Christ in Us All

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S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

Proverbs 20:27 The breath of a person is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inmost parts.

O (Observation): These two verses from very different times and situations bring forth the image of God dwelling in our very being. God is with us. God is in us. All have the ability to receive the Christ, who is already in us. The revealing of the Christ from within us makes sense as our very breath is like the lamp of the Lord. The lamp guides our way, from the inside out.

As Christ dwells within us, we cannot help but see the Christ in one another. As such, we start to treat one another as if we were interacting with the Divine Trinity itself.

A (Application): So what does all of this mean? It means that we get to see the Christ in one another. Seeing Christ in one another means seeing the hope of forgiveness in one another. The evil ones and the good ones. All are imbued with the Christ nature, for we are all one in Christ. We are all cut of the same cloth (as some like to say).

This means forgiveness is possible. This means that the chance of forgiveness and reconciliation is very high. This means that when we look on one another, we have hope to be forgiven or to forgive.

And when we cannot forgive, perhaps we hold on to the hope that the Christ dwelling in the other is still holding on strong. Even if we must let a relationship go.

Christ in us. Christ guiding us. This is my hope.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us always…from the inside out. Amen.

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Of the People

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 9:19 Although I’m free from all people, I make myself a slave to all people, to recruit more of them. 20 I act like a Jew to the Jews, so I can recruit Jews. I act like I’m under the Law to those under the Law, so I can recruit those who are under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law). 21 I act like I’m outside the Law to those who are outside the Law, so I can recruit those outside the Law (though I’m not outside the law of God but rather under the law of Christ). 22 I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. 23 All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it.

24 Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize?

O (Observation): Paul talks about his approach to ministry. He adapts to the culture and the people’s practices. He doesn’t forget his identity in Christ, but he lives as a servant of Christ, always.

A (Application): St. Patrick was lauded for his approach to mission. He entered Ireland a second time (first as a slave, second, as a bishop). As bishop to Ireland, St. Patrick chose to appreciate each different clan and their dialect as a unique gift. He never made them learn Latin, nor follow all of the practices he picked up in Europe, in his seminary studies.

Patrick loved the people and appreciated them. He never forced his ways, yet still proclaimed the Gospel.

In what ways do we obscure the Gospel? When do we cover it up? When do we let it shine?

P (Prayer): Lord, helps us to shine your light on the world this day. Amen.

Leading with Love

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S (Scripture): Romans 13:8 Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. 9 The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself.10 Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.

O (Observation): Paul encourages all followers of Christ to do the best they can to cooperate with governmental authorities and with one another. Here, Paul shows them the way forward, which was taught by Jesus: Love your neighbor as yourself.

In this simple (yet somehow extremely complicated and difficult) command, we find a way forward. Love is what fulfills the Law. Leading with love can guide one’s relationship with authorities and with one’s neighbor.

A (Application): Leading with Love is the key to relationships with authorities, with family, with strangers.

Yet leading with love can be quite challenging. For our emotions and feelings and desire for retribution can get in the way. If we think someone has wronged us, do we forget that? No…but we can work though that. Love allows us the space to work through the wrongs done to us.

So sometimes leading with love is simply about extending the grace first shown to you in Christ Jesus, so that others can receive the same grace you’ve received. You are not digging up grace on your own…you are simply giving to others what you have already received.

Lead with love. At the coffee shop, the gas station, your office, your classroom, the lunchroom, the park. Lead with love, and see if it becomes contagious. And don’t be surprised when someone asks you where you became a person that leads with love. Be ready to share your response : )

(Seriously. Literally rehearse what you are going to say. Sometimes we have to verbalize or write down our faith story to put it in perspective. It’s a good practice.)

P (Prayer): Lord, we receive your grace, unworthy as we are. You find a way to love each of us, for we are your creation. Thank you. Amen.

