Sunday, March 19, 2023

Anointed by the Lord

Christian anointing is sign of spiritual blessing, healing, and consecration. The spiritual anointing of the Lord is manifested outwardly in unique ways for each person as the Holy Spirit empowers and guides us. The Scriptural word from which Messiah is derived literally translates as “The Anointed One.”

Jesus accepted his Messianic mission in his home church at the Nazareth synagogue after reading from the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19 KJV).

The anointing of the Lord in our lives is cast in today’s Bible readings within the rich history of anointings throughout human existence since time immemorial. The sacramental anointings continuing in the rituals of today’s church celebrate the ongoing action of the Holy Spirit to persist in carrying out the mission of Jesus in every generation.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Life-Giving Water

Living Water is a metaphor for the endlessly flowing supply of God’s regenerating love poured into and through us by the Holy Spirit.   

Are you thirsting for “things that could not satisfy” as Richard Blanchard’s song puts it? Or do you know someone who is?

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.     (John 4:11 KJV)

Living Water is a Gift from God. God’s love and God’s Spirit and God’s Salvation represented in this Gospel reading, is the free gift Paul referenced in Romans 6:23, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  If only we knew! If only they knew! If only everyone could realize at least in some small measure how wonderful the gift encompassed by the phrase “eternal life” really is, what a difference that would make in everyone’s personal lives and in the whole world. Just think how different the news on TV would be if everyone wanted the gift God has already made available, instead of pursuing things that only bring harm to themselves and to others and to Creation.

Asked and given. The woman at the well asked for this living water, even though she understood even less than we think we understand today about what it means. At the moment she said to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water” (John 4:15 KJV) her new life began.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Echoing the Call to Reclaim, Revive, and Renew

The invitation to Reclaim, Revive, and Renew has been called by The United Methodist Council of Bishops for this Lenten Season. We echo their call, which is itself a reverberation of the calls and invitations to Humanity throughout the ages. Today’s Bible readings, especially the Gospel reading, are major landmarks in the everlasting cycle of regeneration reflected in the blooming flowers and budding trees of Springtime. 

God’s purpose is the salvation of Humanity.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.     (John 3:17 KJV)

Any Bible interpretation that makes it seem like God is unable to eventually meet the goal for which God sent Christ into the world is erroneous on its face. There are plenty of ways to misunderstand the Bible. Jesus explicitly said he did not come to condemn anyone but to save everyone. Any interpretation of any other passage in the Bible that seems to contradict this clearly stated objective needs to be rethought and re-understood. Perhaps some Bible passages even need to be put on a shelf for future reflection after more information can be obtained to help us reconcile them with the mission of Jesus.

Staying in the UMC

 I remain United Methodist for the love that holds us together in freedom and service.

“Staying in the UMC” articles are being posted on the conference website.  Here is mine:

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Angels Ministered to Him

 Humanity is best served by our “better angels.” People often personify angels in the artistic imagery of winged creatures wearing dazzling white outfits, and that imagery is somewhat validated by Scripture and Tradition. But angels also take other forms in the Bible, especially and perhaps most often the form of human beings, as alluded to in Hebrews, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2 KJV).


Friday, February 24, 2023

With Jesus

The Transfiguration demonstrates prayer as a shared spiritual experience, even in the solitude of our closet as Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount. Petitions for our desires for ourselves and each other are one way we share prayer with each other, but the Transfiguration reveals a transformation in our own being and in our relationships as a part of what prayer is. The Transfiguration shows that Heaven is not only a far off place we access after we die, but also a spiritual place we access to varying degrees whenever we pray.  

The idea of spiritual togetherness permeates Christian faith and is even a hallmark of most other religions as well. We are spiritually connected even when we are physically alone. When we gather to worship, even two or three of us, we affirm that Christ is with us. When we go to be with others, we join with Jesus who is already there with them. Consider that when we pray, we join with Jesus spiritually, and through Jesus we join with all with whom Jesus is connected spiritually – people on Earth and people in Heaven, people in our community and people around the world, people who share our beliefs and people whose beliefs are vastly different. We are united spiritually with those who are all different places on every spectrum of life we can imagine. And there in the Spirit with Jesus, we pray.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Choose Life (Not in the Oppressive Sense)

Today’s readings highlight the disparity between how God speaks to humanity through the Scriptures, and how people twist those same Scriptures for their own oppressive political or economic purposes to make it seem like God is saying something completely different. They justify oppression, discrimination, and exploitation of women, racial minorities, LGBTQ, immigrants, and whoever else they can misuse the Bible against in the name of religion. 

