Saturday, September 2, 2017

Love God and Love One Another

Dear Friends in Christ,

It’s not about me!  In this age of flux and uncertainty, we need to speak truth to power. And usually that power is not an individual but rather systems or institutions that have become a gated community which set themselves apart by keeping most of the world outside established and rigid boundaries.  The people belonging to these institutions (inside the gates) are told that they are the “in” group while everyone else is the “out” or wrong group.  You don’t have to go very far to see this play out in our families, in our communities, and in our world.

Jesus’ main message in the gospels is one of a bigger, more inclusive point of view.  God’s point of view! It is a message of oneness and inclusion.  We are all the same, yet different!  What does that mean?  Think of your own family, or job, or the groups you belong to.  The sameness comes from sharing the same core values, and the differences come in the way we each have specific ways in which we process and interact in the world.  Each person has unique talents, tendencies and DNA, but in order to belong to the group, individuals must all share the group’s core values.  For us here at Grace Church our core values can be summed up in the first sentence of our mission statement: Grace is God’s gift of unconditional love made known to us in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus told us that the entirety of God’s word, God’s laws, and the prophets’ teachings can be summed up in one statement: “Love God and Love one another.”  So this is the Christian core value and all things should point to this understanding.  Now our differences are vast, and the Apostle Paul describes these differences in the metaphor of our body parts. All have different functions but share the same body.  He was directing the churches of his day to keep to Jesus’ core values and everything else would fall into place.  We then become the Body of Christ revealing God’s values in a broken world and reconciling us to God’s unconditional love.

The Body of Christ is a metaphor for the rich diverseness of all creation, including us humans. Taken together, we are all collectively a reflection of our creator. We are all interdependent, and we all share different unique gifts and talents which cause us to work together towards a common goal.  When that common goal is an earthly institution, system, or ruler we will always come up short.  But when that common goal is loving God and loving one another, we will always succeed; we then align with our creator and creation.

But life isn’t easy, and folks want all the answers. Life is a beautiful, sad, awesome, painful, joyful mystery!  Emma Higgs writes: “Following Jesus was never supposed to be about having a static set of beliefs.  To have faith in Jesus is to embrace a new way of being in the world; a way of upside-down priorities, countercultural inclusion, radical forgiveness and ultimate sacrifice.  And the best word we have to that is love.”  The reason everything seems upside down is that we made everything about us at the expense of those outside our way of thinking, including nature itself.  Life (and God) is a wondrous mystery, and when we gain the wisdom to realize this world is not about us, then we will find that all the answers we seek will, in fact, begin with unconditional love. 

In today’s upside down world, we must be as one crying out in the wilderness.  Love God and Love one another!  Our world has become, in many ways, a spiritual desert, and our voices compete with all the noise and voices crying out to so many other gods corporations, governments, money, drugs, technology etc, etc.  And no, these things are not evil, but our worshipping them at the expense of everything and everyone else is. 

These are exciting times, my friends.  Change is never easy; but we have an opportunity at this time and place to help reconcile the world.  So when the voices of the world get too loud, the best way to show the world a better way is simply by living a life focused on God and one another…with love. 

Your faithful servant,


Monday, August 21, 2017

Dancing With God

Dancing With God

In my life, and especially in the roles of father, manager, and deacon, many people often ask my advice.  I am humbled by the fact that they think I have some wisdom that they themselves don’t have access to.  I know we can all learn something from one another.  As I often tell my children “to learn from your mistakes is intelligent, but to learn from another’s mistakes is wisdom.”

Many people look to the internet for answers or even to the bible.  People will always find what they are looking for somewhere or another.

The issue however is not always one of higher thinking.  Sometimes the answers are subtle and are found in the realm of feelings.  Does it feel right or is something feeling forced, or just not quite right.  Often we dismiss this non-cerebral wisdom for the intelligence in our rationally thinking heads.

As Christians we must learn to trust our hearts as well - for that is the realm of God.  The ways of Jesus doesn’t always make sense, but they always feel right!  This is often where the ways of the world clashes with the ways of Jesus.  When looking for wisdom – pray…but then listen, not only with your mind and your five senses but listen also with your heart.  Jesus doesn’t always present himself to our minds.  Sometimes we just feel him, like a silent partner in a universal dance – and it feels just right!

I came upon the following passage which illustrates the concept of God’s wisdom in our lives.

When I meditated on the word Guidance, I kept seeing 'dance' at the end of the word.  I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.   When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.  The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.   When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another.  It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other. 

My eyes drew back to the word Guidance. When I saw 'G': I thought of God, followed by 'u' and 'i'.  'God, 'u' and 'i' dance.'  God, you, and I dance!

As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life. Once again, I became willing to let God lead. 

Sometimes when we are looking for all the answers sometimes it’s just best to let God lead.  That’s what many of us consider Grace. So dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through the challenges of this life.  Then you truly will be “dancing with the stars” (of the universe) in the form of their creator!

Your Faithful Servant,


Friday, July 21, 2017

Social Justice

 The Heart of Discipleship Website

Many Christians are wary of participating in social justice issues because of a deep-rooted fear of being labeled: liberal, progressive, secular etc.  We can become uncomfortable delving into issues that go beyond our cultural comfort zones.  But the Bible tells us that Jesus cared deeply about the social issues around him.  Jesus showed us that Samaritan, children, leper’s, and women’s lives mattered.  And even though Jesus loves everyone, even to the point of dying for our sins, he went out of his way to intentionally point out the alienated, marginalized, and those facing injustice…those considered outsiders.

So participating in movements seeking justice, reform, and empowerment is one of the most Christ-like things we can do. It can’t be just about us.  In Israel fig trees are planted for future generations.  The planter may never see the tree bear fruit, yet they will tend it for their lifetime for others. Here in this country those in power tend to see only to the next quarter’s profits, making short term decisions with long term adverse effects to those at the margins and to our planet.  Poverty, Climate Change, Equality, so many groups and communities are facing systemic oppression.

We must be willing to admit and address the complex realities within our world that create such problems, and avoid relying on generic excuses and solutions.  We can do a disservice to the gospel message by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of generic one-size-fits-all models or cliché’s and platitudes.  We also like to identify specific scripture passages which support our particular view on things. Throughout the New Testament Jesus was complicated and radical.  He intentionally and passionately addressed the diverse and complicated conflicts of the time and shattered the status quo.

Jesus wasn’t just preaching a universal salvation message for the world, but he was also addressing specific political, social, and racial issues. He was helping those who were being abused, violated, and oppressed…he made visible those who society and the system made powerless and invisible.

Throughout the world there are millions of people who are suffering. We must fight apathy, ignorance, or the refusal to even think that any problems exist.  Participating in social justice is a Christian tradition inspired by Jesus. It’s a deeply spiritual practice.  Instead of being motivated by political affiliations, financial gain, power, pride, control, or our own secular motivations, we should be active disciples, following Jesus — for the purpose of glorifying God through acts of justice, empowerment, and love.

Because everyone is created in the image of God and loved by God, we are responsible for identifying with the victimized — not rejecting their existence.  Now while God does love everyone and all believers are united in Christ, this doesn’t negate the fact that we have a unique cultural identity and upbringing and are called to recognize the marginalized, help the oppressed, and avoid rejecting their significance by denying their identity or ignoring their plight.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we do these things? …and Jesus will answer “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for me.”

Your faithful servant,