On the Road Again for Another Day

Baby feetSmall feet, big feet, long stride, crawl, brisk step, careful shuffle, straight line or wandering call;

Each of us headed out this day on a journey that will hopefully take us to new heights.

So, there is no need to label, segregate, divide, conquer, lord or control.

We all need each other as we walk our own paths, for the help makes each one  strong, and the whole of us much more fond.

Off on the road again to receive the gifts of this day.Hand up

  • Let me say thanks to all of you who will help me walk my way.
  • Let me notice those who need a new pair of shoes or simply a hand.

Oh…if you see me out and about on this day…

  • Make sure you say hi
  • For even your small voice can  help me “Walk On”

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Published in: on August 27, 2013 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Let’s Party: Kids and Parents Welcome Luke 15: 11-32

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Busy parentsThere is not a harder more rewarding job than parenting.  Nothing can thrill us and exhaust more at the same time than trying to keep up with our kids.  Even, when we jokingly say, “That’s not my child” as they misbehave; down deep we are proud they are ours, even when they are not at their best. 

The difficult part of parenting is we’ve no idea how our children will turn out, regardless, how we live before them or teach them.  Though our kids grow up in the same house, eat the same food, attend the same school; they turn out totally different.  So, we sympathize with the father in the parable; he had to be the same parent to two totally different sons.  The only trait the boys shared in common was they called the same man, “Dad”. 

This story could be called the parable of the prodigal father rather than the prodigal son.  The word prodigal doesn’t only mean “deviant”.  It’s also is defined as, “recklessly wasteful or extravagant.”  The parable not only points to the younger son being prodigal in living, but also to the father’s prodigal loving.  It tells us God is recklessly extravagant in party planning for each one of God’s children, and prodigal with love toward each us. prodigal father

God’s prodigal love waits for the arrival the all younger sons who strayed from home. These are the siblings who make sarcastic remarks at dinner, making mom cry and dad furious.  They frivolously followed fruitless passions; depleting the family financial reserves and rebelling against what their family held sacred.  Living high on the hog landed them in a pigsty; living with the hogs.  Still, their parents waited, ready to offer them the same prodigal love they refused when they left home. 

Eventually, younger sons think about the prodigal love of their family.  They recall the way which they were cared for, even in their most obnoxious moments.  The more they think of the love they’re missing, the more they come to realize there was more fortune back on the farm than they had blown running around in a far country. So, they prepare a speech and start back toward the ranch.  Before they arrive to the house, their waiting father runs to meet them.  They’re not given opportunity to speak; the loving parent interrupts with an embrace and new clothes; giving them a party unlike any they had known; looking for good times away from home.

Rebellious SonAre there any younger brothers among us?  We know who we are; we have spent a lifetime or a season seeking to be loved by having a few more things.  The more we had, the emptier we felt and the further we wandered off into the far country.  We come to that unsatisfying place that causes us to long to be in a most satisfying place-our home.

Younger brothers need to come themselves; like a person does when they come out of a coma.  They must stop trying to buy an abundant life.  It as at this point they are ready to hear, the price for the good life has already been paid; they just need to accept it!  Can I get a witness?

God’s prodigal love is available to all older sons who never strayed far from home.  The older son was the perfect child, good grades, disposition, and manners.  He was elected president of everything. He stood close to his father’s side, waiting to do exactly what he wanted.  He was the kind of youngster every mother wants her daughter to marry.  Earned it

Older sons hold an ethic of virtue; they work to purchase their father’s love through service to the estate.  This prevents them from being able to accept their father’s love, which is freely offered and always available.  They don’t believe the father could simply love them.  They feel they have to do something to justify it.  When it came to his father’s love, the older brother dealt with it the old fashioned way, He e-a-r-n-e-d it! 

The older boy didn’t even know his younger brother had returned when he dragged in from a long day on the back forty.  Like any overachiever, he was incensed to learn his no good brother had come home.  He was further enraged to discover they were throwing a homecoming party in his honor!  He earned the party, but his brother got it.  He cried “injustice” though he felt envy.  The party blew the cool he had worked years to develop. 

