Saint Phoebe the deacon

Here is a wonderful Saint to spotlight for Mother’s Day. We encounter Phoebe as we read through the book of Romans, her life as a mother to the church and a deacon of the church translates through the centuries to our own day and time.

Paul refers to Phoebe as a deacon of the church in Romans chapter 16:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

-Romans 16 1-2

The word at the end of verse 2, “benefactor” specifically lends meaning towards being a guardian and a protector of others. Clearly, Phoebe exemplified caring, helping, and protecting others as a follower of Christ, all things to aspire to. A calling to ministry in the diaconate is not necessary to be a mother, but those who care, help and protect others are often called mothers, or “mom” even when those cared for aren’t their own children.

I have been a part of the church a long time, and there have been many good women, mothers of the church, who have mirrored the qualities of Saint Phoebe the deacon. The church is better for it. Celebrate these ladies today!

Show Me Your Heart

I laugh that a social media status can show the condition of our heart and attitude.  We’re very good at complaining and grumbling as it seems to come naturally.

Grumbling defined:

  1.  To show one’s unhappiness or critical attitude.
  2. To make complaining remarks or noises under one’s breath.
  3. To murmur or mutter in discontent; complain sullenly.

In the book of Exodus we see account after account of God’s miraculous move on behalf of His people. (parting the Red Sea, feeding them with manna, water in the desert, provision time and again) however, Moses, and God, had to put up with the children of Israel’s horrid complaining:

-They grumbled because they didn’t have enough water.

-They grumbled because they didn’t like the wilderness.

-They grumbled because they thought Moses was a bad leader.

-They grumbled because they missed Egypt.

-They grumbled because they weren’t yet in the Promised Land.

-They grumbled because they thought God had let them down.

…it was a real “Festivus” BUT we are the same way, often we complain, and we think we’ve been forsaken by God 5 minutes after seeing goodness, even miracles, from His hand.

What do you find yourself guilty of complaining about?

Reading about the Day Laborers in Matthew chapter 20;

The owner of the Vineyard went out to hire workers at -9am, Noon, 3pm,  and 5pm…

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first. ’The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner… But he answered one of them, I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Jesus is trying to show us The Way of a Disciple. Not of complaining but being thankful.

In this story we see:

  • God is just. No one will be underpaid
  • God is generous. Everyone will be surprised
  • God sees differently than we do

We may say, “What did you do and accomplish?” But God says, “Why did you do it?”

We may say, “What’s the bottom line?” But God says, “Were you doing it for me?”

We may say, “Show me your stuff.” But God says, “Show me your heart.”

How to have a Thankful Heart

1)Thank God for the Blessings Your Have Already Experienced.

2)Don’t Judge Yourself by the Way God Treats Someone Else.

3) Practice Contentment and Thankfulness

What are you thankful for today?

Discipleship scripture: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.                          – Philippians 4:11

Incognito Jesus

The 2 disciples on the Emmaus Road is a fascinating story in the gospel of Luke. It is the 3rd appearance of the risen Christ, following his appearance to Mary Magdalene (who first thought he was the gardener), and his second appearance that included the other women. Peter and John had seen the empty tomb but not the risen Christ.

The road to Emmaus is the 3rd appearance of the risen Christ. It occurs in the afternoon or early evening, just a few hours from the first two appearances. Cleophas and a friend, are walking to the city of Emmaus when they are joined by a stranger, for they did not recognize Jesus, who asked them what was wrong and why they seemed so sad.

They were surprised at the stranger’s seemingly lack of knowledge of the recent events in Jerusalem where a powerful young prophet had been maliciously condemned and crucified. They were heartbroken as so many hopes had been dashed, and a great deal of the Jewish population had suffered the trauma.

But then Jesus, still incognito, with great detail, taught them from Moses through the prophets how this was to be. Here’s a quick snapshot of what Jesus may have covered, in part:

4 O.T. scriptures about Jesus’ suffering:

  • “… then they will look on Me whom they pierced.” – Zechariah 12:10
  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Psalm 22:1
  • “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'” -Psalm 22:7-8
  • “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; … the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” Isaiah 53:4-5

So here in our story Jesus shares with them the word, and then at the table here shares the sacrament, the wine and the bread. The last time he had done this was at the last supper. Here Jesus shares the word, and then the sacrament. And if you notice, both parts of the journey to Emmaus are clearly seen our services when we preach the word and celebrate communion. Though they did not first recognize him, these 2 disciples had just encountered the risen Christ, they were some of the first to see him…

In the garden man’s disobedience came in the form of a meal of fruit eaten from a forbidden tree, but here the FIRST MEAL of NEW CREATION is a sign of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ’s body and blood as he breaks the bread and blesses the wine. Afterwards–They asked each other, “Didn’t our hearts kindle within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem, and they continue to relate what they had experienced.

