Tag Archives: forgiveness

Grace; what do we do with it?


Tool BeltSumming up the last three sermons about Grace; Grace may be defined as the freely given, unmerited favour and love of God; grace is available to all people, over 7 billion in the world today; and there is nothing we can do to receive grace for ourselves except make ourselves open to that forgiveness, and trusting that it will come.   

Since we have been justified by faith and forgiven for our sins, what are we meant to do going forward? Many people have questioned the doctrine of grace earned by faith alone as it seems to imply that, since we are already justified, we have no need to be good, or do anything in the world.  This is, of course, not the case.  As children of God, forgiven through Christ, we commit ourselves to live a Christ-like life.  As our Epistle reading this morning reads in The Message, “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.  Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is.”   What does this life look like?

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace Philip Yancey talks about, “tracing the roots of the word grace, or charis in Greek, and finding a verb that means “I rejoice, I am glad.”  He goes on to say that, “In my experience, rejoicing and gladness are not the first images that come to mind when people think of the church.  They think of holier-than-thous.  They think of church as a place to go when you have cleaned up your act, not before.”  As people of grace, we want our lives and our church to reflect this rejoicing and gladness, and we want people to feel free to join us no matter where they are on their journey of faith.

In our readings last week we read the story of Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray in the words we now refer to as the Lord’s Prayer.  It is in this prayer that we run up against the first requirement of leading a Christ-like life.  Jesus instructed them to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  The first part is all good, forgiveness of our debts, grace, is central to our lives. The problem appears in the form of one of the shortest, and in this case most powerful, words in our language, “as.” Forgive us like we forgive. It is a powerful word because while we are happy to be forgiven, there is a clear link here between our forgiveness by the Father and our own forgiving of our friends, neighbours, and enemies. Our first task as Christians is to forgive, to pass the grace along, and this is definitely a counter-culture way of thinking. 

Yancey quotes Elizabeth O’Connor who puts the dilemma this way, “Despite a hundred sermons on forgiveness, we do not forgive easily, nor find ourselves easily forgiven.  Forgiveness, we discover, is always harder than the sermons make it out to be.” The human tendency would be to brood over wrongs, hold grudges, plot revenge, and pray that the bad guys get their just deserts in harsh punishments. I have no intention of making forgiveness sound easy in this sermon.  It is not. I pray the Lord’s Prayer at bedtime and I often find myself tripped up in the middle and having to go off on a tangent to try to bring myself around to forgiveness for someone else before I can pray the remainder of the prayer. Luckily we have God to help us with our natural tendency towards unforgiveness.

Forgiving others is an emotional and spiritual challenge which we work out mostly internally and through the help of the Holy Spirit.  In more practical terms, let’s look at some of the other things we should be doing as recipients of grace, and to be as Christ-like as possible. I referred last week to the ‘means of grace’ which are a gift from God rather than a checklist to be completed in order to receive grace.  Steven Manskar describes them as, “… how we grow and mature in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength….This means of grace are divided into two general categories: works of piety and works of mercy.”  There follows a nice concrete list…

Piety                                                              Mercy

prayer (private and family)                   feeding the hungry

public worship                                           clothing the naked

the Lord’s Supper                                     caring for the sick

reading & studying the Bible                visiting the jails and prisons

Christian conference                               sheltering the homeless

fasting or abstinence                               welcoming the stranger

                                                                        peacemaking

                                                                        acting for the common good 

These are all things Jesus did and taught his disciples to do, not in order to receive forgiveness but because they were forgiven.

 In reading through several recent issues of the Presbyterian Record I saw many examples of these acts of piety and mercy; I read of the power of prayer; of many different styles of worship from Sunday mornings in the established churches to worship around the campfire at one of our many summer camps; I saw ads for different colleges and universities and the elders institute offering both Christian conference and study, I read of assistance given to people from Fort McMurray and the congregation there, of women’s retreats,  of congregations sponsoring refugees from Syria and Namibia, of young people identifying needs in the community and starting a program to help, of the church signing a joint statement stating that the church would work to implement the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous; the discipleship is there, it is active and vibrant throughout the national church.

