Monday, May 25, 2020

MAY MATTERS 25-31


As the month of May draws to an end, the world seems to be opening up a bit.

A store here, a business there, parks, beaches and whatever else is ready to receive us.
It’s nice to know we have the option to leave our homes for a few more hours each day.

The Lord’s hand is upon us but we also have minds that can discern, that can make good decisions.
We can decide to think of others by wearing a mask.
We can decide to think of others by staying at least six feet from others.
It’s up to us to be gracious to others who do not take such care . . .  and skirt wide around them.
The way we can maintain this grace is to feed our souls with encouraging words.
And so we continue for a few more days.

"You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make peace between other people. Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do. Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and readily believe the worst. But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good and are suspicious of no one. ... It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people, for they are always well liked. And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those who agree with us. But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live at peace with the perverse, or the aggressive and those who contradict us, for this needs a great grace. ... in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing of suffering and contradictions, not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity. Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace, for such persons are masters of themselves, lords of the world, with Christ for their friend, and heaven as their reward.”    Thomas รก Kempis, p.72-73  Imitation of Christ.

May 25  Joshua 1:1-9; Psalm 89: Ephesians 3:1-13; Matthew 8:5-17
Joshua 1:7 Be strong and courageous . . . do according to all the Law . . . do not look to the left or to the right.  :8 This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do all that is written in it.  :9 May the Lord be with you wherever you go.

God gave these words to Joshua during a major turning point in his life.
Moses died and Joshua was the one Moses chose to lead God’s chosen people into the Promised Land.
Joshua was one of two people whom God allowed to survive escape from Egypt, live in the desert for forty years and then cross the Jordan into the land God promised to His people centuries earlier.

Joshua spent most of his life under the guidance of Moses.
Every move that Moses made, Joshua was there, observing, learning, gaining wisdom that would be used for such a time as this.
Joshua was faithful to God because he was faithful to learn from Moses.
He was now ready to lead a mass of murmuring meanderers back to the land God promised to Abraham and following generations.

God repeated the phrase, “Be strong and courageous,” three times in this short paragraph.  God knew the journey would be arduous, not because of the terrain,   and not because the Jordan River caused any problem.  
God knew Joshua would be challenged because these millions of Hebrew people were difficult to manage.  Moving them anywhere, much less into a land that seemed foreign to them was daunting.

“Remember the Law,” says God, “It’s the only way My
people will remain focused on my plan for you.”  It was up to Joshua to meditate on the Law.  
It was up to Joshua to digest these words and teach them to elders who would then teach the next generation.  It’s up to Joshua to live by God’s Word, as an example to others, so that God’s people will grow strong in their faith.

Joshua said, “yes,” to God early in his life.
With Moses as mentor, Joshua received the best education one could ever attain.  
Joshua was strong and courageous.  
He knew not to turn his focus away from God for a moment.  
He knew not to be distracted by the cares of the world or the murmurings of the tribes under his leadership.  God was with Joshua continuously reminding him that he was not alone.  
God had his back because Joshua was faithful to a fault when going about God’s business, when fulfilling God’s plan, his entire life.

Oh to be like Joshua for even one day much less our entire lives.
Perhaps we can embrace our Lord, Jesus Christ, in such a way that we also remain focused, not turning to the left or the right as life-distractions might pull us away from God’s plan.

Let’s keep praying.
Let’s keep listening.
Let’s keep focused on God’s plan for each of us.
Let’s aspire to be like Joshua . . .  for just one day.

May 26  
1 Samuel 16:1-13a, Psalm 97,99,[100] 94,95; Ephesians 3:14-21; Matthew 8:18-27
1 Samuel 16:1-6 Samuel invites the elders and then Jesse and sons to consecrate themselves and come with him to sacrifice.  In selecting ‘The one' :7 The Lord looks at the heart.  None of Jesse’s seven sons were chosen.  David was almost forgotten as he tended sheep and was youngest.  :12-13 . . .  and the Lord said to Samuel, “Arise, Anoint him for this is he.  And the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward."

Samuel grieved over the fact that Saul was not the kingly
material most thought he would be.  
The people wanted a king instead of trusting solely in God so God sent Samuel to find Saul and anoint him as king.  
Over many years, when God’s  people were not being managed well by Saul, God sent Samuel to find another to anoint, to prepare, to make ready for the day that Saul would no longer be able to reign.