Save Me, Lord

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S (Scripture): Romans 3:9 So what are we saying? Are we better off? Not at all. We have already stated the charge: both Jews and Greeks are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written,

There is no righteous person, not even one.

11 

There is no one who understands.

    There is no one who looks for God.

12 

They all turned away.

    They have become worthless together.

There is no one who shows kindness.

    There is not even one.

O (Observation): Here, when Paul says “we,” he is referring to the Jews who follow Christ. He wants to ask if the Jews have an advantage over the Gentile Christians, since the Jews had the Scriptures from which to study and learn about God. But even with the Scriptures, they have to realize that even they – as first recipients of God’s covenants – are sinful, too!

Paul uses Scripture to support the notion that no one people are immune from the power of sin, not even the Jews.

The words above in italics are Psalm 14:1-3. From the Scriptures, Paul reminds the Jewish Christians that none are without sin.

A (Application): While this all seems hopeless, we also keep in mind that God’s grace saves us all. The reminder of sin affecting us all is simply a tool for humility. We (however defined) are not by default better than anyone else. We all sin. And so therefore any good we do comes because we are forgiven – forgiven sinners, but still forgiven.

So the ground upon which we stand as forgiven people is established God, by Jesus suffering, dying, and being resurrected.

Therefore, we ALL can receive grace. We ALL can receive mercy. Not by our own doing, but by what God has done for us, for me.

P (Prayer): Lord, save me, a sinner. Amen.

In Exile…but Hope

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 36:11 Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king, and he ruled for eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 He did what was evil in the Lord his God’s eyes and didn’t submit before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke for the Lord. 13 Moreover, he rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, despite the solemn pledge Nebuchadnezzar had forced him to swear in God’s name. He became stubborn and refused to turn back to the Lord, Israel’s God…

15 Time and time again, the Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers because he had compassion on his people and his dwelling. 16 But they made fun of God’s messengers, treating God’s words with contempt and ridiculing God’s prophets to such an extent that there was no hope of warding off the Lord’s rising anger against his people.

17 So God brought the Babylonian king against them…

19 Next the Babylonians burned God’s temple down, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, and set fire to all its palaces, destroying everything of value. 20 Finally, he exiled to Babylon anyone who survived the killing so that they could be his slaves and the slaves of his children until Persia came to power. 21 This is how the Lord’s word spoken by Jeremiah was carried out. The land finally enjoyed its sabbath rest. For as long as it lay empty, it rested, until seventy years were completed.

22 In the first year of Persia’s King Cyrus, to carry out the Lord’s promise spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord moved Persia’s King Cyrus to issue the following proclamation throughout his kingdom, along with a written decree:

23 This is what Persia’s King Cyrus says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the earth’s kingdoms and has instructed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you belong to God’s people, let them go up, and may the Lord their God be with them!

O (Observation): The same God who let the Hebrew people of Judah be taken over by the Babylonian king is the same one who brings them back. This exile lasted about 70 years (or about 2 generations).

God’s people were doing evil in the eyes of the Lord and openly mocking the prophets (who were trying to give guidance to God’s people).

This exile allowed God’s people to see the err of their ways, but how were they to get back to the land promised to them?

This is the tricky part of the understanding of how God works. Nothing that God’s people have done gets them back into God’s good graces. God initiates the return of God’s people by affecting change in King Cyrus, the king of Persia. Cyrus does as God wishes: he commands God’s people to go and to take their stuff with them.

In those days invading a land meant breeding the people out by intermarrying and making the captives adopt your customs. Well, God’s people were kept intact and got to take most of their stiff back with them. And with the support of the foreign king!

So back they go…well, most of them…

A (Application): We all have our exiles. Death of a loved one. Surgery awaiting. A relationship gone bad. No money in the bank account.

We are lost. Some thing or someone has taken over your life. Some desire to be something you’re not drives you to succeed, but all you feel is emptiness inside.

What are we yearning for? Wholeness? We won’t get it on our own.

