July 31, 2016

Loving One Another with Hospitality

Since the beginning of the month, we’ve been looking at ways to live out our relationship as Blessed Children of God. Last time we considered the idea that Serving in Love is a way to bring light and hope to a hurting world, even in the smallest of ways.
One way to Serve in Love is by offering Hospitality. There are many examples in the Bible of men and women of God showing hospitality to strangers. The Gospel last Sunday, for many of us, was the story of Abraham’s meeting with the 3 strangers. It is an extravagant example of hospitality. “When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth…” Genesis 18:2. He then proceeds to provide a fabulous meal by having a calf roasted and telling Sarah to make cakes of ‘fine meal’ for the guests.
At the home of Mary and Martha, in Luke 10:38-42, we find another example of hospitality. Martha “opened her home to him”. (I find it intriguing that we are told it is Martha’s home, not Lazarus’, but that is for another meditation.) Martha then proceeds to work herself to a state of frustration, while Mary offers the equally important hospitality of sitting with Jesus. Martha, as we know, doesn’t appreciate this and storms in, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus response can be seen to be an indictment on Martha’s workaholic attitude. On the other hand, perhaps Jesus is saying, ‘I just want to hang out and visit with my friends. I don’t need a big feast. I need your company and Mary understands that.’
Both Abraham and Mary offered the Hospitality by Being Present. This is the willingness to sit with someone and spend time in conversation and quiet and sharing the gentle breeze. It is way too easy to be ‘too busy’ to find time to do this, even (or perhaps esp.) with family members. We each have our own agendas to get through. We each have our electronics to check. We each have places to go and people to see. It is too easy to end up staring at the TV rather than having conversation. Then we become strangers, even in our own homes. We do not know one another’s thoughts, hopes, dreams.
The Letter to the Hebrews admonishes us to “Continue in brotherly love. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2) We need to be friendly and welcoming to the strangers among us, whether a newcomer at church, a homeless person asking for a lunch bag, the clerk at the grocery store, or the new co-worker. We might also consider rebuilding the bonds of friendship with family, with neighbors, with friends we haven’t seen for a while.
Recently I have seen a rash of ‘un-friendings’ on Facebook because someone disagreed with someone else’s political views as posted. Is this a symptom of jumping to conclusions about how well we know another person simply based on the car they drive, the politician they support, the house they live in, the color of their skin?

Maybe if we paused to sit and talk, rather than just posting this or that comment from some politician or another, we might discover that we are more alike than we thought. Perhaps if I paused to get to know the neighbor who worships differently than me, I’d discover that her God and mine are indeed the same God.
I challenge you and myself this week to practice being present to someone-a family member, a stranger, a newcomer. Take a few minutes to listen to their heart. What might we learn? 

July 24, 2016

Loving One Another in Serving

Loving one another is what we are considering for this portion of the Season of Pentecost. We’ve looked at the ‘old-fashioned’ ideas of writing notes, and actually entering into conversations. Today is another idea some might consider outdated: Offering Love that comes from Serving without expecting anything in return.
Each of the Gospels tells of Jesus reminding his disciples that he ‘did not come to be served, but to serve…’ (Mark 10:45, Matthew 10:28, Luke 22:27, John 13:13-14) and commends us to do the same. In the Letter to the Philippians we are reminded that Jesus indeed had every right to demand to be served. He “existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made inhuman likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross… (Philippians 2:6-8)
Serving without expectation of thanks or reward can be counter-cultural. Yet, we must remember that Jesus did not fit into his society either. If he had, there would not have been conflict with the ruling authorities. In both Matthew 10:24 and John 15:20 Jesus told his disciples, and us, that “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher, and servant like his master.” Those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ are called to take a stand against the dark things of the world that destroy our souls if we allow it.
One way is to Serve one another in Love. We can learn to offer service in love to each other, rather than seeking to be ‘first’ and ‘important’ in the eyes of the world. It is not easy to be different in action from others. It is hard not to respond with anger when we are wronged. It is difficult to step out of our comfort zone and serve someone we don’t know, or even someone we do know.

