Where You Step –
Earlier this week I got up off the couch to walk from the living room to the bathroom. As I did my phone chimed with an email alert. I picked it up and continued walking while reading and scrolling through the message. Unfortunately, I did not see the dog who for some reason had decided he was going to sleep on one of the bathroom mats. I didn’t hurt him but did trip myself. Fortunately, I did catch myself. I had an immediate sense of shame as I help others to be focused, aware, mindful of where they step on the path of life and here I am stumbling over the pooch in my house. Sigh.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote “Be careful when you step outside your door Frodo. You never know where your feet will lead you.” This goes for inside your house as well.
Where we look is where we end up. Our lives are often the sum of our choices and where we choose to fix our gaze. My gaze that day wasn’t on where I was headed but on a small screen with a message that could’ve waited a few minutes. Too many times we allow the illusion of urgency leads us to lack awareness and a place of unbalance.
Let’s watch our steps or there’s no telling where we’ll end up going.
Posted in Life
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Keep What Works –
This advertisement was in my Twitter feed this morning. When I was a pastor who had to prepare and deliver a message each Sunday I loved the times when after the service people would come up and ask a question, make a comment or even challenge something I said during the message. It meant they were listening! I would listen to them and then discuss whatever was on their mind. At the end of the conversation I would often tell them; “Don’t take what I say as the truth. Go search for yourself. Find out if the all or part of the message is for you and keep what works and leave the rest.” I understood that depending on where we were on our path greatly determined what our minds, emotions, and spirits could process and apply at any given moment. Most of us have had the experience of someone excitedly telling us about something they heard someone say, or read in a book, and how it changed their lives. While we are grateful for our friend’s epiphany we also think to ourselves; “I’ve told them this a thousand times and they never listened!” It’s because they weren’t ready. The good piece of advice, the important life lesson we told them wasn’t ready to be heard.
Wisdom teaches us that many truths surround us presently. However, we can only perceive a few, if any, because we are unaware, distracted. The best news is that these truths are timeless and sooner or later they’re ready to be received and applied. Sometimes we become frustrated because we seem to be learning the same things over and over. We need to learn to give ourselves a break and trust that one day the truth we’ve been searching for will be received and kept because it works.
Posted in Life
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a Break –
Today was the first appointment with my therapist since my father passed. We kept coming back to the theme; “It’s been a long month!” We talked about a lot of things which have happened, are happening and will happen. Responsibilities, experiences, the new normal of living life without dad and how these are impacting my chronic depression and severe anxiety. As we were wrapping up the session her words, her prescription for me was; “Give yourself a break.” In other words, take it one day at a time, don’t fixate on certain challenges, try not to do everything at once and breathe, keep yourself centered.
On the way home I was driving behind a person with a bumper sticker which read; “Of course I love you! Why wouldn’t I?” I received the message and took it to heart. We put such a demand upon ourselves to get things done, live up to expectations, not let anyone down, be what we believe we should be instead of simply accepting ourselves for who we are; imperfect people trying to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God and with each other.
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This afternoon the Mrs. and I went to see, “The Last Jedi.” It was good. No spoilers but I still say the Original Trilogy is not in any danger of being replaced on my favorite movies list.
As I sat in the theater I couldn’t help but think of my father. He took me and my brother to see our first Star Wars movie. I remember seeing it and being, pardon the pun, blown away! Dad drove a large white station wagon back then and on the way home from the movie we pretended to be in a spaceship which was in the film named; “The Millenium Falcon.” As we sped down two-lane highways dad would fire lasers, flash high beams, at incoming “Empire” spaceships; “Tie Fighters.” I don’t know what the drivers, targets, of the other cars thought but my brother and I were ecstatic.
The newest Star Wars movie is about hope. In fact, all the Star Wars movies are about hope, fighting an enemy who seems invincible and never giving up. In the newest one different characters are looking for that “spark which will light the fire.” They find it in various places and in other people who give them courage to “not fight what we hate but save what we love.”
I am thankful today for the message of hope and the strength to keep going.
Posted in Life
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Not Easy –
I sat on a stiff wooden pew this morning, in a small Lutheran church, among a few committed Christ followers. The pastor, an elderly gentleman who’s been filling in as the church searches for a new, permanent pastor, pulled double duty this morning playing the piano at the back of the sanctuary and leading prayer and preaching at the front.
