pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Love and Justice and Mercy

Reading: Genesis 37: 1-4 and 12-28

Verse Four: They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph is clearly the father’s favorite.  Israel loves Joseph more than any of his other sons.  In today’s passage, Israel makes Joseph a “richly ornamented robe”.  For a second, recall Joseph and his dreams of his brothers and even his father and mother bowing down to him.  For a second, recall Joseph’s penchant for tattling on his brothers.  Now Joseph waltzes in, showing off his new coat.  Joseph certainly plays up his favored son status.  His brother’s reaction?  “They hated him and could not speak a kind word to him”.

Later in our passage, Israel decides to send Joseph out to check on the others sons and the flocks.  He tells Joseph to “bring word back to me”.  As the brothers see Joseph coming, they plot to kill him.  In our society today, does this still happen?  Do some who live without look at those who have much with hatred and envy?  Thanks without may desire to do away with the ones with privilege and power, especially the ones who flaunt it.  So, when we go to the city to serve in the rescue mission, do those in line look at us this way?  If we act as if we are stooping down to do something ‘good’ or if we act aloof, certainly we are seen this way.  If we are unwilling to sit and hear another’s story, to communicate that they are worthy of our time and attention, then we remain distant and privileged.

Reuben speaks up for Joseph and plans to come back later to rescue him.  When violence and injustice and hatred arise today, do we act as Reuben acted?  Do we try and lessen it and plan on coming back later to partially address the situation?  Or do we stand up for what is righteous and choose to stand in the gap, saying ‘no more’?  At times we will see prejudice or hatred, injustice or abuse.  Then and there, do we addresd it fully?  Do we stand for those in need of our voice and courage?  Do we love and care for all as God loves and cares for all?  Or do we leave them in the cistern and hope to come back later?

O God of love and justice and mercy, make me an instrument of Your love and justice and mercy.


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One Matters

Reading: Psalm 99: 1-4

Psalm 99 begins by speaking of God’s love of justice and the nation’s response.  They tremble.  God’s justice is universal – it applies to all people.  God’s justice removes power dynamics and the desire to elevate oneself over others and replaced them with equity.  When do much of our world is driven by power, position, and authority, justice stands counter to these forces, instead saying things like ‘the last shall be first’.  Of course the nations tremble.

The call of Christ leads us to stand alongside God and to champion His love for justice and equality.  Through the ages, great men of faith have gone just this, no matter the cost to themselves.  Martin Luther stood against the abuses of the church, preaching that faith alone saves.  All people can tap into faith, meaning all are loved by God, meaning all can be saved without price.  John Wesley stood for equality, believing that all people should have access to the Word of God.  He preached salvation in the fields, streets, and mines, welcoming all people, not just those who met certain qualifications.  Both of these men, and many others too, led to opening the church doors a little wider and expanding the circle of God’s love.

You and I may not be people of Luther’s or Wesley’s fame, but we too are people who are called to stand for justice and equality, to make a positive difference in our world.  We too are called to be people who say ‘no’ to injustice and inequality.  We too can each work to open the doors of our churches a little wider, to welcome all into our communities of faith, and to draw the circle of God’s love even wider.  One sheep that was lost and is now safely in the fold matters.  One son that was wayward and returns home matters.  One widow who finally receives justice matters.  Who will you matter to today?


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Shine

Reading: Isaiah 60: 1-6

Today is Epiphany!  Just as the wise men appeared to reveal and celebrate the birth of Jesus, so too do we arrive today, celebrating the gift of Jesus in our lives.  Like the wise men, we too are called to reveal Jesus to the world.  The star led the way for the wise men.  Today, the light of the Son of Man leads the way for you and me.  The light of Christ guides our path and illumines our decisions.  We need the light.  So too does a world living in darkness.

Verse one begins, “Arise, shine, for your light has come”.  Yes indeed!  Jesus Christ has come and His light is in our hearts.  Verse two continues, “the Lord rises upon you, and His glory appears over you”.  God is present in us, His glory waiting to be revealed through us.  Our call as disciples of Jesus Christ is to take the light of Christ out into the world with us.  This verse reminds us that God is present with each of us and that His glory will appear over us as we live out our faith in the world.

The world can be a dark place.  Many people struggle with darkness in our world and in all of our communities.  For some, the struggle is with homelessness or poverty or prejudice or abuse or discrimination or injustice or addiction.  For others the struggle is with pride or control or possessions or position or ego or self-centeredness.  The world can be a dark place when we struggle with these issues.  There is great need in our world for the light of Christ.

We are each that light.  We each carry Christ in our hearts.  Can you see that light within you shining out into a dark world?  Can you see yourself being the light for just one person in need of God’s love?  We are called to arise and shine!  This day, this day of Epiphany, may we each shine God’s light into the world, bringing honor to Christ the Lord!


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His Kingdom

Reading: 1 Kings 21: 1-21a

Today’s story is an illustration of the abuse of power.  The King is refused some land he desires and the reason is based on faith.  The Queen is not a person of faith, but she knows the Law well enough to use it to her advantage.  She manipulates people into killing the land owner so the the King gets the land.  In the end, those in power got what they wanted and the one who was faithful to God was murdered.  The ones who were manipulated probably knew they were being manipulated but dutifully followed orders instead of speaking truth.

Unfortunately, this is not a one-time occurrence.  The abuse of power continues to this day.  In the Bible and throughout history we see examples of people abusing power and systems to get what they want.  Perhaps one of the best illustrations of this is the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).  Similarly, the religious authorities of Jesus; day manipulate the systems and secular leaders to to preserve their own positions and power by crucifying Jesus.

Stories of misusing or abusing power to attain personal goals or desires continues to this day.  People are, by nature, seekers of power and authority and are often willing to go to great lengths to get more or to desperately hold onto what they have.  This can happen on the national or local level, in the secular world and in our churches.

God is the God of love, justice, and equality.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to uphold these traits of God.  We need to be aware of how and why such abuses occur in our world and we need to be willing to stand up for the oppressed, suffering, and marginalized.  As we seek to build His kingdom here on earth and to make new disciples of the lost, may the courage of the Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to bring His light and love to all people everywhere.


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Called to…?

In today’s section of Jeremiah, God is promising the Israelites a return to normal.  It has been so long that captivity and exile have become almost normal for them.  But their faith in God has kept them connected to and in touch with what is their normal homeland.  Thus they long to return and to once again live in safety under God’s protection.  It is a great place to live.

For most of us, this is were we exist.  We live a relatively comfortable and secure life.  There is food in the fridge and gas in the car.  The house is warm and is secure.  Employment will be at the same place tomorrow and my family will be around me in the evening.  This indeed is wonderful ‘normal’ and a great place to live.

But for some this is not the case.  In our call to care for the poor and needy, this situation disturbs my peace.  Even though it got down to the low single digits last night, some people slept outside.  Many of the people without the basics we take for granted will abuse drugs and/or alcohol as a means to cope with the despair, hopelessness, and other feelings generated by their situations.  The substance abuse often leads to an increase in the acts of violence on the streets and to the higher levels of fear that permeate the homeless community.  I do not think I would last long in this world, but it is ‘normal’ for far too many people.

So what is God calling me to do?  Is it to donate warm clothing to the local shelter?  Is it to volunteer time at the nearby day center?  Is it to teach a class that empowers one who is struggling to make positive changes in their life?  It may be one or more of these or something entirely different.  Lord, help me to discern where and how You are sending me to be in ministry to those in need.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 31: 10-14