Do something worthy of a Beloved Child of God

This week we celebrate the work of lay people in the congregation and the wider society takes a pause to celebrate labor and its beneficial effects on our lives. Work is not always meaningful, the tasks we do are sometimes onerous and sometimes our motivation for working is more to care for our families and others than it is for our own benefit. Sometimes the relationship between what we do for work and our spiritual lives is unclear to us. I would suggest that this is one area where most of us need to reflect and to pray, because our work is likely to become a metaphor for our identity if we are not careful, and sometimes our calling from Jesus has little to do with what we are doing for paid work. Like the disciples Jesus called from their nets, Christians have been thinking about the relationship of their work to their spiritual lives and making choices since the beginning of our faith tradition.

Bands of Love

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them,
the more they went from me;

they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms; 
but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love. (Hosea 11:1-5)

The message of Hosea is even more striking than that of the other prophets when it comes to family and bodily metaphors. God's message to Hosea is that God's people have betrayed the familial relationship in choosing to follow other gods. We too follow other gods, sometimes harming others with our greed and misuse of others, and sometimes only harming ourselves. Regardless of how we get into sin and separation from God, getting out is always as easy as turning toward God's mercy. The God who led Israel with "cords of human kindness" will lead us back as well.

To Be a Pilgrim: Seeking God and Finding Christian Life

As I’ve been preparing to lead our group of youth and adult pilgrims to Banff this week, I have had the famous English hymn “To Be a Pilgrim” going through my head. Despite its 17th century protestant themes (it’s from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress of 1684), the hymn is useful for thinking about pilgrimage beyond the specific allegorical story for which it was composed. I think it is useful for meditation on the Christian life as pilgrimage from where we are to where God is.

When God puts words in your mouth: formation leads to proclaiming good news.

Some children know how to speak God’s truth early on. Some are more reticent, but I think the best Christian formation helps them to realize that God has known them since before they were born, and that God’s word is part of them, to be shared with the world in a unique way. Adults who have had the experience of growing up in the faith can help children to know God. Curricula help in Christian formation, and content matters, but relationships and the encounter with God matter more. Adults and children together can meet God and become prophets, apostles and teachers to others. They may not realize it, but God’s words are in them, right in their mouths, ready to come out when God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, calls them forth.

A multitude of camels

Oh, what a beautiful and comical image the prophet Isaiah gives us for the world’s response to the messiah coming in Israel. Multitudes of camels! How extravagantly the world will welcome him! Imagine if a multitude of camels arrived at your door. It would be a bit overwhelming and disorganized. That’s probably why our friend John Henry Hopkins Jr. trimmed the number down to three bearing his three kings of Orient for his famous Epiphany hymn. It is a bit overwhelming and a bit strange to imagine the camels, and presumably their riders, from three whole nations arriving to see “the glory of the Lord.” (Is. 60:1), but that is what the prophet says will happen.

Gratitude for God's care and the service of others.

This week I am grateful for the surprising ways that God takes care of us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is a common theme in scripture to remind the people of God that their efforts are not what upholds the world and all living things, but God’s creating, sustaining and redeeming power. Our work as individuals, families and communities is all in response to God’s gift of our lives. It is this acknowledgement that everything belongs to God, including us, that makes care for others, service in the world and stewardship of resources and creation possible. Realizing that nothing we own or gain is ours opens us to a life that is less self-interested and more oriented toward service of others.

Sharing Worship, Seeking Christian Unity

This week’s collect is particularly suited to our ecumenical celebration of worship and friendship with Gaddiel Acquaah Memorial Methodist Church (GAMMC. We are celebrating Christian unity this week, and in the lesson from 1 Kings we hear Solomon proclaiming the greatness of God as he dedicates the temple he has built. In the collect, we pray: “Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name…” (Book of Common Prayer, p.232)

“Eat Me…Drink Me.” Jesus takes us to Wonderland.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6: 51)

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 5: 56)

If last weeks’ message about Jesus identifying himself as the bread from heaven, which is even better than the manna that God fed his people in the wilderness wasn’t strange enough, this is something entirely more difficult to understand. It is no wonder that Jesus’ listeners began to argue about what he meant and to reject his words. Jesus is setting himself up as a totally different kind of food than what they were used to getting from religion.