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Archive for June, 2016

Sent Out in Jesus’ Name

Whoever listens to you listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me.  Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”  Luke 10:16 (CEB)

Does the magnitude of this passage really sink in?  Think about it.  (PAUSE)  Jesus sent out his disciples two by two in the passage from Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.  He told them to go and take NOTHING with them other than the clothes on their backs.  “The harvest is bigger than you can imagine” he said to them.  It’s your job to go bring the Good News of God’s love and healing to them.  Go in my name.

Wow . . .

They went.  They followed Jesus’ instructions.  They came back excited and exuberant because of their successes.  They also didn’t stay where they weren’t welcomed.  This is loaded with lessons for us as we try to follow Jesus in our own lives.  Jesus calls us to serve him, to share God’s love with others, to “preach the Good News and use words if necessary” as St. Francis of Assisi said.

It’s challenging and intimidating enough to go out in Jesus’ name.  There are many people who are afraid of rejection.  In addition, there are also many who actually DO go out in Jesus’ name and are rather off-putting in their aggressiveness.  So how do we strike a balance?

Another question is how do we do this without taking anything with us?  Maybe that instruction piggy-backs on the lesson immediately prior to this where Jesus tells three people to follow him, and all three have excuses as to why they couldn’t do it right then and there.  Maybe it’s saying that “things” get in our way.  If we let material possessions, owning things, and having to pack a lot of “stuff” to take along, it will probably get in our way.

Jesus seems to say that ministry in his name can only be hindered if we let the “stuff” of life hold us back.  So, we can minister more fully and with all our attention when we put Jesus as our focus and follow him by setting everything else aside.  We still have the other “stuff,” but it’s just not more important than sharing God’s love.

When we focus on Jesus’ message, we are doing God’s work, building the kingdom of God on earth, inviting others to know Christ, and bringing Jesus to the world.  When we do that, God is working through us.  People will actually begin to see Jesus at work in the world – through us!  That’s powerful stuff!

How will you put Jesus first?

How will you share the Good News of God’s love?

How will you preach the gospel with or without words?

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Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I will follow you, Lord, but . . .”  Luke 9:51-62

In this passage from Luke, we have been given a picture of Jesus that isn’t the “meek and mild” Jesus we normally see.  He is frustrated with his disciples and their lack of comprehension over his life and work with them, as well as their denial of his coming death.

When one group of people in a Samaritan village refused to listen to him, James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them.  Why would they think Jesus would retaliate?  His preaching and teaching was about loving, kindness, and acceptance!

Yet, in the next section of this passage, someone said that he/she would follow him wherever he went.  Jesus have this odd reply about not having a place to lay his head.

Then, when he called two men to follow him, they both had excuses about why they couldn’t do it – they had other things to do first.  One wanted to go bury his father – well, that certainly makes sense.  Why would Jesus not want him to bury his father?  Another wanted to say good-bye to his family.  That, too, makes sense.  Don’t we all want to say good-bye?

The last verse reads, “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom’.”  That’s pretty harsh, Jesus!  What can you be thinking?

These verses are hard to comprehend at times.  Jesus’ frustration with his disciples is showing, and maybe he’s tired of excuses.  Maybe he wants full commitment – putting him first and then everything will fall into place.  Maybe his point is that we tend to put everything else above him when it should be the other way around.

Excuses, excuses, excuses!  What excuse do we make when we don’t take quiet time for prayer or reading scripture or meditation on God’s word?  What excuse do we make for not coming to worship in the community of faith?  We don’t worship them, we worship God, together – in the context of the whole.

What excuses do we use whenever we do something before talking with God about it?  It’s hard, isn’t it?

How can we practice our faith every day – putting Jesus first?

In what ways do we try to excuse ourselves from putting Jesus at the top of the list?

The Future – The Present

Let the children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”  Luke 18:16b (NRSV)

This Sunday in both of the churches I serve we will celebrate Children’s Sunday.  What does that mean?  Don’t we celebrate children EVERY Sunday?  Well, yes.  However, this coming Sunday is set aside for them to share with us.  They share what they have learned throughout the school year about the Holy Trinity and their walk of faith.

We have the opportunity to learn about them and their experience of Christ, an experience we have promised to provide at the time of their baptisms.  The church covenants with the parents to help bring the child up in the faith, so we offer Sunday school, support, and a community of faith where the children can learn and be nurtured and grow.

That is what the family (kingdom in the passage above) is all about.  We build each other up, and we send each other forth, not only as adults, but also as children.  I don’t know about you, but I think the children teach me tremendous things about faith.  They can see God in so many ways that somehow our adult eyes just don’t see any more.

So many people say repeatedly that the children are our future.  I agree.  They are.  However, if we see them only as our future, it seems to me that we are thinking of them as the way to keep the church going.  Well, I suppose that’s fairly obvious.

But aren’t the children part of who we are as the family of God RIGHT NOW?  They are more than just a future; they are also part of our present.  As I said earlier, they teach us about God right now, in the present.  I think we do a disservice to them to relegate them to the future when they are so much a part of the NOW.

Let’s train them for the future, but more than that, let’s learn from them.  “Let the children come to me . . .” Jesus said.  He recognized the gifts they had to offer.  He recognized them in the “now.”  He saw them as part of the kingdom of God here on earth – and in the future.

So, Sunday, as our children stand up in front of us, I will listen and learn and applaud – and most of all love them for their willingness to share who they are, Whose they are, and their faith.

How do you learn from the children in your lives?

In what ways can you encourage them and walk with them in their journey of faith?

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