Thursday, October 29, 2015

Devotion - Thursday, October 29

I am still at the pastors' conference.  The topic of community continues to be discussed.  But I have to admit that it is the conversations with colleagues which prove to be the most helpful.  Many of those conversations follow the lead of our keynote presenter, but applied to our own situation and context.

Allow me to share my musings from one of those conversations.

This pastor has a child who is active in one of Clemson's Greek organizations.  As I could have predicted, there are required meetings of this organization which conflict with the student's interest in participating in LCM events.  Over time, strong bonds will be formed with the others who are joining; and relationships with LCM folks will have been weakened.


I do wonder what would happen if LCM and other religious church organizations instituted our own requirements for membership.

This morning I read from Matthew 10.  Here Jesus speaks of the cost of discipleship.  He tells us that we must lose our lives in order to gain the life he offers.  That sounds like a pretty demanding requirement.

Don't worry - we will never set up requirements for membership.  But I would be remiss if I didn't speak of the scripture's own statements of what must change in our lives as we become a follower of Jesus.  And, I would be failing you as your campus pastor if I didn't ask whether these changes had come in your life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Devotion - Wednesday, October 28

I generally find it necessary to process what I hear at these conferences by writing about them in my e-devotions.  The Rostered Leaders' Convocation is discussing the issue of "Community."  

One of my campus ministry colleagues has said of the current generation of college students, "they are in desperate need of community, but have no idea how to locate it."  By that, he meant to take seriously all the ways in which your parents' decisions have made it difficult for you to experience community.  They may have moved the family a couple of times.  They may be so busy with work that they omit participation in a civic club or organization.  It is also possible that you have changed congregations - maybe associated with a move, but possibly due to dissatisfaction with the prior church.

Community is not to be confused with a voluntary association.  Clubs are voluntary organizations.  We join clubs in order to be with folks who have a shared common interest.

Community is the collection of folks who find themselves together, and now have to find a way to work in partnership with one another.  Community is a group who are bound to each other; even when they might prefer to be able to go their own way.

We get a glimpse of community, in LCM.  We are a voluntary association, in some ways.  But what brings us into this club isn't a shared hobby or interest.  We came here because Jesus invited us.  And, unlike a club, the other members don't get to decide whether we will belong.  We do belong - because Jesus says we belong.

Learning to get along and to cooperate and to understand that each or our futures is affected by the actions of each of us individually is what will make us do more than glimpse community.  When we do these things, we are experiencing or living into community.

Community is a desirable thing.  Community allows us to weather storms and face challenges.  Community is the preferred state for God's chosen ones.  Let us give thanks for the ways in which we glimpse it, and work to experience it more fully.

Devotion - Tuesday, October 27

I continue to read from Matthew 10, where Jesus sends out the Twelve in search of villages and towns where the good news might be shared.

He advises them to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves."  I found myself meditating on that combination; asking what it means for me.

First, is the part about serpents.  I wouldn't automatically think of them as wise.  They do seem to be extremely aware of their surroundings and are prone to act only when everything is in place.  Jesus may be referencing the cunning nature of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  To be wise as serpents may be a call for us to be patient, and methodical.  Serpents seldom attempt a strike unless they are confident it will be successful.

To be as innocent as doves I can better understand.  Doves are calming creatures.  They are rather low on the food chain, which means they are not aggressive.  I am not sure they could fight off an attack.  They are more likely to cause a fuss in hopes that others will gather around and rescue them.  

So how do these two traits go together?  

I understand the call from Jesus to be one that opens my eyes in ways never before imagined.  I understand the call from Jesus to be encouragement to put others first (even when it means I am taken advantage of.)  To be wise, as a serpent, is to know what is happening, to watch and to analyze and to be insightful.  But we would never use that information or wisdom to exploit the situation.  Instead, we use it to build up the others and to support them in their efforts.

Wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  It is a combination difficult to maintain; but so essential if we are to follow in the way of Jesus.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Devotion - Monday, October 26

In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the Twelve.  They are to go to the villages and towns saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Times have changed, but even so I can't imagine walking into a village, standing along the pathway, and proclaiming the message of Jesus.  The best I could hope to do would be to go to the existing churches and speak with them.

