Monday, May 22, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 22, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Romans chapter 8 verses 2 and 3:
2Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. 3He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
One of my favorite songs is Andrea Crouch's, "Through It All" the lines of which say:
Through it all,
Through it all,
I learned to trust in Jesus,
I learned to trust in God.
I learned to depend upon His word.
We only learn to trust and depend on God in times when we can no longer depend upon ourselves. It's when we are tested that we grow in faith and learn resilience. This is why James the brother of Jesus said,"Consider it nothing but joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance," (James 1:3).
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years. They turned a week-long trip into a life-long journey. Why? Because God had to teach them. God had to form them. They had to learn to trust God. That's what the desert is all about. That's what the long way teaches us. We wouldn't learn it any other way.
In fact, we couldn't learn it any other way.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 19, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Psalm 106 verses 14 and 15:

14 A craving seized them in the wilderness, 
and they put God to the test in the desert.

15 He gave them what they asked, 
but sent leanness into their soul.

"Be careful what you wish for," we say, "because you might just get it."

When we get what we crave and covet it's never near as satisfying as we thought it would be. It's the moment a child has busted open all her packages on Christmas morning, or the moment the last bit of the cotton candy has dissolved upon the tongue.

Actually, it's worse. It's Adam's and Eve's first and only bit into the apple. What was so pleasing to the eye spoils at the taste of tongue.  It fills the stomach or the bank account or the garage but absolutely empties the soul.

What do you wish you had?  I mean, what do you really wish you could get a taste of?

Careful. Careful whatever it is that you wish for . . .

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 18, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Romans chapter 14 verses 1 through 4:

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions.2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.

We've all been in that Bible study in which somebody (they could be male or female) is there solely to determine (the say "discern") who is and who is not really living a genuinely Christian faith.  Usually the discussion is over something historically divisive like the authority of the Pope or the meaning of the Lord's Supper, though in recent years now the subject of sex and sexual orientation comes up again and again. Pretty soon the discussion turns to argument and the argument leads to people just wanting to get the heck out of Dodge.  Before long, people just get fed up with petty bickering -- a room full of people ready to give their lifeblood on a one inch cross, but never doing a thing to help carry the real cross of those who struggle or suffer. Twelve Bible studies a week plus Sunday School and all that's ever done in Jesus' name is the bickering.

That's bad religion.

"Who are you to pass judgment?" Paul asks. Or as Pope Francis himself phrased it, "Who am I to judge?"

We will each and all stand before our own Master and Lord. He will be the one to judge the hearts of his servants. And he really doesn't need my help -- especially when it's no help at all. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 17, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Luke chapter 8 verses 22 through 25:

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, 23and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.24They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

There is the big miracle in this story, the one which is most visible and most memorable -- the stilling of the storm. Yet behind that is the smaller miracle, which though less visible, is when one really pauses to think about it no less astonishing than Jesus' stilling of the storm.  I am talking about Jesus' stillness in the storm.

Waves crashing, winds whipping, thunder and lightning over head -- everything is out of control. The little boat -- a symbol of the church or the home or the business -- caught up in the storm and completely out of control. This is chaos; everything is spinning, and topsy turvy, and even if they knew which way to go, there is no way now to get there, no way to steer the little dinghy of a boat. Yet Jesus is still, calm, at peace enough to sleep through it all.

That's infuriating to the crew.  They rouse him in terror.  In Mark's version of this story they rouse Jesus with anger and pointed fingers, "Don't you care?" And yet Jesus' calm remains; he absorbs their hostility and does not return it.  I think of Kipling's words:

"If you can keep your head
when all about you are losing theirs --
And blaming it on you . . .
You shall be a man my son."

The boat is swamped. Curses fly.  The storm rages. Yet, Jesus is calm. He is calm amidst the storm. He is the calm amidst the storm.

I don't believe the big miracle -- the stilling of the storm -- would ever have happened without the smaller miracle -- the stillness in the storm. And so maybe that's what we should pray for first, not the power to rebuke the winds and the waves, but the peace to go ahead and sleep when all is chaos and confusion; for we shall never be able to bring calm to the chaos around us, if we do not first have calm amidst the chaos within us.

And Jesus said, "Peace, be still."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 16, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Romans chapter 12 verses 3 through 8:

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

We are not to despise our own calling; neither are we to despise another's. 

The spoon does not envy the knife because he gets to cut the meat. If the spoon was envious, I would remind him that at least in our house the knife also has to cut the cheese. The spoon forgets about that!  Every piece of silverware has its honors and its distastes. But we need them all.

A spoon will not be asked how well he filet for the statesman. He will be asked whether or not he was able to carry the rice cereal to the baby's mouth. That was his job; and there was no more important job in the world.

Oftentimes along the way, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his memorable "Street Sweeper" sermon. In it he reflected on the calling of the street sweeper:

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

God has called us to do our job -- no one else's. God has called me to be me -- and not somebody else. Let me be the best me I can be. Let me be the Michaelangelo of me.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 15, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Luke chapter 7 verses 36 through 47:

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

To know forgiveness is to extend forgiveness. To know mercy and compassion is to be merciful and compassionate.  To not know these things is to not extend them. 

When mercy and compassion are given to others and we find ourselves embittered or angered that somebody is being let off "scott-free", we should consider our own lives.  We too need grace and forgiveness. We too need God's compassion and mercy. When we harbor hostility towards these things given to others it is a sign of our own hostility towards the grace, mercy, and compassion we need in our own lives. 

Jesus said, "He who is forgiven little loves little."  Graceless people do not extend grace; grace can only be given by the graceful.  And love can only be given by those who know that they are loved; for as St. John said, "We love because God first loved us."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Daily Lesson for May 12, 2017

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Colossians chapter 3 verses 5 through 10:

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

Here's the worst thing that's ever been uttered out here underneath the West Texas sun: "Well, sorry; that's just the way I am -- take me or leave me."

God wants to take us somewhere alright.  But it means we have to leave off of where and often who we are. That means if we aren't changing, growing, maturing, and being purified then something is wrong. If we still have all the same old habits and hang ups then we're just stuck -- an old stick in the mud. 

Let me get real specific; if we're still angry as a hornet about "those people", forwarding fake news, and talking ugly at the barber shop or beauty salon or the $7.25 a latte coffee bar then we've still got a lot of growing up to do. 

Let's do it.