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Monday, August 31, 2009

Have You answered the Call?

While watching various scenes in the life of Ted Kennedy on television. this week, one segment especially impressed me. Some years ago Ted Kennedy was being asked why he wasn’t making a bid for the presidency. He answered that he wasn’t interested in pursuing the presidency and then he explained that his life’s calling was about service.

The television announcer went on to tell some of his story. In his 47 years as senator, Ted Kennedy often let other senators put their names on his bills. Others got the credit and recognition for his work. Over the years and behind the scenes Ted wrote and worked with his fellow senators to pass over 300 bills, most of which have radically changed our society today. Many of his bills have changed the lives of those in need. His mission was to give opportunities to those who might lack opportunity. And along with his senate duties he always found time to volunteer – tutor children, intervene in desperate situations.

I couldn’t help but remember Jesus’ words in Luke 22:25-27 that “those who would be the greatest among us would be those who would be the servants.”

In the parable of the talents, Matthew 25:14-29, Scripture tells us that each of us is given something. Some of us are given five talents, some two and some only one. But our Father expects us all to invest what we have been given – or to give back. We aren’t supposed to go dig a hole and bury our talent just for ourselves. He makes a big point that we better not do that—that there will be an accounting of what we do with what He has given us. Our talents aren’t just for our own use, they are given to us to share with others.

Teddy Kennedy often remarked that the lessons he had learned from his Mother had shaped his whole life. Rose Kennedy taught her children that since they had been given privileges, it was their responsibility to give back to those who were in need.. The Kennedy family expected their children to serve in the political arena and to level the playing field for the less fortunate. This service became Ted Kennedy’s life work. He indeed answered the call

We have a heavenly Father who teaches us that since we belong to His family and have been blessed and given everything that we also have been given a large responsibility.
Because we have been given grace and love and forgiveness we are commanded to pass grace and love and forgiveness on to those around us. Jesus asks us to “Feed My sheep.” Because Jesus is a Servant He commands us to be servants. Because He has given us His life he asks us to give our lives for others.

Are we following Christ in this life of love and servitude? Have we answered the call?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cain and Abel

According to the Bible, Cain was the very first baby to be born on this earth! And Abel was the second. Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s first two boys. Cain grew up to become a farmer and Abel tended sheep. In due time both young men bring their offerings to God.

Cain brings an offering of fruits and veggies from his plot of land and Abel sacrificed his first and best lamb. Genesis 4:1-10 tells the whole story. The Lord accepts Abel’s offering – the blood of the lamb. But He rejects Cain’s offering – the fruits of his labor.

Cain can’t believe it! He’s very upset. The Lord comes to him and tries to encourage him. “Cain, don’t be upset. I will accept you too – just do what’s right—“ It all seems so simple Cain, just follow directions and bring the offering that God has asked for. But alas, Cain refuses and wants to do it his way.

In a jealous rage Cain kills his brother Abel. And Gods’ punishment of Cain follows. Really a tragic story! Thousands of years later Jesus mentions Abel and calls him “righteous”. – Matthew 23:35. Abel is righteous and accepted by God because he offered the sacrifice that God required! - the blood of the best lamb. And what does God require of us? Do we sacrifice a lamb like Abel did?

In the Old Testament atonement (taking away of sin) through the shed blood of a lamb was an inescapable Scriptural teaching. – Leviticus 17:11. Exodus 12:5 and Exodus 24:5-8 speak of the “blood of the Covenant” and the “lamb without blemish.” Hebrews 9:22 tells us: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” The ancient Israelites sacrificed animals to God as a temporary sacrifice to cover their sin. They were given instructions as to what God would accept through the Mosaic Covenant. These temporary sacrifices were a type or a picture of the permanent Sacrifice that was to come.

In Hebrews 9:12 Scripture tells us that our salvation wasn’t obtained by the blood sacrifice of animals – but by Christ. Jesus Christ – the shedding of His blood provided our permanent sacrifice. Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as: “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29.

You and I are still trying to win God’s acceptance today. We are no different from Cain and Abel of old -- we’re still bringing the Lord our offerings. –and hoping for His salvation. And the rules haven’t changed. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No person comes to the Father except through Me.” It’s all so simple. There’s just one way – just one offering that God will accept. And that Offering – that Way is Jesus.

It’s all done for you, if you will just take it. Accept God’s gift and don’t try to wing it on your own, like Cain did. We don’t need to sacrifice a lamb since the Mosaic Covenant has been fulfilled through Christ’s death and resurrection. God has provided us the only offering that He will receive – that offering is Jesus Just believe that Jesus Christ is the Lamb that was sacrificed for you – your Savior – and be like Abel –and receive God’s acceptance.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Have They Hi- Jacked My Jesus?

Sweat rolled down the man’s red face as he shook his fists.”You’re gonna kill our senior citizens with your socialist Death Squads!”, he shouted. “We have our Christian values and we won’t stand for this.” A woman stood nearby carrying a large cross and waving it. She seemed transformed by hate as she shrieked out that her hard work and her righteous living have paid for her health care. Now all those undeserving bums will get the same health care benefits while using her tax money. The leader of this discussion group was intimidated and the town hall meeting was literally shut down by this group of “Christian Conservatives” carrying Jesus signs.

