Archive for September, 2010

Opportunities to Be Christ Today

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

This weekend’s readings get us focused on our opportunities each and every day to be Christ in our homes, neighborhoods and workplace. In Luke’s Gospel (16: 19-31), Jesus tells a parable to the pharisees of the rich man who is  clothed in fine garments who dines sumptuously every day. The rich man ignores the poor man – Lazarus –  who is lying at his door covered in sores.

Upon the rich man’s death he ended up in the netherworld. In the parable, Lazarus ended up in what appears to be heaven by the side of Abraham.

The rich man who is now on the other side – hot and hungry – asks Abraham to, “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.”  Abraham responds by basically saying that you led the life of a rich fat cat on earth and ignored Lazarus and the poor who were in your presence each and every day.  You missed your opportunities  to enter the kingdom of God when you chose to deliberately ignore the needy who were in your presence. Lazarus on the other hand led a very difficult life on earth and is now living a comfortable life with me.

Even after being told by Abraham about his fate, the rich man shows tremendous compassion for others by begging Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his five brothers of what will happen if they continue leading selfish lives.  Abraham’s response is one that I’ve written down on a 3 X 5 card so that I can memorize the language, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

Remember, that it was Jesus who was telling this story and in the parable her was referring to Lazarus rising from the dead to return to earth.  Jesus did go on to die and rise from the dead and many of us today are not persuaded by his resurrection.

Jesus came to earth. He died to atone for every sin ever committed. He rose from the dead and lived among his disciples.

He gave us a commandment that is easy to remember and implement, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.”

How would Jesus love Lazarus?

There is nothing wrong with money or being rich.  It’s when we’re selfish with our resources and ignore the sick and poor  when we’re off the target that Jesus has set for us.

Show love and compassion to everyone on earth today.  Live for ever in eternity with God.  That sounds like a great plan to me!

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Responsibly Social

Monday, September 20th, 2010

This week’s theme is social responsibility. In the reading from Amos (8:4-7) – the prophet of social justice – we see greedy merchants looking to alter the scales used to measure wheat and grain so that they can cheat the poor and increase their profits. In those days, Amos was observing a growing gap between the rich and the poor that is very similar to what is going on today in most industrialized nations.  Amos tells the merchants (and each of us), that “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!”

It feels so good to be generous – especially to those less fortunate.

In Paul’s Letter to TImothy (1 Timothy 2:1-8), Paul is asking the beloved to pray for “kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.”   Like the reading from Amos, this message has as much applicability today as it did 2000 years ago.  The political leaders of today have a great deal of influence over laws and services which lead to justice for all.

Paul knows that when a stable social order is in place, it’s much easier for individuals to live a peaceful life with dignity and respect in devotion to God. Our prayers do impact what happens in the world.  We’re not only encouraged to pray for those we love, but for political leaders around the world and especially for people we’re finding it difficult to love.  Paul reassures us that, “This is good and pleasing to God our Savior.”

Our prayers are heard by God and felt by those we’re praying for.  Prayer is uplifting for all involved.

 In Luke’s Gospel (16:1-13), Jesus tells a parable that deals with money, debt and ethics. “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  “Dishonest wealth” is the riches of the world.  Worldly wealth is not a bad thing. We’re encouraged to use it wisely by sharing it with others and to not hold onto it too tightly.

 “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” If we do not share our material wealth (small matters) joyfully and generously, how can we expect to receive “True wealth” – the riches of the kingdom of God?

“No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon (material wealth or greed).”

We’re focused on loving and serving God and each other. Generosity with our money and ethics in our business dealings is a way of putting our faith into action each and every day.

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Forgiveness, Gratitude and Mercy

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Forgiving and merciful is how God the Father is presented in this week’s readings.  Like a loving parent, God is always looking after every one of his sons and daughters and welcoming them back home.

In the first reading from Exodus (32:7-11, 13-14), Moses is negotiating with God to have mercy on the people of Israel who have returned to worshiping idols after having been lead out of slavery and recently receiving the Ten Commandments. How quickly we forget all that’s been done for us!  It was easy for the people of Israel to forget about God now that their problems were over.  They could forget about God and turn their attention to other, more worldly objects of desire.

Don’t we sometimes do the same thing when our life is going well? Is God first in your life or do you occasionally allow other worldly distractions  – money, dating,  movie stars, sporting events, professional sports teams – to be higher priorities than your relationship with God?  Thankfully, we’re told time and time again that our God is a forgiving and merciful God.