 Is discipleship active here at St. Paul’s?  I believe that it is.  You put an emphasis on worship through our Sunday services 52 times each year.  You regularly meet to share the Lord’s Supper and include in that everyone who attends worship. Worship is based on the reading and interpretation of the Word, and make available monthly books for daily devotion.  Meeting in Bible studies, coffee hours etc. there is a chance to share experiences, questions, and insights with each other.  You are always ready to welcome people to the congregation, collect for food banks, lead services and help with birthday parties at the Carleton Manor, send birthday and Christmas cards and fruit trays to seniors, celebrate PWS&D Sunday, support the Atlantic Mission Society and Presbyterians Sharing. 

Manskar stresses in his article the need to maintain a balance in our works rather than to, “always gravitate toward those that suit our temperament or personality. For example, an introvert may naturally be drawn to …private prayer, Bible study and fasting…and will tend to neglect worship, conference and works of mercy…while an extroverted person will naturally be drawn to those works of piety and mercy that suit his/her temperament but will neglect time alone with God in prayer and reflection.  Could we challenge ourselves to stretch and increase our involvement even in the areas with which we are less comfortable?  This is a question upon which every individual needs to reflect in prayer, and which our congregations need to discern in order to gain a vision for their continuing ministry within the community.

 In a world of ever bigger barns, as individuals and congregations we need to avoid the trap of the greedy farmer, filling our barns with stuff for ourselves rather than with God.  We need to look beyond ourselves to where Christ is looking. To the needs of those in hunger, in pain, in trouble with the law, everyone we meet, for as it states in Colossians, “Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing.  From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. “

 We will know we are getting it right when people see a church which is active, vital, open and welcoming; a place to come for help, as well as to offer help, and a place to grow in the love and service of Christ. 

 

Manskar, Steven W. “Opening Ourselves To Grace: The Basics Of Christian Discipleship – Umcdiscipleship.Org”.Umcdiscipleship.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 July 2016.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002. Print.

Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing About Grace?. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1997. Print.

Word of Mouth


Word of mouth

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My family and I have a bathroom renovation project underway and when I was looking for someone to do the work I did as I usually do and asked Dad.  After that I asked my friends on Face Book for their opinions of and experiences with different contractors.  Similarly, when our washer died I put out a request for comments on top load washers versus front load models.  In fact on any given day you can find requests for advice on road conditions, where to go to get things, and whether or not a movie is worth seeing.  None of these things are likely to change our lives but are examples which show that we place greater value on the experience and opinion of our friends than on the advertisements which would have us believe that every product is better than all the other products which in-turn are also better… So what about spiritual questions, things that will change our lives?  What would you seek and whom would you follow?

 

In our Gospel reading today John must have been ‘wired for sound’! He had just experienced what he knew was the highest point of his ministry, he had fulfilled his destiny. It was not his own accomplishment, it wasn’t that he would be thinking what a great job he had done, but it was still a great day.  If it had happened today he might immediately get out his cell phone and tweet something like, “Best day of my life, baptized Son of God, heard God’s voice and saw the spirit, time to retire, can die happy!”

In the other Gospels this is where the baptism story ended and they moved away from the Baptist and the area around the Jordan, one immediately, to the temptation of Christ and the beginning of his ministry.  John chose instead to continue the narrative of Baptist’s activities.  In a sense the author gave him time to tweet and for people to respond to his news.  While the other Gospels gradually reveal Jesus’ identity, John front loads the story with details of Jesus’ true identity.  In very short order he identifies Christ by several of the titles which had been ascribed to him by the church over the years; Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, and Messiah.

 

Last week we read of the baptism itself and today, the actual baptism itself is not narrated in John, we take up the story on the next day. John the Baptist saw Jesus and told all who are in the area just what had happened and how important this man was!  In a tradition in which sacrifices were made for thanksgiving, for atonement of sin, etc. it would have caught people’s attention when the Baptist referred to Christ as, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  It may have brought out memories of the Passover lamb whose death and the painting of its blood protected the people in Egypt.  For us, and indeed for the early readers of John’s gospel, this speaks to his crucifixion and resurrection, his atonement for the sins of the whole world.  At the time of the Baptist, however, it may have brought to mind Abraham who said God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice.  At the least it would have indicated his purity but oddly would also carry a picture of weakness; important because of the role of the unblemished lamb in sacrifice, but weak because a lamb is helpless to defend itself from death on the altar.

