Archive for August, 2020
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [NRSA: Deut 6:1-9]
The Greatest Commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all you soul, and with all your might.
The Key commandment, the one rule that binds them all. Is to love God.
It is the simplest instruction. Love God, Trust God, Depend on God. Follow God. Love God. Say these aloud to God with me:
· I love you God
· I trust you Lord
· I depend on you Jesus
· I believe you are my Savior
· I follow you Holy Spirit.
· I love you God.
The First instruction is to learn, remember and to recite the nature of our relationship with God.
“God I love you.”
This instruction is simple and direct profession of faith. But it goes a bit further than just loving God.
The instruction is to love God with our whole heart.
Think of the pie charts from school and business meetings. If the whole pie is dedicated to loving God how much is left to love others people and other things?
If the whole pie indicated the amount we are the devote our heart and soul to God what part is lift for being a fan of something else?
If the whole pie reflect that all our energy, strength, and resources are going to God, how much is left over for things other than God.
SURELY THIS IS NOT WHAT GOD MEANS!
If this one commandment is to summarize all the others, it does mean that we devote the fullness of who we are to God, as a sign of our love, trust and devotion.
Who can do this? This is where grace comes to the rescue. We have all sinned and fallen short!
This is the heart of our target. Some days we do better than others, but our goal remains the same, to love God completely.
There are other things that fall under loving God.
· Trusting God’s word.
· Caring, protecting, and witnessing to our families, to the community and to the world.
· We love God by caring for God’s creation.
· We love God by seeking justice and showing mercy.
· We love God by feeding those who are hungry,
· clothing those who are naked,
· friending the lost, lonely, and hopeless.
· We love God by gathering to worship
· We love God by using the body, the spirit, the talents, the mind, the gifts, the time entrusted to us to show both God, the world and ourselves what it means to live as a person of love.
There is no great love, than a person to give their whole life for another
THIS is what makes Jesus’s death on the cross the most powerful witness of love
To give to us, those who squander the treasures and time of our life looking for purpose and meaning and God has already revealed that purpose to us.
Favorite Prayer in Seminary: “O God, you love is so big, thank you for your bigness.” Amen.
What does it take for us to do a better job remembering our purpose, goal, and JOY is to love God?
· Keep these words in your Heart.
· Teach by modeling these words to each generation
· Keep them when you are at home and wherever you travel
· Close and Start the Day with them on your lips
· Wear them on your hand
· Wear them on your head
· Write them on your door and gate.
A modern translation might be: memorize them and recite them in your household, as you begin and end the day. Keep them on your home screen, in your bathroom mirror and in your car rear view mirror. Wear them as you would wear clothes and jewelry, teach them to everyone you meet and live by them everywhere you go.
Love God with all of your heart, soul, and strength.
The Power of a Post-it Note
· Put one on your bathroom mirror and remind God ever time you wash you hands, brush you teeth, shave or make up your face.
· Put one on the dash of your car
· Put one in your wallet on your debt and credit card
· Take a picture of one and make it your screen background
· Have you ever written a reminder on your hand hoping it won’t sweat off before you get the list of things from the store?
Having a visual reminder increases connection of memory and action dramatically.
Having a visual remind, a physical touch, and audible sound is the strongest way to remember to act in a certain way.
Try this: Clap you hands, and say “I love your God, Help me to love you more.” A good strong clap, awakens our nerves and sets to memory our words with out actions. The next time you clap you hands or hear others clap their hand, you will bring together a reminder to love God and love God more.
If not clapping, snap you fingers, touch you ear, squeeze you finger, some action to have reinforce the reminder,
· Sometime we need it in front of our eyes:
· Sometimes we need to hear the words:
· Sometime we need to connect our breathing with love so we remember how often we are to love.
Writing on you hand and head
Personally, I have never been a fan of tattoos. In saying that I risk alienating many people. I don’t love anyone any less for having one. I have seen tattoos fifty years after they have been installed and they communicate something very differently. I have see people live with names of people they have divorced. I have seen people cover themselves with images that have one meaning at the beginning that are a regret that are carried daily. What most these days are very detailed, colorful and great works of art, there seem to more reasons not to carry such a permanent billboard for most of the images people receive.
But I can also heart this passage from Deut 6 and see how people might literally take to heart the instruction to write God’s commandments on their hand or head. But I have only seen a fraction of tattoos that ink this commandment or images reflecting God. While tigers, reptiles, birds, and skulls are all part of God’s creation, I’m not hear these images inked as a testimony of our love for God.
I risk opening this conversation because some people will take this instruct literally and see the process of using their bodies as a place to witness God’s love in that is unseen in their hearts, minds and souls. And so if a tattoo is telling the world of your devotion to God then that is bold and definitive witness.. But most religious tattoos are in places easily hidden. I know the art of Tattooing is ancient, one of the reasons why it is considered to be taboo, (taboo tattoos) is the practice associate with temple worship of pagan gods with fertility practices. As your pastor, I’m not saying never get a tattoo. I am saying this passage calls us to let the world know who we love with our whole heart, whole soul, and all our strength. And if the world can better see God’s love in you with a reminder in inked in your skin, then that’s a permeant way to say to God, to yourself and to the world: I love you God! Just know there is pain, risk of infection, cost, and in fifty years It might not be as legible.
Throughout the generations Jewish families have a mezuzah at the front door with a small scroll reminding them of this passage. Some traditions literal tie box with the a scroll of this passage on their forehead. We are more familiar with WWJD bracelets and other pins, rings, jewelry — all are tangible ways to remember.
So what do we do with this passage today?
We remember our highest purpose and the meaning of our lives is to love God.
If you are or know someone who is searching in this “time of craziness” help them get on the track of learning to Love God, for the first time or renewing that love.
We Love God, and ask God to help Love even more.
We encourage one another, by reminding ourselves and others through physical and spiritual ways. We not only can pray, we can send someone a loving reminder, a gift, “agape” – something that has no expectation of love return, just a something that opens door to sharing love.
The more the world says to fear, hid, withdraw, prepare for the worst.. the more you and I need to encourage one another to love. The more evil abounds, the more love we need to conquer it.
This is the promise of God; the simple commandment. Love and it will go well. Hate and it will not go well.
When I feel the hate, fear, dread, worry, rage…. Make that my prayer: Oh Lord Jesus my savior and friend: make this evil remind me of your love and teach me to love as you have loved. Love is the way. Love is the answer. Love is our foundation. Love is our salvation. God’s love is big enough for whatever the world want to throw our way. “I love you God.”
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]
Koinonia Fellowship is hard
a. We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?
b. It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.
c. It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.
d. Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.
e. And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.
Typically this is how the conversations start:
Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”
A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..
If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?
Return to the example
In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?”
In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving.
In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted.
Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.
How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.
We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.
This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.
Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.
The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)
When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both.
The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.
The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.
An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue.
For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?
The End of Days:
It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.
Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…
a) Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer,
b) If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos..
People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?
Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?
Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?
Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control?
Do God love us?
Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??
Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.
Do not measure love by the world’s standards.
We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.
We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.
We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.
And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.
Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)
1. Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.
2. Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.
2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.
3. The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace.
We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God.
Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!