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)