As he began his message this morning I could tell he was a bit out of sorts with going back and forward between the piano and the pulpit. After a few moments, he got himself sorted and began to speak regarding the difficulty of being a faith walker in our world today. His words were seasoned with those of a long time follower. He spoke about how life, living out our faith, is tough. Period. There are many questions and confusing cultural conundrums that exist. There’s a lot of pain and suffering and knowing how to handle some, certainly all of them, is hard if not impossible.
His answer was simple; “be like Christ.” There wasn’t any lamenting about; “the good ol’ days” or how the new generation of faith walkers doesn’t have what it takes. His point was that it has always been a strenuous, at times; exhausting journey to travel the path of Jesus. There were no 10 steps to a stronger faith, an acronym to remember when you’re discouraged, a conference one should attend, a book to read that’ll explain everything. Nope. A man who has many more years behind him than ahead telling folks it was okay to struggle, to feel drained, to not have nearly all the answers, to keep the faith of those who’ve walked before us; “Again, to be like Jesus.”
For me, someone who seems to know less and less about everything as the years pass by increasingly fast, it was a needed and hopefully heeded message.
32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
A 44 year old man wasn’t ready late one night when 18 police officers raided his home believing that he was wielding a firearm. Keith Abraham’s common law wife Michelle earlier in the evening had called a paramedic because she thought Keith was having a heart attack. While the paramedic attended to Keith the paramedic mistakenly thought Keith was concealing a and thought the call from his wife might actually be a call for help. The paramedic contacted the police after leaving the home describing Keith as possessing a 10 inch weapon. Later that night as the couple was dozing off a team of 18 police officers, 10 of whom were armed, stormed the house, weapons drawn ordering Keith to get out of bed onto the floor! Both Keith and Michelle were forced out of their home and into a police van for questioning. While they were being interrogated the police searched the home for the weapon! What did the paramedic see? The TV remote control. By the way Keith wasn’t having a heart attack, it was a panic attack. No word on whether the uninvited guests that night gave him a real heart attack.
Text Background and Situation
Our section from Luke today finds its parallel in Matthew 6v19-21 & Matthew 24v43-44.
Jesus is in the presence both of his disciples and the large crowd we met last week in 12v1. He speaks to the disciples specifically and the large number of people surrounding him in general. He follows the parable of the rich fool in 12v13-21 with the encouragement to live without anxiety. Worrying about food or clothing, temporal things, is unnecessary in light of God’s faithfulness to his children. Jesus says; “The nations” or Gentiles, those who do not have God’s promises, worry about such things 12v30. When attachment is to temporal items, these can be taken away, deteriorate, or change in unexpected ways, uncertainty and anxiety result.
32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Culture tells us that we must hunt, gather, accumulate, make sure we have enough to survive and enough “just in case”. Those in the Jesus movement not only live in God’s abundance but also share, provide for anyone who is in need, those Jesus label as “our neighbor.”
Jesus is teaching a radical re-oriented worldview, a paradigm shift, a way of seeing things that is not how the world sees. Abundance not scarcity, reassurance not anxiety because the community we are apart of, God’s kingdom come, reflects that care and love of our Heavenly Father.
Jesus implores his listeners not to worry; “Do not be afraid, little flock.” “your Father took pleasure in giving you the kingdom.” The Greek word for pleasure means “seemed good” to do this, a commitment to do this for the reason it was good, not with repayment in mind. God did “freely give”.
This is a kingdom where social standing is irrelevant, everyone on equal footing. A place where nothing is lacking, neither food, clothing, love or community. In other words God wants and desires to take care of us and has made a place, a way, for us to live without taking or hoarding from others. A place where jealousy and resentment are no more because treasure is not found in Earthly things. This place is called the Kingdom of God, the community of Jesus.
The Lord’s prayer says not “Kingdom one day will come but Kingdom this moment, come.” Jesus’ followers are a vital part of the advancement of the Kingdom, making it present, a reality, by the lives they live. It has been “freely given” and Kingdom citizens freely give it to others.
33Sell your possessions, and give alms.