Choose life in the broadest, most liberating sense.  

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:     (Deuteronomy 30:19: KJV) 

This verse is often being used to forbid women their right to personal decision-making under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in consultation with family, friends, spiritual counselors, and medical specialists regarding the narrow issue of abortion.

The invitation to choose life actually pertains to the command in verse two “to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways…”

Friday, February 10, 2023

Rethink Religion

 Jesus laid out God’s vision for humanity without taking anything away from anyone’s religion – “not one jot or one tittle” (Matthew 5:18 KJV). Jesus does, however, reinterpret how we look at and understand our religions. He does lead us to reimagine how we implement our beliefs. He does challenge us in how people of faith should engage with each other and the world around us.

The invitation of Jesus for humanity to rethink our religious beliefs and practices is ongoing and renewable for every generation, and for each community, congregation, and person. As we grow, collectively and individually, we are expected to revise our understanding of the faith we profess.

We are not expected to discard our faith or to lead others to discard theirs, as Jesus explicitly stated in verse 19 of today’s Gospel reading:

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach [people] so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 KJV). 

The Holy Spirit leads us in our dynamic faith, not to break the commandments but to discover new meanings and ways of fulfilling the commandments as God’s purpose in giving them is more clearly revealed to us. St. Paul explains our continuing renewal toward sanctification and perfect love in his letter to the Corinthians:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became [an adult], I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12 KJV).

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Language of Blessing

 Blessing is not just an acclamation but a gift. Blessings were much sought after in the Bible and highly valued. When we find ways to offer blessings to other people, we give something of great spiritual value to them. Jesus' way of connecting with people was through Blessing, not threatening. Without taking anything away from the laws of Moses, He demonstrated that the Way of true happiness is not arbitrary regulations but kindness and love. He showed that we can each be a blessing to each other and the people around us. His stated Purpose in John 15:11 is that our joy may be complete in our relationship with our Creator and all Creation.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Language of Light

Word of Life mural at Notre Dame University in South Bend, IN
Light is used throughout the Bible as a metaphor for knowledge and understanding. From the first page of the Bible where “God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 KJV) to the last page where “the Lord God giveth them light” (Revelation 22:5 KJV), this figure of speech communicates growing spiritual awareness and perception. In Psalm 119:105, The Bible says, “The word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV).  

 Jesus brought the light of the Gospel and its healing power.

 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.  (Matthew 4:23 KJV)


Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Language of the Bible

Love is the language of the Bible. The Bible communicates God’s love through much more than the written words and their translations. The written words of inspired Scripture form images that take on liveliness in our minds the way movies come alive in our thoughts.  They develop into documentaries and narratives, allegories and metaphors, parables and poetry, and other literary forms. Through this deeply spiritual language, God speaks to humanity of universal, unconditional love. Every time we read a passage or hear it read, every time we study a text or discuss a reading together, every time we approach the Scripture with a desire to hear what God is saying to us in that moment, we find something new and fresh and appropriate to what is going on in our lives just then. Something different is revealed, and a new aspect of our relationship with God and Creation unfolds, taking us deeper into God’s eternal, endless love.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Sign of Grace

Baptism is the sacramental sign of God’s free, full, and infinite grace at work in our lives to save us, sanctify us, and fill us with the Holy Ghost. We affirm in our baptismal ritual:

"Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.  We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price." (United Methodist Baptismal Covenant I)


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Veiled in Flesh

Christ revealed what had previously been concealed. Charles Wesley in his hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” wrote, “veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th'incarnate Deity.” 

The term “veil” we normally think of as concealing something was used by Wesley to express that what had been concealed was now revealed. Paul wrote to the Colossians about Jesus that, “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9 KJV).  To the Ephesians, Paul wrote concerning the mystery of Christ which previously had been hidden but now has been revealed in such a way that all of humanity may become “partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6 KJV).  Jesus revealed in his humanity the true nature of God. Through the teaching of Jesus, we learn the precepts of the ultimate truth and commandment of love. Through the example of Jesus, we discover how all of his teachings may be implemented in our own lives of spirit and flesh.

Manuscript of the sermon preached on December 25, 2022, for Briensburg UMC   [Audio Podcast] 

Christmas Bible Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 98; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14


All Creation celebrates the peace and good will of God. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.     (Luke 2:14 KJV)

Angels sang along with “a multitude of the heavenly host.” In addition to the angels, the heavenly host consists of everyone who has been born on earth and then taken to heaven. Our ancestors have been and our families and friends along with the whole family of God continues to be added to that number as the chorus continues. During the Great Thanksgiving in our Communion Liturgy we affirm, “with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn” (Service of Word and Table). Wesley wrote in another hymn,

Let saints on earth in concert sing
with those whose work is done;
for all the servants of our King
in heaven and earth are one.