God directed Samuel to Jesse, a man who knew God and honored Him as Lord.
Jesse and his seven sons consecrated themselves before the Lord because they knew Samuel would pick one of the sons to be anointed in preparation for the day one of them might become king.

Samuel had such a tight relationship with God, he intuitively knew if one of the sons would be pleasing to God.  
That’s the gift of the prophetic spirit within Samuel.  
It’s like he and God are ‘one’ when calling this new person to do a mighty work.  
That same deep sensitivity Samuel had with God also gave him an intuitive spirit to ask Jesse, “Do you have one more son?”

David, almost too young to be considered, and a mere shepherd, was called in from the fields.  The minute David presented himself to Samuel, the Lord spoke to Samuel.  “It is he.”  It seems that, in an instant, David’s life changed from being a shepherd alone in the high hills, to being anointed with the Spirit of God to be prepared for leadership.

God had been preparing David for years but who knew.
Many of the psalms we sing that reveal a tight relationship with God came from David while he was tending sheep.
David and God had hours each day of intimate communication as the trials of tending sheep are endless. 

God was guiding David as if David were tending a great nation of sheep.
In the years to come, David would become a mighty king, loved by all.
His legacy would weave through many generations as part of the lineage of Mary and Joseph.  Jesus was called, “the son of David.”

We never know when we are minding our own sheep and someone comes by to present us with a new plan for our lives.
It’s worth taking time each day to grow our souls just a
little bit more in our relationship with the Lord.
After all, we too, might be called in from the field to do a great and mighty work.

May 27  
Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalm 101, 109, 119:121-144; Ephesians 4:1-16; Matthew 8:28-34
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one spirit just as we are called into one hope of our calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all through all and in all.”  But to each of us grace was given according to God’s gift.  :11 Some are called as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers . . . :15 Speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ!

We are ‘one’ with the Lord, thy God.  
We are ‘one’ with all the other Christians in the world . . .  every single denomination . . .  every sect . . .  every type of worship . . . we are all one.
We are one because there is only one Lord.
There is only one faith for those who are followers of Jesus, the Christ.
There is only one baptism.  
We all believe in the same God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yet we seem to separate ourselves into categories.
I am of this church and ‘those’ are from that church.

"We" believe this way but "they" believe that way.

WE are the church and we each attend different types of buildings with a variety of ways we can worship the Lord and come into His presence. 
Our common denominator is belief in the Resurrection of our Lord.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

It’s up to us to grow in understanding of our faith, to dig deep into God’s word, to ask questions, to gather in community to worship the Lord, to be His faithful followers.
There are so many other ways to come into the presence of Jesus daily.
We each are led according to the gifts that manifest through us.
We each may take a different path but we all believe in the same Lord.

Different ways to pray and worship are pleasing to our
Lord.
All God wants from us is our total attention, our total devotion, our total focus.
How we accomplish this is up to us.
Yet, we can never grow in our love of the Lord and love of others in a void.

It is up to us to become part of a community so that our
gifts can be shared with others.
Your gifts may enable another to grow according to ‘their’ gifts.
We are one . . . mega huge . . ..  Christian family . . . who prays, and worships and learns and teaches according to the gifts the Lord has given to us.

Let’s rejoice the we are ONE.






Saturday, May 16, 2020

MAY MATTERS 16-24

“It matters what you think.”
That’s the quote I hear when I watch YouTube videos regarding the deep wisdom of Thomas Aquinas.  Go to tomisticinstitute@dhs.edu for many topics from “Aquinas 101”
It does matter what we think.

In fact, every thought should come from God as the Holy Spirit filters our conversations with Him.
It’s that ‘back and forth,’ talking and listening to God, that should matter most in our lives.
We may do this without even knowing it.
By taking a few moments at the beginning of our day to read a little scripture and discuss it with our Lord, we begin filling our mind, heart, soul and our very being with God’s presence.
What a great beginning to each day.
To our Lord, and to us, it should always “matter what we think.”

“Built on such strong rocks, your castle can never go to ruin. I insist again: your foundation must not consist of prayer and contemplation alone: unless you acquire the virtues and praise them, you will always be dwarfs; and pray to God no worse may befall you than making no progress, for you know that to stop is to go back—if you love, you will never be content to come to a standstill.”    St. Teresa of Avila, p.210  Interior Castle

"Occupy your mind with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones. Unoccupied, they cannot be.”   Sir Thomas More

May 16  
Leviticus 23:23-44; Psalm 75,76, 23, 27; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18; Matthew 7:13-21
Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter through the narrow gate; 
for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.  For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  :21 Not everyone who says to me, Lord Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven.  But he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.”

