All figured out

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isa 55:9).

This passage from the prophet Isaiah is a good thing to remember right about the time you think – “I’ve got this figured out….”  The “this” can be just about any on-going aspect of our life. Think you have high school figured out?  Being a parent or grandparent? Business? Marriage?  Relationships? Tampa Bay Bucs football? Maybe someone is so bold to think, “I have this whole God-thing figured out…”  Hmmmm? Really? Continue reading

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Summer Isn’t Over

Guide2summer

Day 1: Choose to act mercifully.
Day 2: Share what you have with those in need.
Day 3: Seek out someone you can help.
Day 4: Choose loving words and actions.
Day 5: Let no one in your day feel ignored.
Day 6: Visit, call, or send a card to someone sick.
Day 7: Pick a bad habit and let it go.
Day 8: Pray for those who have died.
Day 9: Tell someone today’s Gospel message.
Day 10: Say something to someone feeling hopeless.
Day 11: Go to confession; ask forgiveness of your sins.
Day 12: Pick an “enemy” and pray for them.
Day 13: Say to someone, “I forgive you” and mean it.
Day 14: Say thank you to God and be joyful.
Day 15: Pray for one particular person.
Day 16: Do something extra nice for Mom.
Day 17: Speak out against injustice.
Day 18: Donate clothing to a shelter.
Day 19: Donate food to a food pantry.
Day 20: Extend a loving touch to heal a hurt.
Day 21: Do something unexpected and nice for Dad.
Day 22: Offer an act of kindness to someone suffering or
afraid.
Day 23: Teach the Gospel by example.
Day 24: Be an instrument of peace .
Day 25: Be an instrument of pardon.
Day 26: Volunteer.
Day 27: Ask for forgiveness from someone.
Day 28: Find someone who needs a kind word.
Day 29: Share something with a friend.
Day 30: Write a thank you note.
Day 31: Say a prayer of gratitude to God for the last 30 days

Who will be saved?

pentecost-ruahIt is a gathering unlike any other. Isaiah describes it as people coming from all corners of the world – every make and model, color and variety.  Citizens of every nation from east and west, north and south.  All streaming to Jerusalem, to God’s holy mountain bring their offerings of worship. All invited by God, all coming to the Lord God, all of them seeing the glory of God.

Someone in the gospels asks question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  I wonder if the questioner’s understanding of salvation – even the offer of salvation – is very different from the prophet Isaiah’s.  Maybe the questioner is worried about the state of the world and can only see a few faithful people.  Maybe he or she is worried about family members gone astray.  Maybe the question is, as most scholars seem to believe, an inquiry whether only a few people “like me” will be saved. Continue reading

The July Plan

Guide2summer

Day 1: Choose to act mercifully.
Day 2: Share what you have with those in need.
Day 3: Seek out someone you can help.
Day 4: Choose loving words and actions.
Day 5: Let no one in your day feel ignored.
Day 6: Visit, call, or send a card to someone sick.
Day 7: Pick a bad habit and let it go.
Day 8: Pray for those who have died.
Day 9: Tell someone today’s Gospel message.
Day 10: Say something to someone feeling hopeless.
Day 11: Go to confession; ask forgiveness of your sins.
Day 12: Pick an “enemy” and pray for them.
Day 13: Say to someone, “I forgive you” and mean it.
Day 14: Say thank you to God and be joyful.
Day 15: Pray for one particular person.
Day 16: Do something extra nice for Mom.
Day 17: Speak out against injustice.
Day 18: Donate clothing to a shelter.
Day 19: Donate food to a food pantry.
Day 20: Extend a loving touch to heal a hurt.
Day 21: Do something unexpected and nice for Dad.
Day 22: Offer an act of kindness to someone suffering or
afraid.
Day 23: Teach the Gospel by example.
Day 24: Be an instrument of peace .
Day 25: Be an instrument of pardon.
Day 26: Volunteer.
Day 27: Ask for forgiveness from someone.
Day 28: Find someone who needs a kind word.
Day 29: Share something with a friend.
Day 30: Write a thank you note.
Day 31: Say a prayer of gratitude to God for the last 30 days

Temptation, Treason, and Good News

When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time (Lk 4:13). Technically, the translation should be that Satan departed from Jesus for a more “favorable time.” In other words, it was not a one-and-that’s-it temptation for Jesus. Satan was coming back for another try.  And if Satan was coming back to tempt Jesus, there is no reason to think that our life will be free of temptation.

The historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. “Captain, give me a gun!” he shouted. “This fight ain’t got any rear!”  The encounter with temptation is no different. Continue reading

More than kind

wedding-canaThe “Wedding at Cana” story comes from the second chapter of John, but allow me to draw your attention to the first chapter. In the beautiful prologue of John’s Gospel, we hear in John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Full of grace and truth. Now, here at Cana Jesus is drawn into the public light for all to begin to see, witness, and understand – that the fullness of grace and truth stands among us, dwelling with us in all the wonders of this life. This is what grace looks like. Continue reading

Grace and welcoming

Mark-5-two-miraclesDo you ever get stuck on an image, a word, a moment in time, and continue to return to it – take it into prayer, reflection, and consideration? Sometimes it is a haunting thought – why didn’t I understand, why didn’t I say something, why couldn’t I have helped. Sometimes it is a instinct to find deeper understanding. It can be lots of things. I find that I return to the events of June 17th when good, grace-filled people died at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston. It was an evening when grace and welcome abounded. Imagine being there at the Bible Study when someone, who looked completely different from you – perhaps triggering their instincts of danger – walks in and joins the study of God’s word. It would have been one thing for Dylan Roof to walk in guns blazing and be done with the terrible deed – but he was welcomed without condition or reservation, sat down, received their peace, and then an hour later unleashed his misguided hate, taking nine lives. Continue reading

What’s yours is yours…

Talents4To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one – each according to his abilities.”

Let me paraphrase the opening of our gospel to make a point or two. “A man going on a journey call in his servants and handed over to them his possessions. To one he gave five pounds of $1,000 bills. To another, two pounds of $1,000 bills, and to a third, one pound of $1,000 bills – to each according to their gifts, talents and abilities – he did not give one them more than he or she could handle.” Continue reading

Yoked to Christ

This coming Sunday – the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – uses Matthew 11:25-30 which includes 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Because our parish is having a six-week course in church history, focusing of the Reformations, someone asked me today how this gospel speaks to predestination. It is not an easy question to address as it touches on one’s understanding of predestination, justification, sanctification, grace, free will, and more.

As it happens, the Church History “course” is coming up to the section on the Swiss Reformers wherein the topic “predestination” is raised by John Calvin and later reformers. I had prepared a primer – and I do mean a primer – on predestination as being discussed in the 16th century:  Predestination, Election, Grace and Free Will. Here is the link in case it is of interest to you.