Whether it’s a bottle of water to a homeless person on the street, ‘paying-it-forward’ by buying a coffee for the person behind you in line, helping a neighbor mow her lawn, or volunteering at a food pantry there are big and small ways we can serve one another. Perhaps it is something as small as helping tie a shoelace like the little boy in the image. It doesn’t have to start with some huge gesture, simply a hand reached out in anonymous love can have a huge impact.
Becoming the hand of Christ by Serving is a small step toward bringing Love and Light to a world that is often frightening and dark. Maybe the idea from the old hymn isn’t so far off “Let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too…We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load..”
The New Living Translation of Galatians 5:13-14 says, “For you brothers were called to freedom, but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather, serve one another in love. The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” It may not be easy. However, the result is life and freedom for you and for the world.
How can you Serve in Love your neighbor, the homeless person on the corner, the driver in the next lane, the waiter at the counter…?
Is there some little gesture you can make today and tomorrow and the next day to offer Love in the form of Serving that might brighten someone’s day?
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at some specific ways of serving in love. 

July 17, 2016

Loving One Another in Word

We have just started a series about ways to live out the Blessing of God’s love and share it with others. It would seem that in a world apparently going crazy, that sharing God’s love is more important than ever. Last week I suggested that a note to someone is one way to brighten a day.
Another is to actually speak words of Grace to someone. Tell them how much they mean to you, or how something they did touched you. For instance, the friend who wrote the card to me might never know how much it meant to me unless I mention it to her. My husband might not know how important his simple act of cleaning the cat’s box is unless I tell him. A priest or pastor might not know that her sermon touched me deeply unless I share what it was that impacted my life.
It might be a symptom of our digital lifestyle that we often don’t take time for conversation in general. It rates a post on Facebook, or even the nightly news, when someone takes a stand to put down their cell phones during a meal, or when a teacher insists that students hang up their phones on a special board before class.
Words of grace can be the start of a real, old-fashioned conversation where we share what’s really going on in our daily life… Just maybe communication is one way to bridge the seemingly ever growing gap in understanding between all of us. As we communicate, we’ll learn that we are more alike than different! The Letter to the Ephesians says, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29). We must practice only saying words that build up each other, and bring grace.
Speaking words of Grace can be something simple like a compliment on an outfit or hairstyle, or a thank you for an everyday task. By offering loving words, we are sharing the grace of God with one another. Loving words help erase the negativity that seems to surround us. Words of grace can brighten a person’s day. Offering affirmation can inspire a friend to step out bravely.
Think about how someone has given you words of grace in your life. What has someone said that helped you over a rough time? Did a simple thank you brighten a dull day? The song Save My Life* by Sidewalk Prophets says, “Maybe God is calling you tonight to tell me something that might save my life”.
Let’s try to speak words that strengthen and encourage. As the song says, “Would you take the time to tell me what I need to hear tell me that I’m not forgotten.” We all need to hear and know that we are important. If we don’t find that affirmation in our friends and family, we may turn to inappropriate ways to get attention and in that way assure ourselves that we are noticed and important.
There is something about the spoken word of affirmation that warms the soul. It also makes us uncomfortable, sometimes. How often do we dismiss a ‘thank you’ by saying ‘it was nothing’? Or perhaps we just smile and shrug when someone says ‘lovely outfit’, or ‘you did a great job’. Receiving words of Grace is an art, too. Someone once mentioned that when we shrug off a compliment or word of thanks, we diminish the one who was offering it. Rather like telling a child who brings a bouquet of dandelions ‘those are just weeds’. You might see them as weeds, the child sees them as beauty and wants to share them. In the same way, you may not think you deserve the compliment, but the person giving it cares enough to offer the grace. So take it with equal grace.

