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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Every Day

Reading: Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Isaiah opens today’s passage speaking about a people who appear to be in search of God.  They appear to be seeking God and to be eager to draw near to God.  The people are fasting and ask God, ‘have you not seen it’?  Isaiah goes on to explain how the fast they are choosing is far from pleasing to God.  They may be skipping the food, but they are not drawing close to God.  Instead they exploit their workers and quarrel and fight amongst themselves.  Their fast is only lip service to God.

I believe this problem persists to this day.  Some go to church every Sunday morning but are not engaged in worship.  They consider their day or week ahead during the message, they nod off during prayer time.  Even though they were only physically present, they still ask God and others, ‘Didn’t you see me in church’?  Isaiah asked if a fast consisted of only bowing one’s head and wearing sackcloth.  We could ask, is Sunday only for warming a pew and standing and sitting when everyone else does?

Isaiah goes on to describe the fast that is pleasing to God.  It is one that loosens the chains of injustice and unties the cords of the yoke, one that sets the oppressed free, one that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.  It is a fast that draws one close to God so that one is transformed to be more like God, to be filled with compassion and to be moved to act on behalf of the lost, the least, and the lonely.  It is a fast that takes place in the heart, not upon the lips.

This too must be how we practice our faith.  We cannot preach compassion on Sunday morning and then turn our backs on those in need.  We must be moved to engage those who are struggling and are in need.  We cannot worship God on Sunday morning and then exploit our workers on Monday.  We cannot lift our voices in praise on Sunday and then curse and gossip at the restaurant on Tuesday.  The faith we practice on Sunday and each day as we read our Bibles and say our prayers must be the same faith we live out every moment of every day.  It must be so.  May it be so today and every day.


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Healing, Light, Justice

Reading: Isaiah 42: 1-9

As the new year lays out before us, it beckons us to look forward.  This time of year also causes us to look back, to consider the year that has just ended.  It is often a time of evaluation, of setting goals or realigning our priorities, and of taking stock of our lives.  All of these are good and healthy things to do.  When we take time to reflect on our lives, we live much more beyond ourselves and past the daily grind of life.

Today’s passage speaks of this idea of a life bigger than our own little worlds.  The opening verse begins by declaring, “Here is my servant… my chosen one in whom I delight”.  God speaks this of you and of me.  We each are so much more than this collection of cells.  We are God’s children, chosen by God to live a life of service to God.  This spiritual life calls us beyond ourselves and the day to day of life.  As God’s chosen ones, we are called to others.  The rest of verse one reads, “I will put my Spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations”.  As God’s chosen ones we are gifted with the Holy Spirit.  This gift helps us to live into God’s calling.  To me, this means truly living out the second commandment that Jesus gave: love neighbor.  There are, of course, many ways we can love our neighbors – bringing justice is just one of them.

After reminding us the He will take hold of our hand, will keep us, and will make us a covenant and a light for the Gentiles, God goes on to get specific about how we are to bring justice and to love our neighbors.  As a covenant to and a light for the people, God calls us to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release those in “dungeons of darkness”.  I believe this call is both spiritual and physical.  God wants us each to be a part of the healing of the world.  He wants us to help people through the power of Jesus’ name.  It may be physically restoring someone’s vision or helping someone learn how to make different choices so that they do not end up back in prison.  It may be opening their eyes to the Word of God so that they are freed from the chains and darkness of sin.  And for many, it is both physical and spiritual healing that God desires us, His chosen ones, to bring to the broken of our world.

As we each reflect back on our past year and look forward to the year ahead, may part of our time be spent considering how each of us can specifically bring healing and light and justice to those living in a broken world.


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Praying for Our Leaders

Reading: Psalm 72: 1-7 and 10-14

A good king in Israel would rule with justice and righteousness.  A good king would protect the people and provide for their needs.  A good king was sensitive to the needs and concerns of the poor and needy, giving them voice and meeting their basic needs.  A good king ruled according to God’s will.  The people prayed daily for the King, asking God to bless their reign with justice and righteousness.  Life was simply better when a good king reigned.

Today we do not have kings but have presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, senators, representatives, judges, governors, legislators, mayors, councilmen, and councilwomen.  The titles have changed by the roles should not.  As whatever level one serves, it should still be with righteousness and justice.  All should serve for the good of the people and the prosperity of the nation, state, city, or community.  It should not be a self-serving role.  Our role should not change either.  Our role is still to pray daily for all of our leaders.

As the people of God, we should pray each day for our leaders, at all levels, whether or not we align with their political leanings.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to govern with righteousness and justice, with compassion and understanding.  Each day we should pray for our leaders to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and the outcasts, for those without voice.  Each day we should pray that our leaders would lead according to God’s will.  And each day we should pray for our leaders to know and walk with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

May we be faithful in our daily prayers for our leaders so that God’s blessings and justice and righteousness may touch the land.  May we ever lift up our leaders so that God’s glory may shine through them.


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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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Our Great Example

Reading: Psalm 72: 1-7

Solomon’s Psalm today seeks God’s presence and guidance in his reign.  He asks to be able to judge with righteousness and to bring justice to the afflicted.  Solomon asks God to help him save the children of the needy and to crush the oppressors.  Solomon requests a long reign and for it to be like the blessings of rain falling on a field.  He asks that God’s blessings allow the righteous to flourish and for prosperity to abound.

Solomon desires to be such a good leader!  He comes to God with these requests, knowing that his prayer is aligned with God’s will.  Solomon knows that all the good kings before him have looked out for the needy, have wanted prosperity for the people, and have sought a time of justice and peace.  All of this is God’s desire for the people too.

Our point of contemplation is this: do we want to reign our own lives with these same ideals?  Should all within our realms of influence be affected by us in these ways that Solomon is praying for in his kingdom?  I believe so!  We are called to care for the needy and to stand up for the oppressed.  We are called to help end injustice and to bring peace to all.  We are called to live righteous lives and to share God’s blessings.

Yes, Solomon is a good example for us to follow.  But we have a far greater example in Jesus.  In Jesus, we find our best example of what it looks like to live God’s love out each day.  Jesus was more like us in one important way – He lived a common life down amongst humanity.  The things Jesus did and taught are things we can do and teach.  His life is a life we can pattern ours after.

And Jesus is also divine.  Thus, He was without sin.  He lived a ‘perfect’ life.  This allowed Jesus to be more than an example.  This perfection allowed  Jesus to go to the cross as the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.  Through this gift you and I have the way to eternal life.

Yes, Jesus is a great example for our daily lives.  And, yes, Jesus is also the way to peace in this world and in the world to come.  Thank you Jesus for being our past, our present, and our future.