Thoughts On Pentecost Sunday


A Meditation for 15 May 2016, Pentecost Sunday (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 2: 1 – 21, Romans 8: 14 – 17, and John 14: 8 – 17 (25 – 27.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the time when the Holy Spirit came to those gathered in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago. And on this Pentecost Sunday, 2016, representatives of the United Methodist Church are gathered in Portland, Oregon, for the 2016 General Conference. I cannot help but think that, from all that I have read and heard, what is taking place in Portland cannot be, in any sense of the thought, be comparable to what transpired in Jerusalem two thousands years ago.

On a day when those gathered were united by the Holy Spirit, why are we so intent on dividing the people? Are we, as it is written in Genesis, all created in the image of God? Why is it that some people, who insist that some people do not fit that definition.

And why, when the Holy Spirit opened both the minds and spirits of the people, are so many intent on closing minds and diminishing spirit?

Why, when Jesus pointed out that He was the fulfillment of the Law, are so many people intent on maintaining the law, even when it is clear that the law is both discriminatory and out-of-date.

On this date, when the church became the church, why does it look so clearly that the United Methodist Church is soon to be simply a footnote to history.

Is it more important to maintain what we have or is it more important that we look at how to make the Gospel message reality in today’s and tomorrow’s society? Shall we deny the reality of today simply to maintain an illusion of reality?

We who have answered the call of Christ to walk with Him and who have opened our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit are challenged today to not simply keep the Spirit that we celebrate today alive but to take it out into the world. Our task is not to shut the door on those unlike us but, as Jesus outlined it when He began the Galilean ministry is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the stranger, the widow, the orphans and relieve the wants of the world.

Election year economic issue questions


I do not pretend to be an economist so the only part of economic theory that interests me is the part that allows me to know if I can pay my bills and live a reasonable (important adjective there) life.

In terms of that thought, I have the following questions:

  1. Is there a minimum living wage?

  2. Do employers have an obligation (moral and economic) to pay such a wage?

  3. What are the responsibilities of the worker?

  4. Is health care a necessity?

  5. Who should pay for health care?

  6. Should health insurance companies be private or public corporations? Should they be “for profit” or “non-profit” corporations?

It has been said that John Wesley opposed the rich and the powerful. I know that he wasn’t happy about the power structure of the church that seemed more interested in self-preservation than spreading the Gospel but I am not sure that he necessarily opposed the rich.

I do know that he was not opposed to anyone earning the maximum that they could. Often he said earn as much as you could. But I think that he would have also add, just don’t earn your money through the exploitation of others. He also encouraged everyone to save all that they could and, give all that they could.

John Wesley wanted to make sure that everyone understood that poverty was not a condition of sin. It is unfortunate that this lesson has still not been learned. Too many people today still feel that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and poverty a sin of God’s damnation. For such, charity is a non-engaging task, designed to sooth their own consciousness. But should we not consider that, as I think Wesley did, put our faith into action. (adapted from https://heartontheleft.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/how-will-you-get-there/)

Wesley also said,

Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” (from http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/151350.John_Wesley)

I do not wish to interject religion into a political debate (we have enough of that as it is) but if a politician is going to say that they are a Christian or if they believe in God or if they hold onto a humanist view of the world, don’t you think that their actions should reflect what they believe?

A New Vision Of The World


A Meditation for 24 April 2016, the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 11: 1 – 18, Revelation 21: 1 – 16, and John 13: 31 – 35.


Here are my thoughts for this past Sunday.  Got a little bit behind in my work and struggling to catch up.


Let’s begin by expanding on the thoughts behind Peter’s refusal to eat certain foods. Peter was undoubtedly an observant Jew so he had grown up obeying those dietary laws, rules, and regulations.

But it was very likely that he and everyone else at that time what those laws, rules, and regulations were the way they were. There were foods that you could not eat with other foods and there were foods that you could not eat at all and that was they way it was. The reason or reasons for these laws, rules, and regulations was lost in the passage of time but were based on the early days of the Exodus when food storage and preservation were at a premium. The people who began the Exodus understood this but this understanding got lost over time.