A prayer to close this post: Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices; Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ~ The Book of Common Prayer

What can I say today to someone that is honestly Grace-filled? How can I receive words of Grace myself, as the gift they are?
Next week we’ll look at another way of Loving one another-serving with love.

We’ve met half a dozen times
I know your name I know you don’t know mine
But I won’t hold that against you

You come here every Friday night
I take your order and try to be polite
And hide what I’ve been going through

If you looked me right in the eye
Would see the pain deep inside
Would you take the time to

Tell me what I need to hear
Tell me that I’m not forgotten
Show me there’s a God
Who can be more than all I’ve ever wanted
‘Cause right now I need a little hope
I need to know that I’m not alone
Maybe God is calling you tonight
To tell me something
That might save my life

I’m the pastor at your church
For all these years you’ve listened to my words
You think I know all the answers

But I’ve got doubts and questions too
Behind this smile I’m really just like you
Afraid and tired and insecure

If you look me right in the eye
Would you see the real me inside
Would you take the time to
Save my life

I am just like everyone
Jesus I need You, I need Your Love
To save my life

July 10, 2016

Loving One Another with Pencil and Paper

Today we start an 8 week look at ways to love one another. How can we show and share God’s love in simple, yet meaningful, ways?
Since May we’ve been considering the various ways we are Blessed by God. We are Blessed to Be God’s own, Blessed to Choose what to do with that Love, Blessed to Listen to God and Lead others, Blessed to Pray for and Forgive even when it is difficult. By being Blessed we can be a Blessing to our family, friends, neighbors, and beyond.
We never know what ripples of Blessing we may start when we actively begin to live the Love of God in our lives. Often we do this without even thinking about it. It is in the way we interact with each other. The way we listen, speak, serve, and support others. Living Love can be a good habit. As with all habits, sometimes it helps to ‘unpack’ how we might be more effective in our loving actions. Or we might learn a new way to act lovingly.
One very simple way is to sit down and write a note, or send a card to someone who isn’t expecting it. How often do we even get handwritten communication anymore? It’s so much easier to dash off an email or pick up the phone.
However, there is something about a little note saying ‘you are loved’, ‘you are appreciated’, ‘you are being thought of’… that is special. Just last week I got an unexpected card thanking me just for being me. It was such a surprise it brought tears to my eyes and brightened my day.

Think about your friends and neighbors. Is there something nice you’d like to write to someone you see across the aisle in church? Have you noticed someone doing something extra special and want to say ‘well done’? Is there a lonely person who would welcome a little card saying, ‘I’m thinking of you’?
Sometimes on social media or the news you hear of someone writing a little note on a napkin and leaving it for the waitress, or a child dashing in with a note for police officers at a coffee shop. Those things make the news because they are out of the ordinary. What if it was a habit we developed to write a note to at least one person a week?
I wonder what sort of change that would make in lives around us? I wonder if it would make a change in our lives?

Next week we’ll think about ways that we can share love in what we say. 

July 3, 2016


On this 4th of July Weekend, let’s just take a moment to give thanks for our Freedoms, hard won by visionaries who were willing to state, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” for the dream of that freedom. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were courageous men who risked everything for what they thought right and necessary. Representatives of each of the 13 colonies signed the document and went out on a limb. Should the endeavor fail, their lives and fortunes were forfeit.

Let us remember the thousands of men and women in uniform over the years, and now, who have defended that freedom to live, worship, and prosper as we want.

Let us pray for our leaders that they may continue to hold the vision of freedom for all people as promised by Declaration of Liberty and the poem, by Emma Lazarus, on the Statue of Liberty:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We are blessed by our freedoms and our possessions. Let us not grow weary of being the hands of Love to others who are not so fortunate!

Next time, we’ll start a series of posts looking at ways we can Love one another in little ways, as we share our Blessings and live into “Loving one another as Christ loved us”.