Tag Archives: joy

Just what is kingdom of heaven; How does one explain it?

For some reason this question just keeps circling through my head:  How does one explain the kingdom of heaven? Of course to answer, one has to define that term, also referred to as the kingdom of God.

A simple starting point needed to be found, so I turned to my Life Application Study Bible.  The kingdom of heavenis not defined per se, only kingdom:  rule or realm; dominion of a king.

I admit that was not a very satisfying result. I wanted more information and that pushed me to another resource, HarperCollins’ Bible Dictionary.  No simple answer here, but I did find some clues.

  • In the Old Testament, the kingdom of heavenkingdom of heavenkingdom of heavenwas considered to be a political kingdom.  Ancient rulers were identified as a king who dominated a specific geographical area.  The kingdom of heavenwas only a vague concept.
  • In the New Testament (NT), the first book of the gospel is Matthew and he refers to the kingdom of Godnot kingdom of heaven.  Apparently Matthew, whose audience were the Israelites/Jews, wanted to make it clear that God was the king.  The other three gospels and other NT books use the term kingdom of heaven.  According to the dictionary, the definition and/or references throughout the NT, some references tend to imply that the kingdom of heavenis an earthly realm (geographical area); yet in other references, the kingdom is a celestial location—a place outside of the earthly world we humanly know.

Finally, another statement details the understanding of the concept more definitively and I had footnoted it previously as a “post-modern view”:

“. . . new era of peace and blessing for all creation:  humans and other animate beings will enjoy life together without hurting or destroying one another in that transformed world sometimes known as ‘the peaceable kingdom’.” [p. 568]

Admittedly all these formal definitions or descriptors is not helping put together a better understanding of what the kingdom of heavenmeans in today’s common language.

Therefore, let me present my own perception:

The kingdom of heaven opens up to each one who accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, the son of God and son of Man, who came to teach how to live the Christian lifestyle following just two rules:

            (1) Love God.

            (2) Love one another. 

Living in the kingdom of heaven is living out those two rules day in and day out regardless of the physical location in which one lives—while our bodies are alive on the earth and after our bodies die our spirit continues living with God in a mysterious existence upon which we can only speculate.

Following those two simple rules transforms our mental state regardless of the environmental circumstances of our lives. Making the disciplined decision to join in the Christian lifestyle removes all the angst of factors that we really cannot control.

Think about how differently one can even perceive the weather events that affect our daily lives.  We make decisions about where we live, but we cannot make a difference on the weather that effects our address.  We live in four seasons, we know that we will have rain, snow, wind, drought, cold and hot conditions.  We know that at times there will be major weather events such as tornadoes, hail storms, or floods.  

We cannot change the weather, we can only change our mental management of the weather.  I know that the weather is outside of my control, but that does not mean I ignore it.  Rather I embrace it.

I am a weather nerd, so to speak.  I love a good summer thunderstorm, even though I do not like the mud that it creates.  I get excited when the alerts go off that we are under a tornado watch. And who does not love a snowstorm as it comes in and blankets our world.  

Yes, I know there can be very negative results from major storms, but by letting go and letting God be in charge means I am free to experience the positive and disregard the negatives—even if I am doing the snow shoveling.

For me, the kingdom of heavenis a marvelous mental state that comes with believing and living my faith in God.  I can see the world so differently when I use the lens of Jesus Christ.  I can see the values even in the negatives. I can live in the kingdom now while looking forward to the kingdom yet to come when I leave this earthly life.

My disappointment is that so many I know have not come to a conscious awareness of the kingdom of heavenas a real concept that is attainable right now, right here.  

When I stop and evaluate the individuals I have known within my own lifetime, I can see how living in the kingdom of heavenis real.  I can see it in their eyes, their smiles, their actions, and their love. 

Despite all the trials and tribulations that they experience, there is an internal joy and enthusiasm for life that transcends the negatives.  

These are the very ones who do not ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

These are the ones who accept their own limitations and flaws and do all that they can to live differently within the context of Christ-like living. 

These are the very Christians that I want to surround myself with as I look for any way that I can to do all that I can for anyone I can.  

Yes, I want to live like John Wesley wants us to live.  I want to live in the kingdom of heavennow and on into infinity!  I love God. I love life.  I love one another.  Amen.

Please join me in a prayer:

Dear loving, infinite God,

What a thrill it is to discover your kingdom.

What joy fills our hearts to live knowing

     your unending love.

What relief we experience knowing the freedom

     our faith provides. 