 

The Baptist had been out in the wilderness preaching and calling people to repentance, but never taking credit or making himself out to be important.  In John’s gospel this event followed a scene in which the Baptist was questioned by religious authorities.  He had denied being Elijah, being The Prophet (Moses), and being the Messiah. He had in fact always been saying, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”  He had never made much of himself but pointed ahead to that man. He explained that he had been baptizing with water in order to reveal the man to Israel.  He related the sight of the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remaining on Jesus, and that God had told them this would be the sign of the man who was coming. He made a statement worthy of a court trial, “I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

 

It is likely that most people who heard him talking about Jesus considered it to be at least a bit far-fetched and perhaps attributed it to John’s strange ways.  “After all, he lives way out here away from people and doesn’t eat properly, he was probably delirious with hunger, or maybe he is going mad.  A spirit came and settled on a man and this is the big news? Hardly!”

 

The next day, then two days after Christ’s baptism, two of the Baptist’s followers were there when again he saw Jesus.  Again he identified Jesus and he testified that he was the Lamb of God.  These two men then left John, up until now their spiritual leader, and followed Jesus. Jesus asked them what they were seeking and told them to come and see.  Before he had taught them anything they called him Rabbi which means teacher. They went to where he was staying and spent the day with him.  Only one of the two is named in this account, Andrew the brother of the man known to us as Simon Peter.  Andrew ran off to find his brother and passed on the exciting news, “We have found the Messiah.”  When they got back Jesus identified him by name and says he will be called Cephas’ or Peter.

 

So following the line of information

  1. God tells John of his mission

  2. God tells John how to recognize the one to come after

  3. John witnesses the sign Lamb of God

  4. John tells all who are around Lamb of God

  5. John repeats this to two of his followers Son of God

  6. One of the followers, Andrew, goes to tell his brother Messiah

If we were to continue this line it would lead us all the way to this place and thousands like it where the Word is being proclaimed today.

 

The three readings I chose to use this morning are very different in form, the Psalm being a poem or song, 1 Corinthians being a letter, and John being a story.  They are all about saving help, God’s faithfulness, Christ’s salvation, steadfast love, mercy, and evangelism.

 

 

In the Psalm we read a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from dire personal circumstances as well as the pattern of God’s works of salvation for the people of Israel over the ages.  The author does what most of us would do after being rescued; he gives thanks and praises his deliverer.  He doesn’t do this in private, but in the congregation, he tells everyone! In the 11 verses we read we go back and forth between the personal story and praise to God for his faithfulness, and the communal stories of the past and expectations of the future.  The other feature of the Psalm is that it expresses God’s desire for a relationship with us rather than sacrifices. God doesn’t want the rites of religion, he wants our seeking and having his laws written on our heart.

 

Much of the writing of Paul that is included in the Christian cannon is in the form of letters.  There was a very ordered format for letters in his time and he certainly followed it.  First you introduce yourself, then identify the recipient, give thanks, and then you move on to the content.  Our reading this morning was the introduction to a much longer letter which would address some pretty major issues with the church in Corinth.  Without reading further, however, one would be unlikely to realize there was any problem or concern. The focus here was on their unity in that they were all called by Christ, that they were all empowered by the Spirit, that they all shared the same testimony to the grace of Christ and the faithfulness and steadfastness of God. Paul gives thanks for the congregation which was equipped with the tools they needed to continue this testimony, to pass on the word.

 

So, we have established that word-of-mouth is the most effective way of getting information out to people. Given this it is hard to imagine why do we rely so heavily on the Bible itself to get the Christian message out?  How can we offer Christ and invite people to come and see what a life of following Jesus might be like. (Daniel Ogel…GBod)?

