The Indwelling of Christ

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S (Scripture): Ephesians 1:20 God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, 21 far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. 22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

O (Observation): The Church is the BODY OF CHRIST! Has that sunken in???!!!

We are not just sinful ole me and sinful ole you! We are ALSO THE INCARNATION OF THE CHRIST!!!

Saint and Sinner.

Slave and Free.

A (Application): And we have power and authority from God! We are no longer bound by the status quo of Christianity.

We are no longer bound by what people might say about us if we push for human rights for all people.

We are no longer bound by what people might say about us if we sponsor and have a booth at the BoroPride event in September.

We are no longer bound by what people might say about us if we feed the homeless without wondering why they might be “taking advantage” of us.

We are the fullness of Christ. As we reset our minds to believe this, miracles happen. Not of our own doing, but of God working through us.

The immigrant realizes that someone cares about them.

The gay couple realizes that God loves them unconditionally.

The homeless person is fed and realizes they are loved.

It’s very basic, but deeply profound. We are the body of Christ. We are Christ.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, help us to see that you do indeed dwell within us. Amen.

P.s. If you are interested in how Lutherans are involved with the resettlement of refugees and immigrants, check out the website for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services: LIRS.org.

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Suffering With One Another

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:22 …the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.

O (Observation): As I have been sharing recently, Paul is talking to a church community he established, in which different members of the body of Christ are lifting themselves up over one another. Some are being given raised or lower status…which is NOT what Paul (or Jesus) stood for. Paul reminds his folks that if we compare the people who follow Jesus to a body, the lesser known parts are given raised status, not because they are better, but because they are unknown and hidden. Thus, we do elevate certain parts that need to be elevated. Not because they are better, but because we cannot tell their story without aiding them in their status.

The goal is that all would be recognized as important and of worth to God.

I see a parallel here to the Prodigal Son story. The elder son thought it unfair to have a feast for the prodigal son upon his return. But the feast wasn’t about the prodigal son deserving anything. Rather, that story is a story of God’s abundant grace. Paul also focuses on the grace for those who need it most. For the parts of the body that are visible and recognized, much like the elder son, are given recognition and a bountiful gift.

A (Application): Our society – in some parts – seems it more responsible to give aid to those who already have it and to ignore the plight of those who “don’t.” When it come to providing care for the downtrodden in our society, we would rather stand by the belief that our hard work and efforts are what should get us by. We don’t like “entitlements.”

Of course that word is a loaded word. It ends a conversation before it can get started.

I believe hard work is good for the soul : )

I also believe that every story matters. The stories of the downtrodden are hardly the same between any two people.

One person is a young adult, in college, who is gay. That person’s parents kick them out, but that person doesn’t have health coverage.

One person became gravely ill and had to use their retirement savings to pay medical bills. He is only 65 years old, but is now healthy and is expected to live another 20 years now.

One person is born with a physical disability, and needs continual care for the whole life long. Her parents do everything for her, but it drains them financially.

Who do you know that needs lifting up? Who do you know that could use the care that our society – as a whole – can help provide?

These folks don’t “deserve” the lack they have.

If we extend the care we give to one another as the body of Christ – lifting up the soft-spoken and hidden folks – should we not also help those who love all around us? That is our witness.

Let us lift up one another. Out of love and care of our neighbor.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, you lift me up, so I can help others to be lifted up. Let me be your hands and feet. Amen.

Temptation and Advice

One Bread, One Body

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 10:14 So then, my dear friends, run away from the worship of false gods! 15 I’m talking to you like you are sensible people. Think about what I’m saying. 16 Isn’t the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn’t the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread. 18 Look at the people of Israel. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices share from the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That food sacrificed to a false god is anything, or that a false god is anything? 20 No, but this kind of sacrifice is sacrificed to demons and not to God. I don’t want you to be sharing in demons. 21 You can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you can’t participate in the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

O (Observation): Paul has a lot to say about a lot of things. He usually has a theological point, followed by a very practical application of what the people are facing.

One bread, one cup, one body. That’s the main thing.

So, if you eat bread or drink when it was blessed to a demon??? What does that say about your intentions? The demon means nothing to us as believers, but what is the statement you’re siblings in Christ will receive?

Are you divided in loyalty? Will that temptation be resisted by you? Likely not.

No need to be playing in dangerous territory. Not that we believe demons or other powers are stronger than the Lord. But know this…dancing in that dangerous territory can be quite taxing.

A (Application): Paul likes to give advice to his followers. He built a rapport with them. They knew him. And he could be quite challenging to them. And what he addresses are sometimes universal issues and are sometimes unique issues to a place and time.