Are we striving for justice or peace? Is the pursuit rooted in empathy for neighbor or wanting to be known as a “good Christian”?

What does God speak to us in our baptism? “You are my daughter / son, you are my beloved! You are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit!” And God makes a promise to us, to set us free to love and serve God and neighbor and to bring us back in when we push ourselves to the point of exile.

We try to cover our brokenness by fitting in or making believe all is well or getting people to like us.

Maybe it’s okay…maybe it’s better if we just admit that “it” is not all well. That we do not have it all together. Then, in the midst of our emptiness and the sharing of our emptiness, we might find a community based on our common element: we are broken.

As such, brings us back, reminding us that it is not our own action, but Jesus’ saving action on the cross that brings us back to God. That grace alone saves us, because our efforts fall woefully short.

In a community in which we are being healed…we can serve others out of a sense of compassion and empathy towards the brokenness of others.

And together, with God’s guidance, we at just find the hope we need.

May your exiles turn into freedom.

P (Prayer): Lord, you save me. Help me to see my own brokenness. Heal me. Amen.

Faithful Love of God

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S (Scripture): Psalm 136

23

God remembered us when we were humiliated—

God’s faithful love lasts forever.

24

God rescued us from our enemies—

God’s faithful love lasts forever.

25

God is the one who provides food for all living things—

God’s faithful love lasts forever!

26

Give thanks to the God of heaven—

God’s faithful love lasts forever!

O (Observation): Notice the pattern? For every verse in this Psalm ends with the phrase: “God’s faithful love lasts forever.”

This Psalm is a re-telling of Salvation History. By Salvation History, I mean going back to creation being ordered by God, God claiming a people and seeing them through changes, all the way through the present moment of the psalmist. The psalmist recognizes God’s presence in all things and sees that God’s faithful love lasts forever.

A (Application): I hope that God sees our everyday joys and trials. And in witnessing our lives, I pray that God opens our eyes to God’s presence in our decisions, in our routines, in our daily work (or schooling).

As you sit down to dinner this night, give thanks to God that you have food to eat. If you have too much, what can you give to another?

After all, God can and does work through you.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to help others…not as I ought, but as I am able. And I am able, thanks to you. Amen.

Love and Veterans

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S (Scripture): John 13:34 [Jesus says to the disciples:] “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”

O (Observation): A new commandment. This doesn’t necessarily replace the former commandments, but this is a new commandment. Love one another. And not the way we think we should love one another.

Love one another: just as I have loved you. What does that love (Jesus’ love) look like, exactly?

Well, Jesus knows one of the disciples will betray him. This was just revealed in the preceding verses. Jesus loves him anyway. No defense. No weapons. Just let him go.

His love looks like servanthood. He just got done washing the disciples’ feet. He served the ones he loves.

Jesus’ love looks like righteous indignation when people misuse other people. That love gets tested when the helpless are cast aside.

A (Application): Love. How beautiful. To love one another is a rare and beautiful gift. Love, Jesus’ kind of love, makes one do bold and irrational things. Things that may not benefit one’s self, but certainly will benefit others.

Love may cause you to put yourself in harm’s way for another. Love may cause you to give your time and financial support to another who is going through a rough time. Love will remind you that you exist not only for yourself, but for the betterment of others.

I think of our veterans this day. Laying down one’s life is the extreme sacrifice. Serving this country means one gives up one’s independence (at least for a season). This move creates an atmosphere in which people depend on one another.

When soldiers return from active duty, they return to a world of individuals, independent of one another. Some handle this transition well, others, not so much. Perhaps we can empathize with these veterans who seek the community they once had while serving this country. Perhaps we can love them the way Jesus loves people: with service and with no regrets and with a full heart.

Thank you to all veterans. Your service is an inspiration.

And may we seek the day when war is no more.

P (Prayer): Lord, you call many to love and to sacrifice. We lift up our veterans to you this day – active and retired – and wish them peace and wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. Amen.