Imagine two gates, not too far apart.
Elegantly dressed people are strolling down a tree-lined avenue to one gate that has immense, beautifully designed, iron gates that are wide open.  
These people walk through these inviting gates without hesitation and continue down the long path with tall, broad trees, bushes and blooms and water features on either side.
This garden is all beauty, calm, perfectly groomed with an endless view.

To be able to stroll into tranquility and beauty seems to be a little bit of heaven to most people who enter. 
 Yet, this garden seems a little too perfect, almost endless, with no resting place.
The path is straight with no curves, no hilly climbs, no hindrances.

On the other hand, I picture a narrow gate not too far from the grand gate that is almost hidden behind overgrown hedges.
Beautiful flowering vines have partially grown over this small gate that is closed but unlocked.
I make an effort to push it open as this rusty piece of iron is hindered by the growth.

The gate merely functions as an entrance for anyone who
wishes to push a little, pull a few vines away and contend with the scraping and squeezing when pushed open.
I feel as if I conquered gravity when I open it far enough to allow my body to squeeze through.
I see nothing beyond just a few feet as the sharp curve in the path blocks a grander view.

It’s as if I am entering a maze with the ability to see the path in front of me but not much more.
It’s as if I were being pulled into a curious place of intrigue and I must trust the magnetic force that is drawing me inward.

This rocky mass of beauty, calm and quiet does not seem eerie but seems to invite me to keep going at whatever pace I choose.  
Places of interest offer a natural resting place such as a wide, flat rock under the shade of a massive tree so that I can ponder, breathe the fresh air and prepare for the steep climb I see ahead of me.

The sounds of chirping birds and chatting people are no different than the sounds in the grand garden.
Yet, this garden seems more intimate, as if I am on a path to a final destination that is beyond the the beauty and intrigue before me.  
I sense that, beyond this challenging landscape I will find even grander glory than I presently see.
Perhaps I am unable to see too far ahead because of what I might encounter but my heart and soul compel me to keep moving forward. 

The journey is challenging but the discoveries I make continue to provide an inner strength, a sure-footedness with every step I take.
I sense that, just around the next corner, I will find the end.  
Yet, when I make that turn there is a new vista to embrace.  
My trip seems wonderfully eternal.

Imagining through scripture reading is very important.
If I were to read more passages, before and after these verses, I would gain an even better picture of my journey with Jesus.
It’s fun to let our minds wander into, “what might be” but it’s also interesting to wonder why it is so easy to walk through the one gate and so difficult to walk through the other.

Why is the ‘easy’ way so inviting?
Why does the gate to one way of living seem just fine with no worries, no obligations, no real work to enter?
Is deception that simple?
By walking through the grand gate I seem to be in paradise.
Why does Jesus tell us that He is the narrow gate?
Jesus is the One who invites us to come through a gate that takes some work if we hesitate but which is so very easy to enter if we are curious and determined to walk through.

It takes a little effort to seek after our Lord, to desire in our heart to walk blindly for a little bit until we truly see the grand expanse of the world God has created for us.
It takes determination to keep going forward, perhaps
through hair-pin curves and up rocky crags where we do not know the next challenge.
It’s like a maze where we may encounter dead ends and we have to turn around and retrace our steps.  Yet, in doing so, our heart and soul seem to be at total peace knowing we are in a place where One we cannot see is right there with us.

Life can seem as easy as walking through a grand gate into paradise.
Walking into the arms of Jesus may take consistency, focus and determination.
Yet, when we truly see God’s grand garden of life before us, we know in our hearts we went through the right gate.


May 17   Sixth Sunday of Easter   
Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
Acts 17:22-25  “Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely
religious you are in every way.  For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’  What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you: The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he saved by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.”

Athens, Greece
The pinnacle of sophistication, philosophy, learning and the latest in design and technology of the day.
Greek was the common language.
“Tolerance” was the word of the day.
Do not offend anyone so believe in all things.
Their faith in ‘gods’ was spread so thin that any personal belief was fully accepted.

