Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Celebration of Easter

Greetings, gentle readers...

As others will do this weekend, I want to express my thoughts on our celebration of Easter. As funny as it may sound, as a young child in Sunday School I could never grasp how Jesus was born on Christmas and died on Easter and accomplished all that we read about in the Gospels! LOL Ah, the mind of a child.

Now that I have gown older, and hopefully wiser, I wonder often why we don't talk of the resurrection much in our churches. Oh, we talk about Jesus' death. We even carry around crucifixes on our bodies (and dangling from our car rear view mirrors) to remind us of such. There are so many messages from our pulpits on how Jesus died for our sins.

Don't misunderstand me. The death of our Lord is important. But, I put forth that His resurrection is of utmost importance. The fact that Jesus died makes Him just another man. The fact that He was resurrected makes Him our Savior. His death may bring us forgiveness of our sins, but His resurrection brings us the hope of eternal life! Without the resurrection, we are without hope.

I spent some time working for a cemetery and funeral home as an at-need counselor. I would meet with families and assist them at the time of death to make the necessary cemetery arrangements. In each meeting, I could very easily tell which families had the hope of the resurrection and which did not. For those who were Christians, believing that they will again be with their loved ones in glory, the hope was amazing. Even in their grief, there was joy. Often they would talk about the faith of their loved one and take strength from that faith. Often, the graveside commital services were celebrations of a life lived for our Lord and expressions of joy and thankfulness for a life lived and a soul transferred to Heaven.

But...for those who had no faith in the resurrection, there was only loss. And that loss was so deep and so hopeless that they often despaired of life themselves. It was dark and lonely, a place of depression and sadness that could literally be felt by the soul. So often, it would just break my heart for these lost souls. There was no comfort for them, no peace.

What I am saying to you this day is to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Be joyful! Be thankful! This is not a somber occasion. This is a day of rejoicing! So, today raise your hands to the Lord in joyful thanksgiving for His resurrection; the promise of eternal life and hope of glory!

May God richly bless you this day.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Unity of the Faith

Hello, gentle readers...

Yesterday, I was reading a small devotional and the topic was UNITY. It seems to me that, in our society, we have made a practice of focusing on diversty over the past couple of decades. Now, sociologically speaking, that is a good thing. We all need to become more tolerant of others. However, if we fail to focus on UNITY, I fear we have done nothing but create gaps of understanding, factions, and schisms.

For example, we all belong to different churches or denominations. There may be a wide range of opinions on doctrine. Some believe in tongues. Some do not. Some believe in baptism by immersion only. Some do not. Some believe Jesus was God. Some believe he was the son of God. Some believe that glbtq people are part of the community of believers. Some don't.

Regardless of our doctrinal belief, there is one thing that God calls us to believe:

Jn 3:16 is so familiar. We can all quote it. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

WHOSOEVER. There are no qualifiers except belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the sacrifice for our sins.

Rom 10:9 says "If you confess with you mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

There is nothing in any of these verses that says we must agree on DOCTRINE! UNITY isn't based on doctrine. UNITY is based in belief in Jesus. Oh, you may say that you cannot be in UNITY with someone whom you feel is wrong doctrinally. What about those gay people? What about those crazy charismatics? What about those Catholics? What about those Baptists? It's irrelevant, people. Totally irrelevant. God wants UNITY.

Rom 5:13-14 says, "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of UNITY among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph 4:3 says, "Make every effort to keep the UNITY of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

UNITY is very important to God. UNITY is shown in the way we treat each other. UNITY comes from having a peaceful spirit before the Lord and love for others. We don't have to always agree. As long as there has been humankind on earth, there has been disagreement. But, disagreement doesn't have to break UNITY.

We wonder why we don't see miracles in our lives, our churches. It is a lack of UNITY. We come with all kinds of agendas and personal junk that doesn't create UNITY in our families, our churches, our communities. When we live in peace and UNITY, the enemy is terrified. Great things are done for God out of the UNITY of believers.

I would encourage you today to focus on UNITY. Focus on those things that would divide you and place them at the foot of the cross. Walk away and don't grab them as you turn from them. Determine in your heart and spirit, to live in UNITY with others. You will not only find that life is more pleasant, but is filled with the power of Almighty God. Imagine the power of the unified Church, together as one, overcoming the evil in this world. Amazing, isn't it?

May God richly bless you this day and may you reach outside yourself to create unity in our world.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Do not judge...

Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Today is a short rant. Well, maybe short. Two subjects.

First, I've given you a link to the San Diego news. The Catholic diocese in San Diego refused (yes, refused) to bury a young, gay Catholic businessman because of his business dealings. (He owned a couple of gay bars.) The Bishop of the diocese said that this man's business was immoral and therefore he did not deserve a proper Catholic burial. Puh..leeez! How self-egrandizing is that? Since when do we review someone's life prior to burial to see if they are worthy of our services? As clergy, it is our duty to console the remaining family and to honor their desires for a proper burial for their loved ones. Period. It is NOT our place to judge them. Period.

If that isn't enough of a commentary on the state of the Catholic church, they went back on their own policy by giving Father Geoghan a full Catholic burial. Remember, this is one of the Catholic church's worst predators against children. He molested and damaged the lives of hundreds of children, many of whom I'm sure remain anonymous to this day because of the shame they feel. Yes, the Catholic church will bury one of its own who was a horrific child molester, but they won't bury a man who brought jobs and commerce to their community simply because they disliked him being gay.

I have one word for them: HYPOCRISY!