And, Lord, we know we are likely

     to make mistakes along our journey;

But we know you are with us

     patiently waiting for us to call.

For those times we slip, thank you for forgiving us

     and keeping the door always open.

Guide us to share the wonderment of life with you.

Guide us to demonstrate the joy in living with you.

Guide us to invite others to life in your kingdom.

Thank you for all that your creation provides.

Thank you for all that you teach us

     through your son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for sending us the Holy Spirit

     so we can know your presence within us.

Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lifestyle

An open apology to kids about knowing God, faith

I apologize.  

As I continue to study and to read the Bible, I realize I failed.  I failed to teach you faith.  I failed to practice the parenting principles that my own parents taught me.  I failed to share what I know to be my own life foundation.

I apologize.

As I grew up, both Mom and Dad lived a Christian lifestyle.  They modeled it by the very routines of our day and our week.  They never demanded that we participate, but then we would never have refused to follow their instructions.  It never even occurred to me that we should question the practices.

Therefore, why did I not follow those deeply entrenched practices on my own?  I did some, but some I did not.  Going to church each Sunday was a well-preserved practice and included attending Sunday school.

Because Dad always went with us each Sunday, I never thought that my own husband would miss church.  I thought that was just part of the agreement in a marriage.  When I first had to go to church alone, I ached. It was so wrong, yet I failed to make an issue of the change.  I just went—alone and alone with the kids.

I apologize.

Another practice that I failed in was maintaining the practice of the meal’s blessing.  We had three meals a day growing up and that meant three mealtime graces.  

I admit that the practice weakened during the college years because prayer is private and mealtime in the dorm’s cafeteria was far from private.  The meals’ grace disappeared.  Oh, I could have said the grace privately, but I don’t remember doing so.  And when I moved into an apartment, I could have resumed the practice then.  But I didn’t.

Then came marriage and meals were often in front of the TV.  No table grace then.  

And then came kids.  I should have known that I needed to add in the meal’s prayer, but I did not and did not even approach the subject with Dad.  I failed.

Then life changed with the divorce, and the opportunity to add in open prayer was there—but I hesitated.  It was not until the preschool grace developed and later remembered that the simple table grace resurfaced.  I failed to do so in a timely manner, but now it seems so important, so routine, and so simple.

I apologize.

Now the two practices of church attendance and table grace are just two small, concrete pieces to the Christian lifestyle that one can wear openly, but there is more about which I need to apologize.

Faith education is a critical failure.  I know that many argue that as children develop, they need to learn about God on their own, along their own timeline, in their own way or by their own experiences.  But how does that work?

Having been a teacher for 30 some years, I know that learning is developmental.  I know that all individuals can learn.  I know that we all learn differently.  I know that we learn by seeing, by hearing, and by doing.  

Yet, did I teach faith in my own home. No.  I realize now that I counted on the kids learning via other people’s teaching.  I delegated the task to others and did not take my own initiative to teach the very foundation of my own life.  I failed.

For some reason I thought that I was doing enough, and I was not.  I thought that since my kids lived in my home they would be able to figure out the importance of faith by osmosis.  

I did not figure in what would happen when outside influences or the divorce would create an entirely different learning environment than I felt I was maintaining.  I neglected my kids’ faith education.

I apologize.

How easy it would be to just ignore the issue, but I cannot stand seeing what life without God does to people.  I see so few who seem to have an internal fountain of joy shining from within them; and I know they are missing the joy I experience knowing God in my own life.

What I should have done is been verbally open about how God is part of the daily world in which I exist:

I should have spoken about how God created this universe and we are to care for it.  

I should have shown how all the different birds are part of God’s creation.  

I should have shown how farmers are key to feeding God’s people and for protecting this world that supplies all we need to grow crops and to nurture the livestock that feeds us.

I should have explained how important it is to treat each and every individual with love, just like we want to be treated.

I should have shown them that good leaders do care about their subordinates making any business or organization work smoothly.

I should have . . . and the list continues.

I apologize that I failed.

But, today, I want to put a stop to the failures and speak out—directly—to my kids.  God is good.  Whether you can ever fully understand the concept or not of an omniscient God, a creator, a spirit, a being, or whatever, I know that you must know what a difference God makes in my life.

More than anything I want you to experience the joy of this life experience that we are given.  I want you to demonstrate to all those you interact with that the power of loving one another is priceless.  I want you to share the love of life that you have because God loves you so much that he provides it.