How many of us hold onto attitudes and behaviors that we grew up without understanding why we do? How many times do our actions towards others reflect “old” thinking?

The problem for so many people today is that they remain locked in this “old” way of thinking, often times without realizing it. There are those who read the words of John the Seer in the Book of Revelation and see a fulfillment of the past, of the actions of a vengeful and hateful God. But the Seer’s words are a new vision of the world, a new beginning, an opportunity to begin anew and not a continuation of the old. The Seer’s Revelation was never, as President John Kennedy said in the concluding part of his speech to the nation on 22 October 1962, a victory of might but a vindication of what was right. The Book of Revelation is not a justification of the old ways but the knowledge of the new ways.

But how do we achieve the Kingdom the Seer foresaw? How do we establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth as Christ so many times proclaimed He had come to establish?

Do we create military armies that will destroy our armies? Do we create laws, rules, and regulations that echo our prejudices and hatred, which reap vengeance on those we hate and despise?

Or do we do as Jesus told those who heard Him that day two thousand years ago that we are to love each other as He loved us? Are we to act in such a way that when others see us, they will see Christ?

It is very hard to throw away the old ideas, the old ways. We heard that in Peter’s thoughts written in the Book of Acts. But Peter understood what he had to do.

The assurance and presence of God through Christ gives us the same comfort and strength that Peter received so that we can cast aside the old and claim the new, so that we can have a new vision of the world.

Finding The Way For Ourselves And For Others


A Meditation for 17 April 2016, the 4th Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 9: 36 – 43, Revelation 7 :9 – 17, and John 10: 22 – 30.

Two things to note – I am more and more convinced that modern Christianity has lost its focus, lost its way if you will. It seems, at least to me, that too many individuals today claim the mantle of Christianity without accepting the duties and responsibilities that come with the acceptance of the mantle of Christianity. In fact, and again this is my opinion, too many people claim to be Christians but whose thoughts about humanity expressed through their words, deeds, and actions are in complete opposition to what it was that Jesus said and did during His three year ministry.

And I also think that there are too many people who claim to be spiritual but not religious do not understand that it is through religion that one finds or clarifies their spirituality. I am aware, as a recent CBS story indicated that

Humans are spiritual beings before religious. Religion means to bind back (re-ligare). Religion is a method. Spirituality is inherent in our being. Religion teaches us how to access and guide our spirituality, by providing story and ritual that speaks to our whole person – mind and heart. It “binds us back” to our nature as spiritual beings in relationship with God and with each other. Religion and religious community are designed to help us integrate our mind – bodies – through spiritual awareness; our thinking, feeling and doing in balance and wellness. And this is the ideal goal of all authentic religions (http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/faith-spirituality-the-future/).

You many know that you are seeking some sort of spiritual level but without some sort of framework, you cannot reach any sort of spiritual level.

The church today is very much aware that there are those who seek Christ. As the Gospel reading for today points out, people have sought Christ from the very beginning of the Galilean ministry. And like those who sought Him then, many who seek Him today do not know who or what to look for. And when you don’t know what to look for, it is very hard to reach that spiritual level that something inside you, which for the lack of a better term we shall call your soul, is pushing you to find.

I will admit that I used to dread preaching or writing about the Revelation of John. There was a part of me that just couldn’t accept the idea that a world that began with hope and promise, a world in which God cared about what happened to His children, would end in death and destruction. But, as I read more about what John the Seer was writing and what was the basis for the apocalyptic vision that so many people utilize today, I could see that there was a difference in the visions offered.

But John the Seer wasn’t offering an end to the world but a new beginning. But if one is to see it as a beginning, the achievement of one’s spiritual quest, then one must know who Christ is, was, and will be.

And the only way that one can reach this ending, the only way we can help people find Christ in today’s world is to do what Peter and the other disciples did, show the work of Christ in the world. Granted this may be a little difficult to accomplish in a world where so many people work and live in a matter that says you can only find Christ if you walk on the same spiritual journey as they do.

