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Today marks the 500th anniversary of a Catholic monk rebelling.  I don’t know if the door of the church at Wittenberg was red, black, natural, or “other”.  It was capable of accepting Luther’s 95 Theses, and that’s what kicked off the whole Protestant Reformation.

I don’t have a lot to say about it (the Reformation, not the door).  I’m glad it happened, and I’m pretty sure that Brother Luther wouldn’t recognize what the church has become.

Rather than spend a lot of words saying nothing, I’ll point to Wes King’s commentary.

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According to family history, I have thrown exactly one temper tantrum in my life.  I was five years old, and I wanted to watch professional wrestling on TV.  Somebody prohibited me from doing what I wanted to do. Now I’m not going to mention any names, but an adult in my family decided she knew better than I did.

I’m sure that in my reasoned discussions with this adult that I used the phrase “It’s not fair!”.  I may have emphasized the point vocally, at volume.

That concept of “It’s not fair” has tended to follow me through life.  When I get a speeding ticket, I start to complain that the trooper picked on me – everybody else in the fast lane was speeding.  That “It’s not fair!” thing comes up, I start thinking about whether I was, in fact, going faster than the speed limit.  When I don’t get a good seat in a movie theater or a restaurant, I have to remind myself of what my money purchased.  I didn’t pay extra for the best seat in the house, and my “It’s not fair!” feeling goes away fast.

Then I take it up into the church level. “It isn’t fair!” that I get to lock up the church so often, that I have responsibilities that take time away from things I would rather do. I think of others in the church who do much more than I do, and that selfish feeling goes away.

And then at the spiritual level – I grew up in the church, went to a church college, I tithe faithfully, read my Bible and pray daily.  It isn’t fair that I’m not being blessed more.

And then God gets my attention, whispers “What about Jesus?” in my ear, and gives me some time to think about what is really fair and what isn’t.  Jesus, that perfect man, who never sinned, was crucified for His perfection.  They tried to stone Him, they did mock Him and beat Him, forced Him to carry the implement of His own death, and I have the utter audacity to say that what is happening to me isn’t fair?

Not only that, but the death of that perfect man, Jesus, actually paid the price for my sin – both the sin nature that is inside of me, and the acts of sin that spring forth from that.  Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross to pay the spiritual price for my temper tantrum.

As we take the wafer and drink the juice, which all Christians are invited to do, let us not forget that no, “It’s not fair!” – and that Jesus bore the burden for that unfairness.  Let’s pray.

Lord God, thank you for being unfair – and overly generous.  Thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus.  Thank you for the way of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It’s in His name that I pray, Amen.

Communion meditation for 9/24/2017

In big cities, you see a lot of different things. Sometimes these things are *really* different – like a bicycle painted all white. Tires, seat, handlebars, the whole thing painted white. They are called ghost bikes.

GB5

You might see them in random places along the roads, these white ghost bikes, chained to a tree or a signpost or a fence. They are not art, and they are not protests. These white bikes are memorials. You see, everywhere that you find one of these ghost bikes, that’s where somebody died while riding a bicycle. The ghost bike is a memorial to the one who died.  It might have been put there by their family, or their friends, or their biking club.

It’s a symbol, a memorial, of a tragic event that happened. A real person died there.  Not a statistic, not a trend or an average.  A person stopped living, right at that spot.

As Christians, we have our own symbol that is a public memorial of the death of a real person – we have the cross. Some of us wear jewelry with a cross on it, or have a Bible case with a cross, or have something in our homes with a cross. We have a cross on the front wall of our church.  All of that is a good thing – that memorial, that reminder.

And like the bicycles, the cross is empty.  Not because the person – Jesus Christ – is dead and gone.  The cross is empty because Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. Hallelujah!

The cross, though it is an important symbol of Jesus’ suffering, and though we are reminded to take up our cross daily, the cross is not the focus of our faith.  I’m reminded of Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 2:2 when he said “For I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. The cross is in there, but the most important thing – Jesus – remains the focus.

As we take the bread and the juice, and celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, let us be careful that we are honoring a person and not a symbol. Let’s pray.

Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus. Thank You for the gift of salvation. And thank You for making it real, and not just symbolic. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(communion meditation 6/25/17.  Photo cropped from original by Royston Rascals CC BY-NC 2.0)

I like animals. I try to be kind to them and take care of them. Even bugs, though I do kill mosquitoes. There are limits to my kindness.