 

People are only willing to inquire about faith and follow if they are themselves open to it. It is spiritual hunger which compels people to search for new possibilities. It is their dissatisfaction with where they are in their lives and in their spiritual life which forces them to go in search of something new.(Daniel Ogel, GBod.com0 John the Baptist pointed the way to Jesus, “don’t focus on me or the trappings of the church or liturgy, look to Jesus himself and be open to a relationship with him.  Jesus invited the first two disciples to, “come and see” where he was staying, to actually walk in his ways.  Both of these approaches to seekers are models of evangelism.  “Instead of beating people over the head or intimidating them to confess their faith, John and Jesus point to what God is doing and invite people to check it out. It’s a pretty compelling strategy for faith-sharing and evangelism.”(Daniel Ogel, GBod.com) and far less awkward than starting a conversation with a person by asking them if they know Jesus, or if they are a Christian and then launching into a “sales campaign.”

 

So, what did you post on Face Book this morning before leaving for church?  Did you post that you were going to church? Great! When we share our lives as Christians with people, just as that, our lives, we open a door. If we get out the bat, quote scripture and tell people how they should live and what they should believe, we are more likely to scare them away. What will you post later in the day?  Whether we have good days or bad what people will notice is our patience and hopefulness in God and maybe that will be enough to make them ask where we get that patience and hopefulness and then we can invite them to come and see.

 

 The readings for this sermon were; 1 Cor 1:1-9, Psalm 40:1-11, John 1:19-42

Compassionate Faith :


As you now know, I recently read Day 289 from The Message//Remix:Solo which was entitled “Getting Our Way”.  This was a reflection on Galatians 5, more specifically 5:16-17, 19-23.  Following the Bible text are suggested ideas to think about, pray about, and ideas for living out the message.

“LIVE

Hold one of the following words in front of you today; exuberance, serenity, willingness,compassion, conviction.  Let the word permeate what you do.”

The word compassion can be found in thirty-nine verses in the Bible (KJV) and if you add a common synonym or two the number would increase greatly.  There seem to be three circumstances of compassion; the compassion of God on those who have strayed or sinned, the compassion of people shown to people (the least common), and the compassion of Jesus to his fellow humans.

I think most of us automatically associate the word compassion with Jesus.  He healed people for whom he had compassion, he felt compassion for children, for widows, for gentiles, as well as those who could not see his message through the haze of their own dignity and piety.

Simple to explain and possibly impossible to fully live out, living with compassion before us means to go through out day with our first thoughts on others and doing as Christ would do. 

Pentecost 2: You Expect Me To Prophecy?!?


     For those of you over forty-something have you ever listened to a rapper?  To include the younger set , have you travelled to an area where people all spoke a different language or with an accent that was very difficult for you to understand?

 

     If you were immersed in that sort of situation for days on end, then imagine the joy you would feel just hearing someone speaking so that you could understand.   Then, imagine if they were telling you that God had loved you so much that he gave his son’s life to atone for your sins.  Then they told you that through Him you would have eternal life.

     Imagine the feeling that would give you! Imagine the questions it would raise.  Are these guys drunk?  In Acts we see Pentecost play out.  The wind blows, the tongues of flame descend and then people begin to speak in languages they don’t even know.  Peter interprets these things for those who are present.  In order to make sense of this he quotes scripture.

     “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour
out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

     Wait a minute…did Joel say prophesy? Was Peter saying we should prophesy?  I’m all for God pouring out His Spirit on me, but I’m not Isaiah, Jonah, or Ezekiel…how am I supposed to prophesy?

     In his book New Proclamation Matthew L. Skinner says, “Peter’s brand of “prophecy” is …the task of identifying our own circumstances as somehow in line with testimony about God from the past and in line with the promises of what God is yet to do.”  He goes on to explain that the art of prophecy is in truly believing that the Bible is a message to us in our own time.

     We need to be open to a dialogue with the scripture. We need to let the Bible shape and effect all that we see, say and do. We need to stop reading the Bible as if it was just another book of information.

     In a course I took on Reformed Spirituality we looked at the practice of spiritual reading.  In the introduction to this section of her book Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson asks the reader to consider the different way we would approach reading a letter from a dear friend and a newspaper.

     Spiritual reading of the Bible is not going to come from reading to get through a section of text.  It is not about how much you read, or how quickly you read.  Our intention should be, in the words of Thompson, “simply to sink into the words and open ourselves to their meaning in our lives.  How do we go about this?

     There are four phases to spiritual reading.  The first to read in a reflective way, slowly, pausing over words which seem to catch our attention. The second phase is meditation, in other words, when we find those words which really catch our attention, then give some thought to why this seems important to us…what is the connection between this text and our lives?