Times have changed. But the need for Jesus' message to be shared has not.  In fact, we might say that the changes which have come make it ever more urgent that the story of Jesus be told.  The world needs to hear God's rejection of violence as a way to achieve our ends.  The world must come to see that the true measure of greatness is the compassion we have for the least among us.  

Maybe times have changed precisely because too few of us are loudly proclaiming the good news that the kingdom is at hand.  Maybe times have changed because we lack the conviction that that kingdom is upon us and that there is an urgency to speaking of these things.

I am not advocating for all of us to become street-corner preachers; but I am asking why we have become so timid in our giving voice to that which has been given us.  Something is lacking, in a Christian life which holds on to the gifts of Jesus.  The good news is to be shared and spread around and made active in the world.  It is time for times to change - again.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Devotion - Thursday, October 22

When asked what I do for a living, I often respond, "I drink coffee."  Those coffee visits are firmly rooted in the Sunday morning or Wednesday evening sacramental gatherings; but they are the place were the work I have been freed up to do really occurs.

Recently I was having coffee and the topic involved how to respond to a job offer.  This often happens; job offers are inclined to come your way as you complete your studies.  This particular conversation included talk of the greater good this person wants their job to accomplish.  It was part of their life-long vision to eventually get a job; but they want to make sure that the job is more than a pay-check, that it also made a difference in the world.

My devotional guide sent me to I Corinthians 12 this morning.  Paul speaks of spiritual gifts.  As is always the case with Paul, he speaks of these gifts as an opportunity to  use what God has given us for "the common good."

Here is yet another instance in which the longings of our heart expose the presence of God.  Long before we form the cognitive thought about the large-picture outcomes of our career, there is within us the gifts of God which seek a common good.  

Allowing ourselves to be guided by that Spirit brings us to the place where contentment and satisfaction take on a whole new meaning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Devotion - Wednesday, October 21

Scripture is the final rule and norm for our life together as Christians.  Scripture is the witness of the early community to the Way of Jesus, and to the debates/misunderstandings which are likely to affect the community which bears the name of Jesus.

In I Corinthians 11, Paul addresses the Eucharist.  He doesn't call it that. Paul repeats the words handed down to him from the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples, then goes on to instruct the young Church as to what the sharing of this particular meal ought to do for them.

In I Corinthians 11, the instructions speak of the way in which this meal is to unite us.  Paul speaks against the practice of some jumping in front of the line and eating their fill - perhaps even before others have arrived!  "If you are hungry, eat at home."  he tells us.

Too seldom do we turn to our bibles in order to be reminded why we do some of the things we do in Church, and why we do them.  When we gather, we gather in obedience to Jesus' instructions.  When we gather, we gather in order to build up one another and to care for one another.  When we gather, we look to the heavens from whence comes our help, but we also look to the side to see the need and the concerns of our fellow disciples.

The Eucharist celebrates God's compassion for us; it acknowledges the gifts of God for the people of God.  It also calls upon us to live out Jesus' life - to care for those about whom Jesus cares.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Devotion - Tuesday, October 20

Winter is coming.  Or least the chill of fall.  I finally broke down yesterday morning and turned on our heat at the house.  This is a bit of a process.  I wanted to check the furnace to make sure it was functioning properly.  I needed to re-set the programmable thermostat so it didn't heat to the temps desired when we had the air conditioning running.  Laura had asked me to turn it on the previous day.  I reminded her it wasn't that simple.

But it really is - that simple.  And after a short crawl under the house; a bit of time interacting with that micro-computer hanging on the wall; and changing filters - our home warmed up.

Winter is also coming in eastern Europe.  There, the refugees of middle eastern wars are huddled under umbrellas.  Heated tents have been requested from Finland, but they are yet to arrive.  There is no way for these mothers to keep their children warm.

"Love your neighbor.." Jesus says.  Showing love to these neighbors surely involves a dry warm place to sleep.  

