A True Welcome

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Psalm 9

But the Lord rules forever!

    He assumes his throne

    for the sake of justice.

He will establish justice in the world rightly;

    he will judge all people fairly.

The Lord is a safe place for the oppressed—

    a safe place in difficult times.

10 

Those who know your name trust you

    because you have not abandoned

    any who seek you, Lord.

O (Observation): The Lord is a safe place for the oppressed. The psalms were written at many different times throughout the history of God’s people. Some were written in times of peace. Some were written in times of great struggle and adversity. This Psalm reflects one of those times of great adversity.

But a ray of hope keeps God’s people from despair. They trust that all who are oppressed and seek the Lord will find a home with God.

A (Application): The oppressed of our day are many: LGBTQ+, immigrants, those who receive abuse, mentally and physically challenged people, and more. The Church was known as a place of refuge for a long, long time, choosing to aid the oppressed in all places.

My hope is that all churches can be places of refuge for the oppressed, once again. May churches be places where all are welcomed with a true sense of welcome, not a bait and switch type of welcome. Just welcoming folks for who they are is the first and vital step to help them know that God wishes to have a relationship with them.

The challenge to change (or not) may come later on when one understands that grace is what saves us, not our own acts of penitence.

May the Church be a place of welcome for all oppressed people. Just as they are.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see others as you see us. Help us to welcome all. Amen.

Advertisements

Prophet: Rejected!

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Mark 6:1 Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. 2 On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

4 Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” 5 He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 He was appalled by their disbelief.

O (Observation): The Son of God…unable to do any miracles in his home town. Jesus’ home town folks…incredulous, disbelieving. And because they doubt, most are not healed. Jesus was just never gonna be enough for these folks.

They saw Jesus grow up. They know his parents. They know his siblings. He can’t be the Son of God.

A (Application): How many times do we doubt? How many times do we dismiss, out of poor logic or sensibility? How often do we belittle?

Jesus’ hometown folks have a notion of who Jesus is supposed to be. We have notions of who Jesus is supposed to be. We have vision of what worship and belief should be.

When things don’t fit that mold, we have difficulty moving forward. This happens to all of us. No matter what you prefer, some things will just not fit the mold in your mind or mine. And in the wake of that discussion, we hopefully walk away with the idea that we are still worshipping God in a way that can be beneficial for all of us (even if we lay down our lives along the way).

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in worshipping you. Amen.

Homeostasis – the Force is Strong With This One

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Matthew 13:53 When Jesus finished these parables, he departed. 54 When he came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue. They were surprised and said, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles? 55 Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56 And his sisters, aren’t they here with us? Where did this man get all this?” 57 They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.

But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households.” 58 He was unable to do many miracles there because of their disbelief.

O (Observation): Wow! Stubborn disbelief. So much so that Jesus was unable to do many miracles there. Yikes!

That’s pretty powerful stuff, right there.

And Jesus kind of recognizes that they will not likely believe in him, precisely because they knew him before his baptism and ministry began.

They say, “We knew him when…”. And because of this, they can’t see the possibility that Jesus is the Son of God. His parents are Mary and Joseph, right? Don’t we know his sisters and brothers? What makes Jesus so special?

A (Application): Ever tried to disagree with someone at a family reunion? Ever tried to buck a trend in your place of business? Ever tried to steer away from a family tradition?

Talk about difficult! “This is how we do things.” “This is the way we’ve always done it.” Phrases like this are either spoken or unspoken, but implicit in the language and the reactions of the people around you. Even if the reaction is subconscious. Heck, I’ve been guilty of this, too! I’ve given a visceral reaction when a change is suggested. It happens to all of us…

I’ve had times where I agreed with the proposed change or agreed with a dissenting opinion, but my body language or a look on my face defied that suggestion. It’s a little thing we call homeostasis – a force exists that pulls us back to the way things are. And that force is strong!

(The term “homeostasis” is usually used in discussions of biology, and we need homeostasis in some things…like a level body temperature and such…but in terms of behavior, homeostasis can be a stumbling block.)

So…Jesus faces this force of “oh, that’s just Mary and Joseph’s son. He’s not the Son of God. Surely he can’t perform miracles.” And with that kind of attitude, a stubbornness borne out of doubt…and sure enough, Jesus can’t perform the miracles…or maybe they just blinded themselves to this possibility of these miracles.

This is a good warning for me. To be vigilant for times when God is on the move in the systems of which I am a part. A church goer, a family member, a co-worker who makes a suggestion to keep things as-is or change things to something new…maybe we can move away from the knee jerk reaction and focus on what God is saying to us in that moment. We can do that in our own minds or share with one another this tension that is rising. Name the thing that is in the room causing tension. And being brave enough to speak out. You never know who else may be thinking the same thought as you. But if no one speaks up, an opportunity may be lost.

Speak out. Let your concern or idea be heard. Let God guide the conversation.

P (Prayer): Lord, pull us beyond the force of homeostasis to be able to listen and appreciate all voices in the room…of the raw and uneducated, of the wise and sophisticated. Amen.

Exile or Death?

(Bonus points to whoever can pick out the title of this post as a movie quote…Name the movie, and you get a free book from me.  The book is about discipleship and making disciples   : )

 
S (Scripture): Jeremiah 27:1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah early in the reign of Josiah’s son, King Zedekiah of Judah.  2  The Lord told me, “Make a yoke out of leather straps and wooden crossbars and put it on your neck.  3 Use it to send messages to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon…
6 I have at this time placed all these nations of yours under the power of my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I have even made all the wild animals subject to him. 7 All nations must serve him and his son and grandson until the time comes for his own nation to fall. Then many nations and great kings will in turn subjugate Babylon. 8 But suppose a nation or a kingdom will not be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suppose it will not submit to the yoke of servitude to him. I, the Lord, affirm that I will punish that nation. I will use the king of Babylon to punish it with war, starvation, and disease until I have destroyed it…
11 Things will go better for the nation that submits to the yoke of servitude to the king of Babylon and is subject to him.

O (Observation): Jeremiah brings an extremely hard word from God.  “Subject yourselves!”  Really?!?!  All we’ve worked towards?  All the work of our ancestors?  To be laid waste?

And what’s worse?  God calls King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon God’s own servant!  How dare Jeremiah utter such words!?!?!  But the people of the time don’t have the same perspective as we do as 21st century Christians.  

A (Application):  The people of God were being moved to the end of their capacity.  They were now to be subjects of another nation…AGAIN!  Remember that little stint in Egypt? I wouldn’t want to go either. 

And yet God gets Jeremiah to use a Children’s Sermon illustration:  yoke with leather straps.   How much clearer can it be, people?  But again, my perspective is a bit different. 

Though they should have remembered that God would be with them, even in exile.  

I’ve experienced my own forms of exile (and still do), and those times were (and still are) very difficult.  I have also seen God bring me out of exile, back into a time and place of fruitfulness. 

When we are at the end of our capacity (depressed, fired, hurt, grieving…) this is the place in which we truly are depenedent upon God.  

And that is also an opportunity to be present for one another, so we can point to signs of God’s faithfulness throughout the ages (or even in our own lives)…while we were in our own “Babylon.”   

Our Babylon – our places of despair – may be physical, spiritual, financial, relational, or emotional.   In all of these cases, God promises to remain present, and will bring us back “home.”

What is your exile experience, right now?  What category:  Financial? Emotional? Spiritual? Physical? Relational? Perhaps some combination?

P (Prayer):  Lord, our capacity only carries us so far in this world.  Bring us the rest of the way…bring us home to you. Amen.