coronation. What is claimed substantively, politically, theologically is first asserted dramatically and liturgically.
In the psalm, the congregation is called to sing praises to the King, and the King is identified as God, the great king over all the earth, God, the king over the nations. 

Clap your hands, all you peoples;
Shout to God with loud songs of joy (1).
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
Sing praises to our King, sing praises(6).
For God is king over the nations... (7).
Think about the "all the earth" and "king over the nations" assertions. People who have not formally entered into our community are being cared for by God. As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, we are recognizing that the care of Jesus extends far beyond the small circle of disciples at his death but, instead, is world-wide.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Departure, Acts 1:1-11

He was a man who taught and worked and died. He appeared to travelers and disciples. We don't experience him in the way that they did. Yet, we continue to experience him. In the Christian calendar, we mark the 40th day after Easter as the day of the Ascension of the Lord.

They had listened to his teaching. They had asked him when things would be the way they wanted them to be.

He told them that the Holy Spirit would visit them and bestow power upon them.

He vanished from their sight.

But not from their lives.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Don't Get Stuck, a Reflection on Luke 24:44-53

After the meal, he reminded them of words that he had spoken to them before--that he is the fulfillment of the promises of the law, the prophets, and the psalms. We Christians need to get both the before and after of this reminder. What we call the Old Testament, they thought of as Scripture. Old is still good. And Jews are still included in God's care. We haven't ousted them.

And not just Christians and Jews. Jesus reminds them, "The Scriptures foretold my death and resurrection. They tell that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations.

And then to this group of disciples who have been huddled together in fear and, even in the joy of recognition, have been disbelieving, he now commissions them, "You are witnesses that the Scriptures have been fulfilled."

Commission--I am sending upon you what my Father promised. Stay here in this city until that power comes.

While they are waiting, they gather in the temple.

I'm thinking that many of us Christians have gotten stuck in that period between Ascension and Pentecost. We have known the presence of Christ. We have heard and believed the promised made to us. We're expecting something great to come among us. We are gathered together in great joy to continue our worship of the Lord. We love church and we love the Lord and we love each other. But...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Disciples Do, a Reflection on 1 John 5:3-6

"For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the word. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith" (1 John 5:3-5).

Love is obeying commandments. Following commandments is the victory that conquers the world. We aren't talking Alexander the Great kind of conquering. We talking Christ conquering.

I've been thinking about these verses from 1 John, and I've been reading about the ministry focus of the UMC for the next quadrennium. Here's an excerpt from Four Areas of Ministry Focus.
The Four Areas of Focus express the vision and yearnings of the people of The United Methodist Church. Over the next quadrennium, the church will seek to focus the work of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world around these areas of ministry:

* Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.
* Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.
* Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.
* Engaging in ministry with the poor.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vocabulary Lesson, Reflection on 1 John 5:1-2

Several years ago, to help me understand the message of  1 John, I looked up several words in these first two verses of chapter 5 in The Greek New Testament, 3rd ed., ed. by (among others) Kurt Aland. believe, born, love, know, commandments.

believepisteuo, believe (in), have faith (in), have confidence (in), entrust.

born, passive voice of gennao, be fathered by, borne by, having been conceived by.

loveagapao, love, proof of love, placing first in one's affections.

knowginosko, know, have knowledge of, learn, understand, perceive, discern, recognize.

commandments, plural of entole, commandment, order, instruction

Since then I have purchased The Jewish Annotated New Testament edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler.  The note to 5:1 explains that "born of God" indicates "remade in the image of God," Genesis 1:26-27, and "born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God," John 1:12-13.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Make a Joyful Noise, Reflection on Psalm 98

I'm reading Psalm 98 with its call to praise the Lord, for the whole world to praise the Lord.

And I thought about those worshipers. How does having God in their lives change those lives?

Robert Putnam and David Campbell have written a book about how religion is shaping our lives ("our" being American because that's what I am). Here's a discussion of it with David Campbell in the Pew Forum.   Here's an excerpt:
One is, we have a lot of evidence in our book that religious Americans are happier and, for the most part, better citizens and neighbors than their more secular counterparts. And what do we mean by better citizens and neighbors? Well, they’re more likely to volunteer. They’re more likely to give money to charity. They’re more likely to help out in informal ways their neighbors and those around them.
I want to emphasize that that’s not just religious people giving to religious charities or volunteering for religious groups. The secular volunteering and the secular giving of folks who are religious is actually higher than folks who are secular. And so that’s the part of this chapter that gets religious people all excited. Oh, great, there we go; we’re better than everybody.
But it turns out the story’s not quite that simple because the explanation for why we find those high levels of giving and volunteering and just general good citizenship and good neighborliness among religious folks is not what you might expect. It’s not what they believe. We can find no evidence, in tracing 25 different religious beliefs, no evidence that any one of them explains this relationship between religious — religious folks who give a lot.
Instead, it’s their congregation or, more specifically, it’s the friends they have at church. So it’s not just having a lot of friends. Anybody who has a lot of friends is actually more likely to do these good citizenship sort of things. It’s whether or not they have a lot of friends within their religious congregation, which suggests that perhaps what’s going on could be replicated in secular organizations, although the sort of secular group that would replicate what a congregation does is pretty rare. We’ve actually not found many examples of it, but it’s useful fodder for discussion.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Can anyone withhold baptism? Reflection on Acts 10:47-48

In this passage from Acts, baptism is preceded by the receiving of the Holy Spirit. But, in Acts 8:14-24, the Samaritans were baptized before receiving the Holy Spirit.

