Keep Stirring!

stirring pot

Have you ever noticed that holidays bring back memories?

I remember the days when my one job on Thanksgiving was to stir the gravy, so that it didn’t get lumpy while it was coming to a boil. My mother would drain the turkey juices into a pan, put the pan on the stove, add some water and flour that she had shaken in her special little gizmo, and then she’d tell me to stir. And I’d stir, and I’d stir, and I’d stir. I’d adjust the flame underneath the pan to speed things up. And then I’d stir, and I’d stir, and I’d stir. And at some point I’d always remember what my grandma used to say: “A watched pot never boils.” And, as funny as it sounds, Isaiah drew upon that image a long time ago – writing: “Oh, that you [God] would rend the heavens and come down – that the mountains might quake at your presence, just like when the fire causes a pot of water to come to a boil.” (Isaiah 64:1-2)

A pan of water doesn’t start to boil as soon as we put it on the stove, does it? When I was serving on Thanksgiving “gravy patrol,” I’d stand beside the pot of gravy – stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring – waiting for something to happen. And that’s, often, how life works, isn’t it…?

God doesn’t always change the circumstances in our lives (or in the lives of the people that we love) as quickly as we’d like – but we just continue to stir and stir and stir. God doesn’t always heal the illnesses that we face, or take away the sting of our grief, or heal our strained relationships as quickly as we’d like – but we just continue to stir and stir and stir. I’m sure that, at some point, we’ve all heard that “a watched pot never boils” because things don’t always happen as quickly as we’d like – but we just continue to stir and stir and stir. And that’s what this week’s message “Keep Stirring!” is all about.

St. Paul once wrote that all of Creation is groaning inwardly as we wait, together, for the Great Day when God’s going to fix it. (Romans 8:22) The prophet Isaiah tells us that from Days of Old, no one has heard – and no one has seen any other god than the Lord who comes into our world [and into our lives] (Isaiah 64:4) as we continue to stir and stir and stir. And that’s what Advent’s about. Stirring. Staying awake. Loving each other. Caring for each other. Supporting each other. Encouraging each other as we wait, together, for the Great Day when God’s going to renew His entire Creation and make it whole.

Have faith, my friend, and trust in the Lord. Always remember that the things that you’re doing – as you continue to stir and stir and stir – really matter (even though you don’t always see the fruits of you labor as quickly as you’d like). Love each other. Care for each other. Support each other. Encourage each other. And always remember that, as we wait together for the Great Day when God’s going to renew His creation, we need each other in order to be strong and courageous and active and faithful.

 

Where Have All the Saints Gone?

saints pic

I sometimes find myself wanting to withdraw, and to protect myself from the constant stream of breaking news and nonsense on social media. I find myself talking with more and more people who are simply tired these days, and I’m talking with more and more people who are simply looking for a sense of peace within the walls of the Church. Even in my times of prayer, I’ve found myself asking God: “Where have all the saints gone?

That’s what this week’s message – “Where Have All the Saints Gone?” – is all about.

Jesus said that the “blessed” are found among the humble and among those who mourn as they watch what’s happening in the news. Jesus said that the “blessed” are still found among the poor, among those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and among those who still search for paths toward peace in crazy times. Jesus said the “blessed” are still found among those who are rejected by others because they are crying-out for justice in a world where other people are telling them to be quiet. When the “Reign of God” breaks into the world – through the lives of God’s saints – it’s always going to come as something that seems to be foreign, weird, strange, and other-worldly.

Even in crazy times, God continues to work through YOU as you put  fingerprints on the world and help our world to become a better place. God’s continues to work through people just like YOU – His saints – as you extend mercy, peace, love and compassion toward others. God works in YOU every time you extend a laurel branch of forgiveness, every time you speak a gentle and encouraging word, every time you help someone to become a better person, and every time you live-into your faith and become an agent of God’s Reign. If you’ve ever asked yourself,  “Where Have All the Saints Gone?”, perhaps you need to simply look in the mirror and think about all the ways that God’s using YOU to make our world into a better place for all of us.

Never forget that what YOU do really matters!

What YOU are doing to fulfill God’s plan for your life really matters and IS helping our world to become a better place. Rise up, O saint of God!

 

 

 

Is God Fair?

God's Love

We’ve all been told that God loves us.

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He told them to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread” – and we’ve learned to trust that God will do that. One of my friends on Facebook recently posted the words: “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) My Hindu friends believe in “karma,” and many Christians have adopted the teachings of “karma” as a way of pointing toward divine justice. After all, “good people” go to Heaven and “bad people” go to Hell. Right?