This devotion is not intended to comfort you or to send you on your way with encouragement.  God's people must express our unwillingness to allow the human suffering going on in the world as a result of war and violence.  God's people must speak of the way of Jesus, a way which does not respond with hate but with an unwavering commitment to justice.

Such a change will end up making things different in those eastern European camps; but it needs to start here, among us.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Devotion - Monday, October 19

After a two week break, we resume our Tuesday night study of I Corinthians this evening.  While Romans comes first in our New Testament, for many I Corinthians is considered Paul's most helpful letter.

I was reading this morning from Chapter 10:14ff.  

One of the issues in Paul's day was eating the meat that had been offered at pagan altars.  This meat was sold as food for the dinner table. Many refused to eat this meat; others saw no harm in doing so.

Paul compares and contrasts two axioms (an axiom is a saying widely accepted by the conventional wisdom of one's culture.)  Paul writes:  "All things are lawful for me."  In Christ there is no law which binds us or holds us.  But, Paul also writes: "Not all things are helpful."  Just because it is okay for me, that does not mean it will be helpful to others.

In our culture, the consumption of alcohol would be the best parallel.  I have no real interest in the currently, someday-to-be-changed-again laws of the state.  But I have a deep and abiding concern about how my liberty could affect others.  

While something is lawful (here we can think of lawful in many categories) not all things are helpful.  Being helpful is more than volunteering at the food pantry or Habitat house.  Being helpful means looking to see how my actions are affecting those whose eyes fall upon me (particularly when I may be unaware they are looking at me.)

Apply to your life the second of Paul's axiom.  Look for the ways in which you could be more helpful.  It might mean avoiding the gossip of others; it could be asking for consideration of the Gamecocks when trash-talk is going on; it may mean asking for civility when political candidates are discussed.  

All things may be lawful; but not all things are helpful.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pentecost 21 - Year B
Mark 10:(32-34)35-45

 A Kingship Like No Other

Even though USC won their game against Vanderbilt yesterday afternoon, Clemson fans are the ones walking around tall and proud this morning.  Did you hear the commentators talking about how convinced they are that Clemson is a strong candidate for a Championship bid?

We are walking proud.  It doesn’t matter whether we are in the sit to the left or to the right of Deshaun Watson, just so long as he stays healthy and gets to sit in that center chair. 

And getting to this place was pretty easy – for most of us.  We have arrived at this place without any of us spending extra hours in the weight room.  We might re-reply the game a couple of times during the week, but none of us are going to look at Miami film in order to prepare for the next opponent. 

We are walking proud – and getting this strut in our step was as easy as asking the lady at the spots shop to sell us one of those orange t-shirts. 

But it hasn’t been that easy for Deshaun, or Keerse, or Alex.  They know the sacrifice and the price it has taken to get here.  And while I am sure they appreciate our support, I do wonder if they ever look around and ask “What do you mean?  WE are having a great season?”

One seldom gets to sit in the chair of the King without putting in the time and making the sacrifice.  It isn’t as simple as being in the right place at the right time, or being the first to ask.  Nor is it merely a matter of picking the right color t-shirt.

Mark 10, verses 32-34, contains what is often referred to as Jesus’ third prediction of his crucifixion.  The first is in Mark 8:31.  The second starts in Mark 9:30.  If you have your Bible with you, you can look at these two sections, along with today’s reading from Mark 10.  Three chapters; three encounters in which Jesus tells the disciples that when they get to Jerusalem all chaos is going to break loose. 

“I am going to die,” he tells them in Mark 8. 

In Mark 9 he adds that this death will come as a result of “betrayal.” 

In Mark 10 Jesus tries to tell them again.

The disciples don’t seem get it; they don’t seem to comprehend.  Jesus tries to tell them, and yet all they can think of is who will be seated, at Jesus’ right hand and his left hand when this is all over.  They want to ride high, but they are unaware of the sacrifice necessary to do so.

