Saturday, March 28, 2015
Entrances are significant. How we enter a place, stage in life, position or a relationship is very telling. Brides spend a great deal of time and energy on how they enter their wedding space. Sports teams carefully orchestrate how they enter the playing field or arena. Celebrities choreograph how they enter a gala performance. Politicians work hard at entering campaign events to get the maximum positive exposure.
Sometimes we enter places and situations reluctantly; like a doctor’s office or outpatient surgery. People enter jail, courtrooms and prisons with all sorts of shame and apprehension. Some of us pause before we enter a hospital room with a very sick family member or friend.
Palm Sunday is all about entering: Jesus entering Jerusalem just before the last supper, crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus was very intentional about how he entered, where he entered, and with whom he entered. In fact, a case could be made that Jesus’ entire ministry is about targeted entrances to places, groups and individuals’ lives.
Sunday’s text comes from Acts 10:1-48. It’s about another fascinating entrance. A Roman Centurion named Cornelius invited Peter (a Jewish believer in Jesus) to enter his home. Peter is initially very reluctant, and then, through the story experienced a sequence of surprises. As you read this story before worship, reflect on the major “entrances” in your life. Reflect on how God has been involved in those “entrances.” Expect God to remain active in leading you to some new “entrances.”
Friday, March 20, 2015
In the book I recently wrote, “God’s Questions to Us”, I credited my father with implanting in me an early awareness and appreciation for those people who asked good questions. This is in contrast to others who only share their opinions, compete to tell the best story or don’t care about what others think. That’s what drew me to reflect on all the questions God asks and Jesus asks.
In my devotions I am reading through the book of Deuteronomy. In the chapter I read today (chapter 9) I came across verse 19 where Moses tells the people of Israel “But again the Lord listened to me.” How beautiful is that? God not only asks questions, but also listens! Throughout the book of Psalms (6:9, 18:6, 28:6, 40:1 and others) the Psalmist declares that God hears our cry.
Sunday’s text (Acts 8:26-40) provides us with a great example of a believer who listens well to God. Philip’s name is first mentioned in Acts 6:5 as one of the “deacons” appointed to help distribute bread and to care for the Hellenist widows and those in need. After Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts 7, the church in Jerusalem was “scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1). Philip ended up in Samaria, (possibly the city of Gitta) where he preached, healed, cast out demons and grew a church full of “great joy” (Acts 8:8). Then he heard an angel voice telling him to leave the city for the desert road to Gaza.
As I read and reflected on this story, I observed a lot of listening by Philip. A characteristic of Philip’s life and ministry could be that he was a great listener, to God and to others. As you prepare for worship on Sunday, reflect on those who have listened to you best in your life. You might even want to write, call or email them a word of thanks for the gift of listening. Examine your own life and the ways you listen well or listen poorly. What would you like to see changed in the way you listen? What are the ways you take steps to listen to God?
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Friday, March 06, 2015
Whom do you see?
I like my routes. I have a particular way to drive to Trader Joe’s or Samarkand. When I ride with someone else, they sometimes take a different route! It might be more circuitous and sometimes it is more direct. But it’s not my route! And when I get back behind the wheel of my car, I drive my route my way.
When I get to my destination (say Trader Joe’s) I carry a list and have my own way of walking into, through and out of the store. On those times I see people carrying clipboard to take signatures or surveys, I ignore them. They are disruptive to my route and my plan. I do not look them in the eyes and if they talk to me I often politely say “No thank you.”
I choose whom I see and whom I don’t see. I look for those who are part of MCC and will often call out a “Hi” to you when I see you out and about. There are familiar vendors and service people I see, know and trust. I see and wave to the Cold Spring Firemen as they drive around in their big red truck and I’m driving my little red wagon. They see me too and wave.
The stages of evangelism we have explored so far in Acts are to be open personally to allow God’s Holy Spirit to transform us. Then last week we looked at the four pillars of a healthy discipleship community: devoting ourselves to the Apostle’s teaching (Word), fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. This Sunday (Acts 3:1-10) we will reflect on how God changes the way we see people. As you prepare for worship, reflect on whom you are seeing in new ways.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Lent #2: Evangelism Beyond the Event
Traveling has been one of Martha’s and my deepest gifts. We have been privileged to travel to a number of countries since we took our first foreign trip as a couple to France, Italy and Austria. Something profound happened to me on these trips in the context of history, new friends, new foods and new Christian communities.
I am also an amateur photographer, so I have lugged camera bags and tripods all over the world. When there was a particularly moving sight, I would try to capture that image. Then, after returning home, the film would get developed into photographs and Martha and I would put them into albums and store them on the shelf. Then, on cold and dreary nights, we would haul out the albums and recollect our fond memories of our travels or of our children growing up.
I need those albums to keep some memories from fading and being forgotten altogether. Many times in looking back over pictures (now made more challenging by the digital volume I have assembled) I will have an “O Yeah!” moment when I recall a person, place or event and reflect on how it formed and blessed me.
The early church had a great experience called Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4 tells the story of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the waiting disciples in Jerusalem, the huge crowd that was drawn, and the sermon Peter then delivered and the great conversion that followed. But such amazing experiences can be fleeting and ephemeral. The text for this Sunday looks at how God guided the disciples to keep this experience alive and lasting. Read Acts 2:42-47 and discover the marks of this healthy post-Pentecost church.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Lent #1: Wait, Welcome, Witness
I need to learn to wait better. As I get older I realize that I’m a bit compulsive about time (ask the staff!). From where I sit typing this, I can see five clocks not counting my wristwatch hidden beneath my shirtsleeve. I like to arrive early for meetings and I regularly check my watch during events. And when someone schedules an appointment with me and is late, I get impatient.
Waiting is hard because it means I’m not in control, I’m not in charge. And I like being in charge. It’s my personal myth that I’m in charge. But the spiritual reality that I’m more and more aware of and appreciative of is that God is really in charge and my job is to wait for God’s timing.
That means more silence for me and less talking, arguing, cajoling or blaming. That means more prayer over relationships and situations over which I have little or no control.
This is the situation for the early church in Acts when Jesus told the disciples just before his ascension to go back to Jerusalem and “wait for the gift my Father has promised.” (Acts 1:4).
For the next seven weeks of Lent into Easter, we will be discovering how God used the early church to spread the good news of Jesus to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth. And it begins with waiting. As you prepare for worship on Sunday, reflect on what you are waiting for in your life.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015