Let us begin today to find the way. It requires that we first renew our commitment to Christ, to say that we will through our thoughts, words, deeds, and actions, live a life that shows Christ. It is a life that says that we have chosen a new way to walk and we invite others to walk with us. We understand that even though we all seek the same destination, each journey is unique and that we can only help others continue on their journey. And we help by showing them the way.

This is the greatest challenge because it forces us to open our minds, our hearts and our souls to see Christ in many ways. But when we see Christ, we can easily help others. And as we help others see Christ, we also see a new world, a new beginning.

What Do I Do?


A Meditation for 6 April 2016, the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year C). The meditation is based on Acts 5: 27 – 32, Revelation 1: 4 – 8 , and John 20: 19 – 31

I started this a few days ago but had to set aside because of some other things. So I didn’t get a chance to finish it this afternoon, which in itself was a good thing because I was able to get a new idea to help me close the piece.


 

I had written some notes about a new revival but felt that they echoed some of the stuff I have written earlier this year and in the past. But the revival that I am calling for is not the same revival so many public Christians would call for.

Let’s face it, many of those who call themselves Christian today are anything but Christian. Their actions, their thoughts, their words and their deeds are hardly representative of what Christ did. And fortunately, many people are beginning to realize that is the case. But many of that latter group are not joining churches or accepting the label as Christian, and in some sense, I don’t blame them.

Would you want to identify yourself with the same label as so many people whose words, thoughts, deeds, and actions work against the very idea of Christ?

A revival is needed to revive and restore what Christianity really means. And like Peter and the other disciples before the authorities, we who truly believe have to carry out the tasks we have been asked to do without worrying about what the religious and political authorities who have so co-opted the faith say is the right thing to do. How is that Jesus can say to Thomas that others will know the story if we do not tell it?

It may be that a revival is not exactly the thing we are looking for; rather, perhaps there is a need for a reformation, of a restating of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world.

One thing that I was reminded of this morning was what happened during the proceedings against Peter and the other disciples when the religious and political establishment argued against their preaching the Gospel message. If what they (Peter and the other disciples) said was not a true message from God, then the message they presented would literally run out of steam. On the other hand, if the message was from God, then those who would suppress the disciples were the ones that needed to be worried.

If our message is the true message then we have nothing really to worry about. And we know that those who propose a message that runs counter to the Gospel are only able to succeed when they limit what people hear or how people think, so how true can their message be?

So in the end, the new revival that I think must take place will occur when each one of us lives the life that shows Christ is alive in us, when we work to help the hungry get feed, when we help the sick get healthy, when we help to build homes for the homeless, and we seek justice for the oppressed. And when people ask why it is that we do this, we simply have to say it is because we are Christians who have decided to live the Gospel message to its fullest.

Our story is Christ’s story; our story is the story of the disciples and those who heard them, of those who have heard the story over the ages.

And each time a person hears or sees the story as it is meant to be heard or seen, the world changes just a little bit. But when you have a lot of these “little bits”, we have a whole lot of change.

Too often times we expect a major change to occur rather dramatically. But the reality is that the major change occurs very gradually. And it is quite easy to see that it will begin when we live the live as commanded by Christ, so that others will believe.

I do what I am asked, to live a life that allows others to see Christ. That is what I do and what we all need to do.

The Answer Is Not What You Think


We awoke here in America this morning, March 22, 2016, to the report of another terrorist attack in Europe; this time in Brussels, Belgium. And I will grieve with so many others because of the injuries and loss of life, I also could not help but think about what it is that we, as a society and inhabitants of this planet, must do to limit such seemingly senseless acts of violence.

I realize that these acts may seem senseless to each one of us but in the minds of those who carry out the acts, there is a reason for them. Even the simply act of killing those whom you do not like is a rationale for killing. But we have to begin asking why or we will never have a day of peace.

Now, for some, the only response to violence and terrorism is to respond in kind. But to do so only invites more violence. Violence begets violence and the only way anyone wins in that scenario is to be the last one standing. And what have you won then?

Now, I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. But I do believe that there are non-violent solutions to the problems of terrorism in this world today.

