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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!

Fuel

 

What fuels the gifts of the Spirit? What fuels us to do the things we are made to do day by day? We cannot operate effectively the gifts God has given us unless we operate those out of AGAPE love. This is a godly love, a love with no strings attached. No other love will do- not STORGE (family love), not PHILIA (brotherly love), or EROS. (love between lovers) The only place for us to receive AGAPE love is from God himself. He is the source.

The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.- ROMANS 5:5

 

Saint Paul writing to the Corinthians:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts… Love others and desire to be operating in your spiritual gifts…especially the gift of prophecy… everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

-1 Corinthians 14: 1,3

Sometimes we think some spiritual gifts are hard, or difficult, or freaky, but look how Paul defines prophecy here: strengthening, encouragement, and comfort
The fact is ALL gifts should encourage, strengthen, or comfort others. In 1 Peter chapter 4, Peter is talking about living the good life. We’ve already lived long enough like people who don’t know God- But GOD is calling us to live differently now.

Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

Love, and serve each other with your gifts: Love each other deeply. Be quick to forgive. Offer hospitality to one another without complaining or trash talking. Use whatever gift you have to serve others.

Paul instructs Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity and fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:6-7

In other words: make full use of the gift that God gave you when I placed my hands on you. Use it well, God’s spirit doesn’t make us scared or fearful, The Spirit gives us power, and love, and self-control. Don’t sit idle, don’t let a talent go to waste. Paul said “Fan into flame the gift of God.”

He urges us to set the invincible power of the Spirit which God has given us, against those storms which may, and do come upon us. The gift of God is, as it were, a certain living flame kindled in our hearts, which the flesh and the devil go about to put out. Literally, Paul is saying blow the coals into a flame.

What are the reasons we sit idle? Why don’t we operate the gifts God has given us?Sometimes we lack direction. Sometimes we have to clue in to timing, life-changes, seasons. Sometimes I’m lazy, unsure, or may need affirmation. All these reasons are true,  several are temporary, but here Paul addresses the primary issue:
“You have not been given a spirit of FEAR”
The reasons we often  sit idle comes from discouragement and fear. It’s the last thing your adversary wants so he wants to intimidate you out of doing what God’s made you to do.

There’s a lie your adversary wants you to believe, and it usually sounds like:
– You can’t do that-
– You are no account-
– A Failure –
– Why try?-
– Why bother?-

If he can get us to buy the lie then we just sit and do nothing. But God has not given us the spirit of fear, instead He gives us the spirit of power, of courage and resolution to meet difficulties and dangers. We have the spirit of love which will carry us through opposition. We have the spirit of a sound mind, quietness and strength of mind.

Paul said “Stir up your gift Timothy”, don’t fear, do what God has made you to do.

The Holy Spirit is not the author of a timid or cowardly disposition, or of slavish fears. We are likely to bear afflictions well, when we have strength and power from God to enable us to bear them.- Matthew Henry

When We Have Dreamed Too Little

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

A prayer by Sir Francis Drake, 16th century

Before you judge…

It doesn’t take long on social media these days to find outrage. We think we see, watch, or read about a situation and quickly make a judgement about it then post our opinion. Many times, however, a few hours later we realize that we took the click-bait and the story is bigger and more detailed than what we originally ascertained.

Recently I watched an episode of The Orville that addressed this phenomena of 21st century life. People were rated, judged, sent to prison, or lobotomized according to societal consensus and outrage via social media. I found it to be a very insightful episode.

The problem is that our society judges harshly, yet I doubt we would want to be judged by the same measure by which we judge or display our outrage at others. It is one of the least appealing or Christ-like things we can do. I have said for a while that we are living in an age of “non-grace.” This has to change, especially with our harsh judgement upon each other. Too often we quote moral leaders but neglect to apply their teachings on peace, love and forgiveness. 

We often make fools of ourselves when we judge the intentions of another…Our own intentions or prejudice are easily revealed in our outrage. The heart is deceitful and so wicked we don’t know the evil in our own hearts.

There is hope. We just have to remember before we react, and see like Jesus sees. He saw everyone as a potential disciple and friend, that was his baseline, not to see anyone as an enemy but as a child of God, however imperfect.

“Father help us to be kinder to others, giving the benefit of a doubt, not pre-judging but believing the best about others whenever possible, for we would seek the same on our own behalf when they encounter us.”