Who is this Jesus these Christian conservatives refer to? The Jesus I know and try to follow is humble and full of love and grace. The Jesus of the Bible always stood up for the poor and the aliens, and instructed us to do the same. He stated that His kingdom is not of this world.

When Jesus was asked to straighten out an argument about an inheritance He refused and asked,” Who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you? Be careful, beware of covetousness, for ones’ life doesn’t consist of the things he possesses.”Luke 12:14 .Would Jesus say the same to us when we try to use His Name in our arguments for keeping our tax money?

Many of the Christian Evangelical churches whose witness for the Lord burned so brightly in the past seem to have added a new ingredient to their Gospel today. They have co-mingled the glorious truth of Christ’s death and resurrection, His love and salvation with their right wing politics and economics. Dare we change and water down God’s Word with our capitalism or add our political ideologies as part of the Christian message? Are they using our Lord as a tool for corporate gain and greed?

Why do “Christian Conservatives” side with the wealthy against the lowly disenfranchised? Where does it say that Jesus is a capitalist in the Bible? All the other developed countries (England, France, Japan, etc.) have some form of socialized medicine. Some of these countries aren’t primarily “Christian” and yet through their government they seem to care about the least among themselves.. All the other developed countries have put a health care safety net in place to protect their poor and powerless. We are the only developed nation that has 47,000,000 citizens who are left without health insurance coverage. And we argue for this in the name of our Christian values! What kind of witness is this to the ones who don’t know Christ and to the ones who are sick and left without? I’m angry and frightened. I think someone has hi-jacked my Jesus!

Monday, August 10, 2009

लीर्निंग तो हेअर गोद'स Voice

Learning to Hear God’s Voice

Prayer isn’t just about us talking to God. Prayer is also about us listening to hear God talking to us. And it’s about us feeling His Presence.

But how can we hear what God wants to say to us, if we don’t take time to listen? And how can we listen if we don’t turn off the phone and the t.v. and the other intrusions? Can we hear His Voice if we don’t try to make a place for God to enter in?

There are several ancient Christian traditions that have been practiced by Christian monks and lay persons since the 14th century. These disciplines are practiced to help us come into the presence of God and foster the attitudes of listening and receptivity to God. Centering prayer and Lectio Divina are two of these contemplative Christian disciplines.

For today let’s just discuss the practice of Lectio Divina। Lectio Divina is mainly a way of listening to Scripture। Today we are almost desensitized to sacred scripture reading because we are so used to reading magazines, books, and written material for information and for study. Lectio is just the opposite. It is the savoring of the text—a leisurely lingering in divine revelation.

The Bible- God’s Word- is not to be read only for information like any other book. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even the division of the soul and the spirit,---“ Scripture is alive and able to pierce your heart and change your life. And God speaks to you through Scripture.

Let’s give the practice of Lectio Divina a try. First find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted and make yourself comfortable.

God speaks to us through His living Word. Lectio is the taking of one or two passages of scripture and resting with those passages. We don’t study these verses or analyze them or speed read. We very slowly repeat a few words of scripture and let those words speak to us. Rest with a verse or two of scripture for ten or fifteen minutes. You can light a candle and ask our Father to speak to you through the verses if He wishes.

Try Lectio for yourself. Quieten yourself and pick a favorite passage or meditate on a passage in the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:6-7 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merfciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Rest and listen for God’s still small voice to speak to you through His Word.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Christian Faith Is About Helping Others

Jesus said: “I was hungry and you gave Me food, thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you took Me in, Naked – you clothed Me, sick – you visited Me, in prison – you came to Me.” Matthew 25:35-36 And when He was asked when we had done those things for Him, He answered that whenever we help any troubled or needy person, we are helping Him. Isn’t that cool!

We joined a Methodist church because Methodists are so involved in ministries on behalf of the world’s hurting ones. United Methodists proclaim the gospel to be both personal and social. What the United Methodist Church says about social issues is written in their Social Principles- a long document that has been part of their doctrine for 100 years.

The UMC’s social principles always ensure the rights of the underdog. These principles condemn religious intolerance, racial prejudice, exploitive economic practices, domestic surveillance by governments, torture, and the death penalty – among other issues.

The UMC’s position on marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman. But the church is open and welcoming to people with other lifestyles. The UMC is also reluctant to approve abortion. But their ministry to those who have experienced abortion is a given. Not being judgmental and keeping an open heart and an open mind is all important.

The UMC affirms that males and females are equal in God’s eyes and women can become ministers or church leaders through affirmative church policies.

The UMC goes on to state that they deplore war and reject national policies of enforced military service as incompatible with the gospel.

Their view on health care is that it is a basic human right. Their stand is that the right to health care is a public – and private responsibility.

These Social Principles include much more --- but basically they define the United Methodist Church – not as an exclusive club – but as a body of humble Christians out helping others.,