And then the Apostle Paul arrives.
Highly educated, excellent rhetoric, especially in the highest form of Greek, Paul begins to speak on their level.
Never is Jesus mentioned because those to whom he is speaking would stop listening if Paul honed in on just one person above all others.
After all, godly glory should be shared by all?

Paul stands on the famous Mars Hill, the hill of Ares who is the Greek god of thunder and war.
He speaks from the grand Areopagus, a building of sophisticated architectural beauty and engineering.
Nearby is the altar to the ‘unknown god.’

Greeks feared offending gods of any religion because that’s what tolerance is all about.
Tolerance fears standing firm on one belief.
Tolerance fears having to defend that belief.
Tolerance fears descent of a belief that even one person questions.
Tolerance empties out the coffers of the Soul God planted within us.
Tolerance dilutes God’s purpose given to each individual because watered down belief of nothing brings no purpose.

God, our creator, created us to creatively worship Him through body, mind and soul.
Paul deftly explained to these ‘high-minded’ scholars that there is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of all who is over all in all and through all. [Eph.4]

Our very life, each breath we take, was created by the God who created us in His image.
Our God is not brick and stone or a grand edifice. 
Our God is alive and lives within us through the power of the Holy Spirit planted within us in baptism. 
Our God came to us, in human form, and walked with us and showed us how to life that give glory to the One who created us.

Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ here and called everyone to repent and come to our personal Creator.
Jesus, the Christ, was not mentioned in Paul’s sermon but he came close to naming our Lord.
This was the first step in moving hearts of stone to embrace the human, fleshly, Lord of our lives, Jesus, the Christ.
One person, Paul, shared one time and opened one heart at a time to the reality of our Lord, our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
We are one person.
We are one voice.

We can do the same, one step at a time.



May 18  Leviticus 25:35-55; Psalm 77, 80; Colossians 1:9-14; Matthew 13:1-16
Leviticus 25:35 ff. If a fellow countryman becomes poor, you shall sustain him and not ask interest if he needs a loan and if he must sell himself to you, do not make him a slave.  He shall, as a sojourner, serve with you until the year of Jubilee .  He and his sons shall then return to property of his forefathers.  :44 You may acquire male and female slaves from the pagans around you.  :49 If a countryman does sell himself, one of his relatives may redeem him and refund part of the purchase price if it is far from Jubilee.

Some may be alarmed when reading this passage.
Why would God allow slavery?
Remember, Leviticus spells out the rules of godly life.
Perhaps there is more to this than we read here?

We read many stories in scripture where people wandering from another country choose to be ‘indentured’ to a family in order to be safe, be fed and have a place to sleep.  
Many in Canaan fled to Egypt for help in the same way many from Egypt fled to Canaan for safety.

Yet, in this instance we read of “fellow countryman.”
This is someone on equal footing who may have lost his livelihood.
He or his family is in need so he is willing to work for food and board.
He would not be paid but he shall not become a slave who has no end to his service.

The year of Jubilee is a finite limit and if this is too far away, a finite limit of service must be set.  Perhaps a relative will ‘redeem’ lost  property or the household being served will hold wages in order to re-purchase property for the family.
There is always a goal to restore the person or family to their former livelihood.

A perfect example of ‘redeeming’ a relative is in the book of Ruth.
Boaz ‘redeemed’ the original property of Naomi which, when all male heirs were deceased, reverted back to a male relative.
Naomi was ‘redeemed’ and so was her daughter-in-law, Ruth.
Thus, Ruth inherited property she could use as a dowry when Boaz took her as his wife.

Before that, Ruth chose to become a ‘slave’ to Boaz in order for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi, to survive.
Ruth was allowed to ‘glean’ grain that was left behind when being harvested.
This allowed just enough each day for Ruth and Naomi to eat one meal of bread.
Boaz not only redeemed their property and married Ruth, but embraced Naomi and provided a very good life for all.

In the same way the fellow countryman became a servant to another, we also are called to become servants to Christ Jesus.
We come to Him with nothing but a sin-filled, empty soul.
Jesus, our redeemer, paid the price so that our soul could be filled to overflowing with God’s Love.  By His Grace, He chose us to be with Him forever.  

We choose to serve our Lord and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
In return we receive an overflowing treasure of His gifts for us, His eternal love, Life everlasting, a wholeness we could not find from any other source.
God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our treasure because Jesus paid the price so that we can live an abundant life, eternally with our Lord.