Earth Day & Saint Francis

Well before the establishment of Earth Day Saint Francis praised God for creation in the following canticle:

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God,
to you belong praise, glory,
honour and all blessing.
Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
and especially for our Brother Sun,
who brings us the day and the light;
he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon,
and for the stars
which you have set shining and lovely
in the heavens.
Be praised, my Lord,
for our Brothers Wind and Air
and every kind of weather
by which you, Lord,
uphold life in all your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water,
who is very useful to us,
and humble and precious and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom you give us light in the darkness:
he is bright and lively and strong.
Be praised, my Lord,
for Sister Earth, our Mother,
who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth
fruits and vegetables of many kinds
and flowers of many colours.
Be praised, my Lord,
for those who forgive for love of you;
and for those
who bear sickness and weakness
in peace and patience
– you will grant them a crown.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death,
whom we must all face.
I praise and bless you, Lord,
and I give thanks to you,
and I will serve you in all humility.

Saint Patrick & Forgiving Trespasses

The story of Saint Patrick is a fascinating one, and has something to teach us today.

He lived in the 4th-5th century; born in Britain- his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a church leader. Patrick was kidnapped and  enslaved, taken from his family at 16, and made to be a pig-hearder in Ireland.

One day he escaped, and worked his way back home to Britain on a ship. Returning to his family, then he felt called to be a priest, which took him to Rome. One day he had a vision-heard the voice of the people of Ireland calling him “Return and walk among us once again.” The people who had enslaved him for several years, keeping him from his family, making him live outside as a pig herder… What would make it possible for him to do this? He not only forgave them, he returned to them as a missionary-priest.

WHY we find it difficult to forgive:
Ask non-christians to quote Jesus’ teaching, and “forgive your enemies” is one of the most quoted. It’s one of the core teachings that drew Gandhi’s admiration. Yet, universally, people struggle to forgive. Why do we find it so difficult to forgive?

We have a sense of justice, as long as it applies to everyone else, whereas we would rather have mercy, grace, and forgiveness applied to our injustices.

Patrick, when out in the countryside by himself, would recite any thing he could remember. Any scripture, any song, any psalm, any prayer. What’s one prayer almost every believer knows? The Lord’s Prayer, no doubt Patrick had this in his heart and his mind.

Matthew 6:12-15
forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us…If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

That’s what made it possible for him to return to Ireland and it’s people.

What happens when we don’t forgive: Someone said it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.  Dr. Robert Enright is a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He found in his research that unforgiveness causes cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, cancer & psychosomatic illness.

Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

When we live in a state of non-forgiveness it can effect us mentally, spiritually, and even physically. But developing the spiritual discipline of forgiving, the power of forgiveness, can set us free and heal us.

Jesus’ example to us in Luke 23 verse 34: Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

When Christ hung on the cross and said “Father forgive them-“ he meant me and you as much as he meant the soldiers at Golgotha that day. If we are truly His disciples then we continually seek to develop the discipline of forgiveness in our live, following Jesus’ example. Saint Patrick exemplified this well in his life and ministry, making his enemies his friends.

Welcoming all as Christ

Welcome all as Christ:
The Rule of Saint Benedict may seem antiquated to us today. Written in the early 6th century as a rule of life for those living together in community as Christians and monks, the Rule of Saint Benedict provided much needed direction and a path to living in community together. (Without killing each other -anyone who has had several roommates understands what I’m saying here).

As a priest in a local church, The Rule of Saint Benedict (RB) also provides me with insight, and it challenges me on how we can be the church in the world today. In a culture that is so very self absorbed, the RB can help us recover some of what is best on being the community of God and to give hope to a despairing world. The RB also may enrich our culture today by reminding the community of God how the early church and early monasticism viewed each other, and how each was to view the stranger, the new person among you. According to the RB, each person has great value.

Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).  Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.  Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love.

(RB p.89 Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. del Mastro, Doubleday 1975).

To do this we have to train our eyes to really see people, to be aware, to see people as Christ sees and to respond in kind.

Ashes and Dust

Things that didn’t live up to their reputation:

  • The Ford Edsel in the 1950’s was to be an innovation in cars- sucked.
  • New Coke in the 80s was to build on Coke’s reputation- it didn’t.
  • PS3 is great! -unless you get the three rings of death… (old school, I know)
  • Facebook Games.
  • Planking.

There’s a difference between reputation and reality. Jesus, dictating the letter to the church at Sardis to the Apostle, John said:

“You have a reputation that you live, but you are DEAD.”

They were living on reputation, they were living on past accomplishments, they were living in the glory days, but had fallen asleep to living the life and doing the stuff of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

WAKE UP: Jesus says “WAKE UP!!!”…living on past accomplishments just isn’t enough. Any time we live in the past it is not a good thing, it robs us of today-good or bad. If you live in the past of the bad things that happen in life then you’ll never go forward, never heal, never explore and discover life now. The same is true for the good things: starting a business, being a star athlete in school, whatever the accomplishment; to live in the past is DEATH.

Paul speaks clearly words that the church at Sardis needed to hear and words relevant for us today in Philippians 3:13 “This ONE thing I do- forgetting what is past and move forward.” Do this and live.

Let us begin again! Saint Francis said something as he gathered the brothers around not long before his death- “Let us begin again, for up to now we have done nothing.” For Sardis, For our churches, for each of us individually, these words ring true. It is a time for us to begin again. Jesus said “repent & return to what you have received and heard.”