     The third phase is speaking.  We respond to our reading with our emotion in prayer.  If the reading has highlighted our current struggles we will call out, perhaps in pain, if  it speaks of our joy we will lift our hearts in praise. If you want some excellent examples of this phase, read through some of the Psalms.

     Finally we contemplate. After pouring out in words all that we need to, we sit quietly and give time for God’s response to us.  We rest in God’s presence and listen. These steps may go back and forth as we move through a text but the  process is not complete without all four.

     As you can tell from the steps listed, this is not the kind of
reading we can fit into the 20 minutes between activities and is best not left to the end of the day.   When we make a space available in our day for this kind of reading, the Spirit will lead us in finding the meaning of the text for our lives.

     God sent His Spirit to us for a reason.  The Spirit is a gift to us which comforts us in our pain, helps us when we most need help, exhorts people to be present with God in answering the call to serve others in the world who are in need, advocates for us and provides the link for us to stay in touch with Jesus and through him with God, and, if we let it, reveals the truth in  Jesus.

     When God sends out His Spirit, plants spring to life– the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

This is the glory of GOD–let it last forever!

Amen

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

New Testament:Acts 2:1-21

Epistle: Romans 8:22-27

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Pentecost Part 1: It’s Not About Seances and Ouija Boards


I want you to think of the happiest, most joyful event in your
life. Think about where you were. Who was there with you?Imagine that you are right there now and let the feeling of joy fill you up. 

Do you feel your spirits rising? You may even feel that if you don’t tell someone about it you may burst! The Spirit of God is just like that. When the Spirit descended on the Apostles they couldn’t help themselves, they just had to share the Gospel!

We don’t like to talk about spirits very much.  It brings to mind ghost stories, séances and Ouija boards.  Because of this, Pentecost is an event in our church year which gets mixed reviews.  It makes us vaguely uncomfortable, but on Pentecost Sunday the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the believers. It is the birthday of the church!  

 

The Spirit is not a ghost. The Spirit is the Advocate sent to
continue the work of Jesus.  It could not come to us until Jesus departed. The Spirit is the final sign that we have been adopted into the family of God. Can you believe it?

If we are adopted that means that we are all part of the same
family and we will be there to look after each other and come together in a crisis and God, the head of our household, will be there suffering right along with us and being our guide for getting through the tough times.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of the groaning of
creation as if in labour pains.  Here he too makes the assumption that the church will be present in the world and active at times of deepest need and that God is present in the midst of the church. God shares our suffering and shares in our work of healing.

The current newsletter of the Presbyterian World Service and Development you can read;

“Three months following Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives. The disaster claimed over 15,000 lives and over 8,000 people remain missing, according to the National Police Agency of Japan.

Despite the immense challenges evacuees continue to face, PWS&D partners are working hard to provide daily hot meals, medical care, emergency supplies and psychosocial assistance. To date, PWS&D has received over $360,000 for emergency relief in Japan.

PWS&D partner, Church World Service (Asia-Pacific) has organized more than 2,000 volunteers to help distribute food and help clear debris. Cash-for-work programs are providing necessary funds to people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to provide food for their families. CWS is also trying to regenerate local businesses by refitting destroyed kitchens of local restaurants, in order to provide food and jobs for the surrounding communities.

The mental wellbeing of people is one of the biggest concerns as people struggle to deal with enormous loss, survivors’ guilt and other issues. Daycare centres and a single parent hotline are two new initiatives to help traumatized children and parents cope with their circumstances.”

You can see clearly that the church is present in this situation, and you can be sure that God is present with the church.  The Spirit does not shy away from the hard times in our lives, and in our world.  The Spirit offers help for the present and hope for the future.  If we are to lead a Spirit filled life we need to hope
and remain patient.

Please remember the people of Japan in your prayers. You can make a donation to PWS&D’s work in Japan by contributing through your church, mailing a cheque to the office, donating online or calling 1-800-619-7301 ext. 291. Please mark all donations as “Japan Relief. www.presbyterian.ca/pwsd/japan

 
SCRIPTURE READINGS:
New Testament:Acts 2:1-21
Epistle: Romans 8:22-27
Responsive Psalm: Psalm
104:24-34, 35b

Balancing the Books: God’s Gracious Gift


flickr.com/photos/andresrueda/3027534098

I was thinking this morning about debt.  When we say the Lord’s Prayer at my church one line is, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  This is not really talking about financial issues, although I suppose it is not excluding those, but about our sins.

