Striving for Justice and Peace

JusticeAndPeace

How would you define the word: “Fair”?

I suspect that we’d define the word “fair” in a lot of different ways. Some of us would say that it’s “fair” when good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell. Some of us build our lives around the Protestant Work Ethic – believing that success and happiness in life (even eternal salvation) are based upon hard work, dedication, thrift and determination. Some who embrace the Prosperity Gospel believe that financial blessing and our physical well-being are the will of God; and that our faith, positive speech patterns, and donations to religious causes will eventually increase our material wealth.

I’ve learned that life isn’t always “fair.”

Is it “fair” when a young mother is killed in an automobile accident, or when a child dies from brain cancer? Is it “fair” that God equally sends rain upon the just and the unjust? Are poverty and homelessness “fair” in a society where some people amass tremendous fortunes; and is it “fair” when people lose their homes (and are forced into bankruptcy) because of an unexpected and undeserved illness that sent them to a hospital?

Many pastors are criticized for being too political every time they try to address an issue in society that exists because life isn’t “fair.” Whether we want to admit it or not, poverty is not God-ordained. Homelessness in America exists because people who live their lives in positions of power continue to create systems that ensure that some people will rise to the top (themselves) and others will never have that chance. Hunger isn’t being created by a lack of food – it’s caused by poor distribution and use of food (think about that the next time you throw food in the garbage). The Bible’s filled with condemnations that are directed at the powerful, and the Sacred Story speaks of a Great Day when God’s going to turn everything upside down. Mary once proclaimed that God will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. (Luke 1:53). Jesus once said that the poor, the mourning, the humble, the hungry and thirsty, and the persecuted are “blessed” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, also, said that there’s no such thing as being a disciple without bearing the Cross; and, sometimes, bearing the Cross calls us, as God’s people, to live our lives of faith – “Striving for Justice and Peace”.

We can’t get around the fact that Jesus stirred people’s nests and stepped on people’s toes. Jesus spoke to the “wrong” kinds of people. He touched lepers. He lived among sinners and outcasts, and called religious leaders of His time (people who enjoyed their positions of power) “white-washed tombs.” Jesus was not afraid to be political. Jesus (and all of the prophets who lived before Him) spoke-out and condemned human-created systems that trap people in difficult positions that they cannot escape. And, Jesus also calls us (modern day disciples and followers of Christ) to take-up our Cross by putting skin in the game, by “Striving for Justice and Peace” in all the earth, and by speaking on behalf of those who don’t have a voice of their own – even when it costs us something like our reputation, or our job, or even our life.

This week, we’re called to remember that, when the Reign of God breaks into the world, the “way things are” is challenged by the “way things could be.” When the Reign of God breaks into the world, justice will roll down like mighty waters and righteousness will gush from the ground like an ever-flowing stream…!

Discipleship is not for the faint-of-heart. Bearing the Cross and “speaking to power” have never been easy. And yet, we must remember that we can’t be disciples of Christ without being filled with the passion-creating fire of the Holy Spirit that sends us into the world to change it – “Striving for Justice and Peace” in all the earth.

 

Binding and Loosing

broken-chain

I suspect that we all have times when we need to forgive.

People get hurt when other people speak or act too quickly. We’ve all had times when we have been offended by people that we know, or by people that we don’t know. We even have times in our live when we hurt ourselves by getting too puffed-up, or by thinking less of ourselves than we ought. We need to be forgiven by God and by other people, but we also have times when we’re the ones who need to forgive. And sometimes it’s easy – but sometimes it’s very hard.

In this week’s message, “Binding and Loosing”, we explore the fact that Jesus never said that forgiveness must always be offered quickly. Forgiveness and reconciliation are gifts that we offer to people who have hurt us, but they are also gifts that need to be extended in the “appropriate” time and in the “appropriate” way.

Forgiveness is NOT saying that what people did is no longer important and that it can simply be forgotten. The “Dance of Forgiveness” happens when the peace of Christ fills our hearts and when the breath of Jesus fills our souls. The “Dance of Forgiveness” happens when we get to the point in our lives when we’re able to release the hurt that we feel, and when we can honestly and authentically ask ourselves what must happen in order for reconciliation to occur.

Blessings!

The Heartbeat of God

Embrace

God has a wonderful plan for your future!

I suspect that many of us come to worship and invest our time in prayer because we want to experience a sense of the divine. We long for God’s presence in our lives, and we want to live “in tune” with God’s plans. We want to know that God’s walking beside us and giving us the strength that we need each day. And, perhaps most of all, we all want to know that God’s going to be with us when we face that one, inescapable moment in time when we close our eyes and quietly slip into eternity.

But, when we travel through times when our faith’s being tested, God’s “heartbeat” can become so soft and muted that it almost seems to disappear. God’s “heartbeat” can be silenced by our busy-ness. God’s “heartbeat” can be hard to hear when we find ourselves running from place to place because we’ve tried to squeeze too many things into our already over-packed schedules. But, if we listen carefully to the words of Jesus, we can know that when it’s all said and done, we’re going to be OK. That’s what we explore in this week’s message: “The Heartbeat of God”

Julian of Norwich often listened to the “heartbeat of God” and she came away with a great and life-giving truth: “All shall be well – and all shall be well – and all manner of things shall be well.” Listen to those words today. Remember that Christ has gone before you to prepare a place where God shall wipe the tears from your eyes – and where there shall no longer be mourning and crying and pain for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

Listen to the “heartbeat of God.” Open your ears as the Great Rabbi Himself, the Risen Christ, opens His arms and draws you close to His chest. All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.

Blessings!

Planted Beside a Stream

Ohiopyle Falls - Edited for Enlarge

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Life makes people thirsty.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you believed that there just wasn’t enough of you to go around? Maybe you feel like a gerbil on a wheel that just keeps going faster and faster and faster and faster? Perhaps, you’re worried about someone that you love – or are struggling to navigate through a time of illness? Or, perhaps, you’re moving through a dry time in your walk with Christ and it feels like you’re moving through the “uninhabited salt land” that the prophet Jeremiah once described?

In this week’s message, “Planted Beside a Stream”, we are drawn into a fascinating story about a Samaritan woman who met Jesus beside Jacob’s Well and who was promised that Jesus could give her the “Living Water” that bubbles-up to Eternal Life.

What does that “Living Water” taste like? How does the Good News of the Gospel that proclaims that you have a Lord who gives you courage when you’re afraid, peace when you’re anxious, strength when you are feeling weak, and hope even at the moment of death affect the way that you face the challenges and obstacles in your life, right now?

The community of Taize often sings a hymn that contains these words: “By night, we search for the source of living water because it is only our thirst that guides our way.”

What would “Living Water” taste like, right now? How can the life-giving news – that God has planted you beside a stream – sustain and renew you as you journey through life?

Let’s travel to Jacob’s Well and listen to the words that Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman nearly 2,000 years ago; and, as we listen to Jesus speak, let’s stop for a moment and think about what His words and promises can mean to us today.

Blessings!