Monday, June 24, 2013

We're Guilty

          We hear the story of Ahab and Naboth; we listen to how Jezebel coerced leaders to lie about Naboth. We hear how the corrupt leaders and noblemen of Samaria were so quick to do the bidding of Jezebel. And we think that couldn’t or wouldn’t ever happen to me…or happen here!
          Ahab wasn’t guilty of the actual lies or the stoning of Naboth but he didn’t say anything when Jezebel told him, “Naboth is dead. You can have his garden now.” He didn’t ask how Naboth died. He didn’t ask anything about Naboth, because he knew that his wife had done something underhanded so he could have his garden. He just didn’t care!
          So he went to the garden and began to make it his own, planting and cultivating it as if he were the rightful, legal owner.
          God spoke to Elijah, we don’t know exactly how the communication happened, about where to find Ahab and what he, and Jezebel, had done. God gave Elijah some pretty harsh words to relay to Ahab. God said, “In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!” There was no doubt that Ahab wasn’t going to enjoy the fruits of this garden, and it sounds fair to us because it wasn’t really his.
          How does this story apply to us, today? We haven’t taken anyone’s land. We haven’t had someone killed so we could waltz in and take it over. We’re good guys.
          But wait, what about all that happened to the Native Americans? What about what happened to the Japanese Americans during World War II? What about the land foreclosures during the Great Depression? Sure the banks loaned the money but was it ethical to take the farm, sell it, and keep enough from the proceeds to pay what was owed? What about what’s happening in our Senate and House in Washington right now? Who’s paying the price for the mismanagement of finances in our federal government? You know who it is. It’s those who have no voice, no leverage, no super pacs to lobby for them. They’re the ones who are paying. The Food Stamp program is one those programs that may be cut or reduced. Who will feed these folks if they no longer can get food stamps?
          Injustices are still happening today, people taking advantage of someone else in order to accumulate more wealth; not caring what happens to the other guy as long as they get what they want, more land, more money, more prestige.
          It’s not just individuals, corporations and countries are doing it too. Leveraging the competitor until they cave in and their business…and customers…become part of the conglomerate.
          Wars, most times are about one country trying to get more land, more people, more natural resources. In the process, children and families pay the price…and most of us turn and look the other way. It’s not in our back yard. It’s on the other side of the world, it’s easy to ignore…and forget about.
          Friends, we’re all guilty. We’re guilty when we don’t speak out over injustices we see happening all around us. We’re guilty when we pass along rumors when we haven’t even asked if there’s any truth to them. You know what I’m talking about.
          We’re guilty when we don’t try to do something to right the wrongs done to those who have very little to start with. We’re just guilty.
          So, what are we to do? How do we stop the process?  I think first we have to admit that some of the blame does indeed belong on our shoulders. And then we need to ask God to forgive us, and show us, allow us, to begin to right some of the wrongs. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Finding God

This is adapted or tweaked using ideas from Spill the Beans, Issue 8. The first part is my thoughts on "Finding God" and the end is from the liturgy material from Issue 8.  May God add his blessing to it; may it speak to your soul.

