Friday, November 28, 2014


I’d like you to picture yourself as one of the ten lepers who called to Jesus for pity. Put on their clothes. Put on their sandals. Remember that you aren’t allowed to get too close to other people because you’re not ‘clean.’ You haven’t been ‘clean’ for quite a while.
The children of the town are always taunting you and sometimes they pick up stones to drive you away. And lately you’ve noticed that you’ve lost the feeling in your fingers and toes. You’ve had this condition for so long it’s hard to remember what it was like to have ‘clean’ skin that didn’t itch and wasn’t covered with sores.
You’ve heard about this one called Jesus. You’ve heard about his healing powers and the miracles of feeding 5,000 and raising folks from the dead and driving out demons. And today, there he was walking down the road we were on.
One the others with us began the shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” As he looked our way we all took up the shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
It was like he was looking right at me. He didn’t come near. He just said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
That’s all. And so we began to go to the temple. That’s when I noticed that something felt different. I looked at my hands. They were healed! I could feel the tips of my fingers again! I could hardly believe it!
I stopped right there in the road. The leprosy was gone! I turned around and ran back to Jesus and fell at his feet. I was so happy I don’t remember everything I said. I know I was thanking God and thanking Jesus. What would you have done? What else could I do?
Then he spoke and said, “Weren’t there ten who were cleansed? Where are the others? How is it that only this one, a foreigner has returned?
Then he spoke to me! He said, “Get up and go. Your faith has made you well.”
I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced such joy, ever! I had to run to the priests and then I was going to go home! I hadn’t been close to my family for so long!
I’ll tell you one thing for sure! I’ll never, ever, take one day for granted anymore. Since Jesus healed me I know that every day is a blessing. I give God the glory every day.
And that Rabbi, Jesus. Some say he’s the Messiah, the Son of God. He sure could be. All I know is once I was an outcast and now I’m not.

So, good friends, don’t take your good lives for granted. Don’t be like I was. Go, find this Jesus and ask him to have pity on you! May you have the peace and joy I received when Jesus told me my faith had made me well.

Monday, November 24, 2014

God’s Message-Can You Hear It; Are You Listening?

Today is the last day of the Christian year. Today we celebrate and remember the greatest gift to the world, Jesus Christ.
Since it’s the last day we might be tempted to look back at where we’ve been, maybe even take time to reflect where we’ve known that God was with us and also those times when we didn’t feel God’s presence.
Since it’s the last day of the year we might also be tempted to look ahead and consider where God is calling us to be, what God is calling us to do, and how God is calling us to both be and do.
Jeremiah heard God’s voice when he was a boy. When God gave him his instructions Jeremiah didn’t think he had the qualifications to complete the work of the Lord.
So, as the old year ends and the new year begins next Sunday with Advent consider this, how is God speaking to us and what is he calling us to do? Can we hear God’s voice? What are we to do if we can’t understand what God’s saying?
We have two separate and different things going on in these two passages. One is God’s call to Jeremiah and the other is the message God gave him to take to the people while standing at the gates leading into the temple.
So, our task today is to understand how this speaks to us today. I believe that God calls people to particular work. We read about it in the Bible and we hear people tells us how they’ve been called by God for particular work.
Is God calling you? Is God calling this church? If God is calling us, how are we responding to the call of the Lord?
I don’t think it works very well to tell God we’re not qualified, we’re too young…or too old, we don’t know how to speak, or any of the other excuses we use when we’re asked to do something hard. Especially when we read how God has plans for us before we were ever conceived. That kind of gets my attention doesn’t it you?
So, that’s the first part and then there’s the second piece that basically telling the folks and the leaders of the church that they haven’t been doing the things God has been calling them to do and be. They weren’t treating each other fairly or justly.
As we heard read they were brazen enough to tell God they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.  And who was this Jeremiah to be telling them that he was speaking the word of the Lord?
Two things, two messages for us today. One is a call and the other is a warning. Both can be scary and frightening for any one.
So, again, what is our calling from God…and what is our warning from God? I’m not sure I can give you the answer because I think the question is for each of us as individuals. There is the possibility that your call and my call could be similar maybe even alike but there’s also the possibility that they could be very different since we’re all uniquely different people created just for God’s purpose.
I haven’t given any answers to the questions presented. How do you know if and when God is calling you…or me…to a particular work? How can we discern God’s call…or warning? Think about that. What do you do? What would you do?
When I was a kid and I was perplexed with a sense of God’s call I’d go to my Bible and open it randomly thinking that if God had a message for me I would find it there and God would make sure the right pages fell open and my eyes would be led to the right words. I can’t remember if any real revelations came to me or not.
But my question isn’t for me but for you…and you…and you. What do you do? Is anyone here sensing a call from God that you don’t know how to answer? Maybe together we can help each other understand God’s message for us.
Jeremiah was in it alone and he suffered for the message God gave him to deliver. Maybe if we talk to each other about God’s call to us the work will be easier…maybe.
Friends, this week I’m asking all of you to sit with God and listen for the Voice of the Lord. Read his word for you, lift your prayers to God, and listen…because I believe God has a call crafted just for you.

