We are all in this Together

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S (Scripture): Acts 20:3b When [Paul] came to Greece, 3 he stayed for three months. Because the Jews hatched a plot against Paul as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided instead to return through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater, Pyrrhus’ son from Beroea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 They went on ahead and waited for us in Troas. 6 We sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread and met them five days later in Troas, where we stayed for a week.

O (Observation): Paul did Church with other people. He didn’t travel alone, like some solo salesperson. He did life together with folks who travelled with him. They ate together, worshipped together, they did everything together.

This journey included disciples of Jesus following Paul and learning from one another.

Paul’s mission planted Gospel seeds and included workers for the garden. And when a certain amount of growth and fertilization had taken place, they moved on, leaving behind some to tend to the garden.

A (Application): How do we do Church in 2019? Are we like the early church? Like Paul? Do we tend to be more about individuals who are talented and show promise to create a free-standing, independent organization known as a local congregation? When new leaders are called to lead, who goes with them?

These questions start to reveal the nature of the organized Church of 2019. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just curious about it’s sustainability. Many congregations, like the one I serve, is fairly stable and will continue on.

I make the most of building relationships where I am, so that on days when I am sick (like I was yesterday) I could rely on others to tend the garden God has asked me to oversee. And the results were wonderful…fruitful, you might say.

What are we doing to bring others along? Who is receptive to the ministry you are doing? Are you receptive to the ministry that others are doing? Are you leading others? Following others? Are you going it alone?

Please see how God’s abundance supplies for you and your loved ones. See that God gives you (time, talents, treasures) is enough to connect you with others with whom you can work to tend to God’s garden.

P (Prayer): Lord: gather us, feed us, send us. Together. 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.

Helping One Another

S (Scripture): Psalm 70

4 Let all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
    say evermore, “God is great!”

5 But I am poor and needy;
    hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
    O Lord, do not delay!

O (Observation):  The psalmist seeks deliverance from enemies, but also something to run to: a place, destination, or a great comforter. God is that comforter.   And while the psalmist cannot run to the comforter physically, the spiritual comfort effects the physical, emotional, and social well-being of the psalmist.  

A (Application):  On a day like today, I’m frustrated and in need of a deliverer.   It’s hard to be a pastor when your own father is in the hospital.   

The approach is different.  The questions are different.  The weight on my shoulders is different.  

I say quietly, and in my own mind and heart, “Hasten to me, O God.  Let me know you are near.   You are my help and my deliverer.”  

A quiet prayer.  From a state away.   Confident.  Trusting in God.  Advocating for care from afar.  

Trying to embrace the saying, “God is great!” on a day like today.    Maybe you can help me with that, good friends.   For we are all in this together!   

I and my family will receive strength from you.   

P (Prayer): Lord, you are great.  We receive joy in you alone.   Amen. 

Divided, Yet United

S (Scripture): Romans 3:22b For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28 For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! 30 Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law.

O (Observation):  Paul is still setting the stage to discuss how both Jews and Gentiles are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ.   The Jew is given the Law and is made faithful by way of the covenant God made with the Jewish people.  The Jewish people sort of inherited God’s grace and this is made manifest by following their side of the covenant.  Yet the Jewish people do not perfectly keep their end of the bargain.  So, if they are imperfectly righteous, how do they become righteous?  By faith.  Not by their works. 

As for the Gentiles…they simply believe (on faith) that Jesus Christ is the Savior, not the human rulers on the earth.   They have no former covenant to inherit righteousness, as do the Jews.  Instead, God’s grace is imparted through faith alone.  

The unifying factor here is the key Paul is lifting up:  Grace comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ

A (Application):  Division.  Truth.   Unity.  

Truth is that the Church has a way to salvation and to living out the Kingdom of God on earth:  faith in Jesus Christ, who gives us a right standing before God, and the giving of the Spirit to each of us, to bless us with a calling and a will to live out that calling through the gift of the Holy Spirit.    God the Creator oversees all of this.  

I can maintain this truth, even though my Muslim neighbors believe in another truth, as do my Jewish and Buddhist neighbors.   All of these truths stand on their own, and yet cannot be fully integrated into one another’s stories.  (We can look for overarching themes, but the details don’t match up : )

But do I need to make my truth their truth (or vice versa), when it comes to faith and religion?  Certainly not.   Instead, I focus on how we can make a difference in our community, together:  building bridges between faiths and cultures, fighting against homelesness, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger (refugee).   

We can respect one another and unify around ideals that we share: love, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation.   This, we can do.  And we will do, for this is our ultimate calling: walking with our neighbor, and blessing others just as God has blessed us.  

Where is your calling taking you?  With what part of this unity in diversity causes you trouble?

P (Prayer):  Lord, we are separated.   Bring us together.   Amen. 



S (Scripture): Colossians 1:9b We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 1:10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 1:11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 1:12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

O (Observation): Paul reminds the church in Colossae that the Spirit gives all believers the wisdom and understanding to live lives worthy of the Lord.   We can bear fruit, thanks to God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  

Paul reminds them that patience and endurance will be part of their story…whether they like it or not.  

A (Application):  Patience and endurance sound nice…but who’s got time for that?  The way should be paved for me, right?  I’m a follower of Christ.  I’ve been brought into the body of Christ through baptism.  Why don’t things go my way?

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.  But to some people, being Christian means being given a special privilege.  For some, being a Christian means that since God is on my side, life will be better.   

Au contraire!   (as the French say).   Or Me Genoite! (as Paul would say).  Certainly not!

I remember Shane Claiborne speaking at the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering, and saying something to this effect:  

“Before I met Christ, my life was fine.  Things were going my way and I was fine and dandy.  But after my encounter with Christ, my world got MESSED UP!  I was no longer the one in the center of my universe.   I was called to give stuff away: money, possessions, time, energy.   I was called to stand up for the homeless.  Man, I got arrested for feeding the homeless.  Before I met Jesus, my arrest record was clean!”

The way of the cross (the way of Jesus) is filled with the need for patience and endurance.  As the body of Christ, we can endure, we can be patient…together.  When we can openly and honestly communicate with each other as members of the body of Christ, we can carry one another through.

Yes, we are saved.  And yes, the journey may be difficult…but we are in this together.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, you know our need and desires.  Help us to know that our road ahead will be filled with highs, lows, and in-between times.  Give us patience and endurance to march forward anyway.  Amen.