Thursday, October 30, 2014
Today's daily lesson comes from Luke 12 verses 1 through 3:
He began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”
Politicians these days are always being caught talking when they think nobody else is listening. They whisper something smart-Alec or ugly, not knowing there's a "hot mic" picking up their every word.
Probably the worst in recent years was when French President Jacques Chirac was pushing Paris over its main rival London as the site for the 2014 Summer Olympics. He turned to cuisine as one thing that set Paris apart from London. And not knowing a microphone was on, Chirac offered this case in point about British food:
"The only thing that [the British] have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease," he told Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "You cannot trust people who have such bad cuisine."
Well, as we all now know, London won the Olympic bid and nobody ended up going mad.
Jesus said whatever we say in hushed whispers will be shouted from rooftops. And I guarantee it won't be as cute, witty, or funny to the neighbors as it is to us. In fact, it will pretty much make us look like hypocrites. There is nothing worse than being shown to be hypocritical.
Hot mics are everywhere -- certainly the hot mics of heaven are anyway. And as Jesus said elsewhere, there will be "a day of judgement for every careless word uttered."
A good way to avoid humiliation at judgment is to remember what our mothers told us, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
That's even more important today for us today than when we first heard it.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Daily lesson for October 29, 2014:
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also!”
Jesus had a remarkable way of speaking truth to people while remaining free from their hostile response. Most of us are afraid to tell the truth to each other for fear of disapproval. We end up being held hostage by others' emotions and so for fear of rejection we remain silent. Instead of speaking our truth we avoid, hoping that God will work some miracle to resolve the situation without our having to do anything about it.
Let me tell you something you already know: God isn't in that kind of miracle business.
We need to speak our truth, speak it kindly and with love, and speak it plainly and without equivocation. How people respond to what we say is really on them and not on us.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Today's daily lesson is from Luke chapter 11 verse 35:
"Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness."
It's stewardship time in the church, which means its time for considering commitment and pledging ourselves to what is required of us. And let's be honest, it's also time for a little evil-eyeing also. I mean really, doesn't it tick us off just a little bit that everybody else gets to do something fun and adventurous with that extra ten percent?
As people of faith who desire to be faithful, holy, and good, we each carry with us a sense of duty which, if not undergirded by a deep sense of grace, can steal all the joy out of trying to love God and neighbor. Faithfulness becomes a burden and a chore and ends up a source of embittered pride as we look upon the rest of the world having all its fun. We good Christian boys and girls end up like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story or like the hall monitor in my junior high school. Ugh!
Bitterness, resentment, frustration, and a judgmental spirit are never far away from the faithful. In fact, these are the shadow side of all that is good and holy. And the greater we grow in faithful obedience and commitment, the greater the shadow grows also.
Watch out for the shadow. Or as Jesus put it, "Be careful lest the light in you be darkness."
Monday, October 27, 2014
Today's daily lesson comes from Luke chapter 11 verses 24 through 26:
24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
Some years ago, I was asked to come and pray over the apartment of a man who had relapsed in recovery and was starting over. I used this passage from Luke Gospel where Jesus talks about a demon who was exorcised from a person, wandered around looking for another place to inhabit, but then ultimately returned to the person it originally possessed saying, "I will return to my house from which I came." Returning to find "his house" cleaned up, the demon then invited seven more demons over and as Jesus said, "And the last state of the person is worse than the first."
The moral of the story is that it's not enough to clean house. People clean house all the time. They carry out the bottles, dispose if any evidence, and sweep a whole lot under the rug. But then they leave the door ajar. It may be awhile, but before too long the demon comes back in and makes himself at home. Pretty soon things are worse than they were before.
Here's a hard truth: we can sweep up and pray over a friend or loved one's house all day; but if the door is ajar it's pretty guaranteed that the demon will be back. And the only one who can decide to shut the door is the owner of the house -- nobody else can do it for them.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Today's daily lesson comes from Psalm 31 verse 5:
"Into your hand I commit my spirit."
Last night I spoke at a memorial service for persons who passed away while under the care of one of the local hospice services in town.
My sermon was titled "Release" and it was about letting go. I reflected on how much of life is about holding on tight. Even as newborn infants one of our first natural impulses is to grasp hold. Pediatricians even have a name for this; they call it the Palmer Grasp and it is said infants can hold up their own weight with it. And that is what life is about -- holding ourselves up by holding on tight.
But in every life, I said, there comes a time when we must let go; and that is the most difficult thing to do in the world because it goes against our natural will to life.
I shared with them how earlier this year I lost a friend to a long, and very grievous and debilitating disease. For years this person had struggled to hang on. It was the fight in him which had kept him alive well past expectations. But in the last months of he understood that the time had come to give up the fight and let go. "Is it okay?" he asked me in one very memorable conversation. "Is it okay to . . . up?"
"It is okay," I said.
As God would have it, the next day I stumbled upon words from Richard Rohr which I knew were intended for my friend. I shared them with him and now I share them with you:
"If the word surrender scares you, let me tell you that surrender is not giving up, as we usually understand the term. Surrender is entering the present moment, and what is right in front of you, fully and without resistance. In that sense, surrender is almost the exact opposite of giving up. In fact, it allows you to be given to!"
Soon, my friend allowed himself to be given to his new moment; he let go and surrendered himself to death. It was the hardest thing a fighter like him could ever do; and it was the holiest thing also.
"Into your hands I commit my spirit." Words of the psalmist which Jesus prayed in the dark hours of his crucifixion. Words which remind us that there is indeed a time of surrender; and in that decisive moment we place our ultimate faith in the hands of God, who alone can still hold on, even when we let go.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Today's daily lesson is from Luke chapter 10 verses 33 and 37:
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion . . . Now go and do likewise.”
Did you see the story this past summer about the guy who was beaten over by the mall?
After getting off the late shift, he was walking towards the bus stop when three youth jumped him and took all his money. When the man came too it was pitch dark and no more busses were running. He crawled beneath a tree in hopes that somebody might look over when their cars stopped at the red light.
The next morning a few people did see beneath the tree, but he looked like a homeless drunk or addict. When it came out in the paper a couple from our church told me they had seen him, but didn't know what to do. They said they thought, "Maybe he just slept there or something." One person stopped and got out of his car to check on the man. When he saw the man's condition he called 9-11 which probably saved the man's life because he was bleeding internally from one of the punches he suffered.
The paper did a follow-up feature on the man who stopped and got out of his car. His name is Muhammed Abbud. He is originally from Syria, but came to the United States to study engineering at Texas A & M. The article called him a "a modern-day, Muslim Good Samaritan."
An Aggie Muslim Good Samaritan. Think about that.
Now go and do likewise.*
*Some may ask if this story really happened. To which I respond, I am sure it happens every day.