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Matthew 21:23-27Authority Questioned

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tissot: Jesusu Walks in the Portico of Solomon

Tissot: Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon

After we reflect on God as the lover and the most excellent promise the Lord offers, it is appropriate to pause . . . that we might consider what authority supports these concepts.  Several times Paul advises that we test the spirit (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 8:8, 13:5, Galatians 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:21) to see that we are acting in accord with God’s will as opposed to having gone off on a private agenda of our own.  We are not testing God in these cases; rather, we examine our own understanding of what we believe to be God’s word to us.

John recommends that we test ourselves: Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.  (1 John 4:1)

But what we see in today’s reading is not an attempt on the part of the Pharisees and scribes to discover Jesus’ authenticity as the word of God.  What we see is their desire to gain any information that might silence him, any words with which to catch him, to trip him up.

I love the way that Jesus’ replies to their cagey questions . . . with questions of his own that go to the heart of their envy, greed and deception.  He knows that they fear losing temple tax, power and recognition.  Jesus does not answer their questions . . . nor do they persist; because Jesus has made their dark motives evident through his own patient persevering dialog.

We ourselves are sometimes questioned by people who have ulterior motives and so we might think of these interrogations of Christ as his own demonstration of how to handle one’s self when under fire.  This questioning or testing need not be a bad experience . . . if we remember to speak from the truth we have funded in ourselves through our endless search for God.  For when we are questioned, we find; when we are interrogated, we have the opportunity to encounter God.

And so we pray: Heavenly Father, bring us the patience, the wisdom and the serenity to answer the questions put to us from those who test the authority on which we stand.  Help us to test ourselves to see if the spirit we follow is yours.  Help us to seek Christ through scripture and through our daily conversations with you so that we will not be lacking when we are put to the test.  We know that when we empty ourselves of our daily worries, we leave room for you to enter and act. 

When we are anxious, send us your peace.

When we are threatened; send us your peace.

When we are fearful; send us your peace.

When we stand alone; send us your peace.

When we are sorrowful; send us your peace.

When we are abandoned; send us your peace.

When we are questioned; send us your peace.

When we have found you . . . send us your peace . . . that we might recognize you . . . and sink into the serenity you have promised.

Amen. 

A Favorite from February 2, 2009.


Ephesians 1: A Loving, Warrior God

Friday, July 22, 2016ephesians 1

Knowing that spiritual maturity comes with trusting God and following Jesus, we may want to turn to Paul’s letter to the community in Ephesus since this is a letter to a people who wish to be spiritual warriors.  It is a document which outlines how one is to follow a Loving, Warrior God.

When we find ourselves locked in battle with something evil, when we suddenly find that we are in a maze of darkness and deception, when fear grabs hold and there seems to be no method of loosening the grip of the pit that yawns below us . . . we must read the Letter to the Ephesians.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when lies sting us.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when deception frightens us.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when hope is all we need to hang onto.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when we pray for our enemies.

We know that we live in, of and for Christ when we are speechless in the face of the rejection of all that Christ is.

inchrist_1xAnd when we feel that we must engage the enemy, let us do so as Christ does: with words and gestures of openness and encouragement, with hearts vulnerable yet strong in Christ’s love.  We cannot block out or lock away the people or situations who mock all that Christ stands for; rather, when we become one with him – as his adopted siblings – we learn to extend a welcome to our enemies while at the same time arming ourselves with Christ’s truth, righteousness, faith and Spirit.  Against these there is no bulwark for this is how our God goes into battle:  With open arms, open heart, and a persistent, loving call to goodness.  This is a standard we will want to bear.  This flag of discipleship is one we will want to carry forward.  It is the banner of a Loving, Warrior God who takes no prisoners . . . and who leaves no injustice unanswered.

Adapted from a reflection written in November 17, 2009.


1 Peter 2: Walking in The Way

Thursday, July 21, 2016The-Way-of-Jesus-Spring-20152

The Apostle Peter tells us that we find spiritual maturity when we walk with Christ in The Way he demonstrates to us.

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

Peter tells us that we are not the master builder and that we must agree to live side-by-side with other living stones in the kingdom of God.

Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. 

Peter reminds us that our journey along The Way will not be easy or comfortable.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 

In an age when it seems that the world is coming apart at the seams, Peter describes how we might arrive at spiritual maturity, and how we might make the world a better place in the process.

It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 

In a time when it seems that there is no redemption for the world, Peter tells us that in the end, we must place ourselves in God’s hands.

Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

In the hour when we remain confused and anxious, we place out trust in the hands of the one who knows more than we can know, who abides with deep fidelity, who looks forward in outrageous hope, and who loves with a bottomless love.

For more on Peter’s own journey with Jesus and his life after Jesus’ death and resurrection, spend time with The Acts of the Apostles. 

Compare this translation with The Message by using the scripture link above. 


1 Timothy 4:11-16: Working in Christ

Wednesday, July 20, 2016jesus+feet

Today we have more guidelines for arriving at spiritual maturity. We might take in these words to Paul’s young follower Timothy. We are reminded that we receive far more insight when we share with one another than we can experience alone.

Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

We understand that spiritual maturity arrives naturally when we spend time with the tangible Christ – sacred scripture.

Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it.

When we persist in studying God’s word, when we continue to work on our relationship with Jesus the Word, when we remain in the Spirit rather than the world, we recognize that the journey we experience with and in and for Christ is the most important we make in our lives.

Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.

Using the scripture link, we continue to compare THE MESSAGE translation with others as we explore the journey of life and our hope to attain spiritual maturity.


Colossians 2:6-7: Walking in the Mystery

Tuesday, July 19, 2016COLOSSIANS_MYSTERY_Web-2

We have heard that we are called to spiritual maturity and yet we wonder how we might respond to this call. We have read the guidelines for the journey we are making, and we understand that we are to walk with one another as we walk with and in Christ.

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Using the scripture link, we compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses to the Colossians with other versions, and we listen to the voice of the Spirit that speaks within.

 


Ephesians 4: Part Two – Rules for the Road

Monday, July 18, 2016rules-of-the-road

Yesterday we heard God’s call – through Paul – to join Christ in spiritual maturity. Today we hear the very simple rules for the road, given to us so that we might travel in God’s name.

What this adds up to, then, is this . . .

  1. No more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
  2. Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge.
  3. Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.
  4. Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
  5. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
  6. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

two walkingAre these words we want to hear? Are they verses we are willing to dissect and understand? Are these “rules” too difficult to follow? Do they ask us to change our relationships in any way? Do any of the six requests above make us uncomfortable? Do we find some of the requests on the lists more difficult than others? Do we believe that living as Paul suggests will bring us to spiritual maturity?

Today we explore this chapter of Ephesians by comparing this translation with others, and we open ourselves to God’s deep, personal call to intimacy with Christ.

Tomorrow, walking in mystery. 


Ephesians 4: Part I – To Be Mature

Sunday, July 17, 2016Spiritual-Maturity

This letter that Paul writes to the people of Ephesus is one that we visit often, and no wonder. These verses bring us a compact message of Christology from one who knows the risen Christ well. THE MESSAGE translation brings us a fresh look at these familiar words and so today we are invited to compare that translation with another that might be familiar to us. If we only have time to reflect on the titles, they alone bring us a new view of old words: The God of Glory, He Tore Down the Wall, the Secret Plan of God, To Be Mature, the Old Way Has to Go, Wake Up from Your Sleep, Relationships, and A Fight to the Finish. As we conclude our thinking about the life of Christ and how we might connect more firmly to his message, we take a last look at what it means to be mature in Christ.

From Christ, to Paul, to us . . .

Here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Are these words that call us to our spiritual maturity?

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

Are these verses we use as a roadmap for our lives?

But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.

Is this a thinking that makes sense to us?

No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.

Is this a philosophy that helps us to gauge our interactions as we grow?

We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Is it clear to us that we are not alone – and that we cannot operate on our own?

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. 

This is so very difficult since we want to please others. We too often choose acceptance from others rather than maturity in Christ; but Paul gives us a clear list of rules we might follow to arrive at our union with the risen Jesus.

Tomorrow, rules for the road.

Psalm 47: Applause!


Psalm 47: Applause!applause-stop-motion-w350x222

Saturday, July 16, 2016

This ancient hymn is replete with images of strength; God is mighty, subdues all, sets us at the head of the line! Who could not want to follow a God like this? There must be a catch, we say to ourselves. Perhaps there is.

What is the real cost of following God who subjects all to one will? And are we ready to pay the full price? Are we willing to applause this one at any cost to ourselves? In the New Testament Jesus more fully explains the living God.

Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (Matthew 7:5) Is this a rebuke we can celebrate in ourselves?

I’ll say it again–it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:24) Is this a thinking we can cheer?

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:44) Is this a command we can follow?

The powerful, Old Testament Yahweh becomes the thoughtful, meek Jesus who speaks and heals with authority. When we say we want to follow God, what is our image? Whom do we obey? Which version of power do we choose to worship? And whom do we praise?

Tomorrow, spiritual maturity.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we being to understand their impact on our lives. We begin to see what it is we applaud . . . and why.


Galatians 4:4-7: Our Intimate Conversations with GodYe-are-Children-of-God-Galatians-3.26

Friday, July 15, 2016

What do our most intimate conversations with God sound like?

As we consider the momentous gift of life given freely by God, we will want to answer this question.

Do our most important conversations with Jesus go where we want them to go?

When we consider that our brother is the Christ, we may want to examine our chats with him.

When we enter into close conversations with the Spirit, do we ask for healing?

And when we consider the depth of the Spirit’s love for us, we will want to visit with her more often.

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

THE MESSAGE Bible gives us these words to reflect on today. We might be more comfortable with the NEW AMERICAN version further below, or we may want to explore another version. If so, the scripture link takes us to drop-down menus and choices. Whatever translation we choose, we have an invitation to consider: when and how and why do we engage in intimate conversation with our God?

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

You are no longer a slave but a child; and if a child, an heir. We might reflect on the images of the life of Christ we have seen over the last few weeks to determine how we see God as our best confidant. As a small child, a boy, a teenager, a young man or an adult? When we do, we might take the opportunity to enter into an intimate conversation with our brother.

Tomorrow, how and when and whom do we praise . . . and why?

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