May you be blessed with God’s grace and peace this week. Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Truth

The field commander for Sennacherib, King of Assyria, came to a place along the wall of the city of Jerusalem and began to spout about how the people in the City shouldn’t believe what Hezekiah was telling them. And he spoke in Hebrew so everyone sitting on the top of the wall could understand what he was saying.
He wanted them to believe that what he was saying was the truth. That brings us to the question that Pilate asked Jesus, “What is the truth?”
What is the truth? Two weeks ago this coming Tuesday people all over the United States voted for people they believed were the best to be the leaders of their communities, their state, their nation. After listening to debates and countless television advertisements the chose the ones they believed, the ones they believed were telling the truth.
So, this field commander for the King of Assyria is standing outside the walls of Jerusalem shouting in Hebrew about all the power that he wields, about all the cities and nations the army has conquered and destroyed. He is shouting to the folks sitting on the walls to not trust King Hezekiah. He can’t protect them and neither can the God of Israel. Everything King Hezekiah has been telling them is lies. Everything the field commander is saying is, of course, the truth. What is the truth?
As most of you know I go to coffee every day and, of course, I hear a lot of stories, some true and some not and some a variation of the truth. How do I know? I know because I’ve found out later when I talk to the person the stories are about that what I heard was pretty far off the mark. Therefore, I don’t believe everything I hear as the gospel truth.
What is the truth? The One and Only Truth is…Jesus. As he said in the gospel of John, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” So, the only truth is Jesus. Whatever I read in the Bible that Jesus said I believe to be the truth as it’s revealed to me by the Holy Spirit.
My friends, I want you to know that you shouldn’t even take everything I say as the truth either. I say that because, as you all know, I make mistakes. I get things messed up. I turn things around…and I’m a sinner…
Saved by God’s grace but still…a sinner who doesn’t get things right. So, what I’m saying this morning is the only ‘truth’ any of us can believe in and trust is God’s truth spoken by Jesus and revealed to us by the power of his Holy Spirit.
Just as in the days of King Hezekiah rumors are flying everywhere. And most of them we don’t want to believe…and shouldn’t. So, how do we combat rumors and how do we discover the truth?
In the first place we can refuse to play the rumor game. We can make our best effort to live like Jesus. What I mean is that we can love our neighbors, love ourselves with the love that Jesus had for his disciples and us.
The rumors we can believe are the rumors like the one in Isaiah 2 that talks about God’s glory, that describes a world of peace and love. We can do a lot for our community and the world by spreading that rumor.
My friends, God’s message from Jesus is the truth. That we can believe. That rumor we can spread far and wide.
God calls us to go into this world of rumors and live as Christians who love each other, love their neighbors, enemies and all, and love God spreading the story of God’s Kingdom here on earth and kingdom to come.

So, what do you think? What is the truth?