This is the exchange printed in the verses printed on the back of our bulletins.  This is the disagreement Jesus has to settle among them.  They are fixated on their own notions of what glory means that they cannot see how different are the visions which draw Jesus to Jerusalem, his betrayal, and his death.  And Mark, the Gospel writer, puts all three of these reminders in a sequence because he knows that it will remain difficult for any of us to grasp what Jesus is saying, and accept it for the Good News that it really is.  Mark knows that we all want to ride high; but few of us will understand that getting there is more about how we live here.

In the first of the predictions of his death, Mark is sure to point out that Jesus says all this as clearly as he possibly can.  Mark 8:31ff is the text.  Verse 32 is where Mark records, “(Jesus) said all this quite openly.”  There ought not to have been any doubt about this – but there was.

            Mark 9:30-37 is the second of Jesus’ predictions.  The key word in those verses is “betrayed.”  It won’t be some accidental, misunderstanding which will lead to all these things happening.  It is going to be very intentional.

But the disciples still don’t get it.  Even after a third clear, unambiguous statement, James and John are so dense that they come to Jesus to ask him if, when all this ugly business is behind them, if they might have the honor of sitting, one at his right hand and the other at his left.

I too often dismiss moral lessons.  Moral lessons are good things.  The moral lesson which will no doubt resound from many a pulpit this morning is that “Nothing worth having is easily obtained.”  And, when that moral lesson makes its way home and into our hearts the world will be a better place and we will be better people.  That is sort of the message I set up with my introduction.

But, the Gospel is trying to make sure that we don’t apply that moral lesson to our lives as if it were the advice of some exercise coach or the latest method for increasing our marketability in the workplace.  This moral lesson, if it is to be reduced to that, is approached only after we have come to realize that the lessons of Jesus begin with a complete shifting of what it means to be the one who sits on the highest chair.

Jesus speaks differently about lords and rulers.  Jesus speaks of a way which calls into question the scheming to be on top.  Jesus tells us that being lord and master, in the Kingdom which bears his name, is to begin and end with the desire to serve.  It is marked with a willingness to give one’s life away.

I am in no way meaning to imply that you don’t “know” this.  And you have probably heard many a sermon on what it means to be the server as opposed to being the one who is served.  What we need to walk away with this morning is the realization of how difficult it is to comprehend the kingship of which Jesus speaks.  We too quickly skip over the sacrifice and begin to talk about the rewards of that sacrifice.  We are James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who give a wink and a nod to the rejection, the betrayal, and chose instead to anticipate what it is that will come after.

Jesus tells them to stop it.  Jesus tells them that nothing comes after, nothing comes above – it is all about serving and sacrificing.

            Sometimes we hear what we want to hear, no matter what is actually being said.  Sometimes we do not hear that which contra­dicts what we desperately want to believe.  Sometimes we are unable to hear even when the words leave no ambiguity.

            It is interesting that in this exchange, Jesus doesn't tell them, "No, you can't have those positions of authority."  Rather, he notes that those spots will be given to those to those for whom it has been prepared.  He doesn't turn them down; rather he works to change their focus.  He wants to move their eyes from the possibility of future glory to the road which lies between here and there.  He wants to shift their view from the seats of glory to the cup and the baptism which is Christ's.

            The only real concern Jesus has is that the disciples do not allow themselves to think there is an easier way than the one he is about to take.  Jesus wants to prevent any notion from forming in their heads which would allow them to believe they can come to those seats of influence by any way other than offering themselves.  "If you want to flank me," Jesus tells his disciples, "you must be prepared to lay down your life for others."

            I have long since given up on being asked to sit at the right or the left of any truly important individual.  The gifts to obtain such recognition are not mine - and besides, I don't have the right kind of clothes for that kind of a job.

            But serving others is something I can do.  It is something I have experienced and understand.  It is in loosing myself in the midst of service that I also get those fleeting images of true calm and tranquility.  Being a servant to others has a power which can only be described as peace.

            That is what the experience of building the Homecoming Habitat house means to so many of us.  It is crazy out there, and there is no opportunity to give much thought to a better place which might someday be mine.

"The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve."
"Whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all."
This is the way of our Lord and Master.
It is the way of Peace and happiness.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Devotion - Thursday, October 15

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is a summation of everything he will teach during his earthly ministry.  The content of this sermon covers 3 chapters in Matthew.  This morning I was reading from Matthew 7:22-29.

