Merry Christmas

December 25, 2019

The kingdom of God is here.

Won’t You Be My Friend?

December 24, 2019

Mr. Rogers was after my time. But I enjoyed how every movement and word he shared had a meaning. And there was his phrase.

In the times when Jesus lived people everywhere had a longing for spiritual meaning. There were different cultures and attitudes, but the feeling of a hole in their life that needed to be filled had spread throughout the Mediterranean region.

And Jesus popped into the scene. He told people there was a God, and God desired to be in relationship and fill that spiritual hole. And heal people of their anxieties, illnesses, drifting through life.

He told people it was OK to relate to God. He said we should love one another and by doing so we were getting closer to God. In his way, he asked, “Won’t you be my friend?”

An amazing number of people spreading from the epicenter of Palestine even to Rome on one side and India on the other bought into the message and experienced changed lives.

Like Carole King sang, “Ain’t it good to know, you’ve got a friend?”

This season is when we celebrate that Jesus came. So, go celebrate.

There Must Be Someone To Help

December 23, 2019

There are many who are enkindled with dreamy devotion, and when they hear of the poverty of Christ, they are almost angry with the citizens of Bethlehem. They denounce their blindness and ingratitude, and think, if they had been there, they would have shown the Lord and his mother a more kindly service and would not have permitted them to be treated so miserably. But they do not look by their side to see how many of their fellow humans need their help, and which they ignore in their misery. Who is there upon earth that has no poor, miserable, sick, erring ones around him? Why does he not exercise his love to those? Why does he not do to them as Christ has done to him? — Martin Luther

Sometimes our emotions are aroused by things we’ve read from centuries long past. Sometimes just last week. “I would have done that differently,” we tell ourselves.

Yet in present moments, we walk past those in need without a thought or acknowledgement.

Indeed, why do we not do to them as Jesus has done for us?

The irony of these words lies in Luther himself, who at one and the same time discovered God’s grace and sparked a revolution causing hundreds of years of bitter wars throughout Europe. Vestiges exist to this day in the religious divisions of American Christianity.

Celebrating, as we do at this time of year, the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven, perhaps we could begin looking by our side to heal the divisions and the wounds. Beginning one person at a time.

Advent—Anticipating the Coming of the Kingdom of Heaven

December 20, 2019

Of course, the kingdom of heaven is here. I’m sure it actually existed long before Jesus. But when Jesus came, he pointed everyone explicitly toward it.

What have we learned about the kingdom of heaven?

It starts out small but grows to encompass all.

We can choose to participate or not.

We choose not by what we say but by how we act.

When we enter the kingdom of heaven, we are rewarded with a better life–love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

That is something to celebrate.

Use It or Lose It

December 19, 2019

  • “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
  • “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
  • “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
  • “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
  • “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
  • “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
  • “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
  • “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
  • What shall we learn from this story about the kingdom of heaven?

    Like the early stories, it is the place where we live. And it is the master we serve. And there are people who follow the master and people who do not.

    And some put their time, talents, and energy to use to make the kingdom better. And some are lazy, fearful, unimaginative and therefore hide.

    I’ve been thinking of Advent as a time to prepare for the coming of the kingdom of heaven. Of course, that happened when Jesus came and announced it. But Jesus “went away” and will “return” as this story suggests.

    Will he find us living the values of the kingdom of heaven, and thereby reaping the fruit of the spirit? Or, will he find us hiding in our fears and emotions and thereby not living a fulfilled life?

    Looks like we get a choice–use it, or lose it.

    Be Prepared and Vigilant

    December 18, 2019

    At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

    “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

    “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

    “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

    “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

    “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

    “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

    “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

    Jesus is often confusing. Sometimes he clearly implied that the kingdom of heaven appeared with him and was accessible to all who cared. Sometimes we can read into the story that perhaps he was referring to a “second coming”.

    But we can take away two things from this story without trying to stretch the meaning.

    If we wish to enter the kingdom of heaven reap all those good things in our life that I discussed yesterday, we must:

    • Be prepared
    • Be vigilant

    We prepare through study, meditation, and prayer.

    We are vigilant by honing our awareness.

    We also learn that many who think they know Jesus and will enter the kingdom do not, for they are neither prepared nor vigilant. Don’t be one whose life is shut off from the source of life.

    The Important Thing Is What You Do

    December 17, 2019

    “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

    ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

    Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

    Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

    “The first,” they answered.

    Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

    Tell me, what is more important–what you believe or the practices you do to put your belief into action?

    We must meditate on this–what have we done yesterday and what will we do today to show we are in reality followers of Jesus rather than just carriers of words without meaning?

    We now know about entering the kingdom of heaven. It is up to us.

    Again, The Kingdom of Heaven is Like

    December 16, 2019

    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

    What is of the greatest value to you? A person? Place? Thing?

    Wouldn’t a life that includes love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control be worth something great? Being humble, yet a strong leader? Gentle, yet strong in the face of adversity?

    Leaving a life of anger and agitation for a life of calm is worth many times more than the price of a meditation habit to obtain it. Or putting aside a life of ego to let others shine?

    Such is the kingdom of heaven.

    The Kingdom of Heaven—Commit Completely

    December 13, 2019

    The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

    What else need be said?

    When we find the kingdom, it is more valuable and important than anything.

    For you who are still seeking for spiritual roots, when you find the kingdom of heaven, you commit completely.

    It is definitely not saying you have entered the kingdom of heaven. You are known by your commitment as you live minute-by-minute. People will look at you and thing, “There goes someone living in the kingdom of heaven.”

    An old joke concerns a conversation between a pig and a chicken about supplying breakfast for a human. The pig says, “For you, it is merely a contribution. For me, it is total commitment.”

    Jesus said that we will know by how a person loves. He was so clear, yet people who think too much make it so opaque. How committed are you? Not to busy work in some organization, but to living in the kingdom?

    The Kingdom of Heaven Permeates Everywhere

    December 12, 2019

    The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.

    What kind of breads do you make (buy) that have no yeast and what kinds have yeast?

    Yeast changes the entire batch of dough.

    If Advent can be seen as anticipation of the coming of Jesus (which today we think of the first coming, then it can also be considered as the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

    Jesus never found the entire population of Palestine (both Jews and not) as his followers, yet the small numbers spread throughout the world as far as they could go changing the culture everywhere.

    We who say we are followers share the same “yeast”, that of permeating and changing the world around us not so much by words as by what we do and how we act.

    Yeast takes time to realize its mission in the dough. So, the kingdoms of heaven also does not happen instantaneously.

    But we work at it.