Monday, November 10, 2014

What Could Be and What It Really Is

Our scripture lesson today from the prophet Micah lets us know what it means to walk with God…and all that God requires of us.
Almost forty six years ago my friends were being drafted into service for our country. Some were drafted and some of us enlisted because we knew we were going to be called anyway and we hoped we’d have some choice in the work we could do.
Almost 100 years ago the outbreak of the Great War began. It was to be the war to end all wars. We know now it wasn’t. One hundred years is a milestone but it doesn’t mark the end a journey. There’s quite a ways to travel before we see peace the whole world over.
God calls us to a journey that’s quite a bit different than the one some have been on when called to serve their country.
We are not called because God needs something but as Micah says we are called and told what the Lord requires of us, justice, kindness, and mercy. He doesn’t need our sacrifices as the Psalms say.
It sounds like it should be so easy, this vision of peace, yet the reality of it is very different. It’s not that we don’t want peace it just seems like there’s a power prevalent in the world that creates so much hate and then conflict between people of different cultures. And when you add the differences in religions and politics it’s like throwing gasoline on a campfire. Everything just explodes.
A long time ago our ancestors had a vision of a world where war would be no more. That hasn’t happened yet…and may never happen. So, we journey on.
Today we again here God’s call to be reconciled to our neighbors, our enemies, and those who are foreigners in our land.
Maybe we need to create markers to remind us what God requires, justice, kindness, and humility. These milestones should be constructed of materials that never rot, rust, or erode. Markers that would stand for as long as the world remains. Markers that would remind us of the vision Micah had for his country.
The young people of my generation burned their draft cards and some went to Canada to keep from being drafted or thrown into jail for protesting. They were against the war in Vietnam. They didn’t see the value in people dying.
Today there are still folks who picket the military bases in protest. They are willing to go to jail to get their point across.
We’ve had 13 years of war and I don’t know how many lost lives. Doesn’t it make you wonder why? What have we gained? Couldn’t there have been an alternate way?
And so I ask you to pray for peace remembering God’s word to Micah and Jesus’ words to the disciples about loving God and neighbor.
Friends, as we, this week, remember our friends, our family members, and those we never met let us commit to finding another way. Let’s honor those who’ve died and work to live in peace. The peace for which they fought so hard.
May we find another way, maybe trying God’s way. It surely would cost us less than all the lives lost in a war to end war forever. Our friends the peaceniks were so far off when they talked of making love not war.
Friends, remember our veterans this week…and pray for a way to end all war. Pray for the love and peace of Jesus Christ.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Water & Dirt

The story of Elisha and the great commander of the Syrian Army, Naaman being healed of his skin disease is about simple elements, a muddy river...and dirt.
Naaman, possibly because he’d been sent by the King of Syria to the King of Israel, expected something more than just being told by Elisha’s servant to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. At the very least he expected the great prophet to come out and speak to him.
Naaman must have been pretty smart to have listened to his own servants and to be convinced by them to at least try washing in the river. What did he have to lose?
He did exactly as the servant of Elisha told him. He removed his clothes and washed himself thoroughly seven times in the muddy Jordan River.
And when he came up out of the water his skin was like that of a young teenage boy. The skin disease was gone.
He was so happy to see it gone that he went to Elisha and tried to get him to take the present he had brought with him. Elisha wouldn’t take his gifts. When Elisha wouldn’t accept his gifts Naaman asked for 2 mule-loads of dirt. He pledged that he would no longer worship any gods but the one true God of Israel.
Muddy water cleansed Naaman and plain old dirt from in front of Elisha’s house was holy.
Water and dirt, two simple, basic elements we take for granted and yet they are reminders for us how our God works using the simplest of things.
It makes us think about the stories of Jesus healing the blind and deaf in the gospels. He took mud and spit and put in eyes and in ears and those who couldn’t see or hear were able to see and hear again.
There wasn’t anything magical about the mud or the water or spit. It was God’s grace that worked the miracle and with that was the people’s faith; together with God’s grace and their faith healing took place.
So many times in our lives we think that we need pomp and circumstance in order to be forgiven and made righteous before God. Or we think we need to jump through a lot of hoops in order to be cleansed, forgiven.
All we ever need is to confess and receive God’s forgiveness. The price was already paid in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All we need to do is accept God’s grace as it’s freely given…and then realize nothing more is needed. All we have to do is live into the gift of grace.
That’s what hard to believe. God doesn’t want anything from us except for us to believe, to love God and our neighbors, and to make disciples. Simple things like water and dirt, grace and faith that’s all. And yet, like Naaman, we struggle to believe that’s all there is to it.

May God help us believe and strengthen our faith through his grace. Amen.