pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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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.


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Hope and Promise

Reading: Isaiah 11: 1-5

In many places winter is settling in.  On the coldest of windy days, one just wants to hunker down inside with a good book and a cozy blanket.  In this way, one finds a little comfort and solace in a harsh world outside.  In today’s passage, Isaiah is offering a vision filled with words of hope and promise.  The people are in exile.  Their surroundings are secular, polytheistic, and oppressive.  To a degree, they have begun to ask God how long this season of exile will last.

Into this despair and a growing sense of abandonment, God uses Isaiah to speak a word of hope.  Isaiah speaks of a shoot that will come up.  Just like us looking for that first burst of green after a long winter, Isaiah tells of a time coming soon when hope and promise will rise up from the house of Jesse.  Isaiah goes on to describe this new King – He will reign with wisdom and understanding and power and knowledge.  To these Isaiah adds that the King will give wise counsel and will live with a fear of God.  And not only all of this, but the king will also stand for the needy and those dealing with injustice.  To a people living in oppressive exile, someone who reigns by righteousness and faithfulness would provide great hope and promise.

Many living today need to hear these words of hope and promise.  Many in our country and probably some in all of our communities need to find a little hope and promise.  Some in our congregations need to know hope and promise.  Hope and promise abound in this passage from Isaiah.  A king who loves and cares for the needy and oppressed, one who rules with justice and righteousness – this is a king many need.  This King comes to us again this year in a manger, soon to be celebrated in all of our churches.  In this season where we prepare to welcome again the baby Jesus, may we also share the King of Kings, the King of justice and righteousness with a world so in need.  May we each share the King’s hope and promise 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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Community

Reading: Jeremiah 29:7

In our lives connections are important.  We live within a web of connections or relationships.  We have connections first to our families.  Here we gain our sense of belonging and here we develop who we are – all within this safe web of family.  Next we form connections with our friends and significant adults in our lives.  Soon we come to understand that how we live, act, and treat others matters.  How we are treated matters.  We learn how impactful our lives can be on others and vice versa.  Both for the good and the bad, we know that our connections to others is vital.

Jeremiah advises Israel to seek prosperity and peace for the city of Babylon.  He goes on to advise them to pray for the city too.  The welfare of the exiles is bound up in the welfare of the city.  One does not have to look too far in America to find examples of this concept.  When there was unrest and protest and violence in a city, the impact was felt by all inhabitants of that city.

In our lives we have many layers of connections and relationships.  The closer in, the more they impact us.  For example, a parent losing a job impacts us more than a third cousin losing a job.  We still feel for that cousin, but don’t necessarily deal with the affects.  This distance can lead us to not be as connected to those we do not know and to those who we see as the stranger.

Our reality is that we are connected to all in our community.  Our faith calls us to be aware of all in our community.  The idea that our community as a whole is less when even one member suffers is an extension of God’s love for all of us.  It is when we choose to address basic needs and to correct injustices that our whole community prospers and flourishes.  When life is better for one, it is better for all.  This sense of equality and well-being for all is deeply rooted in our faith.  For whom in our community could we make life better?


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Dwell

Reading: Psalm 91: 1-6

The psalmist finds great refuge in God and wants us to do the same as well.  The pestilence, disease, evils that creep in the night, the snares – so much that the psalmist faced!  Our reality is that we too face much.  Children too often grow up on their own, young adults enter the ‘reap world’ often with a huge debt load or without the education necessary to earn a living wage, and our elderly are too often housed in a facility, largely forgotten by family.  It is no wonder people are longing for love, hope, mercy, justice, and a sense of security and belonging.  Life can be hard.  But into this challenging scene the Lord our God tries to make a way.  God desires to bring us thelove, hope, mercy, justice, and a sense of security and belonging that we all seek.

The psalmist reminds us that God seeks to be our refuge and our shelter.  But God will not force us into choosing to receive these things.  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High” is how the Psalm begins.  He who dwells.  We have a role to play in experiencing rest, cover, a shield about us, and an absence of fear.  We must choose to dwell each day in God’s presence.  To dwell in another’s presence implies a long-term relationship, one with some commitment.  To dwell in God’s presence does not involve flitting in and out as it suits our needs.

When we dwell in God’s presence we are constantly in contact with God.  We turn to God in prayer throughout the day.  We spend time each day reading and meditating upon the Word.  Through these disciplines we come to know and trust in God.  It is then that we begin to find thelove, hope, mercy, justice, and a sense of security and belonging that we so desire.  May we each dwell in God’s presence this day and every day.