Monthly Archives: April 2018

Because He Lives…We Can Live Spiritually

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
    and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”[b] 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip[c] baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Acts 8:26-40

The Holy Spirit is on a roll.  First, it descended on the crowds in Jerusalem on Pentecost.  Most of them were Jews from all over the Empire.  Then, Philip found himself in Samaria preaching about the resurrected Jesus and the Holy Spirit descended on these fierce enemies of the Jews.  Today, Philip is visiting with an outcast.  He can’t procreate.  He’s less than a male man.  He’s prohibited from the priesthood and the inner courts of the temple.

The eunuch is one of the “those people.”  Folks look at him with jaundiced eyes.  He has few friends, if any.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is making this new “Way”of Jesus inclusive!  And this is only the beginning.

Who are the outcasts today?  Who are those you wouldn’t want visiting you in your living room or church?  Who are the outcast to whom you want to reach out, regardless of their societal status?

The big question is, how?  How do you reach out to them?  What do you say?  How do you behave? Where are they?

It’s a scary proposition, isn’t it?  Phillip has all kinds of luck in the book of Acts.  We’re not that fortunate.  We develop foot-in-mouth disease; shrink back from trying something new; leave it for someone more experienced.

I’m not sure how experienced Phillip was, but he was good at listening to God.  And that’s the point.  Phillip depended on God for the right actions  and the right words at the right time.  The Holy Spirit did the rest.

Which begs the question: how spiritual are you?  Yes, you are spiritual.  You are a beautiful creation of God and you are spiritual.  It may not be well developed, but it’s in you.  You develop your spiritual nature through understanding of scripture.  You understand people through the lens of scripture.  You understand the world through the lens of the Bible.  The more you read and question and ponder, the deeper your well of spirituality.  The deeper your spirituality, the more authentic you become.

Your faith isn’t something you hide deep down inside you where no one can find it.  Your faith is how you live and breath and have your being.  Your faith sticks out all over because every decision you make is done with an eye to what Jesus would have you do.  When Jesus speaks to his disciples in the Gospel of John, he insists that we abide in him and he abide in us.  That word abide means, “to live” or “staying in place.”  When we live and stay in place with Jesus and Jesus lives in us, our decisions and actions become spiritual decisions that come out of our authentic selves.  What we want is what God wants.

That brings us back to building relationships with strangers.  Allow God to lead you.  Notice those who cross your path each day.  Who do you notice?  Maybe they look perfect and happy.  Wonder to yourself, what’s hurting and breaking them down?  Maybe they look downcast and depressed.  Wonder to yourself, what’s holding them captive?  Don’t do all the talking.  In fact, speak as little as possible.  People are desperate for a listening ear.  Can you relate to what they’re saying?  Can you empathize?  Sympathize?

Did you introduce Jesus to them?  Not directly.  But, for a few minutes, someone cared.  Someone offered a comforting arm or a bit of laughter.  Did you “save” them?  No.  That’s God’s job.  But, perhaps you opened the door.

Because Jesus died and rose from the dead, we live, as well.  Because he lives, we can live spiritually.  We can open ourselves to Christ who sends us out to model Jesus’ teachings.  We can live authentic lives offering peace and well-being and wholeness in Christ’s name.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

 

 

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Because He Lives…We Can Live Peacefully

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[a] 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.[b] 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah[c] is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses[d] of these things.  (Luke 24:36b-48 NRSV)

What’s a gathering of Christians without a meal?  Pot-luck suppers; coffee and conversation; breakfast and Bible study…whenever two or three are gathered in the Lord’s name you’ll find…food.  We love to eat.  Churches are known for their food and each one will brag on Miss Mary’s homemade apple pie or Tim’s ability with a smoker.

Jesus loved to eat.  Whether attending a banquet or providing the loaves and fishes in the wilderness, Jesus broke bread with sinners and saints alike.  Food and scripture went hand in hand with him.  Missionaries through the centuries have noted that first you feed then you teach.

When Jesus appears, he meets his followers where they are.  The disciples and their companions are gathered together sharing resurrection experiences when Jesus appears among them.  “Peace be with you,” he announces.  Peace.  Shalom.  God’s good will, health and well-being.  Jesus wants only the best for us.  He knows that they are confused — no surprise there!  Jesus was dead but now he’s alive?  Wrap your brains around that one for awhile.

“Peace be with you.  Now, don’t be frightened.  It’s really me.”  Then he shows them his hands and his feet.  Perhaps to see the marks from the crucifixion, but perhaps because ghosts float and were believed not to have hands and feet.  Then he asks for something to eat.  Again, ghosts don’t eat.  But, can’t you imagine him saying, “Something smells good;  ‘got any left?”

“While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering…”  Jesus, their friend, their rabbi, their everything was dead but now he lives.  This is the sublime and supreme I-can’t-believe-it’s-true type of joy.

Then he opens his minds to the scriptures.  All of them.  How else will they be able to be witnesses to what they’ve seen?  And witnesses they are.  Not because they said they would.  But because they are.  There’s no choice in this.  They went and they saw.  They are witnesses.  And they’ll testify to their death.

Jesus opens our minds to scripture.  It’s a lifetime experience which only ends when we take our last breath.  And with each new gleaning of understanding, we enter into greater peace.  Because He Lives…we can live in peace.

My sister often asks me about my sermons.  She wonders if I keep my sermons and repeat them every so often.  How do I  manage something new every week?  (I wonder that, myself, at times!)  There are maybe a dozen themes in scripture, although I’ve never counted them.  Yet, each week, scripture comes to us in new ways with new insight.  I don’t quite understand it and I don’t try.  All I know is that what I learned three years ago is helpful in understanding something new today.

That’s how Jesus works, building on our understanding day by day.  And with that insight, we can live peacefully.

We learn that God is ultimately in charge, so we take our frustration with world affairs to God.  We learn that we are a part of something bigger, so we walk to our state’s capital and lobby our representatives until they provide the education dollars needed to properly teach our future generations.  We learn that God created all of us therefore we need to respect God’s creation and take care of it, even those who live on the fringes of society or in our prison system.

Every breath we take is a witness to the resurrection.  Every action we take is a witness of who we are and how we perceive God’s love.  Sometimes we do a great job of it.  Other times we blow it.  When we’re in the moment, we exhibit God’s triumph over death.  We exhibit God’s sadness over social injustice and we become God’s hands and feet in the world.  When we are witnesses to the resurrection, we exhibit God’s shalom in the world and know that God isn’t finished with us yet.

I believe that this world is getting better when seen through the lens of thousands of years of history.  Yet, my greatest sadness is our inability to have a bipartisan conversation without raised voices, as if the loudest voice wins.  We can’t share information unless we can prove our point and be the winner in the argument.  Sadly, I find myself wanting to lash out at those with whom I disagree and I want to prove them wrong and put them in their place.

We need Jesus’ peace.  We need to know that as a witness to the resurrection, we know only a part of the whole.  And we understand that we won’t completely understand until we finally meet Jesus face to face.  Until that time, we are just one more broken person living in a broken world.  But, it doesn’t, it musn’t stop us from praying each day that we will greet others in peace, especially when they wish just the opposite for us.

Because He Lives…we CAN live peacefully.  It’s there inside of us, filling us to overflowing, if we take the time to notice it; if we take time with scripture and prayer to gain insight into God and God’s way.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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