 

New rules for credt card companies came in as a response to the financial crisis of a couple of years ago.  Credit card companies are now required to give two new pieces of information on each statement; the date at which your debt will be paid off if you pay minimum payments, and the date if you pay a larger percentage.  This can be a pretty scary thing at which to look, almost scary enough to lead us to start using cash! 

 

What if that same rule were applied to our other debts, those of hurtful words, broken promises, and myriad other sins?  What would that statement have to say?

Payment Information

New Balance Total……………….   40 years of sin

Current Payment Due…………….   1 month of good works

                                                ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________________________________

Total Minimum Payment Due……1 month of good works

Minimum Payment Due Date…… Next Sunday

 

Minimum Payment Warning: If you make only the

minimum payment each period, you will pay more in

interest and it will take you longer to pay off your balance.

For example:

 

If you make no additional               You will pay off the

charges using this card                    balance shown on this

and each month you pay                  statement in about.

by the due date.

 

Only the minimum payment            100 Years, 6 Months

 I obviously made all that up, but even though it seems extreem, I am pretty sure that the time to pay off our own debts would be a lot longer than 100 years, and let’s face it, we aren’t likely to manage not to run the bill up higher over the years!  The point is, there is no way that we can pay that debt off on our own.  But the good news is that through the grace of God and the loving sacrifice of Jesus, it is already marked

Post 120: Are We Having Fun Yet?


 

flickr.com/photos/shanepope/2375499336

On Tuesday, June 7 I will have been writing this blog for five months.  Today’s post will be #120 and I got to thinking that I must certainly be repeating myself by now.  If this is the case, I heartily apologize.  I don’t go back in my post list very often and I write what comes to mind on any given day. 

 

Despite the fact that my teenage daughter gives me a hard time for doing so, I did a little checking on the stats for curlingupwithGod.  In those five months there have been 9,800 visits to my site, many undoubtedly directed by a search for something which led them to me erroneously.  The Footprints poem seems to be the most common search term which directs people here.  I have no way of knowing whether these people actually stop and read something or just scan quickly for the lyrics and then head on their way.  On my busiest day I had 245 visits which was really exciting!   I have been thrilled to have people write me notes occasionally and with those and my responses I have 77 comments.

 

Every time I write a post I have the option of tagging which may lead people to the post.  I didn’t do much of this at first, but have discovered how important it can be.   WordPress keeps track of the most common tags and makes them available to choose rather than writing them in each time.  I thought the list was pretty interesting.  When I see it, the words I have used the most are actually in a bigger font.

 

Bible blog bully change choices choir Christianity church cross details distractions Easter evangelism Facebook faith fashion forgiveness God help Holy Spirit improvement Jesus justice kindness leadership Lectionary Lent love music prayer preaching problems promise quiet reflection sin song stress students survival teachers The Message//Remix:Solo time Twitter worry

 

Back to the title question, are we having fun yet?  I know that I am enjoying the writing and any associated thinking and reflecting that is associated with that activity.  Some days I will have several images or comments pop into my head which lead to posts and I have to type them in before I lose them.  So far my feedback has been good and I’m assuming that for every person who goes to the trouble of writing a comment there are several who at least smile and nod at some point in their reading and that is great.

 

See you at 250 🙂

Same Struggle Different Difference


Every person is unique.  This is a basic principle on which we must agree, or you may as well stop reading this post right now. 

There are many Cathy Scotts in the world, one I am aware of was even born on the same day as I was.  Do I think for a minute that this means there are people exactly like me?  Absolutely not!  Even identical twins are not exactly the same despite sharing the exact same genetic coding!

Approximately half of all people are different from the other half based their gender.  Some people differ by race, by age, by abilities or disabilities, by sexual preference, by ideology etc.  The ways in which we differ are almost limitless.  We have one important thing in common and that is our humanity.  We are all humans!  This being the case, why do we allow some differences to be demonized or belittled?  What makes my differences ok, while those of others are not?