And, I want you to know firsthand the value of studying the literature of the Bible.  We use words as a tool, and the Bible is filled with words to implement in your lives to manage all the ups and downs.  

As human beings, who do have the freedom to chose right and wrong, who do have the mental capabilities of analyzing history, science, social science, and experience, and who face all the challenges of living among believers and non-believers, we must learn all that we can about God.

Knowing God personally makes it possible to manage the evil forces that co-exist in our world. 

Knowing God personally makes it possible to live a joy-filled life even when we are confronted by a life challenge whether physical, mental, financial, or even a natural disaster.  

I apologize that I did not arm you with the knowledge of God that makes life good now and on into eternity.

I apologize that it has taken this many years to speak up.

I apologize that I did not teach you how to pray so you can always feel the reality of God with you, by you and for you.

Hear my prayer oh Lord, 

I am just a child of yours

     always learning of your vastness.

I am a child who has wasted time

     sharing what I value with my own.

I am a child who whines to you

     that my kids may not know you on their own.

Forgive me, Lord, 

     for my failures to teach my kids of You.

Forgive me, Lord,

     for wasting time in sharing faith out loud.

Forgive me, Lord, for whining

     rather than doing as much as I can.

Guide me to speak out loud 

     the truth of your love for us.

Guide me to live out loud

     my faith that so others may see.

Guide me to love my kids

     and all others as you commanded.

Thank you for the words of the faithful

     that share knowledge of faithful living.

Thank you for the open communication

     through our prayers.

Thank you for your guidance

     through the Holy Spirit within us.

May I be the parent unafraid 

     to love not only my kids but all your kids.

May all your children experience your great love

May they know the joy of loving you, 

         of loving life, and         

of loving one another.  –Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Family Notes, Religion

Advent concludes. Christmas is over, too. One thing remains: LOVE

Hard to believe that the week is slipping away and I failed to continue reflecting on Advent.  The season swamped me and the hope, joy and peace of Advent almost got lost in the last minute push.

But, I cannot tell you how excited I am to share that the final message of Advent isLOVE

Consider this: Week 1—hope.

                         Week 2—joy.

                         Week 3—peace.

Those who walk through Advent season and acknowledge how the weeks guide us in a review of one’s belief, there is only one word that can add all these themes into one more–love.

Returning to the Oxford On-line Dictionary, the definitions of love, as a noun, helps us to understand the immensity of this final week’s theme:

1.  An intense feeling of deep affection.

2.  A great interest and pleasure in something.

3.  A person or thing that one loves.

But it is the definition of loveas a verb that pulls all of Advent and Christmas together:

1.  Feel deep affection . . . for

Once one experiences the three concepts introduced through Advent—hope, joy and peace—the need to act develops.  There is energy that comes when there is hope, joy and peace that begs to be used and when loveis a verb, that energy becomes the force that gives the noun love.

The theme of love is repeated in so often in Advent studies and other devotions putting a new twist on it can be difficult, but as we have done the past weeks of Advent, review the origin of the word:

Old English lufu, of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit lubhyati ‘desires’, Latin libet ‘it is pleasing’, libido ‘desire’, also by leave and lief.

Interesting that all three different origins still contribute to the understanding of the fourth week’s theme of love. The verb love takes the noun and moves it into action.

Traditionally Christmas becomes a time when love is visible through the practice of giving gifts to family and friends.  The action symbolizes the relationship that has developed between two individuals.  The relationship has so many different faces:

  • Spouse to spouse
  • Parent to child
  • Child to parent
  • Friend to friend
  • Work peer to work peer
  • Cousin to cousin
  • Grandparent to grandchild
  • Brother to Sister/Brother
  • Sister to Sister/Brother

And the list continues to grow. 

Gift giving is a tangible way society has identified to express the intangible noun definition of love.  No, the giving is not necessary, but it is a tangible way to say to someone how they fit into you life, how loved you are.

But gift giving is an event, the lovethat fills our hearts moves into action in so many ways.  As an operating system, love fuels our lives to do for others, to give to others in all types of ways.  

The verse so often referenced is I Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  (NLT)

Even though this familiar reading is so often used in reference to weddings, think about how broad its scope really is if loveis translated into an action towards anybody.  No one would have an enemy.  No one would judge another person.  No one would . . . I am sure you can fill in the blank.

This leads us right up to the end of another calendar year and the beginning of a new year.  There is hope.  There is joy. There is peace.  And now there is love for one another.

During the coming year(s), move that hope, joy and peace into the energy to love others.  Love them just as you want to be loved.  

