Faith in the raw. A United Methodist Certified Lay Servant (aka Speaker, aka Preacher) blogging the Revised Common Lectionary as a spiritual discipline, with other random thoughts thrown in.
On Twitter: @thenakedalien.
Every year, Jesus' family went to the holy city to worship and sacrifice. One year, when he was twelve, his parents got half way home before they noticed that he wasn't among the pack of kids! Panicked, they rushed back to the city, looking desperately everywhere they could think of. Finally, after a horrible three days they had started to fear was dead. But there he was, happily sitting with the elders in Temple playing Trivial Pursuit! He had been having so much fun that he had lost track of time... Oy!
His mom said: "Boy! What did we do to deserve this? Your dad and I have been sick with worry!"
The boy answered: "I was here all the time - why didn't you look for me here first instead of last? Where else would I be but at my Father's House?"
In their terror at the loss of their baby boy, all the visitations and harking and heralding clean had eluded them - they had no idea what he was talking about! He got up, and went back with them. His mother treasured all he did and said in the scrapbook of her heart.
As time went by, the youth grew in stature - both physical and spiritual. He was a good boy.
Shame on you! You're God's children - put some clothes on! You are sacred and beloved. Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Put up with each other. If someone gossips about you, forgive them - just as your Father has forgiven you, so too must you forgive your brothers and sisters by holy fiat. Wear your finest clothes! Dress yourself in love, for love goes with everything.
Surrender your hate and fear to the peace of Christ, for you are together his incarnate body. You are Emanuel!
Let Christ's words live abundantly in you and through you. Mentor and coach each other.
Release your hoarded gratitude with joyous songs of the heart, painful psalms, binding and instructing hymns, cleansing and freeing spirituals.
But whatever you do, be it word or act, do it in Jesus' name and give thanks to your Father.
And put some clothes on! We don't want to see your nasty bits...
Sam served God. He wore a little sacred robe. Once a year, his proud but bereft mother would make him a new one. His parents would bring it when they came to the holy city for the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless the boy's parents: "Your real sacrifice was in giving your only child to God. May God give you more children together." Then they would go home to their empty quiet house...
Over the years, Sam grew in physical and spiritual stature, and saw his parents once a year. Both God and the people loved him. He was a good boy.
Young, unwed, and miraculously pregnant, Mary rushed to be with kinfolk for support and comfort. She went to the home of her older cousin Elizabeth, who herself was unnaturally with child. "Elizabeth! Elizabeth! I need you!" As soon as Mary spoke, John jerked in the water of Elizabeth's womb - his ministry had started.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth prophesied: "Most blessed of women, blessed to be a blessing is the fruit you will bear! What am I, that the mother of God has come to me? As soon as I heard your voice, I knew. The child inside me leapt in joy! We are blessed to see God's promises to us fulfilled through you."
O little dirty hamlet of Bethlehem, home of poor common folk: one of you will come forth by Me to rule all - one who was in the beginning; Alpha.
A woman labors to give him birth. Through him, humanity will come Home. He shall stand up tall and vulnerable before the people. He shall feed his sheep the manna of the Lord's strength by the holiest Name of names. The flock will be saved and live in security. Their shepherd's voice will be heard and known across the globe.
The fire jumped from his eyes to his lips as Dirty John said to those who gathered around him: "You are a petri dish full of toxic germs! Did Satan warn you to run and hide from the storm to come? Start bearing good and worthy fruit! Don't try to convince yourselves that you're "chosen". Chosen? Chosen my ass! God can take this rock digging into my foot and make it a better child of Abraham than you! As we speak, a chainsaw is laying at the foot of each tree - waiting, waiting. Every tree that goes fruitless, or bears nasty sour fruit shall be cut down and turned into firewood to warm the rest of us on cold nights!"
He was preaching up a storm within their heads. They asked: "Dirty John! What can we do to bear good fruit?"
As he smiled, you could see a locust leg sticking out from between a couple of his teeth:
"If you have more than one coat, give all the extras to anyone who needs one - anyone! Not just those you think are worthy of your worthless old rags...
"If you have food, share a meal with anyone, anyone, who does not!"
Tax collectors asked him what they could do: "Quit taking more than what is due and keeping it for yourselves!"
Soldiers asked him what they could do; "Do not abuse your power and might. Defend the powerless and weak."
They were eating up this abuse! The excited crowd ask Dirty John if he were the long anticipated Messiah: "I baptize you with river water, but one is coming who I'm not even worthy to wash his feet! He will baptize and anoint you not with the polluted water of the world, but with the fire of the Holy Spirit! THE HARVEST IS COMING - REPENT!"
And so, with much shouting and haranguing, Dirty John spread the Good News.
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad!Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near.Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:3-11; The Message)
1. When you think of someone, do you break out in hives, expletives, or exclamations? 2. Do I encourage new believers and disciples, or do I order and direct? In other words, am I a leader or a manager? 3. When I praise someone, is it empty and robotic, or do I tell them what I liked about what they did or who they are? 4. What is the difference between agape love and fleshy love? 5. After hearing such a loving greeting, do you think the church in Philippi was less or more receptive to Paul's subsequent instructions?
I, your one God, Send a messenger To come before Me, For the Lord you Have been seeking Will return to you.
My messenger Of My contract Which you love Is really coming. I tell you Truth.
Who can stand him? Tolerate his words? He'll be the smelter's Blazing blast-furnace, A laundry-woman's Cleansing soap - He'll refine and purify The religious leaders And remove the dross Leaving a precious Righteous remnant To lead and intervene.
Then the sacrifices Of My people and Of My church leaders Will once again Smell sweet to Me.
(Retelling of Malachi 3:1-4 by Tiwago)
In the fifteenth year of the rule of Caesar Tiberius—it was while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; Herod, ruler of Galilee; his brother Philip, ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias, ruler of Abilene; during the Chief-Priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—John, Zachariah’s son, out in the desert at the time, received a message from God. He went all through the country around the Jordan River preaching a baptism of life-change leading to forgiveness of sins, as described in the words of Isaiah the prophet:
Thunder in the desert! “Prepare God’s arrival! Make the road smooth and straight! Every ditch will be filled in, Every bump smoothed out, The detours straightened out, All the ruts paved over. Everyone will be there to see The parade of God’s salvation.”