I love the pin pictured above!  The minute it turned up in the syracuseculturalworkers.com catalog I ordered one.  I believe strongly in justice for all.  I have worked specifically with the LGBT population at my school, done walks to raise funds for the MS Society, supported indigenous rights through KAIROS activities, and work hard to speak in terms of gender equality at all times.  I have also at one time or another worked on projects for other causes.  One thing that always came to mind was that if my energy was split in this way I may not be of much use to any one cause.  That is why I like the pin. 

What I work for, and I believe that we all want,  is justice and fairness for all.  While there may be differences in the specifics of the discrimination or abuse that happens to different groups the overarching aim is the same.  I don’t for a moment think that this means we can do away with all special interest groups and just have one big group for everyone, we know from experience that someones struggles would be put on the back burner or neglected all-together.  We still need GSAs and MS Societies, women’s rights groups, and groups fighting against racial injustice; but groups like KAIROS and our new Humankind Be Both group at school which work on multiple if not all fronts are the best for me. 

It is all too easy to come up with “anti-campaigns” and we have seen them.  If we are anti something it implies an aggression of our own against another group.  I am not anti-bullying, I am pro respect and kindness.  Fighting for the rights of Palestinians is not being against the people of Israel.

So, whether you have one focus area or are more scattered like I am, find a way to fight for more justice, more kindness, and more equality in the world and we will indeed be in the Same Struggle, Different Differences!


Psalm 9

9   The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

references:

KAIROS – Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives  kairoscanada.org

GSA – Gay/Straight Alliance mygsa.ca or egale.ca

LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered

MS – Multiple Sclerosis  http://mssociety.ca/en/give/default.htm

Syracuse Cultural Workers – syracuseculturalworkers.com

When Pettiness Blocks Your View


Distorted View of the world

You have a day off school because your parents are taking you to the doctor.  Your alarm goes off and you hear the news on the radio…storm day, no school.  All around your community kids are cheering their good luck and you feel cheated!

It seems to be human nature to be petty and jealous to some extent.  Don’t you think that on some level Job’s friends were thinking that it was about time something went wrong in his life?  When we see that an acquaintance has met with some major success isn’t there a tiny part of us thinking, “It figures they would get that” before getting to feeling happy for them?

I think the problem with this is pretty obvious.  These reflexive thoughts block or distort our view of the world, however briefly. If we don’t recognize that we are doing this we end up looking in every situation for an injustice at the root for any lack of support.  The more you look through those filters the darker the whole world appears.  

Personal happiness aside, the distortions also keep us from seeing people as they really are and that in turn may keep us from forming positive relationships with them.  So often we forget that inside everyone we meet there is a thinking and feeling human.  Our resentment of a perceived advantage of another person may be based on faulty information.

What do we do about these automatic thoughts?

  • Recognize the thought as soon as it begins

  • Stop yourself quickly

  • Think! Does the situation actually negatively affect you?

  • Do you really know all the background of the situation?

  • Pray for help

Not sure who Job and his friends are? Read the book of Job in the Bible to find out.

Thanks for the picture goes to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kikisdad/254008177/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The Real Breakout King


There is a new TV show on this year called Breakout Kings.  The premise of this  show is that a small group of inmates are given temporary leave from prison in order to put their unique skills into finding and catching escaped prisoners.  Yesterday at our communion service our minister spoke on the theme of breaking out and even as he was doing the children’s story I was sneaking out my note pad and writing down, “Jesus: The Real Breakout King.”

 

As people have stated for ages, there are two things that are inevitable; death and taxes.  From the day we are born, we are moving towards our death.  A chalenge with helping children to understand death is letting them know that it is permanent, the goldfish, other pet, or loved one will not be coming back.  We all know this.  That is why it was so amazing when Jesus was able to call a young man being carried to his grave, a young girl who had died, and finally Lazarus who had been in the tomb four days back from death.  This was amazing enough but Jesus actually broke out of his own death.  He was dead, he was layed out in the tomb and sealed in, and he broke out on his own!  

 

Jesus is truly the breakout king, and through his resurrection we not only see his power over death for himself but for us as well!   Through his death for our sins, we are forgiven, we have not yet died physical death, but we are already living our eternal life.