What about meAre there older brothers among us? We know who we are; we’ve done all the right things, for all the wrong reasons.  We’ve filled our days with goodness, cramming our lives full with little that matters.  We think we’ve earned more than we’ve received.  We’re good persons in the worse sense of the word; with a highly developed sense of entitlement, oblivious to how fine life is.  We need to come to senses, give up our pursuit of perfection; we’re making everyone uncomfortable, even ourselves. 

Older brothers learn to accept what is already theirs; realizing they can’t manufacture what God gives freely in life.  They come to place where they realize they can only embrace what is offered. Can I get a witness?

Most of us would prefer the older brother and we would to let the younger one have a piece of our mind.  Don’t waste time choosing up sides for there are parts of both boys in all of us.  Sometimes we waste the gifts we’ve been given in life; and other times we try hard to earn respect and love.  Either way, we are pursing ill-fated choices; separating us from the recklessly extravagant love of our Creator and Sustainer.  We fool ourselves into thinking we can make life by our own hand; either by compliance or rebellion.  We fail to see all our Heavenly Parent has-is ours.  We need not grab for it or work for it; we were born at the party.  Both want to be loved

The parable invitees us to look deep within; recognizing each of us shares something in common with these brothers-We each want to be loved.  Jesus tells us our heavenly father has graciously offers a prodigal love to both those who are good at everything and those who are good for nothing.  Whether we think we are making God proud or sad, God waits for us to join the party; reveling in the fine fortune of a abundantly blessed life. 

The parable is the gospel in a capsule; affirming God’s prodigal love never gives up on us, no matter how far we wander or how lost we become.  God is reckless enough to love us extravagantly and waits to throw us a party when we come home or come to ourselves.  We don’t have to be prodigal; we have a prodigally loving God who passionately offers all we need to live an abundant and fruitful life.  This is the lesson of the Heavenly Parent.

Children Dancing and singingThere’s something to be learned from children when they are at their best.  Children are examples of the same kind of passionate prodigal love that is pictured by this father.  A child can easily forget who is around and suddenly start to move their feet to a dance.  A child will raise their voice without a request, cleansing their windpipes.  When we get older we are bit more reluctant and self-conscious with our passion, concerned what others might think if we appear to be recklessly extravagant, like a child.

We can be like the child gives away her ice cream because they feel bad for the crying child next to them.  It takes a childish attitude to passionately love those who have wandered off, or who don’t know what to do with love freely offered.  Let’s be more childish in passionately offering the gifts of our lives; trusting God to provide just enough, even though we seem to be giving it all away.  It’s not easy giving it away when others question us.  Party

We who have prodigal children whom we’ve offered prodigal love know of the risks.  We’re willing to be hurt in offering this crazy kind of love because we can do no other.  We’re ready at a moment’s notice to start up the party music to be sure our passionately prodigal love is felt and seen by our child who has come home or come to their senses.

Whether we’re prodigal father or the benefactors of prodigal love, we’re all able to join in the party of God’s endless love that can cause us to sing real loud as we move our feet.  God is the Great Host of the Party.  As we close the service today let us sing with gusto to a recklessly extravagant prodigally loving God, how majestic is God’s name in all the earth. 

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm  Comments (5)  

After the Sermon: Facing the Stress of the Moment Luke 12:49-53

StressAt my last physical, my doctor asked me about stress in my life.  I said, “Ah, I don’t have much.”  He knew my family history and recent events and he began to recount them.  He ended with, “And you’re a Methodist pastor who can be moved at the Bishop’s beckoning, leaving you few roots that serve as your support and you say you have no stress, Hello?