Perhaps the response needs to be more biblical or spiritual. My response will be a Christian response. I suspect that there are many Muslims who can and will offer a similar Islamic response.

Note – do not tell me that what occur today was any where related to Islam. Those who perpetrate such actions and justify their actions as an extension of Islam are no better those who perpetrate violence in the name of Christ and proclaim it is an extension of Christianity. I do not believe that God, in all His wisdom and with all His power, would ever say that one group of individuals truly represent Him and have the power to attack others in His Name. And if you response is that your god is better than my god (deliberate use of lower case), then you do not understand your god or my god.

Many are quick to quote the passage from Exodus (Exodus 21: 23 – 25) as the basis for revenge but it was never intended to be used in that manner. In truth, the writers of the Old Testament saw this a limit to punishment rather than revenge. And then Jesus came along and said,

You’ve also heard the saying, ‘Take an eye for an eye, take a tooth for a tooth.’ But I’m telling you, never respond with evil. Instead, if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer him the other one too. And if anybody wants to drag you into court and take away your shirt, let him have your undershirt. If somebody make you go a mile for him, go two miles. Give to him who asks of you, and don’t turn your back on anyone who wants a loan.

Another thing you’ve always heard is, ‘Love your own group and hate the hostile outsider.’ But I’m telling you, love the outsiders and pray for those who try to do you in, so that you might be sons of your spiritual Father. For he lets his sun rise on both sinners and saints, and he sends rain on both good people and bad. Listen here, if you love only those who love you, what’s your advantage? Don’t even scalawags do that much? And if you speak to no one but your friends, how are you any different? Don’t the non-Christians do as much? Now you, you all must be mature, as your spiritual Father is mature. – Matthew 5: 38 – 48 as written in The Cotton Patch Gospel by Clarence Jordan

There is a message to these words from Christ, words that are not offered up. You need to know that what Jesus was suggesting was neither violent resistance or passive acceptance of oppression. Rather, He was advocating a third alternative, an assertive but non-violent form of protest.

And the key to understanding this is to pay attention to the social customs of Israel at that time and what how those who heard those words would have understood them. Notice that Jesus specified that the person had been struck on the right cheek. How does one strike another on the right cheek? You can only be struck on the right cheek if the other person uses their left hand or with a backhand blow from the right hand.

But one did not use the left hand to strike people (for a number of reasons) so it meant that you had to be backhanded with the right hand as a superior would treat an inferior. Striking someone with one’s fist was only done among equals. But when you turn the other cheek, you force your oppressor to either you to treat you as an equal.

Each of the other ‘commandments’ reinforce this same idea. Roman law at that time allowed Roman soldiers to force citizens to carry their weapons for one mile but no more than a mile. By carrying the load the extra mile, the soldier who commanded you could get in trouble or he would have to wrestle his gear from the subject.

In a world where all many people had was their coat and an inner garment (a cloak), the coat was their blanket at night. The law allowed the seizure of the coat for non-payment of debt but when Jesus said give them your cloak as well, it was a statement saying, ‘see what the system is doing to you.’ And in being naked, you shamed the person who was watching. (Adapted from the “True Meaning of Turn The Other Cheek” by Marcus Borg)

So Jesus response to oppression was not passivity or oppression; it was to put the oppressor on the defensive. And how do we do that today? Certainly, it is not by building walls or increasing security to the point where freedom becomes a distant memory.

It begins by taking away the source or cause of repression. It begins by asking why there are those who seek peace outside their own homelands and asking why we are not making a more concerted effort to establish peace in those lands.

It begins by making sure that every person has a true and equal opportunity in this world. The monies that we spend on armaments and war could be better spent building homes and schools and finding ways to insure that the hungry are fed, the sick are cured.

And maybe if we begin to see each other as equals, the same in God’s eyes, even when we do not believe the same, then things will change.

Our first inclination today was most certainly to strike back, to seek revenge. But that is and never has been the answer. The answer is to do not what you think you should do but rather what you are supposed to do, love each other as you have been loved.