One family, we dwell in him,
one church, above, beneath;
though now divided by the stream,
the narrow stream of death.

Remembering that it was not just the angels, but the multitude of others in heaven who sang the praises, helps us realize that we are included in these never ending eternal hymns of praise. The heavenly choir sang their anthem to the shepherds and through them communicated the Incarnation to us, and through us to the world.

 Make happy sounds

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth.  (Psalm 98:4a)

We are invited to join with the angels in making our “joyful noise.” “All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing!” wrote St. Francis of Assisi. Our joyful noise begins with joy, which then flows into and through all our expressions. Sometimes when we listen to the sounds of nature we might imagine the whole of creation making music in unison and harmony.

 In our private worship at home and our public worship at church, our singing and testimonies and reading and liturgy and prayers all work together to make these joyful noises in concert with the heavenly themes to unite us in universal, all-inclusive anthems of celebration. Likewise, in our conversations with each other, our words express the movement of the Spirit within us as we enjoy and share the blessings of God’s eternal love and presence.

 The light is traveling through the darkness

 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.    (Isaiah 9:2 KJV)

 Jesus told Nicodemus that the only condemnation is in choosing the darkness over the light.  The Message version phrases this teaching of Jesus in John chapter 3:

This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” (John 3:19-21 MSG)

John the Baptist preached that “in [Christ] was life; and the life was the light of [humanity].” (John 1:4 KJV). Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 514 KJV). The light of Christ shines through us into the lives of those who remain in darkness, helping them to find in God’s Word their, “lamp unto their feet, and their light unto their path.” (Psalm 119:105 KJV)

The love we celebrate at Christmas brings healing to everyone.

Paul wrote to Titus: The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all people     (Titus 2:11 KJV)

 Eventually everyone will experience the healing salvation of God’s grace. There are no prerequisites; salvation is God’s gift to humanity as a whole and to each person individually. God’s grace is offered in its entirety, and we are free to receive it as limited or as fully as we want it. Each person has the authority and blessing of being able to share with others whatever we have discovered and experienced already, and to continue to be a conduit of God’s grace and love even as we are receiving it.

 Christmas is our celebration of Christ revealing the character and personality of God.  What had been concealed has now been revealed. The greatest revelation of all is that God loves us, each and every one of us, and wants us all to share eternal life of love and peace and joy “with all God’s people on earth, and all the company of heaven.”  

 “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth!” (The Gloria)

 In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, August 29, 2022

In the Sight of the Lord

God sees us and knows us as we are and loves us. 

We need to be mindful of both our strengths and our weaknesses.

 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.     (Luke 14:11 KJV)

 For everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored. (Luke 14:11 TLB)

 The Parable of the Wedding Feast is partly a warning, partly a teaching, and partly a promise. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Clint Eastwood’s character Dirty Harry in “Magnum Force” expressed it as, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” We do not need to believe those who preach the total depravity and complete moral bankruptcy of humanity, but we do need to be cognizant of our frailties. 

Manuscript of the sermon preached on August 28, 2022, at Briensburg UMC   [Audio Podcast] 

12th Sunday after Pentecost  

Psalm 112; Proverbs 25:6-7; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14

 The parable is partly a teaching. The Apostle James wrote,” Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10 KJV) Christian humbleness is more about how God views us than how we are viewed by others. God views us as good. We have been created in the image of God. We have been created as companions with our Creator. From Genesis to Revelation, God wants to be in fellowship with us. More than that, we, like Abraham, were created to be friends with God, as Jesus assures us in John 15:15.

 Yet we are in need of redemption (and, thankfully, redeemable). God continues to send “rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 KJV). God sent Jesus to be our savior, and not just our savior but the savior of the whole world, as we frequently affirm in John 3:16-17. God sent the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

 Seeing ourselves clearly and accurately is an important part of the love being perfected in us. As Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13, Good News Translation, “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face” (1 Corinthians 13:12 GNT). James went on in his letter to instruct, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16 KJV).

 Borrowing a phrase we hear on the news a lot lately, “settled precedent” says, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV). We’re not feeding the gossip mill and certainly not confessing each other’s sins. We don’t need to hear each other’s juicy details, but we do need to share a general realization and confession that, as the saying goes, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross” where we all stand in need of healing and salvation in all its forms.

 The parable is partly a promise – an amazingly great, eternal promise. Perhaps the most profound imagery of what Jesus was promising in this passage is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where he proposes that we do like Jesus did:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 KJV).