There is no better gift than to give love to others freely, with no strings attached.  Christmas as a traditional celebration is a spot on the calendars of our lives that remind us how to loveby giving.  But giving love is a verb that does not have a box around it with gift wrap and ribbons.  Love, the verb, is a lifestyle of loving others regardless of any distinctive, identifiable quality.  Loveis living life each and every day doing all that you can for all you can in any way you can at any times you can.  Love, the verb, is a lifestyle that exudes hope, joy and peace.

Text Box: May 2019 be fueled
by love
filling your life
with hope, joy and peace

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Loving God 

     the father, the son and the Holy Ghost,

Thank you for the greatest gift of love 

     you have given to each and every one.

You knew that we did not understand

     how to love one another

     so you joined us in the form of Jesus

     to teach us how to love.

The prophets tried to prepare us over and over

     keeping hope alive in the darkest of times.

The shepherds shared the news the joyously heard

      from the angels right out in the open fields.

The wise men came and saw, too, giving gifts

      leaving in peace not wanting to sound alarms.

Guide us to know that love is all that is needed

      To live in this world, 

      To experience peace,

      To be filled with joy,

      To fuel us with hope

      So we, too, may love one another as you love us.

In the name of you the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Common Lectionary Readings:

4thSunday of Advent:        Micah 5:2-5a

                                                      Luke 1:47-55

                                                      Hebrews 10:5-10

                                                      Luke 1:30-45

Christmas Eve:                      Isaiah 9:2-7

                                                      Psalm 96

                                                      Titus 2:11-14

                                                      Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Day                       Isaiah 52:7-10

                                                      Psalm 98

                                                      Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12)

                                                      John 1:1-14

December 30                          I Samuel 2:19-20, 26

                                                      Psalm 148

                                                      Colossians 3:12-17

                                                      Luke 2:41-52

December 31                          Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

                                                      Psalm 8

                                                      Revelation 21:1-6a

                                                      Matthew 25:31-46

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

What happens when hope and peace come together?

Looking at the date, I realize how tardy I am into the third week of Advent and I am just now settling into my week’s blog notes. This sets off a huge warning in my head that maybe I am letting the holiday hubbub overpower my days.

Sunday the worship service included the children’s program.  As a cradle Methodist, the traditional images that greeted me seemed so familiar.  I know the story, I know the characters, and I recognize the costumes.  

Sometimes it is easy to overlook the significance of the Advent season because we become so accustomed to the entire hubbub: decorations, music, store sales, food, and family routines.  Then there are those moments when the proverbial “reason for the season” slams right into the middle of everything.

That is how I felt Sunday as I watched the kiddos putting the 2018 twist to the ancient Christmas story.  It was joy-filled.

Advent readings take us through the biblical story and we learn that the ancient people maintained hope for the arrival of a messiah.  Their mindset might have been described in any variety of ways:  downtrodden, tired, exhausted, victimized (as we might call it today), depressed, perplexed, questioning.

For generations, thousands of years, they maintained hope that their plight would be relieved when some one man would step in and fix things.  They hadhope.  

Even today, we can identify with these ancient Israelites.  Not one of us can live day in and day out without times of feeling the very same: downtrodden, weary, depressed, and so on.  We struggle to manage the daily ups and downs.  Yet when one has hope, those days are placed into a perspective as one discovers the value of hope plays in finding solutions.

During the second week of Advent, the theme focused on peace.  As one discovers that hope makes daily life manageable, one begins to realize that accepting God’s grace and living within that framework fuels hope.  

But what does having hope have to do with peace?  When we accept the reality of God and the relationship we have with him, we develop hope to manage the daily trials.  Turning over our need to control to God and allowing our lives to center on God, we discover peace within our personal lives.

As the kiddos were singing and managing their time on stage, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were filling the seats anticipating a performance filled with tradition.  A tradition that reminds us that when one has hope, all the rough times in life are of little concern and we are at peace.

But back to Sunday’s program:  The kiddos turned their backs on the crowd and as they introduced the various characters in the story, the audience broke out in a joyful reaction as the sound of the current kid’s hit, Baby Shark, became the refrain:  doo doo doo doo doo doo . . . Mother Mary, Father Joseph, Baby Lambs, Shepherds, Wise Men, and Baby Jesus doo doo doo doo doo.  [Check the You Tube video to get an audio-visual of the song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqZsoesa55w]

When we discover that we have hope and peace, we also realize that our lives are joy-filled.  We see this world through the filter of Jesus Christ and when we suddenly see the ancient story set to the music of Baby Shark, we experiencejoy.

Week three of Advent focuses on the theme joy. The season of preparation is also teaching us what it feels to be joy-filled.  Joy is an abstract noun meaning there is no way to touch, feel, taste, smell or see what it really is, but joyis real.

Returning to the Oxford Dictionary on line, joyis defined as:

     A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

1.1count noun A thing that causes joy.

1.2British informal usually with negative Success or satisfaction.

     Origin

Middle English: from Old French joie, based on Latin gaudium, from gaudere ‘rejoice’.

Obviously this is a noun with no shape or volume, no concrete form to pick up and carry around.  But how we try.

Joycomes in a wide-range of colors, and during Advent one might think it is red and green while others may think gold and silver and some pick all the colors as the trees get decorated with twinkling lights.

Joy comes in all different scents as the ovens back those cookies, stove tops fix cranberry relishes, and the turkeys and hams bake in the ovens as meals are prepared.

Joycomes in the sounds of bells and chimes ringing, carols singing, favorite performers add their unique sounds to hymns and holiday songs, and all the laughter watching the traditional holiday movies over and over and over.

Advent reminds us that life with Christ is one filled with hope, peace andjoy.  The kiddos shared the story in a new and different way, but the joythat they demonstrated with each “doo doo doo doo doo” of Baby Sharkfame unleashed joy in all those watching and listening to the ancient story once again.

Let the Advent season rebuild all those qualities of your life that get drained down during the calendar year as we face the daily challenges of life.  

Let you discoverhopein the story of Jesus Christ.  

Let you experience the peaceas you turn over your life to God.  

Let you break out with joyas you experience God in your life, especially in these weeks of Advent.

Then be prepared for the last week of Advent to discover the next quality that the season unleashes in your life.  God’ gift is opening in your life as we return to the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Dear God,

As we move through this third week of preparing for Christmas, help us to rediscover the joyof the season in our lives.  

As we learn to manage our lives with hopethat you are will never abandon us through all our earthly challenges.

As we turn over our lives to you, the gift of peacesettles in, and we strive to share that gift with others so personal peace can lead to worldly peace.

Be with us as we move closer to Jesus’ birth so that we may join with the shepherds, the wise men, and the host of angels in celebrating a birth that created a world, changed a world, and continues to change the world.        –Amen

Common Lectionary readings for Week 3

  • Zephaniah 3:14-20
  • Isaiah 12:2-6
  • Philippians 4:4-7
  • Luke 3:7-18

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Mary Magdalene at the The Cross/The Tree of Jesus

Easter Sunday sermon:  The scriptures are embedded in the text, but I would also like to share that I am sharing some of the music from Jesus Christ Superstar during the service, also.  Please listen to Mary Magdalene’s song, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and the final song, “Jesus Christ Superstar” at its inclusion.  I was fortunate to see the Broadway production in 1972 with my high school classmates on our senior trip.  The fact that it is going to be a live performance this Easter Sunday on NBC will be a dramatic ending to this Easter Sunday.  

Let me introduce you to Mary of Magdala.  Her image is the final one in the Church of the Resurrection’s stained glass window.  She is sitting on a stone, weeping and alone—at least the artist has her pictured this way in the window.

The trial and the crucifixion is over and the very same people who were standing along the road cheering as Jesus arrived on a donkey one week earlier are now in hiding.  Mary of Magdala is not.

Mary stayed beside Jesus as he hung on the cross and died. Joseph of Arimathea takes the body and places it in his personal tomb late Friday just before Sabbath began. The first opportunity Mary and a few other women have to complete the burial practice was Sunday morning:

It was customary to wash the body and anoint it with perfumes and spices, not ever for embalming but always to control the odors. . . . The hands and feet were wrapped with linen clothes (grave-bands), and the face and head were covered with a small cloth and bound.  It was loving friends and relatives, mostly women, who prepared the body.  The Jews did not use coffins and did not embalm. [Accessed on 3-29-18 at http://www.bible-history.com/backd2/burial.html.]

 

Who is Mary Magdalene?

Why did this woman stay beside Jesus through the crucifixion?

Why did Jesus speak to her that Sunday morning?

Mary of Magdala is first introduced by Luke earlier in the story of Jesus’ ministry found in Luke 8:1-3:

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

 

This introduction immediately follows the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet while at a dinner with the Pharisees.

But who is this Mary and why did she stay beside Jesus only to be the one who witnessed and recognized his resurrection first?

Research shares insight into the character Mary Magdalene, but the reality of this woman cannot be definitively identified with factual details.  The possibility of her relationship with Jesus being more than a disciple is the subject of movies.  The research cannot refute it, but the fact does not change the importance of Luke’s and John’s reporting of her presence at the resurrection.  And, if the possibility of the intimate relationship with Jesus is true, the morning of the Resurrection may actually be more believable.

The Gospel of John reports the morning’s events to the earliest Christians:

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

     Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

     11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in.12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

      14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

Who is Mary Magdalene?

Why did this woman stay beside Jesus through the crucifixion?

Why did Jesus speak to her that Sunday morning?

Mary came from the city of Magdala, a trade center, and probably was a successful businesswoman in the textile industry. She was afflicted with seven demons according to the scripture.  The story does not explain, but you know the demons that can cause one to lose focus. Maybe she was mentally struggling with manic depression.  Maybe one demon was physical pain from something like endometriosis or rheumatoid arthritis. Maybe she had a strawberry birthmark that caused her embarrassment.

The demon does not matter, but what the story tells us is that Jesus loved her unconditionally and healed her from the demons. Such unconditional love is the message that Jesus delivered.  Mary chose to accept that unconditional love and responded in a manner that she became a disciple—maybe even one of Jesus’ inner circle, an apostle.

Put yourself in Mary’s place on that Sunday morning. Would you have been sitting on that rock weeping?  Or would you have been one who had gone into hiding?

Mary’s story continues as she arrives at the tomb early Sunday morning.  Her sorrow keeps her steps slow and heavy.  Her head remains downward.  She carries the supplies she needs to complete the burial ritual.  There is no joy in her heart, in her step, nor in her expression.  Her eyes are red from the tears shed over the past several days.  Her hair is a mess.  She has no reason to fix herself up.  She is raw.

And as she reaches the tomb, she looks up.  The stone is rolled away from the opening! The exhaustion she feels turns into agitated confusion.  Why is the tomb open?  Why is the tomb empty?  New tears begin flowing now from confusion and uncertainty and even fear.

Then she turns and sees a figure.  Out of context.  Out of a mind.

And the figure speaks to her. Only when he addresses her in that familiar tone she knows so well, “Mary”, does Mary of Magdala recognize Jesus.  In John, the story continues:

     16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

     17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

     18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

Tears turn to joy!

Mary carried the news to the other disciples.  She knew where they were.  She knew the importance of reporting what she saw—who she spoke to. The story of Jesus’ ministry must continue and she who may have been the most emotionally connected to Jesus now had to take a new role—deliver the message of his resurrection.  He still had work to do and even though she wanted to hold him, she couldn’t.  Her faith caused her to move into action.

In a male-dominated culture, where Jesus treated the women equally, Mary Magdalene recognizes the truth of the resurrection. Jesus is alive and all the disciples now must carry the story forward.  They must live as Jesus taught them.  You, too, even 2,000 years later are to join in the task of telling the good news, living the Christian lifestyle, and loving one another as you want to be loved.

Why did Jesus speak to Mary that Sunday morning?

Because he lives.  [Conclude with the music, Because He Lives.]

Closing prayer

 

Dear ever-loving Lord,

May we experience the joy

Mary of Magdala did

As Jesus called out her name.

May we hear God call our names

As Mary Magdalene did

Knowing we, too, are with you

Now and forever.

Guide us to understanding.

Guide us to commitment.

Guide us to serve

One another in love,

Unconditional love.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Spring must be close; look what I found

Living in the Midwest, and truly the Midwest as we are central Missouri, one starts looking for signs of Spring.  Now the sun is out today, but there is still a bite to the air.   Most of us would say that it is very typically a March day.  That does not change the fact that we are yearning to feel the warm sunshine and the summer breezes that mark the end of the winter.

Therefore, when I walked into our local grocery store and spotted these:

IMG_2127

new red potatoes and fresh green beans.  I knew what supper was going to be.  The freshness of these veggies just jumped out at me.  Often finding truly fresh veggies, here in the Midwest, prior to growing season is extraordinarily difficult.

Many compliments to our local grocers at BiLo, the Country Mart, because the Tuesday morning produce typically are delightful.  I hold off whenever I can to get there on Tuesday morning because they explained that is the day they have completed the restocking with fresh produce.  I appreciate that they let me know this piece of information because it is worth it to see such a display.

Therefore, this mini-post is a thank you to BiLo, but also to share my excitement that winter is coming to a close and there is evidence that summer is close at hands.  Just seven more days until Spring is formally here, and what a joy that is.

And just in case you are curious, the red potatoes and green beans are on the burner with a slice of onion, a tablespoon of bacon grease, pepper and salt.  This house is already smelling yummy, esp. since I put in an arm roast, too, that was a manager special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Kitchen notes, Nature

JOY: Christmas Presents That Won’t Break

This is the 3rd of the Advent series based on James W. Moore’s and Jacob Armstrong’s Advent study, Christmas Presents That Won’t Break.  As always, I am very appreciative for the work these two have done and making it available to others for their Advent.

 

Scripture:

Matthew 1:22-25, NLT

     22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,[a]
which means ‘God is with us.’”

     24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

 

Luke 1:28-38, NLT

     28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings,[a] favored woman! The Lord is with you![b]

     29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[c] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

     34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

     35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.[d]

     38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

 

Notes for lighting the advent candle for JOY:

Looking up ‘joy’ in the index and concordance of my Bible, I find some interesting pieces:

 

Joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortuned.” The first reference in the concordance is in Deuteronomy and the last one is in 1 John; but during Advent, the focus is on the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Just in the gospels, the concordance lists 14 entries of which only five of the verses are included in the traditional Christmas story. The others are primarily either later in Jesus’ ministry or as the end of his life.

In the index, there are fewer listings. In fact there are only a total of 11 of which seven are from the gospels. Psalms includes two, Philippians have three and Romans only one.

Key to all, though, is the emphasis on the emotion of joy comes from being faithful and in relation to God, especially through acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior.

Mary’s role in the Christmas story helps us to understand this emotion of joy because she delivered the baby Jesus to the world and that human role is something we understand. The gospel of John [16:19-24, NLT] completes the explanation in Jesus’ words as he tries to explain what he meant when he said, “In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me. . . “:

19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

 

 

JOY: The Christmas Present That Won’t Break

 

            JOY: What a packed word! This small word has immense power to take a gloomy day and turn it around. Yet in today’s world joy is evasive. The climate in which we currently live is so full of political and human turmoil due to so many factors that finding joy could be a chore. Yet, joy is one of the very best characteristics of Christians.

Take a minute to reflect on the people you know that you feel exhibit a Christian attitude. Do you not see them as joyful or joy-filled? I contend that a solid understanding of one’s faith in God and living the Christian lifestyle transforms our human lives into joyfilled lives rather than cynical, embittered, and miserable lives.

As a cook, I can see the recipe for a joy-filled life begins with the basic ingredient of God as introduced to us through Jesus Christ. Maybe that why I find joy in preparing a meal for family and friends; and no time is better than during Advent and Christmas time to realize that the mere act of preparing a meal with all kinds of special dishes is exactly what the gift of joy is. Preparing a special holiday meal is a gift that does not break and is one of encouragement, of thoughtfulness, and of graciousness. The satisfaction that it provides the guests as well as the cook(s) is joy!

In James Moore’s study, he writes that joy has three types: encouragement, thoughtfulness and graciousness. He argues that when God is with us, we provide the very ingredients of those three qualities. He states:

. . . the great truth of Christmas, the great message of Christmas, the great promise of Christmas, the great joy of Christmas, all wrapped up in that one word, Emmanel, which means God is always with us! (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 63)

When we prepare a meal, we demonstrate the very idea that God is always with us. (For instance, how else can we be safe with knives and hot stoves and liquids all around us.) God is with us when we realize who we hope will come to our table and when we show love to the guests. The invitation itself is a gift of ‘encouragement’ as you include them in your life and pray for their joy, too. As guests, they are encouraged to join in your life as family and/or friends—what an opportunity to share God’s story, also:

That is part of our task as Christians, isn’t it? We need to say to a scared, anxious, confused, fretful world, “Boy, have we got good news for you!? The good news is that we can share it because God is with us and will see us through. Our part of that good news is saying to people near us, “I care about you,” “I believe in you,” “I trust you,” “You can do it.”

Maybe the best gift we can give someone we love this Christmas is a gift that will not break: the joy of encouragement. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 64)

 

But back to the meal, we plan the meal, knowing the guests’ likes and dislikes as well as knowing the traditions the guests enjoy sharing. From the minute the decision to serve a meal is made until the final dish is put away, the cook(s) are operating with love. Love guides each choice and step of the meal’s preparation. Planning and preparing the meal is also an exercise in ‘thoughtfulness’ which Moore identifies as another type of way to give joy.