Back when we had one of those heavy rains, we had some worms up on our carport floor. They were escaping drowning, getting up where it was drier. But they stayed longer than they should have – the rain stopped, and things started drying out. Good for people, bad for worms. They were getting all coated with sand and dust, and from their worm perspective, they couldn’t see that they were headed IN to the center of the carport, instead of out towards the cool, moist grass. They were headed to their death.

Then I stepped in. I had the benefit of height, and hands, and perspective. I could see and do things they couldn’t even imagine. I plucked a piece of grass, slid it under the middle of the worm, picked him up, and carried him to the grass. Well, that was my plan. The worm started wiggling and trying to escape, turning into a worm-ball that wasn’t working with my plans.

I finally got him, I think by using two pieces of grass. As I’m walking my rescued worm to the grass, I’m talking to him. “Mister worm, I’m only trying to help you. Won’t you cooperate, please?“

Later on, I started thinking about Mr. Worm, and Mr. Steve, and God. About the many times He has rescued my life, physically and spiritually. About the times He has spoken to me – I know the plans I have for you. He leadeth me beside the still waters. And about how hard I can struggle against doing what is best.

And I’m sure that God wishes I would just trust Him and do what He says. That’s what Jesus did – nevertheless not My will, but thine – and the outcome of that obedience is what we are celebrating now. I invite all Christians to partake of the wafer and the juice, symbolizing Jesus’s broken body and shed blood. Let’s pray.

Father God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for His sacrifice and for His example, and His resurrection. It’s in Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

Have you ever been talking to someone and then you realize they aren’t there? They walked out of the room or something, and you didn’t know it.

This week I had a discussion like that – a disagreement, really, and with a guy who lived 400 years ago.

John Donne was an English poet, back in the early 1600s. He was the one who said “no man is an island” – yeah, he would have fit in with the inter-connectedness of everything now-a-days. That isn’t what I had a problem with.

He also said “every man’s death diminishes me”. We have had several deaths recently, including Starla’s mom just this week. Now I understand what he is saying – there is a loss each time someone breathes their last.  That’s true. But he used the word “every” – not some, not most, but every. So that has to include Jesus, who was fully man, while being fully God. And what I disagreed with, talking to the man from 400 years ago, is that Jesus’s death actually enhanced his life – and mine – rather than diminishing it. Yes, there was very much pain and suffering on the cross. I am sorry that Jesus had to suffer so, and I am terribly sorry that He had to do it for my sins.

I am also glad that He did, and my life is enhanced in uncountable ways because of Jesus’s death, and I will spend eternity in heaven because of that death. If that isn’t an enhancement, instead of a diminishment, I don’t know what is.

As all Christians take the bread and the juice, let us remember that death – and that resurrection. Romans 14:9 says “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  Let’s pray.

Lord God, thank You for sending Jesus to pay the price for our sins – for my sins. Thank You for His death, and thank You for His resurrection. It’s in His name I pray, amen.

(communion meditation for March 26, 2017)

(My communion meditation for today.)

A few weeks ago, I got sick on a Friday. Head cold. Rough weekend. By Tuesday I was really tired of it, and declared myself well. Wednesday I declared myself completely cured. Thursday I said I was in the best health in decades.

Friday I went to the doctor, who told me I was sick. Bronchitis. Bummer.

He gave me a prescription, I took it, and I got better.

At one level, this can be seen as a guy who wouldn’t face reality about being sick. At a spiritual level, this applies to all of us. We all think we’re strong, think we can do it on our own, think we can declare ourselves spiritually well. But the Great Physician knows our disease – sin – and He is the cure.

As we take the wafer and the juice, symbolizing His broken body and spilled blood, let us remember that He is the cure, and he paid the complete cost, now and forever.

Let’s pray.

Lord, Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. We didn’t even know we were sick. Remind us, now and always, of the terrible price Jesus paid for our sins. Thank you for His precious blood that cleanses us from that sin. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

(another communion meditation)

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a new year.  This is the first Sunday of the new year, the third day into the year, and all of two thousand sixteen is bright and shiny.

