Thursday, May 2, 2019

Devotion - Thursday, May 2

After two decades of sending these devotions, today will be my last.  Finals end tomorrow, and over the summer I will be stepping down from my position with LCM.  

I want to thank you for allowing me to become part of your morning and your life.  Your replies and questions and sharing have kept my faith life full and meaningful.  I will miss talking with you.  I will continue to pray for you, and ask that you would remember me.

This morning I am leaning heavily on what my theology professor taught me.  In a study of The Beatitudes, he helped me to understand "Blessed are those who mourn."  "Only those who have had a meaningful relationship have reason to mourn."  There is sadness only as an aftermath of having been blessed.

Truly, this is what I am experiencing.  

God remains, regardless of what actions we take or the interactions we have.  God remains loving and caring and always at our side.  Why mourn?

Again, thank you.  And God bless you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Devotion - Wednesday, May 1

Daniel is an old testament book known for a lion's den and seldom little more.  Daniel is placed in that den because of his dogged devotion to God.  In that den, he is protected.  He is also put into a fiery furnace, again without any harm coming his way.

The story which surrounds these two events involves Daniel's ability to listen to God and to make known God's will.  Daniel is able to tell the King the meaning of his dream without having been told the dream.  

I was reading this morning from Chapter 2 of Daniel.  And these words stuck with me:
"Blessed be the name of God......
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding."

You have been studying and working very hard to amass the information now being asked of you on final exams.  But I would encourage you to have a bit of Daniel's ability to see these things as a gift from God.  The wise are typically ready to admit their wisdom is not self-obtained.  Those with understanding see knowledge as a precious gift passed on to them from those who have gone before.  

You are wise and possess knowledge.  Use these as the gifts from God intended to aid you in serving God and God's people.  Be aware of the value of this gift and treat it as a sacred trust rather than a tool for personal advancement.

Continue to study and prepare for your exams.  But also give thanks to God for the wisdom and knowledge enabling you to move ever closer to being a college graduate.  Actively look for ways in which these gifts can be used by God to create the world which overflows with God's love and purpose.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Devotion - Tuesday, April 30

I love this time of year; and I love this time of day.  The chair where I do my scripture reading and prayers is also the room with the most windows.  We have them opened, during this season.  Outside the window there is a continuous course of birds, singing their songs.

Papa and I were sitting on the front porch, at the end of the day on Friday.  They were chirping then, too.  He and I talked of the individual songs, trying to identify the bird.

There are passages of scripture which ask us to consider the birds of the air.  Those verses encourage us to learn from the birds the extent of God's care.  "They do not fret," so why should we.  Surely God will look after us also.

I can't say I know what tasks or chores or joys lie ahead for those birds.  And I can't say for sure that their day is made lighter by the songs of which theirs is but one.  But sitting in my chair, searching scripture for words of hope, listening to the voices in the trees, my day begins with a greater calm and assurance.

I hope I can remember the sound of those birds.  I want to keep the sound fresh in my ears.  Certainly I will remember these feelings and these assurances of God's continuous presence and oversight.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Devotion - Monday, April 29

There is always more content in the Sunday readings than a preacher is able to cover.  In reading the Gospel I tried to give attention to a thought which was equally deserving of a sermon.  When Jesus comes among the disciples, he says to them, "Peace be with you."  He says it every time he shows up.

This is a significant greeting.

There are many reasons why peace could evade us.  There are so many places in our lives where peace is taken from us.  To have the gift of God's peace is to receive a wonderful thing.

This is a week which could need some "peace."  Remember yesterday's Gospel often.  Think of Jesus' greeting each time the stress or strain of exams starts to rob you of the peace which Jesus offers.

"Peace be with you."  It is a marvelous gift of God and from God.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sermon - Second Sunday of Easter - Year C

John 20:19-31            

                                                                 He “Breathed” on Them 

“When (Jesus) had said this, he breathed on them and said to them ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.”

He “breathed on them”?  That is all they get?  Jesus is about to send them off to start a religious movement which would cover the whole Earth, and he sends them off with such a breath?

Think about how much has been done to equip this batch of college graduates!  Today we say farewell to them and send them off into the world to do their own amazing things.  Think of all the tools and resources they been given?  Consider how much they had to learn and skills they had master before being deemed ready to be turned lose in the world.

I hear about the work of preparing them, as their chatter from the LCM Lounge penetrates the walls and reverberates in my office.  These last few weeks, what I hear talked about often are the engineering students share those pesky senior design projects.  Two of our group were student teachers this semester.  Once again, I fully understand that we do not pay teachers enough and that they work longer hours than any employers ought to expect.  While co-ops are not required for every major, they are in graphic design.  The competition to land a co-op is itself a required developed ability.

It is important, before being sent out to attempt to do an important task that we be equipped and are given what we will need in order to meet the challenge.  This is what a degree from Clemson University does.  But what about those frightened former disciples of Jesus?  Hiding out in an upper room out of fear of what the world out there might do to them.  Jesus isn’t just paying them a social visit, he comes to tell them they will now be the ones to carry forth. 

“When (Jesus) had said (‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’) he breathed on them.”

Is it enough?  This breath?

It takes a lot to be ready to face the world and the world’s challenges.  Not everyone feels prepared in every instance.  The chatter I hear from the LCM Lounge rarely involves being sufficiently prepared to pass the course or get the best grade.  It is a desire to be equipped and prepared for the work to be done in the world.  It is a plea not to be passed on without being given the knowledge and skill to do what needs to be done.  They need to be equipped.  And they want to be equipped.