Paul positions himself as the foremost of sinners in his Letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Who besides Paul would brag about being the #1 sinner?  In gratitude to God Paul says, “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.” Gratitude is one of the most important traits for us to display on a daily basis – to God and to each other. Paul is grateful for Jesus’ grace and patience.  Are you grateful to God for all that you have? Have you said, Thank you lately?

If Jesus could turn the darkness that existed within Paul to light, his love and grace are strong enough to transform any of us no matter how dark our lives were or still are today. Paul tells us that in his life before knowing Jesus he was arrogant,  a blasphemer, a persecutor and acted out of ignorance and unbelief. We all act out of ignorance or unbelief.  Once we learn and believe, our problems are over. By positioning himself as the worst possible sinner, Paul assures us that if he can be forgiven through the grace of God, everyone can be forgiven.  Phew!

Christ chose Paul despite his tremendous sins. Christ chooses you and me too.  He’s always reaching out to us asking us to return to his love. He’s telling us that we will always be forgiven. 

The Gospel from Luke (15: 1-32) contains three parables which all express God’s mercy. The first parable is about the shepherd who has lost 1 of his 100 sheep. The second is about a woman who has lost 1 of her ten coins and the third is the story of the Prodigal Son – the lost son.  In each of the three parables, there is rejoicing when the one who is lost is found.  A good shepherd will leave the 99 sheep to pursue the one that is lost.

Jesus told these parables at this particular time because some of the Pharisees and scribes were complaining about the company that Jesus was keeping saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Bingo!  That’s exactly what Jesus is asking every one of us to do today.  Welcome the lost and forgotten and point them towards the bulls-eye.

Jesus came to save those of us who are lost – the sinners.  To sin means to be “off target.”  Jesus came to direct us toward the target who never fails and always forgives.

A merciful God is always there to welcome us back home. He’s there ready to receive us with a hug and open arms.  When the younger prodigal son is welcomed back home after he “swallowed up his father’s property with prostitutes,” the older brother becomes resentful.  For a very long time, I tended to side with the older brother who was saying, “what about me?”.   He feels as though his loyalty to his father should entitle him to preferential treatment and that his brother’s behavior should have caused him to lose his privileges.

That is not how God loves.  God loves each of us equally and will invite us back home and into the family whenever we’re ready to return. Those of us who are already home have complete access to all the Father has to offer.

God’s love, mercy and forgiveness are abundant.  If you were waiting for a written invitation to return home, please consider your wait over.  All are welcome in God’s home.

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God Comes First

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

This week’s gospel from Luke (14:25-33) can seem very confusing when reading the words literally. Jesus says to the great crowds traveling with him, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Is Jesus asking us to hate our families? Absolutely not. When the gospels were translated from the ancient languages into greek, english and others, sometimes the original intent did not translate perfectly. In the english language we have many words and phrases  which allow us to communicate feelings that come between the two extremes of  love and hate such as like, dislike, put-up-with, etc. Jesus is reminding his disciples that we came from God, we’re going to return to God upon the death of our earthly body and God is to come first among all of our priorities while on earth.  Got it?

As Christians, we’re called to love everyone. Within the commandments, we’re specifically told to honor our mothers and fathers.  When insulted, we’re asked to “turn the other cheek.”  When hurt in any way by another person, we’re reminded to forgive. Love is the Christian theme.

Jesus is asking us to decide what we value most and in no uncertain terms he tells his followers that God should be our top priority.

As Jesus continues addressing the crowd he gives us another parable, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’”

Upon what foundation are you and I building our life?  If we claim that God is our foundation yet we have not constructed the rest of our life in line with the foundation, we may not be able to finish the work to which we’ve been called.   With God as our foundation, our life is constructed one floor at a time in perfect alignment with a solid and immovable foundation. It is the foundation of love which allows us to eliminate our worldly fears.

When asked to choose between anything else – work, money, family, entertainment, fame, property, security – and God,  we know how to choose.

When we place God first, it effects and influences each of our thoughts, words and actions. You and I are Christ to each person we come into contact with. As Christians share our love of God with each other, we unite humanity with each other and with God. We are the body of Christ on earth.

This week’s not-so-subtle reminder: God comes first.

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