Jesus speaks here of being "wise."  Wisdom can be understood as something other than knowledge.  

Too often, we suffer from the illusion that a college education is all about knowledge.  Whenever someone asks "Is this going to be on the exam?" we see evidence of that mistaken understanding of what you are doing here.  Professors must find some way to evaluate your participation, so they give exams.  But I am yet to meet an instructor whose aim was to fill their students with pieces of information.  They are concerned with your development.  They want you to become wise.

We saw this same mistake in the young man's question in last Sunday's Gospel lesson.  He asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"  If I might take some liberties with Jesus' reply, what Jesus says to him falls into the category of shifting his focus from knowing an answer to living an answer.  Jesus is looking for the wisdom that gives direction to one's life; not merely knowing finding the key piece of a puzzle.

Learn all you can.  Amass as much knowledge as possible.  Never again will you have this opportunity.  But as one of your peers said at our Wednesday Night Program on "Senior Wisdom," pay attention to who you are; not merely what you do.  Seek wisdom.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Devotion - Wednesday, October 14

This morning I read from Matthew 7.  This is a section of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount."  Here he exposes something we know, but do not often enough encourage or draw to its full conclusion.  Jesus speaks of the "fruits" which are produced.

My preoccupation with grace does make it difficult for me to speak as powerfully as I should about "fruits."  Not that good fruits are inconsistent with grace, rather talk of fruits is often the end of justification by grace.

But is it absolutely impossible for a person to be overwhelmed by God's grace and for that persons to show no good fruits. In fact, one who realizes their justification has been by grace is more likely to produce good works which are done for the sake of glorifying God rather than out of a misplaced hope of appeasing God.

Jesus' talk of good works should not be avoided; it is to be embraced and encouraged and followed.  Not out of some attempt to earn our way into heaven but as our way of showing how grateful we are to God.  Grapes are not gathered from a thorn bush.  

We should never weary of doing good and encouraging one another to do good.  Among us, the fruits should be present and plentiful.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sermon - Pentecost 20, Year B

Mark 10:17-31                                                                                   

We are just a few weeks away from our fall stewardship campaign, so I want all of you to remember this lesson when that process begins.  Compared to Jesus’ radical insistence that the man in this story sell all that he has and give the money to the poor, our stewardship committee’s proposal will seem quite modest.

There is even that great little trailer in this story, the part in which the disciples speak of what they have given up in order to follow Jesus.  Jesus assures them that whatever they give they will receive a hundred fold in return.

It was while Laura and I were serving as co-pastors at Good Shepherd, Houghton that I attended a pastor’s study of the weekly lessons and learned something about these lessons that will forever prevent me from exploiting them as a simply a lead-in to the fall stewardship campaign.

We were all sitting around the table, licking our lips and baiting our traps for our Sunday sermons on giving away all that one owns when Olaf Rankenin, a well-seasoned and insightful pastor pulled us up short.  Never acquisitive or judgmental, Pastor Rankenin did not accuse us of misusing the text - he merely reminded us of the obvious.  “Don’t you find it interesting,” Pastor Rankenin said, “to notice which of the commandments Jesus repeats to the young man and which ones he fails to mention?”  I stopped and began to associate numbers with the commandments Jesus lists.  He quotes the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, a rendition of the 9th & 10th, and finally the 4th commandment.  Those commandments fall on what is sometimes referred to as the second table.  These are the commandments which instruct us on how we are to live with one another.  When Jesus lifts before this man with many possessions these commandments from the second table, the man replies that he has kept these from his youth.  He had has no problem doing what God requires when it comes to his relationships with other people and other people’s possessions.

“Don’t you find it interesting,” Pastor Rankenin asked us, “to consider which commandments Jesus lists and which ones he knows will cause trouble for this man with many possessions.”

Jesus’ list does not include the first commandment - You shall have no other gods before me; the second - You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; or the third - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

The young man was obedient “from his youth,” of the 7 commandments which Jesus mentions first.  But when Jesus introduces issues relating to those first 3 commandments, the man turns and walks away grieving.  The man is blameless in his relationships with others; he falls apart when Jesus discusses with him his relationship to God.