If we’re alive, we have stress; the more alive we are, the more stress we carry throughout all moments in our lives.  Stress is the pressure of external forces that strain internal strength.  The deeper a submarine dives, the greater the pressure from the outside, the more a sub must pressurize inside to match the pressure outside.  Too much stress working on the outside of our lives compared to our inward capacity to cope can cause us to feel like we are being crushed from the outside in.

Stress often comes in two forms.  Physical stress tries the heart and lung’s ability to handle pressure from increased activity.  Emotional stress tests our psychological capacity to handle financial, relational, social, or other tests.  Stress can manifest itself in our body or psyche because of the demands of the day or from the emotional drain of circumstances. The issue isn’t the amount of stress.  The question is what spiritual resources do we rely to face physical or emotional stress in any moment of our lives.Pressure

Some of us might be surprised to think of Jesus facing stress.  We picture Jesus to be more like a tranquil monk rather than a maligned messiah.  We wrongly envision him as a gentle soul who accepted suffering by detaching from worldly concerns; giving him a surplus of inner peace.  Jesus doesn’t say he came to put out fires and usher in a peace on earth and goodwill to all.  He says: “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already kindled”!  Then he says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Jesus ModelJesus knew “The Way” would be hard-won and cause his followers and he great stress.  His presence would create real conflict with real powers in this world that stood in the way of the ways of God.  His words would bring fire that purifies.  His actions would bring divisions that cut away the cancers that keep people from being made well.  Jesus knew spreading the love of God abroad would not be an easy task.

When Jesus uses the word stress, he is speaking of something seizing and controlling him.  He feels the burden of incarnating God’s love; knowing his mission must be carried out, no matter the stress.  He doesn’t ride above life; he engages it; loving us enough to place himself under the gun.  In the Garden, his desire to show his love competed with a desire to not drink the cup of suffering. In that same Garden, he shows the spiritual wherewithal needed while under stress that enabled him to say, “Your will, not mine.”Open Hand

He doesn’t ask us to face anything he wasn’t willing to face.  He offers us the same inner strength that enabled him to endure suffering for the sake of a greater call.  We can access in our relationship with Christ what is needed to face our own stress tests.  In him, we can cultivate spiritual resources to navigate the pressure we feel in all moments of our lives.

A woman was worried about her son’s addiction to sweets.  She took him to the doctor and asked the physician to tell her son to stop eating sugar.  He said,.  “Come back in two weeks.”  Two weeks later she brought the boy back and the doctor said, “Stop eating sugar.”  “Thank you”, the woman said, “But why couldn’t you have told him that two weeks ago.”  The doc said, “Because two weeks ago, I was still eating sugar myself.”

Vine Stain GlassThe more we know the One who faced stress in carrying out the mission of his life; the more we’re ready to face our own stresses; living well into our purposes.  The more firmly we’re grafted to the Vine, the more spiritual strength we have to face the winds of any moment.  We can be connected to the Source that provides spiritual resources needed for any test we are called to take.  The gospel becomes good news as real growth occurs while walking through a stressful matter.  There we discover new handles we can hold onto while answering the higher call of God in our lives.

Growth always breeds change; and change breeds misunderstanding from those unsure of the changes.  This cycle often causes stress to ramp up in our lives.  It can happen among those we love and who love us.  Jesus doesn’t want families to be divided; he wants families to share the spirit of promoting the love of God in their world.  In this sense, blood is not thicker than baptismal water.  Jesus warns what can occur even in our families as we grow into the changes the stress has wrought in following Christ’s call.

The disciples brought Jesus food after Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well.  He did not eat what they offered and told them, “I have food to eat you know not of.”  He shows again that sharing the love of God fuels life and helps us negotiate whatever stress come while serving another.Offering Ourselves

Nothing can enliven us more than offering God’s love; it’s the source of all living things.  Carrying out our mission in life makes our lives feel full because we possess a growing strength within and we manifest an obvious energy without.  This happens as we seek to be a redeeming agent for those we’re privileged to offer Christ’s love.  It happens after the sermon, or at any moment of our life, no matter the stress we feel.

Published in: on August 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment