Tag Archives: Old Testament

Mission Rebounds: The Old Testament scorebook

given on Sunday, February 28, 2016

Scripture connection: Isaiah 55, NLT

Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation

55 “Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
    I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know,
    and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

 

Basketball season is wrapping up and it is almost time for the big college playoffs commonly referred to as The Final Four. Locally the game keeps everybody on pins and needles, too. What is it that makes competition so entertaining! Adrenalin surges when there is a foul or the opponents score. The heart beats hard and the crowd comes alive when the home team rebounds adding points to the team’s score.

Lent is a season of reflection much like when a season ends and it is time to review the team’s performance. The Christian team uses Lent to carefully analyze how well we carry out the mission God has given us: to love one another. If we follow God’s game plan, the result will be the transformation of not only our lives, but the world’s. God’s mission will rebound returning to the Garden of Eden He created.

In order for God’s mission to rebound, Christians must reflect on our individual performance as well as evaluate the team’s performance. This can be rewarding but it also is painful. Lent is the time for such analysis.

Every team does this. Each player must review his or hers own performance, the coach must review the overall function of the team plus his or hers own coaching skills. Then the team comes together for reflection and creates an improved game plan. The mission, God’s mission must rebound.

Right now the video of the world seen daily in the news broadcasts might seem like God’s scorebook filled with losses. Lent is God’s annual video replay. The game plan began with God choosing the team, the ancient tribes of Israel. The playbook opens with the Law now preserved in the first five books of the Old Testament.

Today we know that the Old Testament story is filled with mistakes of the people. The leaders of Israel made mistakes much like coaches who fail to develop a winning team. There is no doubt that the Law of Moses was simple: just 10 rules to follow and none of them complicated. Unfortunately, God’s opponent Satan was uncannily good at convincing humans to make mistakes.

Still, the dismal record of failure also includes opportunities God provided to repent, to make right some wrongs, and to be forgiven. Even when leaders made terrible mistakes breaking the God’s law, God did not give up on his team. Wrongs were righted. God forgave them. They were redeemed.

But look at what else is included in the Old Testament. Not only is the Law provided, illustrated with stories, but also the prayer book. The book of Psalms includes the prayers, hymns and liturgy that we use even today. The prayers reflect the full spectrum of human emotions. Some psalms praise and some cry out, but one thread ties all of them together—God’s love wins; the mission rebounds.

The psalms are the cheers and rants of the crowds. In sports, cheerleaders lead fans to spur the team to put out that extra energy to rebound and make a change in the team’s performance.

Certainly there are times when the cheers fail, but the cheerleaders, the coach, and the team work together to rebound. The psalms are tools that help the faithful continue the mission. God sees; God hears; and God loves. He responds, too, when he hears the cheer “Two. Four. Six. Eight. Who do we appreciate!” The psalms respond, “GOD!”

The Old Testament helps teach men and women how to live a God-centered life. God-centered living affects every facet of life, and reading Proverbs, we find how the wise sayings can guide the faithful to continue God’s work. The scriptures are God’s instruction manuals   including the library of videos to review.

Sadly, as we know in our own lives, humanity has repeated mistakes. It is a pattern we try to stop, but the world throws so many temptations at us that we become distracted from God and we make mistakes again. In reading through the verses of Isaiah, we are told:

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

 

Every time we err, God knows and he is always ready to forgive. The reflective time of Lent gives us that opportunity to honestly evaluate how well we are following God’s mission. The words of Isaiah assure us that God knows and listens for our awareness and confession so that he can forgive us.

The Old Testament records how the faithful succeeded and how they failed to maintain God’s mission. The different stories march God’s story through time. The story does not change even though the culture changes, education changes, political leaders change, commerce changes, and even the climate changes.

Prophets tried to warn the generations that failure to keep God’s mission would lead to destruction. Some prophets, of whom Isaiah is one, spoke openly about how God loves us and forgives us. But forgiveness comes only when one is honestly aware of what they have done wrong. Isaiah’s verses in chapter 55 speak to us yet today:

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

 

Are you reading the scriptures? Are you reviewing the video of your life right now? Are you doing your best to stay God-centered?

In the lectionary’s commentary, the only way God’s mission rebounds is if. . .

. . . [we] name our sins and repent of them so that we might have life. . . . Pay attention to the way sin has us in its grip. To truly repent, we need an awareness of what we’ve done—and not done—that’s led us into this waterless land. Repentance reorients us toward God’s love and mercy, where we find sustenance and rest.

 

This is the same thinking a coach has as he reviews the game’s video and enters the next practice. He then offers guidance or advice as to how the player improves. And with each rebound, the mission to win the game becomes one play closer to reality.

Certainly honest reflection and corrective action is necessary and often painful, but the outcome is winning eternal life with God. The commentary shared Augustine’s thoughts about our restless desire to win:

. . . [God] understands our restlessness to be a result of our sin; we are restless because of our repeated attempts to take refuge in something other than God.   When we mistake any other good thing—whether it be love of another person, food, money, material possessions, sex, you name it—for the Ultimate God, Augustine argued, our hearts remain restless, unsettled.

 

God is our coach and he has assistants that are recorded in the Old Testament as prophets. In the New Testament, the story continues with the Apostles teaching God’s commandment to love one another.

God’s mission depends on our rebounding from our sin to follow his commandments. The coaches in our lives are God’s co-workers who can review the video and guide us to improve. Read the scripture from Genesis through Revelation to know the story and to learn how God’s mission is our mission, too. We are responsible for God’s mission to rebound.

Closing Prayer

Dear God,

Each day I read your word,

See your world,

And meet your children.

I am reminded of your love.

 

As we reflect on our lives,

Help us see our actions honestly.

Help us listen to our coaches,

And help us name our errors.

Then accept our pleas for repentance.

 

As we rebound and recommit to your mission

To transform the world by loving one another,

Coach us to improve living a God-centered life

So we can score redemption leading to life eternal

Beside you and your son Jesus Christ. –Amen

 

 

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1. Laying the foundation: Scripture, The Word

Building Our Christian Foundation: a sermon series on the basics of Christianity

  1. Laying the foundation: Scripture, The Word  given on Sunday, January 11, 2015

 

Over Christmas or on birthdays, I expect many discovered Legos or Mega blocks wrapped in the pretty packages. Or maybe it is a set of Lincoln Logs that trigger the imagination of building log cabins, houses, and forts. Kids love to create all kinds of structures with these blocks; and whenever kids begin playing with the pieces, the imaginations take off.

Just ask them to tell you what they are building. The stories show just what is going on in their minds while they pick the pieces up, lock them together and buildings, towns, or even cars, trucks or airplanes appear. Telling the story of what is being built can be as entertaining as simply watching the structures grow, shift, fall and rebuild.

Building Christian faith is very similar. The very foundation of our faith begins with the stories of the Bible. The characters and their stories are the very bricks and mortar that build that foundation of our faith.

The stories can be as entertaining as any high drama found on the television or in the movies. As we listen to the stories, we begin wondering how we would act if we were in those situations. Of course the settings can be very different than what we are experiencing now; but as in all literature, the stories are timeless because the message is the foundation, not the setting.

The verse from I Peter appeared on the opening screen when I clicked on Biblegateway.com, which is my primary source for scripture searches. I did not plan on using it, but I was on the search for today’s scripture and this was Saturday’s verse (January 10, 2015):

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”1 Peter 1:15-16 NLT

 

Those words confirmed the very thought I was gelling into today’s message. The scripture is the direct link to God.

Scripture is the foundation for all Christians as they begin building their faith. Each book is included after very thorough review by theologians and educators. Some might wonder why the Old Testament is included since the New Testament is the story of Christ, but the foundation begins developing with those first words of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

 

Before everything, God existed. Life is filled with mysteries, and it is easy to get trapped into the arguments concerning whether or not God is real. There is no evidence that science can provide to prove or to disprove that God is real and proof is simply not necessary. The scripture tells us that the “Spirit of God” was the creator, existing before everything.

Being Christian begins with the story shared in the Bible. The United Methodist Church has defined the Bible as “sacred text” and googling what Methodists believe, the website about.com makes this simple statement: “The Bible is considered inerrant and inspired in its original manuscripts, and it contains everything one needs for salvation.”

The Bible and all the stories provide the foundation of Christianity. As John Wesley continued his ministry, he also identified the value of the Bible as the very foundation of Christian faith. He included in his works of piety the study of Scripture. The same about.com website listed among the descriptors of Methodist doctrine this statement: “Close adherence to the teachings of Scripture is essential to the faith because Scripture is the Word of God.”

The opening words of John also makes the definitive statement:

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a]
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]

 

Scripture tells the story, it provides the lessons, and it speaks to us whenever we read and study it. The church began with the first Apostles that Jesus called to ministry, and the stories from the New Testament share how God wants us to live using the New Law rather than the Old Law found in the Old Testament.

Learning how to live a Christian lifestyle is not easy, but through the words of the Bible, we can. Wesley read and studied the Scripture daily and expected his followers to do so even holding them accountable during class meetings (now referred to as small groups). The essentials of the Methodist beliefs were stated in the website article in very clear words:

  1. Shun evil and avoid partaking in wicked deeds at all costs,
  2. Perform kind acts as much as possible, and
  3. Abide by the edicts of God the Almighty Father.

 

The scripture provides all the examples, the methods, and the authority needed for us to live by these three simple rules. The hard part is practicing it enough to get it right but most importantly that it becomes habit.

Practice, practice, and practice some more. Laying a foundation takes careful planning, using the best products, and making adjustments as needed in order to erect a building that can withstand all the storms that nature can slam into the outer walls. Creating a Christian foundation for our own lives takes the same care. If we do make the foundation strong, it will last throughout the generations yet to come.

Practice building your foundation. Share the secrets with your family and friends. Shun evil that surrounds you. Practice random and planned acts of kindness. And keep adding to your foundation by reading the scripture. The stronger your foundation, the more you can tell the story to others—whether in modeling the story, telling it in your own words, creating a piece of art, or even singing a song. God’s message is as strong as your Christian foundation.

Closing prayer

Dear God, the Word,

Speak to us through the scriptures,

Through the work of others,

Through the visual arts,

Through the melodies of music,

And through the models of faith.

We all want to build strong foundations

Of Christian faith.

Guide us to plan ways

To build our own foundations.

Keep us focused on the process

Of reading and studying scripture.

Then let us share the story

In all the ways that we can

So others may discover the Word

And how it creates a strong foundation

On which to build one’s life

And to bring others to know you, too.

Amen.

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Connecting then to now

given on Sunday, July 20, 2014:  Scripture reference is Hosea 4:1-14 (NLT)

Okay, I admit that reading and understanding the prophets can be difficult. Yet I know that Hosea 12:6 speaks to Christians all around the world as much today as it did—or should have—in 735 BC. Yes, that is the time frame for the book of Hosea that we reading now over 2 ½ millenniums later!

That little phrase from that one verse in one chapter of the entire Bible is so power packed: . . . hold fast to love and justice. Those six words are buried, in one sense; but even the entire verse is worth memorizing and holding fast to now as much as it was then:

But as for you, return to your God,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

The question today is how do we connect the lessons from the Bible, even the Old Testament ones, to our lives today.

Today we live in a fast-paced world where communication really has neither any geographical nor time limits. What is going on in Israel right this moment is in our own homes within only a few seconds. The typhoon in the Pacific Rim region of Asia is reported right along with the weather for our Kansas City viewing area the instant we turn to the weather apps on our smartphones or pick up the remote and tune in to the Weather Channel or local news.

Today’s world may appear very different from the ancient world recorded in the Bible, but the people are still people. The same life challenges that affect our lives affected their lives. Tempting us are the same things such as wealth, material belongings, power, titillating relationships, feel-good experiences, and the list goes on and on. There is no difference now in how God asks us to live our lives than there was in 735 BC or even before that.

One would think that studying the history of man, there would be no reason to repeat the same sins generation after generation. Still, we need God and we need to hold fast to love and justice and wait continually for your God.

In today’s scripture, Hosea 4:1-14 (the NLT), we can read it as though it were ancient history, and we can read it again as though he is speaking of our world today. We are connected to then even though it is now:

Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel!
The Lord has brought charges against you, saying:
“There is no faithfulness, no kindness,
no knowledge of God in your land.
You make vows and break them;
you kill and steal and commit adultery.
There is violence everywhere—
one murder after another.
That is why your land is in mourning,
and everyone is wasting away.
Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea are disappearing.

The verses written for the people of Israel are as timely as if they were written this week for the people in our communities. We see the very same sins/crimes now. Humans are humans no matter whether then or now. The behaviors are the same whether in our own homes or whether it was written over 2500 years ago in a country on the other side of the ocean. The temptations are the same. The outcomes are the same—war, broken relationships, meanness, bullying, robbery, killing, erosion, and the list continues to grow.

Even God’s anger and reaction are the same:

“Don’t point your finger at someone else
and try to pass the blame!
My complaint, you priests,
is with you.[
a]
So you will stumble in broad daylight,
and your false prophets will fall with you in the night.
And I will destroy Israel, your mother.
My people are being destroyed
because they don’t know me.
Since you priests refuse to know me,
I refuse to recognize you as my priests.
Since you have forgotten the laws of your God,
I will forget to bless your children.
The more priests there are,
the more they sin against me.
They have exchanged the glory of God
for the shame of idols.[
b]

God recognizes that the leaders (priests), the very people who were born to lead the people in worship and to teach how to live, were at the root of the problem. He clearly blames them for all the people doing all the wrong things.

Granted, now we might not place all that responsibility on the clergy of our churches, but when this was written the priests were the spiritual and sometimes political leaders of the tribes. Still, the leaders then were just as susceptible to temptation as they are today. We can create quite a lengthy and colorful list of today’s leaders both political and religious who have or can lead the people away from God. God told the ancient leaders words that leaders now need to hear:

“When the people bring their sin offerings, the priests get fed.
So the priests are glad when the people sin!
‘And what the priests do, the people also do.’
So now I will punish both priests and people
for their wicked deeds.
10 They will eat and still be hungry.
They will play the prostitute and gain nothing from it,
for they have deserted the Lord
11     to worship other gods.

The faithful Israelites began following the conquering Assyrian customs that included idol worship to Baal. Temple prostitutes were part of that tradition. The results then are the same now:

“Wine has robbed my people
of their understanding.
12 They ask a piece of wood for advice!
They think a stick can tell them the future!
Longing after idols
has made them foolish.
They have played the prostitute,
serving other gods and deserting their God.
13 They offer sacrifices to idols on the mountaintops.
They go up into the hills to burn incense
in the pleasant shade of oaks, poplars, and terebinth trees.

“That is why your daughters turn to prostitution,
and your daughters-in-law commit adultery.
14 But why should I punish them
for their prostitution and adultery?
For your men are doing the same thing,
sinning with whores and shrine prostitutes.
O foolish people! You refuse to understand,
so you will be destroyed.

Reading the scriptures is fundamental to remaining faithful to God. How else can we hold fast to love and justice if we do not have the words of Hosea to guide us, then we cannot stay connected to God. In this prophet’s words, we are taught to remain faithful. The analogy of Hosea’s personal marriage to a prostitute is to Israel remaining faithful to God. Hosea listened to God, married Gomer, dealt with her prostitution, yet followed God in remaining faithful and confronting her. His waiting was rewarded, and Gomer too healed.

The key continues to be in Hosea 12:6:

But as for you, return to your God,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

Life is never easy, but following Hosea’s prophecy and God’s instructions to Hosea, we can remain faithful and our lives will be rewarded. The history books tell us of those who failed to follow this advice, and the news continues to report such failures. Then is never far way from now; so return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.

Closing prayer

Dear God, father of Hosea and all your children,

Guide us through the days filled with such terrible sins.

Teach us how to hold fast to love and to justice.

Reveal to us the false gods in our lives.

and when we stumble and fall into sin,

show us the way out so we may return to you.

Strengthen our resolve so we can hold fast

to love and to justice.

Give us patience while we wait for you

with the gift of your grace and eternal life.

–Amen.

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Help! I just fell off my horse. What do I do now?

given on Sunday, January 19, 2014

            Don’t ask how the title for today’s thoughts developed because I have no good answer.  All I know is I was thinking about sermons and suddenly the phrase just popped into my head—and I have not been able to shake it off.  Sometimes you just have to follow what God seems to drop into your head.

Last week, the thought I had was whether or not one could yell at God.  While working on that, this idea came through, too:  I just fell off my horse so what do I do now?

Most of us have had the experience of riding a horse or maybe a bicycle.  We know that if you fall off you must get up, brush yourself off, and get on again.  If you don’t, you may not ever get on and try riding again.

Believe it or not, I went searching for a connection to this brain flash.  I thought surely there must be a proverb that connected to the idea, but there is not one!

Step 2 was to figure out how this phrase relates to our Christian lives.  Is there something to which this old adage is connected?  Is this a metaphor for one of Jesus’ lessons for us?  I was reading my nightly devotional and the phrase interfered.  But I found myself connecting it to the concept of forgiveness.

God forgives us.  Jesus tells us that we are to forgive one another.  Now how does that fit with falling off a horse!  Then the connection became clear!

We all know that falling off your horse or bicycle is part of the learning process.  There is no other way to learn than to simply get on, put your feet in the stirrup—or on the pedals—and nudge forward.  On a horse, you use your knees to urge the horse to begin moving.  On the bicycle, you keep one foot on the ground and push off as you push down on the opposite pedal.

Balancing is also important.  In the saddle, you must keep your balance in relation to the horse’s leg movements.  The feet are in the stirrups; the knees tucked in against the horse, and you balance while the horse moves.  One of the most important tricks of staying on the horse is knowing how to use your legs as springs absorbing the unevenness of the gait or the ground.

Now bicycling is a bit different.  It seems like everything is moving in different directions once you pick up your foot off the ground.  The handle bars move, the feet are moving, the wheels are moving, and suddenly you are moving—hopefully forward, but all too often you fall to the ground.  That is when the parent is right there to catch you and to encourage you as you get up and back on the bike.

These experiences are just like living the Christian life.  If you fall off, you simply have to get up, brush off the dirt, and get on again.  God is always there and always loves us.  He does not leave us stranded.  Instead, he waits for us to realize we have fallen, and then he starts to help us.

As a parent, when our kids fall, we rush to their sides to help them get back up; but they continue to grow and we begin letting go so they can develop their own independence.  God is always beside us, but he also knows he cannot do everything for us.  He cannot physically pick us up, carry us and fix our problems for us; he has to let us do it ourselves.

Throughout the Old Testament, the stories tell of the mistakes the faithful made.  When one looks up the term ‘forgiveness’ in the index or in a concordance, the Old Testament references are outnumbered almost 2:1 by New Testament references.

One of the references is annotated with the phrase:  no sin too great for God to forgive.  That phrase is then connected to four passages, two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament:

  • 2 Chronicles 33:12-13–11 Therefore the Lord brought against them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh captive in manacles, bound him with fetters, and brought him to Babylon. 12 While he was in distress he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and God received his entreaty, heard his plea, and restored him again to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord indeed was God.  [NRSV]

 

  • Psalms 51:1-7–Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;[a]
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  [NRSV]

 

  • Acts 2:14–14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  [NRSV]

 

  • I John 2:2–and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  [NRSV]

These verses lead us to understand how much God loves us and that he gives us simple instructions on how to live a Christian life.  Yes, three verses make absolute sense, but that one from Acts is confusing.

Why is a verse on forgiveness referencing Peter?  The key is to look at how Luke explains Peter’s story.  The fuller text creates a more complete understanding.  Peter is addressing the Crowd who just witnessed the Pentecost, Acts 2:13-21:

13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,

before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Peter was speaking, and knowing that he had denied Christ three times during the trial, Peter had fallen off the horse, so to speak.  He was struggling to understand the full story, struggling with how to share the story, and simply did not know how to get back up from the entire series of events through the trial, the crucifixion, and then the resurrection.

Pentecost made God’s word real once again.  Peter, after receiving the Holy Spirit, found his ability to once again share the story with authority.  And the first thing he shared was a reference to the Old Testament prophet Joel.

“No sin too great for God to forgive” is shown through Peter’s own experience.  From denying he knew Christ, he was forgiven, baptized by the Holy Spirit, and continued to follow the commission to make disciples of Christ.

Christians need to remember that they are always learning how to be Christians.  We are humans and we fall off or out of God’s favor all too often.  But, when we realize our errors, we ask God for forgiveness and we get back up and continue to learn.

God does not care if we made a mistake, he only cares if we do not acknowledge that mistake, ask for forgiveness, and return to living by the one commandment to love one another as we would want others to love us.  We must get back up and get on the horse to become better and better.

Certainly no one wants to fall off, but society has a way of throwing off our balance and we fall.  We might run with the wrong crowd.  We might ignore someone who is hurting or share a rumor that turned out to be hurtful.  We might overspend and forget to tithe.  We might drink, eat, or talk too much; but we must do the right thing when we realize our mistake.

Get back up, shake off the dirt, and get back to God.  It really is not hard to step back into church after you have been absent.  It is important to get back to reading the Bible or go to Sunday school.  Why, you can even ask for something new, a new tool, to help you grow in your Christian life.

The K-Love radio station is trying a new approach.  They are asking people to take the 30-day challenge.  The station asks listeners to commit, call in and commit, to taking the 30-day challenge of listening to nothing but Christians music.  They believe it will make a life-change for the listeners.

Should we set a challenge?  What type of challenge would strengthen us in our Christian journey?  I suggest a challenge, try reading a daily devotion from now until Lent.  Maybe it is just a paragraph like the Daily Word, Guideposts, or the Upper Room.  Maybe it is a devotional that pops up in the inbox of your computer every day.

A challenge could be along any of the basic recommendations from John Wesley such as daily prayer, grace before each meal, sing a hymn or listen to Christians music, read the Bible, have a discussion with a friend or a spouse.  Whatever you choose, get up and get it going!

God does not care if you just fell off or if it has been a little while since you fell off.  All God cares is that you realize you fell, and that you want to get back up and learn more.  He forgives our mistakes and he will rejoice many times over if you pick yourself up and return, too.

Closing prayer:

            Dear Patient Father,

            I fear I made a mistake and fell off my Christian path.

            Help me to start all over with the skills you have taught me.

            Help me to make changes in my daily life that show I believe.

            Help me to show others that I can return to my faith

                        by listening and following your words.

            Keep me near to you and let me lean on you when I stumble,

                        and open my heart to others who may have fallen, too.

            Let me be a little like Peter knowing I am forgiven.

            Give me the words and the actions to share God’s love

                        with those who are so alone without a Christian family.

            Let my lessons be examples to others so they may know

                        how much You love them, too.            –Amen

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Where is the light?

given on Sunday, June 30, 2013

Supporting scriptures:

Genesis 1:3Let there be light…

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

  • Psalm 27:1—The Lord is my light…
  • Isaiah 42:1-9–…And you will be the light…
  • Matthew 5:13-16…You are the light…

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

  • Luke 2:22—He is a light to reveal God.
  • John 1:1-9—The Word gave…light…
  • John 3:20-21—All who do evil hate the light…
  • Acts 13:47-49I have made you a light… (to Paul & Barnabus)

47 For the Lord gave us this command when he said,

‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’[a]

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. 49 So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.

  • I John 1:5-7—God is light, and there is no darkness…
  • Revelations 21:21-25…The lamb is the light…

21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.

22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there.

Did you see the Super Moon?  What about the lightening the night before last?  Did you notice that even when the electricity went out, there was enough of the Super Moon to help get around the house, not to mention out on the porch?  The natural lights of the moon, the sun, the stars, and even lightening cannot match man-made lights.  God’s light is the best.

In thinking about the changes that our world undergoes, there are constants that remain the same and those are the God things.  God’s lights are one of the constants.  The question we each must ask is where is THE LIGHT in our own lives, or in other words:

  • Where is God in our lives?
  • Are you living your life in such a manner that others see the light as a constant?
  • Do you radiate God’s light so well that others see you as a constant?
  • Does your God-light shine so brightly that even in the darkest moments you can see the way?
  • Can others see the way because of you?

These are the questions that can keep a person awake at night.  Personally I ponder whether or not my life is a reflection of God’s grace.  Sometimes I go back and review, wondering where did I fail.  Other times I feel so good about life, I simply praise God for all the good I see.

Praying hands are simply a must in a world that we have so little control over.  Keeping that open channel with God becomes like breath itself.  At times it is difficult to even know if we are praying, yet at the same time we also know when we are not praying.  Others can even tell.  When we live a prayer-filled life, we shine God’s light so brightly that others recognize it and even seek to follow it.

Keeping God’s light blazing bright in our lives comes down to practicing the disciplines that keep The Light charged up.  If we fail to keep the disciplines, then the light dims and pretty soon looks burned out.  Once the light is gone, it becomes difficult to see, to work, to love, to play, and even to sleep.  It takes work to get that Light back on.

Wrapping up the church year, each one of us needs to check our practices and see if our lights can shine as brightly as they can for the coming year.  The time to evaluate the sources of our spiritual energy is right now, so we can shine for all those we meet.  We cannot, must not, put it off.  Therefore, here are the evaluation questions:

  1. How often do you read the scriptures?
  2. Do you pray daily, hourly, or continually?
  3. Are you actively participating in a small group?
  4. Can you remember the last sacrament you took?
  5. Have you practiced fasting in one form or another?
  6. How often do you attend worship?

For most church members, attending worship and praying regularly are not a problem.  And if the church practices regular days for communion, then in all likelihood, that is not a concern.  The problem spots are the practices of reading and studying scripture, fasting, and participating in small group or Wesleyan-styled class meetings.  Even worship attendance can be an issue if you do not follow the recommended 48 out of 52 weeks of attendance.

These are the acts of piety that John Wesley felt were essential to maintaining one’s faith.  He knew that maintaining God’s light in our life is difficult and with the methods he insisted following, that light became a guiding beam to those who were without hope, without food, without shelter, and without the essentials for daily living.  And, as the light draws in the moths on hot summer nights, the Wesleyan disciples drew others to God.

Are we, right here in our very own community, following the Wesleyan methods we say we believe in a manner that God’s light radiates through and from us to draw others to God’s light?  That is a question we must answer if we are to follow God’s commission.

This is the point when the praying hands get dirty fingernails.  Granted, we realize that this is a metaphor, but Wesley certainly did not separate the two.  An area in which his ministry was well received was the coal-mining region in England.  One of the dirtiest jobs that seemed to deposit a level of grime over everything needed the most. The people needed God.  Now consider our own region.  Isn’t it interesting that at one point this area was once a mining region, too; but since the industry is now gone, does God’s light shine?

Even if the type of economic base switches in a community, there is no reason to think the need for God’s light has changed.  God is available for everybody.   God’s region is not limited by one geographic set of boundaries.  God’s region is global.  This is why Methodists get dirty fingernails just about anywhere they go.  This is why the acts of mercy Wesley encouraged becomes part of the fuel source for God’s light.

Evaluating how dirty our fingernails are getting as a small rural church as well as part of the global church might be challenging.  Well, it is challenging because it is tempered by the economy of a small church.  First, there should be no apologies for the lack of funds available for all the various missions whether it is the Heifer Project, the Ludhiana Medical Mission, the Hydrate Haiti project, the Imagine No Malaria campaign, or the Mozambique initiative.  The list can go on and on.

God’s work is not recorded by the amount of dollars spent.  Rather God’s work is measured by illumination.  Beginning in our own homes, are we being good stewards of God’s resources and the money we earn.  And in our own communities, the light needs shining.  As we evaluate how dirty our fingernails are, we need to begin at the center of our geographical community.  Here we go:

  1. Are the people in the community fed?
  2. Are the neighbors able to afford clothes that they need?
  3. Is the neighbors housing safe and adequate for their needs?
  4. Is the community prepared to handle a disaster?
  5. Does a special need come to mind?

Certainly an evaluation begins with the basic needs for life to be sustained, but it can be broadened to consider the next level of needs—educational, social, community services, and more.

In the pre-conference prayer study, the example of concentric circles was used to demonstrate the various levels of prayer.  The same concentric circle pattern can also identify the levels of ministry for a local church.  The nucleus or center is the physical church itself.  The next circle is the immediate area in the community.  The third circle is outer limits of the town, and then the circle one-mile from the church.  Additional circles needed to be included in rural communities based on how far reaching the members determine.  This may mean a 5-mile radius or a 10 mile-radius, and since our counties pivot around a larger community, an additional circle that bumps up to the city limits of the county seat.

What about the outreach beyond the immediate community, you might ask?  The connectional aspect of the United Methodist Church comes into the picture at this point.  The apportionments that are assessed each church provide the basic foundation for connectional ministry.  It is the choice of the individual churches to determine how involved they wish to become in the global ministries.  This does not mean that the small churches are exempt; it simply means that they can determine the extent of giving beyond the apportionments.

The acts of mercy send out the beams of light so all may know God.  What our small, rural church does adds just that much more to the luminosity of God’s light.  During the next year, we need to keep God’s light shining brightly.  We need to remember that all we do is for the glory of God, and when we keep that as the ultimate goal, we are the light, too.

Closing prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are the source of light:  sun, moon, and stars.

You are the source of love in our lives

         that shines so brightly others see you, too.

Guide us as we learn how to turn on our lights

         so others are drawn to your love.

Guide us as we strengthen our faith

         through the spiritual disciplines.

Guide us as we learn to minister to others

         so the light shines for them, too.

May we determine ways to shine your light

         so others may find the way to salvation.  –Amen

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Memorial Day: Remembering good works strengthens foundations

given on Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day 2013:  Remembering Good Works

 

                  Trees snap like toothpicks or fly upward, wrenched from the earth.  Whole rooftops sail, cars tumble like toys, walls collapse, . . .A [tornado] cuts and tears, and only solid foundations survive [the] unbridled fury.  But those foundations can be used for rebuilding after the storm. . . .

 

Memorial Day was established to honor the fallen service people who gave their lives for us.  Horrible, tragic events leave scars and memories, yet from them Americans typically rise up and decide to transform those blemishes into a way to remember the good.  The events have a way of binding people together rather than pushing them away from one another.

The words in the opening were taken directly from the introduction of the book of Job as written in the Life Application Study Bible.  Searching for the answer to how do we manage to face the losses in our lives, I found myself looking into the book of Job.   This man living maybe as long as 4,000 years ago provides us a model of living a Christian lifestyle despite trials and tribulation piled up on one another.

Today may be a holiday, but it is a time to remember.  The events of only seven days ago serve as another reminder of how bad things happen to good people.  Like Job, the Moore citizens did nothing to be targeted for all the destruction; they simply built their foundations in a community located in a region where tornadoes are simply part of the environment.  Humans have no control over nature’s forces, we simply must adapt.

Job had no idea that God and Satan were in a battle, so to speak, to prove the strength of his faith.  Certainly no one wants to be targeted by physical and emotional trauma, but faith in God is the foundation that allows us to rebuild and continue forward.  The Moore citizens now know this, too.  Their foundations remain, now it is time to rebuild—again.

The first news reports aired after Monday’s tornado seemed so familiar.  Only two years ago this week, the reports were about the Joplin tornado.  During the late fall months just last year, the reports were from Hurricane Sandy hitting the eastern seaboard.  And for the Moore community the reports were eerily reminiscent of May 3, 1999, when they were hit with a similar tornado.

Yet in all these disasters, the same qualities of humanity surface:  survivors searching for survivors, rescuers, without thought of self, running right to the worst to save others, strangers appearing from every corner of the earth to help, and the cries of determination as victims declare that as long as their families were alive they would rebuild.

Memorial Day is just this:  a celebration of life, a reaffirmation that with God, all things are possible, and a break from the routine to reward us for the work we do daily that maintains the foundations of our lives.  We hear the words of God and reconnect ourselves to faith, so we may begin the daily routines on Tuesday with confidence that even when bad things happen, God is with us.

Another value for Memorial Day is that it places in mind the examples of those who modeled faith to us personally.  I cannot face this weekend without returning to my own family examples.  There are so many who have demonstrated how faith works.  Whether those we honor are parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, or even strangers, Cemeteries are full of the very foundations on which we build our own lives.  Our emotions may seem overwhelmed as we review the list of our personal heroes, but each one of them added more strength to our foundations.

Gathering around the tables, we share the stories once again:  stories about health battles, rebuilding after fires, serving in various war zones, terrible wrecks, children lost before their time, family crisis, and many, many more.  Yet a common thread develops through the storytelling—one that provides a faith foundation for us continuing our earthly journey.

Job demonstrated that with each announcement of loss, he experienced pain.  He may have felt as though the world was closing in on him.  He may have thought life was unfair.  Go back to his reaction:

20 Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped:

21 Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God’s name be ever blessed.

22 Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.

Certainly he was hurt, upset, even angry, but he would not let go his foundation of faith.  Never did he blame God, nor did he abandon God.  Even Satan witnessed this.

The stories do not end with Job’s.  The Bible is full of them.  The good goes with the bad, and the bad goes with the good.  No matter what happens along our journey, the one constant is God.  He is with us at all times, even when we lose a child, a spouse, or our material possessions.   He is everything, and the people in our lives bless us even if they are gone from us.

God did not say life was going to be easy.  Neither did Jesus say it was going to be easy.  Only Satan ever tells someone it can be easy, but in story after story, Satan loses the battle.  God wins.  We win.  Even Paul knew that when he wrote his letter to the Philippians from his jail cell:

. . . everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die.

Little did he know that being thrown into jail that time was not going to be the last time.  Paul’s life itself is an example of how bad things happen to good people.  Even when he was the Jewish leader persecuting the earliest Christians, God was there and had to make his presence known in a very dramatic way—striking him blind right there on the road to Damascus.

Paul’s life and Job’s life certainly look like so many of our lives.  Whether the stories are from 4,000 years or 2,000 years or just a week ago, the proof of how strong a faith foundation really is comes from the stories of those who are now gone.  Memorial Day may be a weekend holiday for all of us, but for those of us who continue to build and to strengthen our faith foundation, this is a weekend designed for remembering good works of those faithful who have gone before us.

Looking forward from today, reflect upon these questions:

  1. How strong is your personal faith foundation?  Do you need reinforcement by rebuilding solid faith practices?  Do you need others to help you maintain the foundation?  Have you lost anything that could weaken your faith foundation?
  2. How strong is your church’s foundation?  What needs to be done to make the church a cornerstone in the community?  What work do you need to improve the health of the church?  Can the church survive the shrinking of its foundation?

The theme for annual conference is “Praying Hands and Dirty Fingernails.”  The image this theme creates is duplicated day after day after day each time a disaster hits, each time we put in an honest hour’s labor, each time we stop to wipe the tears in the eyes of a child of God.  After we take this small break in our busy lives, remember the good work of others before us, let’s start afresh on Tuesday with praying hands because we are the church.

Dear God,

Bless those in Moore today.

Provide them the strength to rebuild,

Guide the volunteers as the work

side by side with the residents.

Keep them safe,

keep them fed,

keep them rested.

Rally those near and far

to show God’s grace and love.

As the work moves on and on,

give them rest, peace, and hope.

Like Job, Paul, and all those before

be remembered, honored, and modeled

as we work to strengthen

our own faith foundations.

–Amen.

 

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April’s apocrypha lessons: Telling the old, old stories

given on Sunday, April 21, 2013

Apocrypha Lesson:  Stories of Faith

         Have I a story to tell you!  I have been swamped by all the stories I have heard around town.  Granted some of the stories may be a bit exaggerated since they are spreading like wildfire, but still the stories are absolutely amazing.  I want to go see for myself.

There is this community that is doing all kinds of things differently.  They are just like the rest of us, at least they appear to be, but there is something unique about them.  They go to the stores, like we do.  They all have jobs, like we do.  They have families no differently than we do.  Their houses look no different than anybody else’s around here.  I really cannot see anything different, yet there is something special about them.

The stories they tell are something else. . . the officials are always going through the neighborhood like they are looking for something.  There are certain times during the week that they all get together for some reason.  When they walk out the buildings just about noon on any Sunday, they seem so happy.  They are chatting with each other, the kids are running around their parents and playing with friends, and teenagers just stand around smiling, talking, even laughing.

What is this all about?  This is the story that I hear—they are Christians.  They talk about how God was born as a man, a man they called Jesus, Christ, Messiah, even Savior.  They still have the same illnesses, the same ups and downs in their businesses, and sometimes they have troubles—really big trouble like car wrecks, fires, health issues, and even broken families or relationships.  Yet there is this unique quality about them that makes me want to know more about these Christians.

Whenever you meet people who are open about their faith in God, you begin to notice some of the common characteristics that seem to make them happier than others.  They seem to handle the trials and tribulations of life with a certain finesse that others don’t.  In fact others may just give up and call it quits, but not Christians.

Growing up, my mom had unusual ways of adding her faith into the daily routines.  Living on a farm, we always had cats and dogs around.  In fact that is probably one of the best parts of farm life.  Many hours of my week were spent sitting on the step playing with the kittens, or looking for them in the barn.

One year we had a litter of kittens while I was in college, so Mom ended up naming them.  She called them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I tried to figure out why, but the Old Testament story is the key.  I am sure you remember the story:  the three refused to worship the King’s god, a pagan god, and he threw them into the furnace.  When he looked into the flames, he saw four men walking around.

The King could not explain it, so called the men out of the flames.  Sure enough, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were not harmed at all.  Who was the fourth man?  Well, he was God.  Certainly the story sounds like a tall tale, but the story had the desired outcome.  And the King is transformed.  He abandons his pagan god and praises the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  The story concludes

Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. –the NRSV

Now Daniel tells that story.  He, too, was a close friend of the King, and he stood up for his faith.  Faith protected him and faith continues to protect us throughout our lifetimes as we meet challenge after challenge.

The apocrypha tells more stories, too.  In fact the set of books in the apocrypha are filled with novels, folktales, poems, and instructions.  These books may not have been ‘canonized’ and excluded from the Bible structure that is familiar to most 21st century Christians, but that does not mean they are not acceptable religious readings for us.

The stories found in the apocrypha book, “Bel and the Dragon,” are sometimes published as Daniel 14.  The stories in Daniel are considered to be folktales, rather like those in Aesop’s Fables or some of the tall tales we have in American folklore.

The story of Bel is a great lesson to share with those who may be following false gods.  Daniel was refusing to follow the King’s order to pray to Bel, a pagan god in Babylon.  Being a friend, the King simply could not get rid of Daniel.  Instead there developed this challenging scenario (This is the full text, but for storytelling purposes, I will paraphrase it.):

Daniel was a companion of the king, and was the most honoured of all his friends.

            3 Now the Babylonians had an idol called Bel, and every day they provided for it twelve bushels of choice flour and forty sheep and six measures[a] of wine. The king revered it and went every day to worship it. But Daniel worshipped his own God.

So the king said to him, ‘Why do you not worship Bel?’ He answered, ‘Because I do not revere idols made with hands, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all living creatures.’

            6 The king said to him, ‘Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?’ And Daniel laughed, and said, ‘Do not be deceived, O king, for this thing is only clay inside and bronze outside, and it never ate or drank anything.’

            8 Then the king was angry and called the priests of Bel[b] and said to them, ‘If you do not tell me who is eating these provisions, you shall die. But if you prove that Bel is eating them, Daniel shall die, because he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.’ Daniel said to the king, ‘Let it be done as you have said.’

            10 Now there were seventy priests of Bel, besides their wives and children. So the king went with Daniel into the temple of Bel. 11 The priests of Bel said, ‘See, we are now going outside; you yourself, O king, set out the food and prepare the wine, and shut the door and seal it with your signet. 12 When you return in the morning, if you do not find that Bel has eaten it all, we will die; otherwise Daniel will, who is telling lies about us.’ 13 They were unconcerned, for beneath the table they had made a hidden entrance, through which they used to go in regularly and consume the provisions. 14 After they had gone out, the king set out the food for Bel. Then Daniel ordered his servants to bring ashes, and they scattered them throughout the whole temple in the presence of the king alone. Then they went out, shut the door and sealed it with the king’s signet, and departed. 15 During the night the priests came as usual, with their wives and children, and they ate and drank everything.

            16 Early in the morning the king rose and came, and Daniel with him. 17 The king said, ‘Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?’ He answered, ‘They are unbroken, O king.’ 18 As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table, and shouted in a loud voice, ‘You are great, O Bel, and in you there is no deceit at all!’

            19 But Daniel laughed and restrained the king from going in. ‘Look at the floor’, he said, ‘and notice whose footprints these are.’ 20 The king said, ‘I see the footprints of men and women and children.’

            21 Then the king was enraged, and he arrested the priests and their wives and children. They showed him the secret doors through which they used to enter to consume what was on the table. 22 Therefore the king put them to death, and gave Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.  –the NRSV.AC version listed in Daniel 14

Such stories of faith are found throughout the Bible—old and new testaments.  And even as we listen to the stories of our own families, we can discover the stories of faith being passed down from one generation to another.  Jesus told stories, he even asked the little children to gather around him so he could tell them stories.

Stories of faith have not been kept out of schools, either.  Look at the literature from that shared with preschoolers to those in college anthologies.  The stories of faith continue to spread the news of Jesus Christ.  Are we continuing to share our own stories of faith?  Do your children and grandchildren know why you believe?  Do you demonstrate your faith to them when life challenges you?

Paul shared stories, one being his own transformation from Saul the Jewish leader punishing the earliest Christians, to Paul the first traveling Christian missionary.  He was eager to share the stories of Jesus’ work and he did not ignore the ancient Jewish stories of faith.  In Hebrews 11, Paul lists or refers to all kinds of faith stories listing them from the Old Testament right through the New Testament:

Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.  . . . 36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. 40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.  –the NRSV

Whether the stories you tell are your own, or whether you tell the old, old stories of Jesus Christ, tell them.  Make sure that your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors, and all know how God is your strength, how faith makes life manageable, how even when the clouds cover up the sun, your faith keeps the light of God’s Son shining bright.

Dear Holy Father, writer of the greatest stories ever told,

Thank you for those who told the first stories of faith

   and those telling the stories today.

Thank you for demonstrating your grace, your love,

   and your forgiveness time and time again.

Help us to hear the stories of those today

     whose faith is strong and ever growing.

Help us to share the stories of others who know you

     and stories we know because we believe, too.

May those who still have not heard the stories,

     hear them now.

May those who first hear the stories be transformed

     and discover they, too, have stories to share.  –Amen

 

 

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