But, what if I told you that God is NOT fair, and that we should be happy about that?

In this week’s message, “Is God Fair?”, we’re going to focus upon a story that Jesus told a long time ago and that we can still read in Matthew 20:1-16. It’s the story of a landowner who hires some people to pick his grapes. Some of the workers worked 12 hours in the scorching heat, and others only worked for 9 hours. Still others worked for 6 hours, and yet others only worked in the vineyard for 3 hours. And then, there were people who stood at the “One Day’s Work” office all day and only worked for 1 hour. And at the end of the day – when the whistle blows – the landowner calls all of the workers to come to the pay station and he pays them ALL the exact same amount of money!

And that’s not fair!

And, not surprisingly, the workers didn’t think that it was fair either! And they stuck out their lower lips and complained. They moaned and groaned until the landowner zapped them between the eyes with the most important words of the story: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Matthew 20:16) And, as we listen to these words, we’re invited to see God face-to-face.

Here, we see a God who “unfairly” allows the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. Here, we see a God who “unfairly” allows people to prosper and have nice things whether they’re sitting in a church pew on Sunday morning – or cheering for their kids at a soccer game. Here, we see a God who “unfairly” forgives people who have done things in life that I can’t imagine doing. Here, we see a God who “unfairly” chooses to step outside of the realm of karma and divine justice, and give people things that they clearly don’t deserve in any way.

And that’s not fair!

But, in all honesty, I have to admit that I like what this story tells me about God!

The landowner in this famous story challenges me to see the God who richly blesses me and who fills my life with good things even when I’m not always as good and deserving as other people. I see the God who sent His own Son into the world to die on the Cross because He wants me to go to Heaven – even though I don’t really deserve it. I’m clearly challenged to think about what I truly believe is “fair” – and, when it’s all said and done, I walk away celebrating the fact that God DOESN’T always give me exactly what I deserve. I don’t always sow good seeds. The “Law of Karma” sounds good – until you sit down and begin to count your mistakes and misdeeds. And then….

“Is God Fair?”

Jesus bluntly tells us that the answer to that question is clearly, “No!” And for that, we can rejoice and sing and praise the Lord!

The Gift of One Another

heart

Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day!

I’ll be stopping at the Hallmark store on my way home from work today. My wife told me that she’s already purchased some special treats that she’ll prepare for tomorrow night’s dinner, and I’m looking forward to a quiet night at home. The relationships that we share with other people are important, aren’t they? Whether we are married or not – we all have people who are important to us, and who share our joys and sorrows.

Did you know that relationships with others are a gift of God that are created to satisfy one of the deepest longings in the human soul? In the Beginning, God created rivers and birds and beasts and trees. The Bible tells us that God created ADAM from the dust of the earth and that God filled ADAM with “spirit” – the “breath of life.” And then, there was a great, big parade. The Bible tells us that God marched elephants, tigers, bears, zebras, giraffes, pygmy goats, chipmunks and even some raccoons in front of ADAM; and God asked ADAM to give each of them a name. And God did that because God was hoping that ADAM would be so delighted with one of the animals that it would become his “partner.” But it didn’t happen – and a great, gray sadness came over the earth.

It is not good that the man should be alone,” God said. (Genesis 2:18) God knew that “it is not good” for any of us to travel through life alone. And so, God decided to give all of us the “gift of other people” who celebrate the best moments in our lives, and who hold us in their arms and bear us up when life gets tough. God decided to give all of us the precious “gift of other people” because God knows that we all need to feel a sense of connection to something other than ourselves.

But, it’s not always easy to live with those “other people,” is it? We, sometimes, take each other for granted and argue about things that aren’t really important. Many of us bury our faces in our Smartphone these days – while time that we can never get back trickles away.

In this week’s message, “The Gift of One Another”, we’re called to think about that – and we’re invited to explore what “real love” looks like in human relationships. We’re going to explore what it means to share life with other people that God has brought into our lives to become members of our “team.”

I wish you many blessings as you celebrate St. Valentine’s Day tomorrow. And I hope that you’ll all take some time, tomorrow, to think about the relationships you share with ALL of the people that God’s brought into your life. It is not good for any of us to travel through life alone – and that’s why God gives us “The Gift of One Another” in order to satisfy one of the deepest longings in our soul.

Blessings!