Only God Does Wrath Right
2008-08-26 by David von Schlichten
"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God [ . . . ]"
That line from Romans 12:9-21 grabbed my head and heart this week. I wondered, "Why would I want to make room for wrath?" and I pictured people deriving perverse delight from the idea of God zapping with his wrath those evil-doers who have wronged them.
However, such an understanding does not fit the emphasis on love dominating the text. Perhaps, then, we are to make room for God's wrath, not because we delight at the idea of God zapping people, but because only God knows how to do wrath right.
If a dad had his son determine his sister's punishment, the son would probably be harder on his sibling than she deserved. The good parent provides the proper punishment.
Likewise, we are to make room for God's wrath, because our wrath is too big. God's wrath fits just-righteous.
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
2008-08-25 by Lin Smallwood
Matthew 16:21-28Everybody likes a winner. Hasn't it been fun to watch the Olympics this past month? We were entertained with spectacular athletic events. Most of us have enjoyed watching the contests and seeing the stories behind the athletes. We may even confess we were caught up in the media frenzy of medal counting. We could count success with gold, silver, and bronze.
In Matthew Chapter 16 the disciples were learning what a wonderful prophet Jesus was and what he could do. He had displayed miraculous healing powers and the ability to feed the multitude. In our scripture for this Sunday, Jesus begins to warn the disciples of his death. Peter, like most of us, wanted to pick a winner. He was horrified by what Jesus was saying. "God, forbid it Lord." Peter thought he was on the Lord's team and now he was told that the objective was not to win the Gold Medal. There was no medal at all in sight. There was only great suffering, death, and a mysterious proclamation of rising on the third day.
I can imagine that Peter was bewildered and crushed. His human thinking was natural. He could not possibly imagine what Jesus was telling him. God's agenda was nothing like what Peter imagined.
Peter had to make room for this new information. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die. It made no earthly sense to him. Peter had to be rebuked of this thinking. He had to concede that what Peter thought was absolutely wrong. Then Peter must acknowledge that everything he thought he wanted before was wrong.
All is according to God's will. We may not know what God's will is in a certain situation until we get to that situation. The disciples must face the reality that Jesus was on his way to his death. Jesus explains that true discipleship means a readiness to accept of path of self-denial and even martyrdom.
Paradoxically, it is the one who gives up his or her life in discipleship to Jesus who will truly find life, both in the present and in the future, while the one who seeks to have life on his or her own terms will in effect lose it. This self denial means a new set of priorities that will look foolish to the world.
The first three steps of the 12 step program for Alcoholics, which has helped millions of people recover from alcoholism, including myself, states this in a constructive way:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Jesus startled them with his redefining of the work of the Messiah. He also startled them with his concept of discipleship for them.
This summer I have been reading Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light-
The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta by Mother Theresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk.
Mother Theresa experienced a call within a call after she had become a sister to go to begin a house in India and minister among the poor. She says: "On Sept. 10, 1946 on the train to Darjeeling, God gave me the “call within a call” to satiate the thirst of Jesus by serving him in the poorest of the poor." She gave up everything to answer the call of Christ. She states that the aim of the congregation she founded is to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the Cross. Mother Theresa indicates that her mystical experience took as she meditated on Jesus on the cross. Jesus dying on the Cross cried out, "I Thirst." It was this Scripture quote that stood for her as a summary and a reminder of her call. “I thirst,” Jesus said on the cross when Jesus was deprived of every consolation, dying in absolute poverty, left alone, despised and broken in body and soul. He spoke of His thirst- not for water- but for love, for sacrifice. Mother Theresa said that Jesus thirsts for our sacrifice. Take up your cross Jesus says.
Take up your sacrifice. Don't run from suffering, embrace it. Deny yourself in your following of Jesus.
2008-08-25 by Lin Smallwood
Romans 12:9-12proverb says, "Birds of a feather flock together," but how do we live in this world with so many different types of people? How can we tolerate people who are annoying and irritating or people who are mean spirited and spiteful? How do we share our habitat and tolerate each other while sharing our resources? Yet we must.
Revenge is counter productive. An old Chinese proverb says “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
How could we love everyone without reservations? How can we forgive those who get on our last nerve?
We must follow the example of our Lord, who loves us and also loves them. I often think of my enemy as unloving yet God must love my enemy.
We must forgive our enemy and of course this is hard. To become on a level playing field with all persons is counter cultural. This kind of love and behavior as we see outlined in Roman's 12 is basically impossible without the power of God.
To deny ourselves and follow God's way must be our livelong struggle. To answer God's call upon our lives and become those who get along with everyone, those who leave revenge to God, those who are generous and good, is to love and live with the heart of God.
May our hearts be colored with deep colorful crayons of God's love for us and others.
Empty Handed and Unworthy
2008-08-25 by Lin Smallwood
What do we really know about Moses from this passage? Moses sees God in the Burning Bush and God calls him to a task. God begins all of this activity. What a privilege to be called by God into God’s purposes!
Can we judge those who are called by our own standards ? Isn’t that God ‘s business? Who are we to suggest that we don’t think some people are really called by God ?
Even Moses thinks its strange that God has chosen him. His objections are quickly mentioned. I am sure that Moses wasn’t good at any of those things. Pastoral leadership needs to have God ‘s activity behind it or it isn’t really God’s call. Over and over candidates in ministry are asked to explain their call. I heard a beginning Pastor saying she was tired of being asked about her call. I told her that she needs to get over that. The call to ministry is tremendously important, hugely important. Just as God promises Moses that God will give him what he needs I think that God gives those God choses what they need. God’s choices are not clear to the human eye. God’s plans are not always knowable. It’s about God though, not about us. God says "You shall not go empty-handed." But so many of us are empty handed and unworthy. All of us in fact. We stand on holy ground only because God has made it so by God’s presence.
God can and does call the most unlikely people. Those called by God are not the beautiful people. Paul, Jacob, Amos, Jeremiah did not appear as born leaders. Calling persons without skills to great tasks is contrary to our modern views of succes. A call is given, a call heard and received and a person is called out. The result of that process is a person who can become God’s instrument in the world.
In the Gospel lesson this week Jesus also calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. The movement is coming from God and we are to receive it.
"You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last ..." (John 15:16a).
Mother Theresa heard her call and received and it she gave up her worldly life and personal life. She dedicated all to God.She writes:
Exodus 3 makes only one characteristic essential, the call and authorization of God. We are empty handed and unworthy but we are called.
Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2008-08-25 by CJ Teets
Caroline Smallwood: "I have been a pastor for ten years and was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church in June of 2007. This is my fifth year serving the Sergeantsville United Methodist Church in Sergeantsville, New Jersey. This is my fourth small country church that I have served over the last 10 years. Sergeantsville is an active congregation reaching out to the community in a multitude of ways. I am especially interested in the Lay Speaking Ministry of the church and we are blessed to have 15 Lay Speakers at Sergeantsville. I believe developing and empowering the congregation is critical for the spiritual growth of the members. Also I am a member of the Order of St. Luke, which is dedicated to sacramental and liturgical scholarship, teaching, and practice. The Order of St. Luke is a group of dispersed women and men, lay and clergy, from many different denominations, seeking to live the sacramental life. Being a pastor is a second career for me, my first career was as an educator in the Department of Corrections in New Jersey. I graduated from New Brunswick Theological Seminary with an M.Div, Rutgers the State University with a M.Ed.,and Ohio Wesleyan University with a B.A."
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