So, where do we place Paul’s prohibition? In the realm of salvation? Or in the realm of advice for followers of Jesus? In this case, I choose “advice.” Paul knows that demons are no match for Jesus. He just wants us to know what we are getting into. We can easily let demons and other temptations cloud our hearts and minds and therefore bend our allegiance away from God and neighbor (and towards evil).

Our good news is that whether or not we succumb to the temptations of this life, we always have a God who wishes for us to know unity with God and with our neighbor. Whatever challenges or temptations awaiting us (and we will succumb to them from time to time) we rest assured that our one-ness with God can never be shattered.

P (Prayer): Lord, make us one…give us strength and grace. Amen.

Living Sacrifices

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S (Scripture): Romans 12:1 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

O (Observation): Whether one subscribed to giving sacrifices to God – or not – one is now called upon to give one’s own life as a sacrifice…a LIVING sacrifice. Every action taken is to give thanks to God. Just like a sacrifice would be used.

This changes what we do. Our minds – transformed through renewal (God’s doing?) – affect our actions. It’s a repeat of “repent and believe.” That phrase starts with God’s people having their minds renewed, which leads to living into a new belief: that God’s people are one in Christ Jesus.

A (Application): How many of us love as if we are living sacrifices? Are we a pleasing gift to the Lord? I have my days and moments when I can say boldly and confidently, “Yes!” Equally, I can find days and moments when I hide in shame.

We all do. We have these moments where God’s Spirit shines brightly through us, and then we don’t.

So, we live lives seeking to be healed and to seek forgiveness from one another. This reminds us of our humility. Out of our humility, we come to God, broken and weak. And we are renewed as we remember the waters of baptism flowing over us…as we remember that we are part of something bigger (the body of Christ).

May we see that our lives are not our own, but God’s gift to the world. May we live into these roles of living sacrifices, for the sake of the world.

P (Prayer): Lord, protect us and heals and make us whole. Amen.

The Church: Challenges and Grace

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S (Scripture): Romans 4:21 [Abraham] was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. 22 Therefore, it was credited to him as righteousness.

23 But the scripture that says it was credited to him wasn’t written only for Abraham’s sake. 24 It was written also for our sake, because it is going to be credited to us too. It will be credited to those of us who have faith in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over because of our mistakes, and he was raised to meet the requirements of righteousness for us.

O (Observation): Paul leans on the mark of faith instilled into Abraham as the KEY factor in Abraham’s inheritance of God’s covenant. What God said, Abraham believes. Now, Abraham was not perfect in that belief, but it still stands that God was the one who was making promises and Abraham believed God would make good on God’s promises.

Faith is the factor for inheritance, not works or responses to that grace.

So, both Jew and Gentile could be Christian without giving up the Law (for Jews) and without needing to be held to the Law of the Jews (for Gentiles).

A (Application): God has always been about making room for all who wish to believe. Those considered “outside” of the Church is more often than not a rule generated and implemented by the Church, not God.

In what ways have you seen the Church push others away? When have stumbling blocks been put into place? When have blessings come to pass as people have been reunited with the Church body?

These questions help us to reconcile what it means to be a people of faith. Is there a standard? A Law? If so, what does the corresponding word of Grace sound like?

Is receiving God’s Grace easy for us? A challenge? Necessary for salvation?

Let that stew for a while : )

P (Prayer): Lord, be with us in our faith struggles. Amen.

Bound Together for Ministry

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S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

1 Corinthians 13 – Its Not Just for Weddings

S (Scripture): 1 Coronthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

O (Observation):  Paul has been harping on the idea of Christian community.  He just finished up talking about how all members of the body of Christ are indeed ONE in the body of Christ.  They have great need of one another.   They are inextricably linked to one another.  They are to see one another as helpful in their own ways.  No one is more important.  No one is less useful. Each has a place, regardless of prior background (Jew, Gentile, Slave, Free, etc).   

A (Application): How is this type of community lived out? In a word: LOVE. Love is the hallmark of the Christian. One who receives grace and mercy and love extends the same to the world, especially in the Christian community. Others who look in on Christian community wish to see how differently the Christian realm is will hopefully see a community rooted in love.  

This text is used quite often in weddings.  I see nothing wrong with this use.   I simply take the opportunity today to remind us all that this text was originally meant for how we are to treat one another within the Christian community.   And maybe, by extension, how we might treat others in the world.   

So go ahead…use it at your wedding.   See how love roots you together to your loved one…but then also see how love roots us all together in community.   See love’s impact on the world around you!   And get ready for transformation.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, love is simple, but hard.  Help us to love.  Amen.