pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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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Building

Reading: Luke 1: 46-55

Mary’s beautiful song is all about God’s love for humanity.  She is aware of her direct role in this: she is bearing the Son of Man in her womb.  She rejoices in God her Savior and in her unique role: “all generations will call me blessed”.  Mary is aware of and deeply thankful for the role God has called her to fulfill.

Mary quickly moves past these thoughts and rejoices in the ways that God loves all of mankind.  God extends mercy to those in need and performs mighty deeds for those who fear him.  God blesses those in a relationship with him.  In doing so, God lifts up the humble and fills the hungry with good things.  God loves in many ways.

God’s love, however, is sometimes tough love.  God scatters those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  God will bring down rulers when necessary and will send the rich away empty.  God will not tolerate evil behavior by those with power.  God blesses us so that we can bless others, not so we can use our position or wealth to take advantage of others.

Mary’s song really speaks of God’s desired kingdom.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are kingdom builders.  We have a role to play in being the light and love in this time and space.  We too, like Mary, bear the Son of Man.  We bear Jesus in our hearts.  We can all bring God’s love to those who need God’s mercy and to those who hunger for either spiritual or physical bread.  We can all be conduits of God’s love flowing into the world.  We can also be the light shining into the darkness.  God’s kingdom is built on justice and equality.  If we are in positions with power and authority, we must use our place to insure justice and equality.  If, in our community, the leaders do not champion these things, we need to speak truth to bring about justice and equality.  May we each play the role of building God’s kingdom as we bear the light and love of Christ right where we are this day.


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Equality, Justice, Blessing

Reading: Isaiah 2: 1-5

God has always intended to rule the whole earth.  On the one hand, God is fully in control of all things.  God is capable of ‘making’ anything happen.  God gave mankind free will.  At times we make poor decisions and select bad choices.  Nations could still function today by following God’s ways.  In it how our country began and those ideals of equality, justice, and freedom remain the basis of our governing principles and laws.  In general, peace and order are still the norms of the day.

Yet in places here and in pockets there, many are not ‘living the American dream’.  In places, there is no sense of hope.  There is no clear vision of how life could be any better than ‘this’.  There is not a path out of poverty and oppression.  Systems are established that continue dependence and reliance on the system itself instead of teaching people a new or different way.  An example of this would be the high recidivism rates in our jails and prisons.  People complete their sentence and the system wishes them well but quietly wonders when they’ll be back.  In too many systems we offer a ‘hand out’ but do not offer a ‘hand up’.  It is simply easier this way.

As people of God, we are called to stand against and to work to right wrongs, to fix injustices, and to help end oppression.  We are called to speak truth to those in power to bring voice to those without power.  Some of us are called to be in places of power, to help change come from within.  And sometimes we work with individuals within systems to walk alongside people who are in poverty or homelessness or prison.  Change is possible – both for the individual and for the systems.  May we each, as followers of a Jesus who loved all without question and who saw all as worthy, follow that lead as we work for equality and justice and blessing for all people.


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The King

Reading: Jeremiah 23: 1-6

Bad kings have been the norm.  They have been unfaithful to God and have not insured justice and fair treatment for the people.  These bad kings instead have lived extravagant lives and have exploited the people to do so.  Having a king was the people’s idea.  Previously God had been their king, but they wanted a human king.  They wanted to be just like all the pagan nations around them.  Put that way it sounds like such a bad idea.  But the people would not quit asking so God finally relented and allowed them to have a human king.

As ever the God of second chances, instead of allowing the people (and later us) to suffer for their poor request, God brings news of a different king.  God does not punish the nation – the poor lambs have suffered enough already.  Instead God promises them a king who will “reign wisely”, a king who will do what is “just and right in the land”.  For a people who have been suffering for quite a while, this promise brings hope.

Today we do not have kings so much as systems.  True, we will soon have a new President, but he can only do so much on his own.  The President must work with Congress and within the confines of many systems already in place.  Yes, the systems can be changed, but this is very often a long and slow process.  Many people live within systems – medicare, social security, health care, prisons, education, foster care, reservations.  Many long for equality and justice and for things to be made right again.  Many long to be freed from the system in which they feel trapped.  Many need to see and experience hope.

The same king that was promised in Jeremiah 23 is the king who can bring hope to all people.  With hope, Jesus brings peace, compassion, and love.  Jesus may not directly fix these broken systems, but He can fix broken people.  May we, as the people of God, bring Jesus’ light and love and hope into the world, ever seeking to build the kingdom of God here on earth.


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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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Hope … in a Child

Hannah’s prayer is answered and she gives birth to a son.  After weaning him, Samuel is given to Eli the priest to fulfill her pledge to God: “as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”  For the end to long years of shame and feelings of inadequacy and out of thanks for God answering her prayers, Samuel is given as a gift to the Lord.

Following these events Hannah offers up a moving prayer to the Lord.  One might expect it to be thanking God for a child or seeking blessings upon his life.  But it is not.  One can read Hannah’s experience into the prayer, but it is much more about God and who God is for us all.  It speaks of no rock like our God.  It reminds us that He raises the faithful up.  It tells us that God raises up the poor and needy to seats of honor.  It warns of what God will bring to those who think they are high and mighty.  The prayer flows with God’s love, grace, mercy, justice, and equality.  The prayer is quite upside down compared to the society of Hannah’s day – and to our’s today as well.

Yet today we still have hope in a child who was born to us, who descended from heaven’s riches and glory to dwell among us and to live a poor and simple life here on earth.  In Jesus we are taught that love, grace, mercy, justice, and equality are what matters and that we are to live our lives sharing these with others.  In Christ we learn that none of thee can be earned but that they are freely given so that we too can freely give them away to others.  Through His promise and by His example, may we do so today.

Scripture reference: 1 Samuel 2: 1-10


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Partners with God

Imagine the happiest couple you have ever seen – 80+ and still holding hands, giggling, kissing.  The deep and pure love that flows between them is just a glimpse into the vast love that God has for all of creation.  In creation itself we also see much of God.  In creation itself we can see both complexity and simplicity, both often created in wonder and beauty.

In creation we witness God’s strength and power.  He spoke all into being simply with His words.  God did not have to go into the lab in heaven to create water and earth and plants and animals and us.  He simply spoke and each was created.  What is even more amazing than this to me is that God also passes this power and strength on to us.  God gives His power and strength to all, especially to those who are weak and powerless and in need of God’s power and strength to face the many challenges that life brings their way.

In the continuing works of God and in the life of Jesus Christ, God continues to reveal Himself to us.  Our God created us as good and He desires that we act in good ways, bringing righteousness and equality into the world around us.  In Jesus we were shown what true love is really all about.  The love Jesus modeled is kind and gentle and truthful and giving.  This love flows to all, not just to a select few.  Our love is meant to be like Jesus’ love –  poured out to many to transform lives.

The amazing omnipotent and omnipresent creator of the universe and all that is in it invites us to partner with Him in transforming the world.  May we live lives full of His love, justice, strength, and power, bringing these into the lives of each we meet to do our part in healing a broken world.

Scripture reference: Psalm 45: 1-2 and 6-9