Saturday, January 22, 2022

Your Land is My Land

 Leviticus 25:23  “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.”

 God instructed the Israelites about how they were to treat the Promised Land which God was giving them. (Lev. 25:1ff.)  The highlight was the Year of Jubilee. God declared that after every 49 years, the 50th year brought liberty, redemption, and release for both the land and the people.

 People could possess land temporarily; they could never claim permanent ownership. Everyone was always, in essence, a guest, residing by grace on God’s land.

 When we think about the Creation over which we are supposed to be stewards, how would our usage change if we viewed ourselves as God’s guests? Would we not want to return it back to God as we received it, minus normal wear and tear?

 Not all ‘land’ is the same as the Promised Land provided for Israel. But all land was created by the finger of God.

 Might this be God’s message to us today: treat the land which God give us to live, work, and play upon as if the God who holds it in his hand is returning.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

And Then the Birds Vanished

 Leviticus 16:22 “The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”

John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

 In the first light of the morning, I saw the flock of gray birds enjoying the thorn tree’s winter berries prepared for them by God.

 Israel was assured on a regular basis that their sins were taken away, out of the sight and memory of God as the priest ceremonially places his hands on the scapegoat’s head, confesses the sins of all the people, and then gives the goat to someone who releases the goat and their sins in the wilderness. Gone forever.

 Centuries later a prophet announced the arrival of Jesus not with his name but with his title and his mission.  The Lamb of God bears the sins of the world on his head. Your sins. Gone forever.

 When the morning light grew, as if someone had sounded a cue, the entire flock of birds lifted their wings as if they were one bird and then they vanished.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Unto Whom is Born This Day?

 Luke 2:11 (KJV) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 Moonless night.  Sheep sleeping.  Shepherds watching.  Wolves lurking. Just like every other night.

 But tonight, no pack of wolves appeared. Instead, a lone angel of God appeared with a message the world had forgotten it was waiting to hear: Messiah is born unto you!

 Unto whom is born this day? Read it again. Slowly.

 “The little word ‘you’ should make us joyful. For unto whom does He speak? Unto wood or stones? …Has he come to save geese and ducks and cows? Nay, verily, He speaks to all people.” Martin Luther

 I might quibble with Martin over one of his famous mugs of beer, discussing his sermon.  All creation rejoices. The heavens sing. But I see his point.  What makes the Christmas story more than a curiosity for you is that it happened for you. God sent the Son to be born of Mary for you.

 Meditate a moment on that inscrutable truth. Unto you is born this day a Savior.

 Is this not reason enough to be merry today? Merry Christmas to you.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Sound of God Cooing

 Zephaniah 3:17 (The Message) 

Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love

    and delight you with his songs.

 Christmas week. Time for ‘going home.’  For some this is a week of joy; for others, a week they dread. We all long for a home in which we feel welcome.

 This is a week we all need to decide whether to return to our spiritual home: Bethlehem. All are invited. Not all make the journey. Everyone has their reasons for not going home to Bethlehem. “I don’t believe it exists (anymore).” “I have more pressing priorities.” “God just wants my (money) (time).”  “I worship God in my own place.”

 But God is not deterred. You are never taken off the invitation list to the Christmas reunion. Your God (whether you claim God as ‘yours’) invites you to be among those gathered. God promises to bring you home. (Zephaniah 3:20)

 And when you eventually make that journey, what will the homecoming be like?  A mother holding her infant baby, calming you, ‘cooing wordless songs of tender love.’ (Bridger) The sound of God cooing sings, “You child, are mine forever.”

 Are you going home for Christmas this year?

Saturday, December 11, 2021

"The Sleeve of One Jew"

 Zechariah 8:23 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” NLT

 They have come from the far country and the near lands. They come because they have heard, in the famous paraphrase of Eugene Peterson, that ‘God is in the neighborhood.’

 Is Zechariah painting a beautiful picture in which the number 10 represents ‘all’ peoples gathered around, tugging on the sleeve of One Jew, the Messiah? A prophetic prequel to John’s vision of the great multitude in Revelation 7:9? (Another picture you can meditate to fall asleep on a restless night.)

 Or is this a picture of whom all God’s children are to be? Magnets for their neighbors who desperately hold on to your sleeve because they see from the way you live your life that God has found you, and they want to walk with you and your God.

 If you are searching for God this Advent season, clutch the sleeve of one Jew and walk along to Bethlehem.

 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Playing With Words

 Luke 3:4 (Isaiah 40:3)  “Prepare the way for the Lord,

                                               make straight paths for him.”

 Two prophets of God, separated by about 600 years, offer this same encouragement to a people who wait for the Lord: prepare by making a straight path for his arrival.

 Two thousand or so years later we still read these same words, but what do they mean to us today? Here’s a little word game for this Advent season of waiting and preparing. Look at the list of December’s duties and place them in your current order of priority (1-10); then play again, placing them in the order of priority you believe would best prepare your life for Jesus to enter, bringing you a renewed sense of hope, love, joy, and peace.

 If the two lists differ in order, ask yourself why that is.  Do you want to know the comfort of Christ’s presence? Are you willing to prepare the way by making a straight pathway to your heart?

 Cooking. Church. Decorations. Devotions. Santa. Savior. Serving. Shopping. Work. Worship.

 Each of these words represent the reality of life during Advent. We choose the priorities.

 Play with the words.  Prepare the way for the Lord.

 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Heart for Thanksgiving

 Joel 2:23 Be glad, people of Zion,

 rejoice in the Lord your God,

for he has given you the autumn rains
    because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
    both autumn and spring rains, as before.

 We received a thank you note in the shape of a heart which contained tiny seeds. If we plant the heart seeds in good soil, with full sunlight and plenty of water they will grow into a bouquet of flowers.

 I wonder if this is perhaps how we could offer our own thanksgiving to God for the gift of our lives.

 ‘God, create in me a heart for thanksgiving, filled with seeds of love for you and my neighbors.  Help me to place my heart in good soil, carefully arranging it to receive the full light of your love. Thank you for the early rains you send to help the seeds to take deep root, and for the latter rains, the showers of blessings which bring the seeds to full blossom.  Help me to live my life so that the seeds of faith and love you plant and nurture will spring forth from my heart into a bouquet of praise for your blessings.’