Because of what God has freely given those following Jesus are to freely give as well. A gift, not as repayment to God, but to anyone in need. Jesus says; “sell your possessions and give alms.” A sign of the Kingdom, a way to advance the Kingdom, bring it into the present is to give to those in need. Again, upside down. Want to show appreciation for God’s abundance? Don’t offer sacrifices, give to those who have nothing. God does not desire, nor is impressed, by our attempts to impressed him, he desires that we give to the weakest and most vulnerable.
“Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
Jesus asks; “Why invest in something that will become old, will wear out? Why commit your life to the accumulation of perishable items that can be stolen or damaged, and are not eternal?”
Invest instead in Kingdom building and its upside down economy. Jesus tells them, “Make money-purses for yourselves that do not become old, an unfailing treasure … where no thief comes nor moth destroys.”
If your treasure is at risk than you are collecting the wrong kind of treasure. An easy question to see if you’re investing your life in the right things. Give away the treasure that can be stolen, goods that fade and wear out to help those in need. Invest in Kingdom economy! Trust that you are God’s treasure and he is yours. Giving away what can be taken away or taken with you is an act of trust that God has, is and will freely give you what you need. The ability to do this also reveals where your treasure truly lies.
Ready For Action
Let your loins be girded around and the candles be burning, and you yourselves like those looking for their lord who might return from the wedding banquet so that, when he comes and knocks, immediately they may open to him. Blessed those slaves whom the Lord, coming, will find watching. Truly I say to you that he will gird (himself) and sit down with them, and drawing near, will serve them.
Girded loins, may sound painful, but means fastening one’s clothes in such a way that a person wouldn’t trip over them if running or working. It’s an expression meaning heightened anticipation a readiness for action. The reference to girded loins recalls the passover experience of the early Hebrews in Exodus 12v11. The early Hebrews were told to gird their loins, be ready to move, prepared to go, anticipating and expecting God to bring freedom at any moment when they were slaves in Egypt. Jesus commands his followers to be this way. “…like those who wait for “their lord” coming from the wedding banquet.”
The Greek word for Lord is used twice in v36&37 and Jesus is referring to himself. The Lord is coming from a wedding banquet a feast, a party, a celebration! The image of a wedding banquet is used through out the Jewish and Christian scriptures as an important biblical symbol that represents the end of time.
This Lord, in Jesus’ parable, is not returning from battle, or a long trip filled with difficulties. He is not scowling pounding on the door! He’s coming back from a time of celebration and festivity. He’s whistling, humming, filled with food and wine. His servants/slaves are not cowering in fear ready to be abused, they are looking for him, ready for him, eagerly expecting and anticipating his return. They are girded, prepared for his homecoming, happy to have him back.
What is the Lord’s response to these ready ones? He “sit(s) down with them, draws near to them, serves them”! In the Old Testament especially, often the Day of the Lord, God’s return, is bleak, fearful, dreadful. Jesus turns this on its head.
The Lord returns and pull his slaves close to him, a sign of intimacy and love. He serves them, a sign of humbleness. This is what the Kingdom of God, God’s reign, looks like.
And if he might come in the second, or in the third watch, and find so, blessed they are. But know this: that if the master of the house had know what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken through. And you, you be ready, for at an hour you think not, the son of man comes.”
The elephant in the room of course when we talk about Jesus’ return is; “its been 2000 years! What’s taking so long?!?!?”
Jesus uses the image of a “thief.” A good thief is sneaky, quiet, plotting and not hurried. Like Jesus, he knows all about timing, the best moment, opportunity to make his move.
After a while, those who are prepared, ready, eagerly waiting and anticipating might begin to be restless and think “…OK, enough waiting already, let’s get this party started!” It’s easy enough to look around at our world and say “This is it! This has to be it! This is going to be it! Wait, this wasn’t it?”
Jesus is a master of the art of misdirection and seems to really enjoy turning our expectations on their heads. Jesus is coming and it will be in a way we do not expect at a time we will not expect. The Greeks here literally says at “an hour that seems like nothing.”
In the mean time we have two things to do. Freely give because we have been freely given and be ready.
“… in the Lord my heart trusts; he is my help, he is my shepherd…”