In ancient culture, cities kept a book with the names of all it’s citizens, when someone moved or died they would scratch the persons name out. Look at the promise Jesus gave to Sardis:

“He who overcomes will be dressed in white…and I will never erase or blot out his name from the book of life…” -Rev 3:5

Let’s not live in the past, not fall asleep, but be awake! & let us begin again; letting go of the past and moving forward! Let Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season be a fresh start of your journey as you follow Christ.

Before The Season Of Lent

Trudge through the pain to get to the joy of really living

Don’t heed the tiredness of the hours

you’ve had a black eye before

not the first time

it’ll be alright

The snow gives way to sprouting green

Soon the leaf and then the fruit

The sun’s warming

the last fire of winter

reduced to embers

Cardinals feed on waning winter feast

New work is at hand now

Yoke the old horse to the new

experience and strength

side by side

Doing the Master’s work

The season is new

A Total Greater Than The Sum Of It’s Parts

 

People who are following Christ and seeking to imitate him in word and deed are the most basic element of what makes the church the church. Look at Peter’s words to the church:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ

-1 Peter 2:4-5

A few things you’ll notice, Peter addresses the people-

  • As a stone, just like Jesus, a stone rejected by men but chosen by God.
  • As a house, a spiritual house.
  • A priesthood.

Whereas in the Old Testament people had to travel to Jerusalem in order to go to temple, and have sacrifices administered by a priest, when Jesus initiated the church he made us both TEMPLE & PRIEST. No longer did you go to the temple and the priest, the temple and priest (the church) is now sent out to the people, to the ends of the earth.

Paul, speaking of people making up the church as a body, put it this way:

Many Members of One Body, Many Gifts with One Purpose:

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. –Romans 12:4-8

The Church at it’s best:

The church isn’t the steeple, the sound-system, furnishings, or even programs. It isn’t buildings or events. The church is the people of God; where they are, with what they have, doing what they can. The people of the church, when they become the hands, feet, ears, eyes and all the other parts of the body of Christ, can effect the world around them greatly and positively-

We aren’t meant to just be introverted on Sunday mornings, and  otherwise inwardly focused. The church is called to enrich the culture it finds it’s self in, often in the areas of greatest need, be it music and art, areas of compassion and mercy, or whatever the need.

Synergos: There’s a Greek word, Syn-ergos, it means  “The total is greater than the sum of it’s parts” The term synergy comes from the Greek word syn-ergos, συνεργός, meaning “working together.” This is a great picture of how the church works together.

Hebrews chapter 10 says: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” When we do this as the people of the Community of God, the total is greater than the sum of all it’s parts.

Come and Live! Kingdom Life:

We enter the kingdom through much tribulation…-Acts 14:22

Jesus said “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force.” -Matthew 11:12

This verse gives people much confusion on exactly what the meaning is, usually there are two camps of thought:

  • The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 

Or

  • People have been ardently pressing in to the kingdom with all their strength.

Which one is right? Yes. probably both.

We are hindered at every side, attacked, sometimes actually, sometimes verbally, sometimes emotionally, to keep us from participating in the unstoppable, moving, coming Kingdom of God. At the same time we must determine not to be deterred, slowed down or hindered in any way. We must ardently press in to catch the moving train that is The Kingdom if we intend to ride that train, if we want to be a part.

Sometimes I think we get sidelined, we forget, or think “I’ve been there and done that.” but we have to practice being attuned to the Holy Spirit, and practice sharing hopeful news, or just stopping for a few minutes to pray with someone.

YOU have a part in The Kingdom. You get to “play.” John Wimber, a leader of the early Vineyard Church said:

“When you joined the kingdom, you expected to be used of God. “

But then soon we lose vision, lose fire, we’re told to sit, be quiet and then soon we’ve forgotten about anything that has to do with being used by God, serving, using our gifts, or just being willing to participate. Wimber continues:

“Folks, I’m not saying,Do some-thing heroic. I’m not saying, Take on some high standard, sell everything you have and go. Now, if Jesus tells you that, that’s different. But I’m not saying that. I’m just saying,participate.”

We’re all made to do different things, we don’t all do the same things easily. But at the same time God can do anything He wills as is necessary regardless if we are “gifted” or not.

Here are some of the gifts that the New Testament speak about in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4: exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching , faith, administration, discernment, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, teaching, tongues, interpretation, wisdom, apostle, evangelism, pastor, prophecy, and teaching

No gift is given to us just for us. Gifts are given to serve God and to serve others, to bring His kingdom in some way.

John Wimber said:

“Give some portion of what you have; time, energy, money, on a regular basis to this purpose, to redeeming people, to caring for people. That’s where you’ll really see the kingdom of God.”

Teddy Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We all can participate in bringing God’s Kingdom by simply doing what we can, with what we have, where we are;  just by participating. Don’t underestimate the small testimony of what God did in your life this week or last week. Don’t underestimate the significance of offering to stop for 60 seconds and ask someone if you can pray with them about anything.

This week ask the Lord to show you an opportunity to participate in The Kingdom!