How do we find God? Or maybe the question should be how does God find us? Maybe it takes both, us looking for God and God finding us.
          I’m certain God knows where we’re at. If God wants us he can find us. The psalmist said there was no where he could go that God wasn’t already there ahead of him.
          But, if we want to find God how do we? Maybe we should really get this into the simplest form we can. Let’s say we’ve misplaced something we use every day, like the keys to the front door. We always have them in our pockets or we leave them hanging on a hook, the same place all the time.
          But this morning when we went to get them they weren’t there. How do we find them? Most of us would rush around looking in the most likely places we might have put them down. Usually that doesn’t work for me. They’re never where I think they should be.
          So, when I’ve become so exasperated that I don’t know what else to do I sit down, sometimes I put my head in my hands, and I talk with God. I tell him I’ve looked everywhere and I don’t know where else to turn. And then I sit and quietly wait…in silence. I make myself still. I listen. I sit and look around me…and wait.
          You might think it odd; you might think it would never work for you but too many times what I think I’ve lost forever is found again…right where I left it but could not for the life of me remember that I’d put it there.
          So, if we were looking for God don’t you think the same practice might work? So many times when we’re looking for God we think we can only find him in the sanctuary at church, when, if we’d stop and think, he’s as close to us as our hearts.
          I find God in the early morning, riding my bike out past Leo and Gayle Stuart’s place. I find God in the song of the red wing blackbird and the meadowlark. I find God in the wind turbines as they are propelled by that unseen force we call wind. I find God in the stillness just before the robins wake and begin singing their praise to the Creator of everything.
          God can be found everywhere, in our everyday lives, in our breath, in our passions, in our anger, in silence.
          We are able to find God in our every breath, in those murmurs that provide inspiration. God comes to us like those rumors we hear at coffee with just a whisper and somehow we know it’s actually God’s voice we hear.
          In an instant God comes with a rush, a gasp, and in a breath God passes by us.
          God make his presence known to us in our passions. God’s like a fire burning inside us, intense pain, a feeling of heat and desire, a zealous intensity that’s like an obsession, rapturous, almost a crazed feeling, in passion God passes by us.
          Is God present when we’re angry? If he’s with us in everything else he must be in those places when we are filled with madness, livid with indignation over wrongs done, exasperated, incensed, provoked beyond our endurance…God passes by in anger.
          But it’s in the silence, the hushed quiet, the still, muffled, suppressed quiet, when we’re at peace, calm, placid, cool, silence God passes by.
          To find God listen, look, see, and behold: in the everyday of life are the everyday theophanies, those dramatic appearances of God who passes by and calls us on the way.
          Can you hear it, the Silence? Listen, for it holds deep certainties. Not those that come whirling in like truth tornados, whipping up storms, their eyes on doubts leaving the heart’s landscape littered with broken hopes. Not those that come in earth-moving, land-shaking, ground-churning spectacles to cast cracks like gaping wounds through carefully constructed dreams. Not those that come with cackling, crackling glee, their greedy glow and unquenchable appetite blazing a destructive trail to cauterize the very roots of charred visions.
          Can you hear it, the silence? Listen. And know for certain that within it lies a truth worth hearing. Listen. Wrap yourself within its folds, let it lead you to an open door and know you go in peace.

          Thanks be to God. Amen.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's God Think?

          Do you ever wonder what God thinks about what we’re doing? How do you think He feels about how we do church, how we worship, how we love and serve each other, our community and the greater world community? How do you think God feels or thinks about how we’re doing following the examples Jesus gave us, about how to pray, how to love, and how to serve?
          Do you suppose he’s amused by our attempts at doing worship in different ways? Does he laugh out loud at our attempts to grow His church? Does he laugh when he sees our television evangelists trying to impress their audience, their attempts to one-up each other, seemingly oblivious to the real Power…the power that doesn’t need a song or a dance to make it authentic, a power that commands the whole universe, a power that’s omnipotent? What do you think?
          When you listen to the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal how does it convict your heart? Do you hear the story and think, “We don’t have to worry; our pastor has it all taken care of? No problems here.” Or are you a little worried by the story and wonder if maybe we’re missing something? Maybe we don’t have this God relationship all figured out after all.
          Notice how there’s only one prophet for God and there are innumerable prophets for Baal. How many prophets does God have today? How many prophets does the world have today? Who’s more powerful, God or the world?
          When Elijah was prophesying for God there was a drought in the land, no rain had fallen for three years. Did you think that last year with no rain that maybe God had turned of the spigot? Did you think that maybe He was trying to get our attention?
          If that was the case what about this year with floods and tornadoes and tropical storms? Is He still trying to get our attention?
          Are the world’s prophets so loud and boisterous that we can’t hear God’s prophets? Or do we just have blinders on and we don’t see what’s happening on the periphery? How close are we to being like the people of Israel in Elijah’s day? Which prophets are we listening to, which religion do we follow?
          Do the gods we pay homage to listen to our petitions? Do they hear our prayers? Do they answer us? Or are they like Baal? Are they asleep or away or have they un-friended us? You don’t pray to Baal. Are you praying to the Lord? Or, aren’t you praying to any god?
          Is your church your god? Is your religion your God? Is your denomination your God? What god or gods are we worshiping?
          How do we show or demonstrate we believe in God? Is it possible for other people to observe any evidence that we believe in God? What would they see?
          Friends, the lesson for us today is about what we believe and how we live out what we believe. Are we different than those who worshiped Baal or do we just have a different ‘Baal?’
          Do we need a demonstration of God’s power to bring us back to worshiping him, and only him? What do we need?
          In Elijah's time God went to extreme measures to get the people of Israel's attention. When he sent his Son he went to extreme measures to get the people's attention, to demonstrate his love for all humanity. Is God done with his extreme demonstrations?                  
          Friends, if we take nothing else away from the lessons today we should understand how very much God loves us. God cares enough for us to go to extremes for us. And all he asks is that we believe in his Son, our Lord, Jesus.
          Thanks be to God for his forgiving grace. Amen.

Thanks to Spill the Beans for their thought provoking questions.