Our First Love

Luke 18:28-34

Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.”  And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”  Luke 18:28-30

I have to confess to being long-troubled by these verses, and others like them, until I got to the point in my life when I realized Jesus was talking about our priorities, our sense of where the source and center of our life is.  What he is really saying is that to truly live, to be living in the kingdom, we have to embrace God and God’s kingdom as primary, as first of all our loves and allegiances.  Only then can our other loves for family, friends and neighbors take their rightful place in our hearts and our living.  Only then can we fully live into the potential of all of those other relationships.

Are you finding the life God wants to give you that begins in the here and now?

What Must I Do?

Luke 18:18-27

The parable of the Rich Ruler is one I have known my entire life.  It has one of the most quoted verses of scripture that come directly from the mouth of Jesus in verse 25 “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  I have always seen this as God’s judgment on the influence of money in our lives and that if we have any hope of gaining eternal life we cannot place our possessions over God.  But I never got to verse 26 and 27. 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Verse 27 gives us the truth and the good new.  For it is truly impossible for any of us to be good enough to enter God’s Kingdom but by God’s Grace anything is possible.  What is impossible in your life? What is unsolvable, uncomprehending, unrealized?  Do you have the faith that God can solve it, God can help us understand, or that God can make real our hopes and dreams?  Entering the Kingdom of God is more than what happens after this life, God tells us the Kingdom of God is here and now.  Will you claim it today?

Such as These…

Luke 18:15-17

“…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  Luke 18: 16b-17

Diligently attempting to guard his precious time, Jesus’ disciples “sternly ordered” folks to stop bringing the little children and infants to him.  I’m sure they thought his time could be better spent elsewhere.  Jesus, however, disagreed…going so far as telling his disciples that the kingdom of God not only belonged to these little ones, but adding that we (the big people) would not receive the kingdom if we couldn’t come to God as a little child…

And how do children come to God?  Completely!  With open eyes to see, open ears to hear, open minds to believe, and with open hearts that fully love.

Let the little children come!

Another Widow and Tax Collector? Seriously?

Luke 18:1-14

Why is it always a widow and a tax collector? Come on Jesus! Do you always have to lift up the weak and the sinner as examples of faith? This shtick is getting old. I mean, I am a good person. I go to church. I  give a little money in the offering and I even help out with the Children’s Sunday School every now and then. If I see a homeless person, I probably will give them a dollar or two. I know I don’t pray all that much, but when I do, I’m really good at it. So that counts for something, right? I mean who wants to be as annoying as the widow in this story? That’s obnoxious. And who wants to be confronted with injustice all the time, anyway? This town is basically a nice place to live, I don’t see all that much wrong with it. I can understand the occasional justice issue being brought up, but don’t bang me over the head with problems. I don’t want to be called a sinner, that’s just rude. I just want to feel good about being a good person in a good town and have a good lunch after a good worship service. That’s basically what this Christianity thing is all about isn’t it? 

Among You

Luke 17:20-37

In so many ways life seems to “just go on” — eating, drinking, marrying, burying.  How easy it is in this daily rhythm to loose a sense of the sacred.  When we loose that daily “sense of sacred” we begin to look for it “somewhere out there”.  Jesus says the Kingdom is so much closer, “It is among you”.  In the midst of our eating, drinking, marrying and burying there is believing, forgiving, loving, and serving.  Take time today to slow down, be still, and know the Kingdom is close and God is near.

Only a Little Faith Needed

Luke 17:11-19

 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.  Luke 17:14

Jesus had been telling stories about faith.  Faith the size of a mustard seed (very tiny) could grow into a huge tree.  The ten lepers proved his point, for Jesus told them they would be healed, but that they should start walking now, before their healing, to see the priests.

How many times have we been inspired to do something, say something, but yet don’t, because we don’t think we can do everything required “right now”?  Wouldn’t Jesus say to us, “go, do this one thing today?”  What a huge tree those many “todays” could grow into!

Carried Away by the Angels

Luke 16:19-31

While speaking with “lovers of money” (Luke 16:14) about being faithful with all of the gifts they’d been given, Jesus found himself being ridiculed by his listeners.  And so he told a story – a rather disturbing and troublesome story – about a rich man and a poor man.  The rich man dressed in the finest clothes and “feasted sumptuously every day”  while the poor man, Lazarus, lay unnoticed at his gate hungry, alone, and sick until he died and was “carried away by the angels…”  The rich man never did anything directly to hurt, injure, or worsen this poor man’s existence – in fact, he never even seemed to notice him.  And yet, the story leaves us with the very clear understanding that while the rich man excelled in the ways of the world, he fell terribly short in the ways of God’s kingdom.  For in God’s kingdom, the poor and neglected are priceless treasures.

So what about us?  Do we treasure our riches while failing to see those around us in need of compassion, love, and support – desperately craving a human touch?  Do we notice?

Lord – give us eyes to see.

Shrewd Saints

Luke 16:1-9

Jesus tells a story about a guy in trouble.  He’s a manager who’s been wasting his boss’s money and he’s about to get fired.  But he’s also resourceful!  He knows how to make the best of a bad situation, how to build networks, how to use wealth as a means rather than an end.  The parable is not a justification of dishonesty as much as a celebration of creativity – creativity in stewardship. Our Master entrusts us with all we have, all our gifts, our skills, our talents, our time, our finances.  How is your management of those resources?  How is your creativity?  Are you being a “shrewd saint”?

Something Was Missing

Luke 15:25-32

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  Luke 15:31-32

For whatever reason, something was missing in the older son’s life.  We’ll never know what the true dynamics of the relationship with his father were, other than that the son felt slighted, and the father told him – you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

Those are very powerful words, no less dramatic in their meaning and impact than a festive celebration.  Was this the first time he had heard them?  Had he forgotten them?  Did he not understand the potential contained within them?

These same questions could be asked of us from time to time in our relationship with our Heavenly father.  The culmination of the Lenten season and Holy Week, Easter, is upon us.  On Sunday we celebrate its fresh reminder of the wonder of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  May we all be inspired to see the party that God is giving each of us, within the four walls of Spring Valley and beyond.

Redeemed!

Luke 15: 11-24

I think any of us can put ourselves in the shoes of the Prodigal Son.  At some time in our life found ourselves far away from God’s presence.  And at sometimes, we cannot imagine how things could ever be set right again.  On a day like this Holy Thursday, we are reminded by the that first communion, of the full extent our Lord would go to make us right with him.  The truth is, we could have never done it alone,  but through his grace we find ourselves redeemed.  God compels us to claim that redemption and salvation today.  Are you ready?