Jesus, our Redeemer desires US to be with Him infinitely, forever, always, beyond the limits of time and space that God created for us as we live temporarily in this place called ‘Earth.’
May we choose to serve our Lord for all eternity.

May 19 Leviticus 26:1-20; Psalm 78:1-72; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; Matthew 13:18-23
Matthew 12:18 ff  “Who hears the Lord and does not understand, evil snatches away.  When seed is sown in
rocky places, it is like man hears and immediately there is Joy.  But if there is persecution, he falls way.  When seed is sown among thorns, man hears the Word but worries, wealth and their deceitfulness chokes off any relationship with the Word.  When the seed is planted in good soil, man hears, reads, understands and bears fruit, some 100, some 60, some 30 fold.”

These words are a continuation of the parable of the Sower and the Seed: Seed strewn on the path, in rocky ground, among thorns and then planted in rich soil.

As with many of Jesus’ parables, an explanation is necessary.  After all, most of his disciples were fishermen, not farmers.  Who knew that seeds just don’t sprout anywhere!

It’s the same for sowing the Word of God into our hearts, isn’t it.  We can hear words about Jesus’ love and grace but if we do not ‘catch’ those words in our heart and soul, they might as well be tossed into the street.

Some hearts are like solid rock.
Impenetrable.
The words sound good at first but the minute we are asked to submit to the One who will lead us into His loving arms we dig in our heels.
Our strong self-determination closes out any words of love, grace, encouragement or, heaven forbid, the invitation to give ourselves to the Lord fully and completely.
Letting go of the baggage we carry and allowing One greater than ourselves to release our burdens may be too
scary for some.

Yet, we who know Jesus as Lord and depend on Him to guide us through each day have the obligation to pray for those that come to mind who may have hearts of stone.
As we grow in our own walk with Christ Jesus, we cannot help but lift prayers for those we love who have resisted any relationship with God.
Prayer can ‘chisel’ away at that ‘rock’ that hinders the path to salvation through Jesus Christ.

Then we encounter those with thorny issues.
God’s Word sounds great but don’t touch my worries, don’t get in the way of my self-focused life, don’t mess with my possessions that I have accumulated for myself.  

The fear of having to change one’s life is a misnomer, a ‘thorn’ in the side of those seeking the everlasting love and grace offered by God’s son.

People think they have to change their lives completely, get rid of possessions, hard earned money, guilt or anxiety.  They think they will lose their friends and that their choice of entertainment will be dashed by some great hand coming down from the sky.

That’s where our prayers work for someone seeking understanding of the Seed Sower.
As we ask the Lord for guidance, we can lead another to better understanding of God’s grace.
When accepting Jesus as Lord, we do not have to give up anything.
We do not have to change anything.
All we have to do is seek to know him, deeply know who Jesus is and how His healing power can further enhance our lives.
Jesus never tells us to give anything up.
However, that said, as we grow to know His Love and learn to love our Lord, our layers of protection seem to peel off.  We learn that He is our protector.

As our love grows, our heart changes and soon we have new desires.
Jesus penetrates into our soul and shows us that He will take our guilt and anxiety.
He will change our hearts sometimes without us even realizing what just happened!
We desire to give all we have to further the kingdom of God . . .  our time, our talents, and our treasure, our whole self.
It just happens and may even surprise us when we suddenly want to give more, do more, be more for our Lord.

Miraculously, we become that seed planted in rich soil as we seek more of our Lord through daily study of scripture, prayer, Christian fellowship and, of course, worship and praise with others.  
Being part of a strong Christian community is like rich soil.  
Others who have ‘been there, done that’ can shepherd the seeker and share their nurturing nutrients as we help each other grow another.

We are but seeds that multiply but God is the sower.  
His word is tossed everywhere for the wind to catch and carry into the world.
We are called to water and nurture that seed . . . enrich the soil on which the seeds land.

Let’s begin with prayer and see where the Lord leads us.
“Lord, help us to pray for and nurture the ones who may have received your seed but who have hearts of stone or thorny issues that keep them from receiving Your love and grace.  Help us to water and tend to those you have placed on our hearts so that they will accept Your loving embrace.  Amen.”

May 20    
 Leviticus 26:27-42; Psalm 119: 97-120, 68:1-20; Ephesians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:41-46
Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  :114 You are my hiding place and my shield.  I wait for your word.”