When reading this text, we have to be careful not to move too quickly from the issues involved to the specifics of what is said.  It is this man’s wealth which separates him from eternal life.  But in this story, those riches serve as little more than a reflection of his real-life sin.  This man has correctly understood what it means to be obedient to the word of God, but he has missed the mark when it comes to actually becoming a follower of God.  He obeys, dutifully, the rules and regulations of his faith system.  But he is lacking in the personal commitment which comes from dedicating one’s life to God.  He is an obedient believer; but that does not mean that he is a person of faith.  Jesus’ conversation reveals his eagerness to obey the laws; but it also exposes his inability to become a follower of Jesus.

There is another way to get at this difference.  How many times have you heard someone speak of a non-church goer as a “really good person?”  The implication is that someone with no involvement in the church could be just as generous, just as caring, and just as considerate as someone who is in church every Sunday.  Of course they can be just as good a person.  There is no incon­sistency in describing a non-church goer as a really good person.  You don’t have to be a Christian to be a “really good person.”  Non-Christians are just as capable as Christians of living in accordance with the law.  Many people will obey the commandments, whether or not they are of any faith system.  There are many who will live their entire lives and never once break the commandments not to kill, steal, commit adultery or bear false witness. 

But living up to the requirements of the law is not what makes us Christians.  What makes us Christians is living by faith.

The man in our gospel lesson - the one with many possessions - was capable of living according to the rules and regulations.  That which he found to be impossible was to devote his life to God.  He could follow the rules that applied to how we interact with others he could even adhere to the ones directing us as to how are to treat our property, but he was incapable of living a life that was devoted to following God.

Maybe this sermon is a good lead-in to the fall stewardship campaign.  I will not forget Pastor Rankenin’s insight. I will forever remember that the man in the story had no problem when it comes to the legalism of giving and tithing.  But this lesson calls upon each of us to consider our own willingness to follow Jesus.  And if we are following Jesus then the way we use our resources will follow him too.

Following Jesus means that we embark upon a journey.  It means that as we travel we are never fully aware where we will end up.  We go where God leads us and we do what God asks of us, this day.  Following Jesus is quite different from living up to some legal code of behavior.  Following Jesus means that we are always prepared for a departure, a side trip, a readjustment of where we thought we were going.  Following Jesus means we give our lives to God in order that we might truly begin to live.

I do hope that you will respond favorably to the stewardship campaign.  I pray that you will take a good honest look at what you are doing with the possessions God has entrusted to you.  But I am confident that if you look first at your relationship to God the way that you relate to the church will fall into perfect order.  The man in our story, the one with so many possessions, had looked at the rules and regulations, but he had failed to consider the role that a living God would have his life.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Hear and respond to Jesus’ invitation to “come, follow me.”


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Devotion - Thursday, October 8

"Beware of practicing your piety before others...."  These words are recorded in Matthew 6, and serve as the appointed text for Ash Wednesday.  As we read more of the chapter, we may come to understand what "piety" means, but it is one of those church words we use without really defining it or talking about it.

"Piety" is a reference to way one lives out their response to God.  I mentioned earlier this week that my piety is often shown in my acts of service to others.  In Matthew 6, other expressions of piety mentioned are praying, giving alms, and fasting.  

It is helpful to reflect on one's piety.  Not merely to avoid the pitfalls spoken of in Matthew 6.  Self-reflection allows us to become aware.  We might discover that our expressions of piety differ from even our most trusted fellow believers.  Such a discovery will help us understand why we fall asleep during extended periods of meditation (which is an expression of piety preferred by some), or why merely feeding the poor doesn't satisfy our desire to speak the name of Jesus (an often repeated and appropriate challenge to those who make service their expression of piety.)  You need to find your most comfortable response to God - and go there.