So what?  Isn’t this the same way we saw last year, and the same way we’ll see next year?  In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon says

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

But that isn’t the end of everything.  Lamentations 3:22-23 says

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

So is everything changing every day?  Yes and no. James 1:17 says

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

So things do change – we get gifts, perfect ones, from God, and He doesn’t change.  And what is the best gift?  Something new, of course.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Let’s pray.

Lord, in Your wisdom you made the earth to rotate around the sun, marking days and seasons and years. In Your wisdom, You made a way for us to change from darkness to light, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  And in Revelation, the One who sits on the throne says “Behold, I am making everything new.”  Thank You for Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death.  Thank You for our new life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

My communion meditation for November 22, 2015.

I was in a city I hadn’t been to in a long time, walking along a sidewalk, when I saw a sign.  It had been put up by the city fathers, and seemed like it would have good advice.  I read the sign and followed the advice.  It said “DON’T WALK”, and I didn’t walk.  That saved me from a lot of harm and pain.

In I Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul says

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

That’s what we are doing now as we celebrate communion.  The Heavenly Father put up the sign.  We read it, and we are following the instructions.  And unlike the traffic light, these instructions never change.  Let’s pray.

Lord, you have made it so simple for us – see the sign, do the sign.  Hear the message, do the message.  And yet without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, without the Holy Spirit’s power, we couldn’t do this at all.  Thank you for the reminder, for the call to remember.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Ice cream is good.  Ice cream in itself is not sinful – it can be a blessing.  But not always.

Let’s look at three different reactions to wanting a bowl of ice cream

One friend tells you “I want a bowl of ice cream, but I’m going to a birthday party tomorrow.”  You think to yourself, “Fifty-fifty chance they’re having ice cream tonight, maybe sixty-forty.”

Another friend tells you “I want a bowl of ice cream.  However, I’m trying to lose ten pounds for the holidays.”  You recognize there’s different motivation, and think there’s a decent chance your friend will go without ice cream.

A third friend tells you “I want a bowl of ice cream.  Nevertheless, I’m diabetic, and I ran out of the medication, and I don’t want to die.”  There’s motivation, and conviction, and strong willpower. No ice cream for that friend.  No way.

But.    However.    Nevertheless.   Three words, all in the same group, with different intensities.

Jesus, on the night before He was crucified, had a talk with His Father.  In Mark 14:36, He prays, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.

Abba means Daddy – that’s very intimate.  The cup is not a glass, not the wine from the Last Supper – it is the cup of pain, suffering, and dying on the cross.  Nevertheless means that God the Father makes the decision.  Jesus carries it out.

And that’s what we’re celebrating here – the grape juice that symbolizes Jesus’ blood, the wafer that symbolizes His body.  Because regardless of what Jesus wanted, He did what He had to. All who have said “The world pulls me.  Nevertheless, I choose Jesus” are invited to partake.  Let’s pray.

Father God, the pull of ice cream, the pull of the world is strong.  You are stronger.  Thank you for the Holy Spirit strengthening Jesus, and us, in times of testing.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

My communion meditation on Sunday, Feb 1.

I have a confession to make.  I am a crybaby.

It’s true.  If I don’t get my way, I can get mad and sulk.  God is helping me overcome this childish trait, but one of my regular internal messages is “That’s not fair!”.

A few weeks ago I had to carry the Production Support phone for my company, for a week.  It’s not bad – there’s a guy who works into second shift to cover then, and a guy who works third shift so I can sleep.  Except the second shift guy worked only two days, and the third shift guy was on vacation the whole time.  “That’s not fair!”

A week or so ago, in our small group here at the church on Thursday nights, we were talking about how God had a problem.  He created us and loves us, and wants to be gracious to us.  But we are sinners, and God hates sin.  His sense of justice demands that the penalty for sin be paid.  The solution, as you know, was to have Jesus come to earth, live a perfect and sinless life, and to die on the cross.  Randy said “God in effect treated Christ as if He were a sinner so that He can now treat real sinners as if they were righteous saints.”  And I thought to myself – “That’s not fair!”.

The injustice, in this case, is real and not imagined.  Jesus did nothing to deserve to die – I did, and you did.  And yet it was Jesus on the cross, not you, not me.  Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  It isn’t fair – it is sacrificial love.  And that is what we are celebrating with communion.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, you love us.  It’s not fair – we don’t deserve it.  And yet it is ours if we accept it.  Thank you for making it available, at a great cost.  In Jesus’ name, amen.