Peter Scholtes wrote in his song:

 And we’ll guard each [other’s] dignity and save each [other’s] pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love (Peter Scholtes)


We are encouraged to maintain a right relationship with each other.

For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.    (Proverbs 25:7 KJV)

It’s better to be promoted to a place of honor than face humiliation by being demoted.     (Proverbs 25:7 MSG)

 This same principle Solomon highlighted in his Proverbs is what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel of Luke. Paul reminds us in Romans to not think more highly of ourselves than we “ought” (Romans 12:2 KJV). We don’t need to think more lowly of ourselves either. We need to examine ourselves honestly in the presence of God and discover more about who we really are, so we can know what improvements we need to make in how we relate to God and our fellow creatures.

 Jesus told a parable of a man who “returned home justified” after praying humbly to God, as opposed to another who missed that reward because he only prayed self-righteously about how wonderful he was in comparison. There Jesus repeated what he had said earlier in today’s Lectionary reading, “for everyone one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:14 KJV)

 It’s best if we see each other equally, but if we are unable to do that, then Paul urges in his letter to the Philippians, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3 KJV). Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians that “not many wise… not many mighty… not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26 KJV).


Jesus was concerned most about how people treated each other.

 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.     (Psalm 112:4 KJV)

 Light shines in the darkness for good people, for those who are merciful, kind, and just. (Psalm 112:4 GNT)

This promise of a guiding light is universal, regardless of where a person is on their spiritual journey or relationship with God or what path they have taken to where they have so far arrived. Some would argue this only applies to those who have met some religious prerequisites specified by their particular sect. The example of Jesus demonstrated the opposite. Those who were “good people” in the sight of Jesus often were viewed as “bad people” in the sight of those who considered themselves to be the most religious and righteous. These will “go into the kingdom of God before you,” Jesus told the Pharisees (Matthew 21:31) -- not instead, but before.

In Matthew 25, the Judgement of the Nations is based on how they treated the most vulnerable among their populations, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 24:40). After a scathing rebuke of much of what we do in church, in an oracle that has been phrased in a variety of very pointed ways through the centuries, the prophet Amos preached, “But let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24 NRSVUE).


We are invited to cultivate an attitude of mercy, not sacrifice

But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16 KJV)

Do not forget to do good and to help one another, because these are the sacrifices that please God.     (Hebrews 13:16 GNT)

When Jesus was criticized for including forgiveness along with healing and for eating with sinners, he referenced the oracle delivered by the prophet Hosea (Hosea 2:6) and said, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13 KJV).

Historically, superstitious humanity seems to always have felt a need to appease an imaginary, tyrannical cosmic diety with all manner of sacrifices. Even though modern humanity mostly rejects blood sacrifices, we still have a compulsion to think of service to God and each other as the sacrifices of wretched creatures such as Jonathan Edwards imagined in his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But if we think of justice and kindness as love offerings to the God who loves us unconditionally from eternity to eternity, the drudgery of appeasement is transformed into the joy of salvation and healing.

We’ve been studying the prophet Micah in our Wednesday evening Bible Study. The tone of the book is largely gloom and doom. Micah’s contemporaries chastised him for prophesying against them, especially in such vivid and foreboding terms. But this week’s chapter includes the famous verse that stands out right in the middle of all the intense tragedies described. It is the verse that clearly summarizes what God expects of humanity. The verse is preceded by asking what kind of sacrifices we could make that would be pleasing to God. Would it be burnt offerings, or calves, or rams? Would it be “ten thousands of rivers of oil?” What if we sacrificed our children? These are the kinds of things people used to think they had to do to please God. Perhaps many have replaced those gruesome ancient sacrifices with more palatable modern counterparts. But Micah proclaims, in the Good News Translation,

No, the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8 GNT).

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Look for the Healing

One thing stands out above all the rest in today’s Lectionary readings.

 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.    (Luke 13:12 KJV)

 He healed her. He saw her, stopped what he was doing, and healed her. There, amid the flurry of everything else going on – the teaching, the gathering, the fellowship, and the Sabbath activities in the synagogue – He healed her.

 Yet all some people saw was a reason to denounce and criticize. They criticized Jesus for offering healing and the woman for accepting the healing. What is wrong with some people?  Why do some people have to look for the worst in every situation, even if they must completely fabricate some imaginary evil? Such people display symptoms of spiritual diseases that need to be healed. They cannot experience the joy of their salvation because they are focused on all the bad they can conjure instead of the good right in front of them. An African-American Spiritual includes the verse:

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul  (African-American Spiritual)

 Those who were blessed were those who saw through the cloud of distractions and thereby became a part of the rejoicing. Her healing became their healing, and her joy became their joy. Those who participate in the recovery from the margins experience wholeness alongside those at the center.  Look for the various types of healing moments throughout the Bible.  In current news events, look for how the world’s problems are being addressed to bring healing, wholeness, solutions, and salvation.  