Jesus' concern in Matthew 6 are those whose piety is for show, and not rooted in a desire to strengthen their devotion to God.  Putting on  a show also happens when we force ourselves to follow the piety of others.  God has made each of to be individuals and God celebrates our individuality.  Individuals differ,and so will their piety.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Devotion - Wednesday, October 7

I want to continue with some thoughts from I Corinthians 5.

The issue that Paul is dealing with is the acceptance by the members of the Church of behaviors which ought not be present among those who have come to understand Christ's claim on their lives.  This man, whom Paul says is engaging in immorality, yet continues to be welcomed, is the leaven which has the potential to spoil the whole.

We spent considerable time on this in our LCM Bible Study last week.  The tough question for us is to ask whether we have come to accept immorality in our midst; failing to drive it out.

While I dislike the easy, broad terms, I am clearly on the "liberal" side of Christianity.  I do not take a "conservative" stance with regard to divorce, alcohol consumption, etc.  I have not come to this position lightly - I understand it to be consistent with a theology rooted in grace.  However, I know that too often I hear of liberties taken with our freedom in Christ's grace.

I often speak of my holy envy of Methodistism's methodical eradication of vices and bad practices from one's life.  This would be a good practice for us all.  We could (and should) identify those practices of ours which have the opportunity to lead astray those who do share our confidence in grace.  We could (and should) cease any immorality which teeters too close to "See, I can to this and still be a part of my church."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Devotion - Tuesday, October 6

Baking is an activity most of us do too little of.  I am guilty of this as well.  There was a time, earlier in my life, when I baked all the bread we ate in our home.  We had a recipe that made 4 loaves.  We would eat three and give the fourth to a neighbor or friend.

Baking allows you to understand what concerns Paul in I Corinthians 5:7-8.  He knows the effect that leaven (yeast) has on the loaf.  While there is only a small amount added to the other ingredients, it has a tremendous effect.  

In I Corinthians, Paul asks whether we will be affected by the "old leaven," (the leaven of a godless life) or the "new leaven" which is Christ's claim on our lives.

Who are the persons, or what are the situations which provide the leaven for your life?  Is it the persons you gather with for prayer who have the effect on you?  Or is the persons you see garnering the spotlights?

When you bake, you add the yeast and you mix it in, and you cover the bowl with a damp towel, and you walk away.  You wait.  It takes time for the effects of the leaven to be seen.  When it is initially added, you can't see what it will eventually do to the rest of the loaf.

You may attempt to tell yourself that you can withstand the influence of the "old leaven".  You may attempt to claim that you can be around all of that, but not be really influenced.  Remember that the effects won't show themselves for some time.  

Be aware of the leaven being added to your life.  Choose.  And choose wisely.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Devotion - Monday, October 5

One of the books I am grateful for reading is "Devotional Classics."  It is a collection of reflections by well know and prominent Christians.  What I also appreciated is the way in which the writings are grouped.  The editors encouraged readers to explore the variety of ways in which God's people express their faith.

Some have as their prime experience of God a mystical experience.  Others find their closeness to God by way of getting deep into scripture.  There are Christians whose experience involves philosophy and thought.

The way which I am most comfortable with is service.  I experience God most powerfully when I am actively engaged in working to assist the physical needs of those around me.

Today, we begin the 22 Homecoming Habitat Build.  Ten days from now, we will look back on over 3,500 hours of service put in on the house.  Ten days from now, a neighbor will have a home in which to raise her children.

This house will not be built on Bowman Field.  The trucks and football fans who came out for ESPN GameDay wrecked the field and it is unsafe for us to attempt the build.  We will be in a parking lot, next to Clemson's Sheep Barn.  It will take some of the flash off the build, but the service will remain every bit as significant.

This is more than a service project; it is a spiritual experience.  Keep it in your prayers and come out to help

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Devotion - Thursday, October 1

An earlier Devotion spoke of being in the world but not of it; of maintaining the traits of God rather than taking up the traits of those fixated on self-aggrandizement.

This morning I read Matthew's Beatitudes.  These sentences set forth the alternative way in which Jesus' followers live their lives.  We do not lose ourselves in the the pursuit of that which glitters, but find ourselves in that which is lasting.  We are not fixated on our own advancement, but seek the good of all.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.