On another subject, please be aware the the federal marriage amendment has been introduced in the House again. It is imperative that we contact our representatives and let them know that the constitution should not be used as a battering ram against a segment of our citizens because of some peoples' fear and bigotry. Unless these men and women hear from us, they will continue to promote the reich-wing agenda of prejudice and hatred. Your voice is imperative in defeating bigotry, hatred and fear. The constitution has never, that I can remember, been used to isolate and discriminate against a segment of society. Take, for example, the civil rights amendments of the 1960s. They were used to bring relief to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of black citizens. If this horrific amendment passes, it will be open season on glbtq people in the US. We will continue to be the only class of people in the US against which it is lawful to discriminate and hate.

Your voices must be heard! The Congress must hear them. The President must hear them. The reich-wing who promote this behavior must hear them. Just as Martin Luther King led the downtrodden black citizen to a place of civil disobedience, so must we hear the call to march against the hatred that would take away our jobs, relationships, and even our lives! Rise up and say to the bigots, "NO MORE!"

May God richly bless you this day.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Love Comes First

Hello gentle readers,

(Forgive the missing blogs, please. We're still fighting the "crud" at our house. I don't know what it is about this stomach flu that's going around, but it's a doozy. We continue to thank God that He is the Great Physician and has carried our sickness and disease for us. There is healing power in the Blood of Jesus. And we must but tap into it. So, I am praising God that all is well and we are healed...regardless of the circumstance!)


Are you a t.v. person? I have favorite shows just like everyone does, I'm sure. Well, Sunday night is my t.v. night thanks to ABC's Extreme Home Makeover. Y'all, I wish everyone in the world could experience this show. It is a testament to the human spirit overcoming the human condition week after week. Tonight's story struck me deep inside with a truth that we all know but so often forget.

Love comes first.

In Colossians 3:12-14, the writer tells us how we should live; what are the requirements to be seen as a true child of the Most High God. But, v. 14 says it all, "And over all of these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

In tonight's show, a little girl who is recovering from a near fatal bout of cancer, asks the show to make over the hospital in which she was treated. She didn't ask anything for herself. Nothing. She only wants to help other kids just like her to feel better. As if that wasn't enough, she has taken to making beaded necklaces and selling them with all the profit going to help kids with cancer. This is an eight year old child, dear readers. How ashamed should we be of ourselves in light of this little child's continual gift?

We go to Wal-Mart with the "gimme" attitude. We go through relationships with a "gimme" attitude. We should be ashamed of our behavior and convicted to our core! We are not here to get. We are here to give! Have we become so self-serving and cynical as to keep us from fulfilling that one simple thing? LOVE COMES FIRST.

I would encourage you today, ask God to show you how to make love come first. There are a myriad of ways to make an impact on our little corner of the world. Sell baked goods. Have a yard sale. Donate that car in your yard that isn't running to a charity who can put others to work. Pass along a kind word. Mow your neighbor's yard. Fix the bicycle for the kid next door who has no dad to help him. Step outside yourself and make a difference.

Love comes first.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Do we truly understand?

Hello, my friends...

For the last two days, my spirit has heard that still, small voice saying something it took me a while to understand.

"Seeing yet they do not see. Hearing yet they do not understand."

Yes, there are similar versus in the Scripture. But, I wondered if the meaning was more that what we see with pen on paper.

I am reminded of the commercial on t.v. where the young girls are in the locker room watching a water faucet running. All walk by, stop and stare, but only one reaches through the crowd to turn off the faucet. We hear so much in our churches, on religious broadcasts, in the media. We hear truth over and over. How often, though, do we walk through the crowd and respond to the call of that truth on our hearts? We see so much in this world, and yet we fail to act! We are inundated with information and yet we rarely respond in faith. You might say, "Oh yes I do! I go to church. I read my Bible." But are we becoming so insulated against the world that we forget to live in it? (Believe me, there's a difference between being insulated against the world and isolated from the world.)

My life has been broad and narrow at the same time. I've been exposed to much but have chosen, in the past, to narrow my vision and not allow my mind to take in all I see and hear. What I have found is that this closes me off to people and lessons that would not only benefit ME, but reach others too. If my faith is firm, why should I be afraid of reading other schools of thought? If my faith is firm, why should I not reach outside of my faith community? Of course, the wonderful "sweet bye and bye" feeling we get in church is great. But, unless it is a catalyst to action, to learning, what good is it except to tickle our ears and our emotions?

The walk of faith is one of action. Unless we take the teachings to which we are exposed and bring them to a world of orphans, widows and less fortunate, why are we bothering to learn? Is it just for the sake of heaven? Dear Lord, I hope not or we will be sorely disappointed. God created us as siblings... regardless of race, color, creed, ethnicity, sexual reach out to each other and care for each other. If we, as a group of believers, fail to do that then we have failed in our call to be ministers of reconciliation in this world.

It's not about me. It's not about you. It's about THEM. THEM are the ones God brings along your path every single day who need a word of encouragement because they're bruised and battered, need a hamburger from McDonald's and a warm bed because they are homeless and hungry, or a ride to church on Sunday because their car broke down. It's not about guarding our turf of service, but about reaching beyond the call to service and touching hearts and lives!

I would encourage you today to open your hearts and minds to the fullness of all there is in this wonderful creation and bring that light with you through your days. You will be surprised how fulfilling life can be when you step out of the pew onto the street and ask God to touch lives through you.

May God richly bless you this day, open your heart to new teaching, and cause you to see the needy all around you to whom only you can be a blessing.