God is Still Speaking

After a wonderful week of camp with some amazing middle schoolers and totally committed camp staffers. . .

After news of tragic violence in El Paso, Dayton and other places. . .

After sharing bread and cup with a faith family that seeks to love others as Christ has loved us. . .

After coming to the realization that while mass shootings still sadden me, they no longer shock or surprise me. . .

After waking up on another Monday wondering what in the world we have become. . .

I open my worship plan to see what biblical text I choose weeks ago to be the focus of our worship this coming Sunday —BAM! — there it is, God is still speaking!

For those who have ears to ear and eyes to see. . .

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

If you are in the neighborhood, join us Sunday as we listen for God.

 

Justice is a Christian Value

Do you remember anything that your grandmother told you?  What about your grandfather?  The wisdom that gets passed on to us from those who have gone before us shapes our understanding of the world and our place in it.  The words spoken, the deeds done, and the times spent together provide for us a lens through which we view the happenings of life and find meaning in it.

Our living takes on a deeper significance when we are able to see ourselves putting the teachings of Jesus into practice.  In this way, our lives become a part of the reign of God as we announce the Good News with our words and with our deeds.   Our efforts to follow Jesus are only possible because of God’s grace.  Grace marks the forgiveness that comes to us when we first encounter God and turn our lives in God’s direction.  Grace also shadows our daily living.  Our attempts to be the presence of Christ in the World are imperfect at best.   By the grace of God, those attempts sometimes become a gift to someone who needs to know that God cares about him or her.

Speaking, doing, and praying are three ways that we can follow Jesus each day.  In prayer, we deepen our relationship with God.  We give ourselves to God in the time that we are praying.   We listen for God to speak into our lives and we share with God the burdens of our hearts.  God listens.  God listens to everything we need to say, and God loves us. God loves to listen to us.  In prayer, we sink the roots of our lives deeper into the soil of God’s kingdom.  We plant ourselves in God.  Prayer helps us to see ourselves belonging to God and partnering with God as God works in the world.

In speaking to others about what God has done in our lives and about what God means to us, we are able to share with others the source of meaning and joy in our lives.  With words, we can share encouragement and hope.  The sound of our voices can be a comforting reminder to someone that she is not alone.   Our words can be used to explain to a troubled soul how he can find mercy, grace, and forgiveness by accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior.   Telling the story of the difference that God has made in our lives reminds us that God has made us a part of a larger story, a story that does not end.

In doing, we put that story into action empowered by the strength and confidence that emerges from our times of prayer.  Following Christ is not just a phrase from the Bible.  It is an everyday opportunity to live as Christ would have us to live.  Living like Jesus means we do the kinds of things that Jesus would do.  We let our lives, our actions, echo his words and deeds.  We seek justice for the poor because that is what Jesus would do.  We give food to the hungry because that is what Jesus would do.  But if we stop there, then we have stopped short.  Jesus did not come into the world to put a band-aid on the world’s problems.  Jesus came to change the world, to announce the reign of God and God’s kingdom.  So we don’t stop at feeding hungry people.  In the name of God, we ask why people are hungry.   In a world that is capable of producing amazing quantities of food, how is it possible for someone to die of hunger or a hunger-related disease every three seconds?  Is it a distribution problem?  Is it a marketing problem?  No, it is a spiritual problem.  Not enough of us understand that following Christ means living lives that call us to confront the world when the world is wrong.

Christ came into the world to make things right.  He came to make things right between us and God, and He came to make things right between us and our neighbors.  One of His most memorable examples of neighborliness is a stranger, who happens to be an ethnic outcast, who shows excessive concern and extravagant commitment to the healthcare of a wounded man.  Jesus tells the story that we call the “Good Samaritan,” not so we could sentimentalize it in sermons and Sunday school lessons, but so that we could have a clear idea of the kind of justice we are to seek on behalf of others if we are going to be faithful followers.

May our prayers deepen our love for God.  May our words tell others of that love.  May our actions give testimony to the truth of our words.