Manuscript of the sermon preached on August 21, 2022, at Briensburg UMC  [Video] 

11th Sunday after Pentecost  

Psalm 103:1-8; Isaiah 58:9b-14; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17

 God forgives us and heals us.

 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;    (Psalm 103:2-3 KJV)

 God invites us to join in the work of bringing wholeness wherever there is brokenness, even if it is only the proverbial cup of water given in the name of Jesus (Matthew 10:42). Forgiveness is the heart of the Gospel because forgiveness brings reconciliation and wholeness to everyone involved with whatever brokenness and heartache they share.

 With the Psalmist, we bless the Lord from deep within our souls as we remind each other of all the ways God has provided for us and helped us and strengthened us, and healed us in all kinds of difficult circumstances. John Newton expressed his praise in the hymn “Amazing Grace:”

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home. (John Newton)


God invites us to participate in the forgiving and healing process.

 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day.   (Isaiah 58:10 KJV)

 There are many forms of affliction and infinite forms of healing.  Whatever the hurt, God’s love addresses the solution with wholeness. We may not recognize the good if we only let ourselves see what we want. We pray with Jesus, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42 KJV). We trust God with the methods and outcomes. We say with Isaiah, “Here am I send me,” as we offer “our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness” (UM Baptismal Covenant). We watch with anticipation to see not whether but how God is answering our prayers and not whether but how God is empowering us to be part of the solution.

 When we encounter a situation where healing is needed, let us pray that God will show us our part in the process. Our part may only be the prayer itself, or perhaps a word or an action that comes to us during our prayer or later in our reflection. We are empowered to look for an opportunity to minister our spiritual gifts to bring improvement to the situations we encounter, no matter how insignificant our role may seem. The tiniest act of goodness and generosity contributes to the whole of the healing process when combined with everything else God and other people are also doing.

 The Message translates the last half of this verse, “Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way” (Isaiah 58:10 MSG). It’s the pathway to Heaven and the pathway to joy.  When we look for good where others only see bad, the proverbial light shines on our path and makes our whole lives brighter.


Today’s Bible readings encourage us to focus on the healing in every situation.

 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just people made perfect,  And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant… (Hebrews 12:22-24 KJV)

 Some people may prefer to walk in the darkness and murkiness of conspiracy theories, gossip, and smoke screens of fear, hatred, and misinformation. But we are invited and called and challenged to the “Higher Ground” Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote about in his hymn:

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught a joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground       (Johnson Oatman, Jr.)

 This passage in Hebrews assures us that we have “not come unto the mount that might be touched, and burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest” (Hebrews 12:18 KJV).  We have come to a spiritual place, a heavenly place, full of goodness to be shared with all those who have come to see the good in everyone (even those who have yet to realize the good in themselves).

 The Cokesbury Hymnal has this song by Thoro Harris:

Look for the beautiful, look for the true;
Look for the beautiful, life’s journey thro’.
Seeking true loveliness, joy you will know,
As to the home above onward you go.

Think of the beautiful, think of the pure;
Only the beautiful long can endure.
God to His lowly ones “giveth more grace”;
None but the pure in heart look on His face.

Speak of the beautiful, speak of the pure;
These to eternity fadeless endure.
Error shall vanish soon, evil decay;
God and the beautiful pass not away.

Look to the stars of light (not down to earth);
All that is beautiful there had its birth.
Upward and forward go, looking above;
There is the dwelling-place of perfect love.

Look for the beautiful, seek to find the true,
God and the beautiful will dwell with you;
Look for the beautiful, seek to find the true,
You shall be beautiful, beautiful within.     (Thoro Harris)

 Wherever we encounter any form of brokenness, let us minister some form of wholeness. We may not realize how much good we are doing. Let us always look for the good in every person and every situation. Let us see in the world what God saw each day of creation and called good – “very good” in the King James Version (Genesis 1:31 KJV).  Let us see in ourselves what God sees in us that motivated God to send Jesus to be our Savior.  Let us see in each other what Christ saw in the people whose lives he touched with forgiveness and salvation and healing.

 I close with these words from St. Paul to all of us through his Letter to the Philippians:

 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8 KJV).

 In the Name of Jesus, Amen.