Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Reading: Luke 14: 1 and 7-14

Verse 11: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

As Jesus arrives at a Pharisees’ house, he notices how the guests pick their seats. The order at the table was very important in Jesus’ day. The honored guest would sit at the center seat of the head table. The next most important persons would sit on the right and left of center and so on down the line. The furthest seat away from the honored guest would be the one with the least honor. Just like in the culture of our day, most folks want to be closest to the honored guest. Jesus observes people trying to ascertain where they rank amongst the other guests. Some people, of course, are filling in the important seats near the prime seat.

In the parable, Jesus warns against taking too “high” a seat, lest more important people arrive, forcing the host to move you to a lower seat. That would be humiliating and shameful. Jesus is speaking against arrogance and against judging. He is reminding his audience and his readers today that being humble is the correct course. If one is humble, choosing a lower seat, then the host might move you up some seats, exalting you in the process. We may not pick seats at tables anymore, but there is no shortage of ways that we can try to toot our own horn. Sometimes the ways are public, using different means to draw attention to ourselves and our accomplishments. For some of us, like me, it is usually a more private thing. I wonder why others don’t notice this or that and wish they did. Jesus would probably condemn this fake humility much more than he does the jostling over seats.

However and whenever we allow pride, arrogance, judging, and ego to control our lives and our thoughts, then we are not walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Each time we seek to bring honor for ourselves are instances when we do not bring honor to Jesus. In a similar way, when we seek to draw recognition ourselves, there is a piece of us that does not fully trust God. Humility links us to the belief that God is enough. Recognition does not need to come here and now. Simply living a life that is pleasing and honoring to God is more than enough. May we rest in that today.

Prayer: Lord, it can be tempting to want to be seen and known for doing great things. Yet serving you is all that matters. Remind me of this over and over again. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Wait, Welcome, Change, Meet

Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25

Advent is a time of waiting.  December 24 is a big date for places of worship.  The night we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is a very special night.  Each Sunday leading up to the night on which Christ was born is filled with songs and scriptures that remind us and draw us to the gift of the baby in the manger.  All of this builds excitement and anticipation into the waiting.

Advent is a time of welcoming.  It is a season when we see the stranger as friend.  It is a time when we are a little quicker with a smile and when we more readily offer a kind greeting.  In our churches, Advent is a time when we welcome many in for Christmas programs and for Christmas Eve services.  May we welcome all as brothers and sisters in Christ and as fellow children of God.
Advent is a time of change.  In our passage we read of how Joseph’s reality was changed and shaped by God.  The angel came and Joseph stepped forward into his roles as Mary’s husband and as parent to Jesus.  God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is still working to bring change this Advent season.  Just as the angel worked in Joseph’s life, so too does the Holy Spirit seek to work in our lives.
Advent is a time when we meet Jesus.  As we wait, we have Jesus on our mind.  Who He was, who He is, what He calls us to – all questions we ponder.  As we welcome, we are sharing Jesus with others, inviting them into the family in Christian love.  And be aware – we may see Jesus in the face of one we meet!  As we sense change, may we be open to God’s work in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  The change may be within us as God works to help us grow in love of God and neighbor.  The change may be in the great new members of the family of God.  May we seek to live each other as Christ loved all.  May God bless you and those in your life as you wait, welcome, change, and meet Jesus!

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Unwanted Guest

Reading: Luke 7:36 – 8:3

The woman in today’s story is a bit of an unwanted guest.  She is well-known as a sinner, as one who is unclean.  Sins against God were also seen as social sins, so she is one who would have been shunned by any good Jew.  It is curious that she was even allowed in the house.

The Pharisee in the story is officially the host.  He has invited Jesus into his home for a meal.  However, as the story reveals, he is apparently not a very good host.  It was customary to do certain things to welcome a guest.  Most basic was the washing of the feet.  In the dry and dusty climate the cleansing of the feet was a needed and refreshing act of service.  It symbolized the acceptance of the guest.  By not washing Jesus’ feet, the Pharisee left a barrier up between them.

The woman must have sensed something powerful in Jesus’ presence.  She stood silently behind Him and began to weep.  Grace and love must have been working on her heart.  As she cried, her tears wet Jesus’ feet.  Sensing Jesus’ welcome of her presence, she knelt and began wiping His wet feet with her hair, taking on the physical grime and dirt as she cleaned His feet.  In a final act of loving service, she anointed His feet with perfume.  The sin that so encompassed her life must have been falling away too.  His love was overcoming much.

As the Pharisee is mentally recoiling at this obvious sinner touching Jesus, Jesus confronts him.  He uses a simple story on debt forgiveness to illustrate why the woman cries so – she is joyful over the love and grace and mercy that Jesus is giving her.  God’s love is not limited to the saved, but is offered most generously to the sinner, the one most in need.  Much joy comes when one repents, turns from sin, and knows forgiveness.  Through extravagant love given and received, this woman was made whole again and new in Christ.  In our encounters with the lost, with the sinners, and with the unwanted guests, may we too offer the extravagant love of Jesus Christ.

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Living Witness

Reading: Revelation 7: 9-17

It’s pretty easy to look at someone else in the store or in line at the traffic light and to judge if we think they are a Christian or if they are lost.  It becomes even easier to judge one’s eternal destination if we work or go to school with them.  Of course we are all ‘in’ and will one day stand around the throne with other stalwart Christians praising God day and night.  Or will we?

Often in our churches or places of worship we do like to think we have the inside track.  We like to gather with others like us (at least spiritually) to worship and have coffee and cookies with on Sunday mornings.  We get a little uncomfortable when someone who is definitely not one of us comes into our space.  Sure, someone welcomes them – they are good working with those kind of people.  We don’t need to take the time to talk with that ‘guest’ because we will never see them again.  Or will we?

Our passage today gives us a snapshot of heaven.  Gathered around the throne are thousands upon thousands from every tribe, nation, and language.  The great commission calls us to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.  That’s far and wide.  While some are out there in far away places, for most of us our mission field is right where we are today.  It is that person in line with us at the store or the one at the next desk over or the seeker who wanders in on a Sunday morning.

We must remember that we are all called to share the good news.  God wants us all to know Him.  We must live and see as Jesus did: without judgement, with no reservations, with no preconceived ideas.  We must meet people where they are at and love them as God loves them.  We are called to be a living witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  May it be so this day.