Speaking a Different Language

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 2:12 We haven’t received the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. 13 These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 But people who are unspiritual don’t accept the things from God’s Spirit. They are foolishness to them and can’t be understood, because they can only be comprehended in a spiritual way. 15 Spiritual people comprehend everything, but they themselves aren’t understood by anyone. 16 Who has known the mind of the Lord, who will advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.

O (Observation): Paul teases apart the ways of speaking with people who have been transformed by the Spirit compared to those who have not been changed by the Spirit. To speak in ways that call on people to share with one another and to give is not normal. That does not compute for someone not transformed by the Spirit.

Having the mind of Christ makes a difference!

A (Application): So much of what we argue about these days generates from our differences in our spiritual lives (or lack thereof). We can not argue for social justice policies with people who have a spiritual background different from ours (if they even have a spiritual background).

And a spiritual background causes us to have a spiritual vocabulary.

So what do we discuss when we use different vocabulary and language?

How about human life?!

The value of each human life. The potential for goodness and health and well-being. The potential for damage when we insist upon our spiritual vocabulary over and against someone else’s vocabulary.

In America, we are a people who claim that every person here has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Maybe we can find a common language…a spiritual Rosetta Stone, if you will. I believe that was what Paul was striving to be. A living stone. A loving Rosetta Stone…so that spiritual and non-spiritual alike can converse.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us listen. Help us speak. Amen.

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Spiritual vs Religious

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S (Scripture): Psalm 51

15

Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will proclaim your praise.

16

You don’t want sacrifices.

If I gave an entirely burned offering,

you wouldn’t be pleased.

17

A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God.

You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.

18

Do good things for Zion by your favor.

Rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.

19

Then you will again want sacrifices of righteousness—

entirely burned offerings and complete offerings.

Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

O (Observation): The psalmist is living in a time that is after Jerusalem has been sacked by foreign powers. Perhaps the people of God see this as part of the fact that they have steered away from God. But the psalmist knows that – even while in their time of trial – God still listens.

The Law guided God’s people as they transitioned from slavery in Egypt into living in the Promised Land. But somewhere along the way, God’s people lost sight of the purpose of sacrifices.

The sacrifices were a way of acknowledging that God is sovereign and rules over all. The produce of the land and the animals sacrificed all belonged to God already. The sacrifice acknowledges that the individual is giving to God what is already God’s.

God’s people lost sight of these things…to the point that the psalmist recognizes this: If God doesn’t have all of me – my broken spirit – then God doesn’t need my animal sacrifice. God wants my heart and contrition, first.

Then…having given my broken spirit to God, who can heal me…then, and only then will God go back to accepting my sacrifice.

A (Application): Are you Spiritual or Religious? This question popped up a few years ago as people started leaving “The Church” in search of something that truly affected their lives for the good. The Christian Church in America had perhaps become more religious – focusing on rites and rituals and putting forth truths and knowledge between “right and wrong” – and had become less concerned about the spiritual aspects of our lives – like having a heart receptive to loving God and neighbor, discerning one’s purpose, discerning God’s presence in the world. In other words: just follow these steps and you’re “in.”

The Church is great at rituals and rites and declaring truths…and pointing out others’ wrongs. Has the Church become a place where we only foster these practices?

What about the Church raises the Spiritual aspects? Are we finding meaning and solace when we worship and gather? Are we sensing what direction God is leading us?

Seems to me that the Church can be both Spiritual AND Religious. The hard part is that to be both, it takes a contrite heart, a broken spirit, as mentioned in today’s psalm. The positive aspects of Religion include being connected to a larger body of people, being connected to God, and being connected to traditions that are meaningful and remind us of our connection to God. The Church can be spiritual by reminding us that God is present in and around us. And perhaps when we start drifting too much into the “religious” category, without regard for the “spiritual,” maybe it is time to step away from the rites and rituals…and find ways to BE with God. That can start with a humble heart.

P (Prayer): Lord, you know our Spiritual and Religious selves. Gather us in to see how we can find meaning and insight in our rites, rituals, and traditions. Amen.

The Hardest Part About Being Christian…


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

O (Observation):  Paul encourages Jesus’ followers to acknowledge the work of the Spirit in their midst.   Everyone has a gift of the Spiritnti share for the common good.   Gifts of the Spirit are not made for the individual, but for the whole community.   And no one should be jealous of another’s gift, for we are all working towards the common good.  

The one Spirit gives these gifts for God’s people (and thus, for the benefit of the whole world).   

A (Application):  The hardest part about being a Christian…is other Christians : )

We are one church, one body, despite our differences and despite our theologies: we are on in Jesus Christ.    We don’t want to acknowledge this, quite often, especially when our political leanings take control of our frontal cortex : )

We want our religion to fit into our boxes that we have constructed.   And if anything is outside of that, we dislike it or dismiss it.  

When we see others using a spiritual gift that we don’t have, instead of celebrating, we typically wonder why we don’t have that gift? Or why that other person is “showing off.”  (I don’t think people are showing off when they use their gifts, that’s just our perception, quite often.)

So, let us celebrate our ONEness in Christ Jesus.  

May you own and use that gift of the Spirit for the common good.  

May you celebrate when others use theirs.  

P (Prayer): Lord, what is up with these spiritual gifts and all the division?   Help us, O Lord, to be one in practice and spirit.  Amen. 

From Spiritual To Material


S (Scripture): Romans 15:23 But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you 24 when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; 26 for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. 28 So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain…

O (Observation): Paul is always on the move.  He is graced with the blessing of being an apostle – always out on the frontier.   And loving it, since this is his calling for the most part.  

In his travels amongst places where he was establishing churches, he found that the churches in Macedonia and Achaia were eager to offer their resources to the churches in Rome. Paul was carrying this offering and wishing to go to Spain, but to visit the church in Rome and drop off this offering as part of what he hoped to be an epic journey to Spain. 

The spiritual impact in the faith communities started and helped by Paul has led to material offerings and support to other churches.   

A (Application):  As a pastor, I have the blessing of sharing God’s generous spirit with the congregation I serve and with the wider community.  Our spiritual blessing leads us to material generosity.   

We have found that money follows ministry.  We like to get caught up in scarcity, but our God is always surprising us in ways unimaginable.   Where will the money come from?  I don’t know.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t and we have to shift plans.   But we are always discerning our way forward…always wondering what God is saying to us, and wondering what God wants us to do.   

As we continue to wonder, we see fruit coming from our times of discernment.  We have a Cub Scout group and a home school co-op using our building during the week.  We host a quilting ministry, Bible study, worship, a Zumba class, a free exchange program, called Weecycle, which meets in our parking lot twice a month.  We give to the wider church, at a rate of 8% of regular offerings, and we donate to various local ministries.  We partner with other organizations to show love to our neighbor (as I wrote about in yesterday’s post).   

We are blessed, and we want to share this blessing with others.   We are not worthy, but for what we have, we give thanks.   And in our discernment, we sense God calling us to pay forward the blessings we have received so that others might experience the same blessings.   Sometimes that blessing is money, sometimes it is time, sometimes it is sharing a promotion of an event or such.  

We move from spiritual to material.   How about you?

P (Prayer):  Lord, you are generous.  Help us to be generous, too.  Amen.