We all do.

What do you need?  And I don’t mean merely to do the job which holds your place in society.  What do you need, in order to take your place among the current disciples of Jesus – sent into the world to share the Good News?  What might you need to be given?  What might you want to be given, as you are sent, as Jesus sends forth all his disciples?

I do not mean to imply that the breath which Jesus breathed isn’t enough.  In fact, I hope to help us all understand that it is more than enough.

Let’s look at that word – “Breath.”  It is a rather rare word, used infrequently in the scriptures.  Two occurrences in the Latin translations of scripture are in Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9.

Genesis 2:7 ought to be easy for us.  What happens in the early chapters of the first book of the Bible?  Genesis 2:7 reads:  “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Perhaps more might be given to us, when we are created.  But surely nothing greater could be offered.  (I was sort of expecting an “Amen” when I said that.)  Perhaps more might be given to us, when we are created.  But surely nothing greater could be offered.  There are all sorts of things which might also come, but none of that matters until this first gift is extended and received.

Maybe we would like to have more, before venturing out into the world, but this breath which God breaths into our nostrils is quite a gift.

Let’s add a footnote here – about the epistemology of the Hebrew word for “breath.”  It has the same word which also refers to wind and to spirit.  So those references to the wind blowing where it will and the spirit stirring among God’s people are also linked to this same encounter referred to here as Jesus “breathing” on them.

If you are in the habit of reading my e-devotion, you will know the other reference to “breath”.  Ezekiel 37 was the text for this Thursday.   It is the vision of the prophet in which he sees the valley of dry bones.  He is told to prophesy to the bones – in essence, to use his breath to pour upon them spirit.  The “four winds” sweep through the valley and bone is joined to bone, sinews and flesh are attached.  “And they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”

So, you see, this breath is no small thing.  It is a rather big deal.  And at its going forth, great differences are made.

We may be tempted to think it isn’t much.  Those who wish to scoff could attempt to encourage us to dismiss or insist for more.  But it is enough.  It is sufficient.  Nothing more is needed.

We receive this breath and we experience it.  This breath is shared among us and between us.  It makes possible our words of kindness and compassion.  The air we breathe gives us sufficient oxygen levels to put our hands and feet into action on behalf of others.

Of all the things which might have prepared us for the work Jesus gives us, none may be as helpful as the experience of sharing this breath with one another.  We know why a beloved community enlivens those who are downtrodden.  And we have experienced how Christian community shields us from the world’s attempts to drag us down.   

“When (Jesus) had said (‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’) he breathed on them.”

Having seen how that small group of eleven has grown into a Christian church in every land and nation, we know how well that breath equipped them.

This is way we refer to this annual event as “Farewell and Godspeed.”  While it is painful to say “good-bye,” we know that we are sending forth yet another group of disciples with all they need to accomplish great things in the world.

You faculty and staff took care of that on the academic side; UniLu has done it in the realms of faith and confidence.

You have been “breathed on,” through the scriptures, sermons, and Words of Institution.  Never let worry or fear or anxiety rob you of the confidence that it is enough.  It isn’t all that Jesus will give us, but it is the first gift and it is the gift which allows opportunity for everything else to come your way.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Devotion - Thursday, April 25

The vision retold in Ezekiel 37 should be read and remembered. It is a vision for any who ever find themselves feeling desolate or hopeless or grieved.

The prophet is taken to a valley full of bones and asked, "Can these bones live?"  As the Word of God is spoken to these bones, they begin to come together.  Sinews are attached and flesh.  As the Word is spoken again, breath enters and life is revealed.

The message God instructs the prophet to tell Israel is not to see themselves as desolate or hopeless or grieved.  The Word of God and the breath will come to them, and they will live.

This is a powerful message, for each of us and for all of us.  It is the story of our God and it is the message we should proclaim.  We can hear the promise and we are invited to experience the life and breath which God gives to us at the start of each new day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Devotion - Wednesday, April 24

in John 15, Jesus speaks of himself as the vine, the Father as the vinedresser.  He reminds us that unless the branches remain attached to the vine, they wither and die.  He also points out that the job of the vinedresser is to prune the branches, cutting away some so that more fruit might be produced.

Words which certainly encourage if not demand that we remain connected to God.

Which lead to my prayers this morning including petitions of thankfulness for those who share my days and the activities of LCM.  Not every thing we do are overt expressions of our piety.  Yesterday's lunch at CORE is an example.  But every gathering is a reminder of the vine which joins us.

My prayers this morning also lifted those known to us but not among us.  The last thing I ever want to do, as a campus pastor, is be the attendance police.  God's love for us is not conditional and neither is being "included" in the circle of this community.  My prayer is a hope that each has some community providing for them the basic nurture needed in order to face the challenges and events of life.  There are many other places to be reminded of God's care and compassion, LCM-C is but one.  When those known to me are not attached through LCM-C, I do pray for God's assurance they are connected somewhere and that they are benefiting from the shared history and resources of God's people.

The branches are where the vine focuses all its attention.  The branches are where the ends are achieved.  The branches do their part of the work, but they know that the vine will keep them alive and supplied.  There is so much for which vines can give thanks and then not worry.

John 15.  It is a comforting and instructive chapter.