I don't think that which came first is as important to Luke as that they both do, and, even more important, that they both come to people that the rest of us might not have thought likely or even worthy.

Methodists believe baptism is the beginning but not the end. See this overview of the United Methodist  understanding of baptism.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Astonishment about the other recipients, Reflection on Acts 10:44-46

In Acts 9, Paul learned that Jews could be Christians. In Acts 8, last week's lesson, Philip learned that Gentiles could be Christians.

In Acts 10, Peter, too, learned that Gentiles could be Christians. A messenger from God came to Cornelius, a Roman centurion. A Gentile, an enforcer of the occupation of Israel. Prompted by the Spirit, Peter was willing to break the law and eat with him.

In this week's passage, Peter's sermon to Gentiles is interrupted. We are told that the Holy Spirit fell on all who were listening to him.

All. The ones who had already belonged. And the ones who had not. The old-timers were astounded that the newbies would be included.

How does your congregation react to the notion that the Holy Spirit may be reaching out to people who were raised with different beliefs from yours? Or, how would they react to the notion that the Holy Spirit speaks?

In Acts 2, The Holy Spirit fell on Jews from all lands (We'll read about this week after next). In Acts 8, the Holy Spirit fell on Samaritans (not-quite insiders but not completely different, either).

In this week's reading from Acts 10, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The insiders were astounded that outsiders were recipients.

Questions: Wouldn't the Holy Spirit fallen on them whether they had heard the word or not? Or, is hearing the word necessary for someone to be able to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit? How did the believers know that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on them--that is, was proof necessary?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Love One Another, Reflection on John 15:13-17

Jesus told them and through them tells us, "I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another." When we do what Jesus said and demonstrated that we are supposed to do, we may not meet immediate and widespread acclamation. Some people some times are not going to agree with our words and actions. Yet, we are still to follow the path that Jesus laid out for us. So, if we can't expect the world to be always supportive, we can instead turn to each other. 

A church that follows the commands of Jesus is a church in which we are loved--even when the world would rather we do something other than what Jesus has commanded. Church, keep following Jesus' commands. Church, keep loving those who do.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Love Them as I Have Loved You, Reflection on John 15:9-12

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Michaella Bruezella points out in Sojourner's Commentary the challenge in this command:
Indeed, our hardest task is not loving one another, but doing so as Jesus did—recognizing each person’s ability to receive God’s grace, and then serve as its ambassador to the world.
Remember, Jesus was preaching to people living in hard times, and John's gospel was written to people who knew loss and were facing more difficulties. To these people, at that time, came the command to love.

When we have suffered loss, when  we fear disruption in our community, when we don't feel in control of what is happening or is going to happen, we still need to heed that command, "Love one another as I have loved you."

To be able to withstand difficulties and disruptions, we must love one another--and remember what love looks like. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How we know that we abide in God, Reflection on 1 John 4:7-21

If the author of this epistle were writing to your congregation today, would he need to include this section? Does your congregation need to be reminded to love? to love each other? to love our brothers and sisters? to love people we don't even know? And which is harder for us, anyway, to love people we have to be around all the time or people that we don't?

Consider for a while today what verse 7 means to you. How does loving someone help you to know God? Or, how does knowing God help you to love someone?

The Father has sent his Son to save the world, verse 14. The world. God hasn't sent the Son to take us away from the world, to live separately from it, but to save it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

All the Ends of the Earth Shall Remember, a Reflection on Psalm 22:25-31

I'm more familiar with the opening verse of this Psalm, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The lament continues in the next verse, "O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night and find no rest." And because I am old, I remember when our communion liturgy quoted from verse 6, "But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people."

This psalm is read on Good Friday because it contains phrases that are remembered in the gospel accounts of the trial and crucifixion. See verses 7-8 and 14-18.

The mood shifts in verse 22 from lament to assurance, "I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you."

The portion of the psalm that we are reading this week is the fulfillment of that vow--both parts of it, the praise and that the praise is not silent but before the congregation.

Philip didn't keep his gratefulness to God just between himself and God. I'm assuming that neither did the Ethiopian keep his rejoicing private.

The people that hear their praise directly will benefit from knowing about God. But not only the first hearers. They will tell what they have heard. And those hearers will tell. And so today, we continue to praise God and to praise aloud and widely.

Lectio Divina: Psalm 22:30-31 Posterity will serve you, O Lord; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim your deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that you have done it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Who Is Eligible for Baptism? a Reflection on Acts 8:36-40

He is not like them. He's from a different place. He lives a different life. But, he asks "What is to prevent me from being baptized?"

Philip sees no reason why not.

A few years ago, the General Conference of the UMC marked the entry into full communion with the  African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Union Methodist Protestant Church and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. According to Rich Peck (see

“We have a shameful history of blatant racism that led to the breakup of American Methodism into multiple denominations beginning in the late 18th century,” said the Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak Jr., staff executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns.

Noting the existence of the Pan-Methodist Commission, Sidorak said, “There is some solace in the fact that there has been demonstrable dedication within The United Methodist Church to preserve a special relationship with the historic African-American Methodist churches.”

But not everyone is to be include in everything. The GC spent time trying to decide who should be included in decision-making roles, in the clergy, and in church weddings. The view of the Common Witness Coalition is that we did not succeed in inviting-all-to-the-table

Lectio Divina: Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.