Deciding to host a family and/or friends dinner takes thoughtfulness when considering what to prepare. We know the guests well enough to know the likes and dislikes, the allergies, and the traditional expectations. But consider if the meal were being prepared for strangers. The mere act of serving a meal to strangers is an example of thoughtfulness, but Moore had another example of taking that to even another level tell the story of the First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, LA, who decided to serve dinner on Christmas Day for anybody who might be hungry or lonely. The meal offered not only a complimentary meal but also fellowship and Christmas carols:

Moore said, “Just after lunch on Christmas afternoon, I drove to the church to see how things were going. . . . As I went inside, I met several members of our outreach committee coming out the door and heading for home. ‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘Is it over? Didn’t anybody show up?’ A committee member answered, ‘Oh, they are in there for sure. About 300 are eating right now. The only reason we are leaving is that some new workers came in to relieve us.’ . . .

When I went into the kitchen, I was moved to tears by what I saw: There was my good friend, a rabbi, along with 14 members of his temple, who had told our people, ‘This is your special day. Go home and be with your families, and we will work for you.’ (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 65)

 

Just imagine the joy Moore experienced. The thoughtfulness of the rabbi and his volunteers delivered joy in so many ways. In a surprising way, the story of Christ came to Shreveport and it was a gift that cannot be broken.

As a cook, preparing a meal for my family and friends at any time of the year provides extra prayer time for them, too. Serving a meal and joining in conversation can provides special, non-stressful times to talk out issues, provide words of encouragement, and demonstrate Christianity.

Cutting up the vegetables for the salads, becomes a practice of thoughtfulness, too. Each one who sits at my table gets a salad that is unique for their own tastes. Even the menu takes thoughtfulness to make sure that it is appropriate for the eaters. And then, for those special events, the preparation includes the traditions that match those at the table. The meal is a gift filled with thoughtfulness in hopes of bringing joy to each one seated.

Moore’s third form of the gift of joy is graciousness. Preparing a meal may seem a bit of a stretch to explain graciousness, but it comes with two views. First, consider the graciousness of the meal as the host/hostess. There is a level of selflessness demonstrated by the cook(s) and the host/hostess to prepare for the meal. The joy of graciousness is demonstrated by the work that goes into the meal—a form of sacrificial love.

Secondly, there is a gift of graciousness that the receivers give, too. Acknowledging the work of the cook(s) and/or the host/hostess provides a level of joy to them, too. Giving the gifts that do not break whether it is hope, love or joy, also has a return for those who are doing the giving. The doers end up receiving joy from witnessing the effect of their efforts. The guests, too, return the gift of graciousness in expressing their joy openly.

The essence of Christmas is the joy or gracious, sacrificial love. Christ came to show us what God is like and what God wants us to be like, and the word is love: love came down at Christmas, and the joy it brings is the best and most unbreakable gift of all! (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 67)

During the next week, we will continue to listen to the news and hear of all the challenges to life whether it is the wildfires in California, the hurricane victims still trying to rebuild their lives, or all the individuals who have been abused or harassed or bullied in one way or another, God calls us to give the gifts that won’t break. Those gifts are to provide hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, and joy to those who are joyless.

Jacob Armstrong adds to the study how we can gift the gift of joy when tragedy strikes, we lose a loved one, or we simply feel unhappy with our lives. He writes:

. . . Can there still be joy?

Yes, God says. There can be joy. That’s what Advent is all about. It’s about our hoping, believing, waiting for God to come and make something out of our mess. We wait for God to step into what appears to be impending doom and save us. Advent hold out the belief that in the midst of that kind of waiting, God brings the gift of joy.

  • God often uses the most impossible thing you can think of as the very sign that God is with us. And in the impossible being made possible, we find
  • The Jesus story teaches us that we can find joy even in scary and impossible situations.
  • Knowing God is with us is the gift that brings joy. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 72, 74, 76-77)

 

So, Merry Christmas! As you begin the final week of preparation, remember that the story we celebrate provides the gifts that won’t break. The gifts of hope, love, and joy are worth all the efforts we put into loving one another as much as we love God and as much as we want to be loved. With these gifts, will come one more—the gift of peace.

Closing prayer:

Dear God, thank you for the gift of joy

And for the way it brightens our days.

Help us give joy to others

Through what we say and do.

Show us how to make this Christmas

A true season of joy. Amen

Work Cited

Moore, James W., and Jacob Armstrong. Christmas Gifts That Won’t Break. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Religion