As usual, when I read the Psalms the simple songs written
from these verses come to mind.
“Thy Word is a lamp onto my feet and a light onto my path,” is one of the first songs I learned as a new Christian.
I had not gone to church with any purpose for about twenty years and I entered this big box of a church where the only part completed was the gymnasium.
Chairs were placed in a row and hymnals were passed out.
I do not remember any altar but I do remember lots of singing . . .  loud . . . joy-filled.
My born-again soul soared to the heavens with God’s words planted in my heart through songs like this.

“Thy Word” . . .  was further planted in my heart when I took notes at every sermon.
It was so different then.
The preacher referenced dozens of scriptures as he led us into the presence of Jesus with his words.  A forty-five minute sermon was not unusual.  Time sped by as I took copious notes.
This was a time of exceptional learning and growth.

At that time my life was changing in a direction I could not fathom.
Thus far, I’d lived a great life, made good money, traveled all over the world, achieved every goal I set and, while
doing so, I met Jesus.
Indeed, life was good but learning about One who would draw me into Himself became a grand adventure I continue to this day.
“You are my hiding place . . . “ becomes so real.
Although I choose to run headlong into new adventures, challenge myself to learn what is set before me and seek more, I know I can always ‘hide’ in the loving arms of my Lord.
I make sure I have the option to stop, hide from my many obligations and simply sit with Jesus at any given moment.

In fact, I choose to ‘hide’ with Jesus every single day.
I pick a time when I know there will be no demands, no disturbances and linger in His loving arms.
I muse and allow my thoughts to wander wherever they take me.
I usually end up singing a little tune as my heart beams with encouragement.
A word or phrase of scripture always sinks into my soul in my daily reading.

Jesus lights my path just far enough ahead for me to continue my steady pace.
He shows me places to hide with him, just for a few moments, so that He can fill me up and give me what He wants me to have to carry on His plan for me.

“Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here, below.  Praise Him above the Heavenly Host, Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."  This doxology I learned as a child when we regularly attended a very good, Christ-centered church.  
God planted the ‘seed’ of His presence in my soul.
He continued to speak to me through music and other art forms until I was ready to truly know Jesus and become one with Him.
"Thy Word is a Lamp onto my feet, a light onto my path."
“Praise God, from whom ALL Blessings flow!”

May 21  ASCENSION DAY  
Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53
Luke 24:49   I am sending forth the promise of my Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.  :51 While He blessed them He departed from them and was carried up into heaven.  . . . They returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising God.

Ascension day is, to me, a very important day to
celebrate.  However, as it is forty days after our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, this event is always on a Thursday.
If any event involving our Christian faith is on a day other than Sunday it is ignored.
This is the sad state of our Christian faith.

It is the same for those very significant days before Easter during what is called the Triduum.
Only a handful of all Christians take time out of their day to attend church on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Saturday’s Easter Vigil.
Each one of these days are highly significant regarding the foundation of our faith.
Maundy Thursday, mandate, commandment day, is a celebration of Jesus’ last Passover with His disciples.  As Jesus becomes a servant to those he chose to lead when He is gone, He tells these who will be called Apostles, “This is the commandment I have for you; love one another as I have loved you.”  Jesus then proceeds with the last supper at which He instituted our Holy Communion. “Eat this bread, drink this cup . . .  this is My body . . . this is My blood.”  This is a very holy day in which we wash feet and share communion for the last time until Resurrection  Sunday.

Good Friday does not seem vary good but for the ‘good’ of humankind, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to live with us, train up disciples and then, sinless as He was, be crucified for us.  He took all our sin, past, present and future, upon himself and separated himself from the Father during His excruciating death so that we who believe may live eternally with our Lord and have a personal relationship with Him.  

Easter Vigil, Saturday evening, is a time of watching, waiting and remembering.  The service is long, yet beautiful, because we remember our salvation history which began with the Exodus, the first salvation story of God’s Chosen People.  Christian salvation history is grafted onto our Jewish history.  We are called to remember all of God’s powerful presence but the story of our salvation history is vital to understanding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This service helps us to understand the grand celebration of Jesus’ resurrection the following morning.

We choose to dabble in the events God has set before us to remember who He is and whose we are.  We belong to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Yet, we choose to ‘play’ a god of our own making and attend to the events that are convenient for us.  It’s like studying God’s Word.  Why attend a Bible Study if we can hear a good sermon and listen to scripture passages on Sunday?

It’s almost as if we have compartmentalized Jesus into our Sunday morning (no more than one hour please) obligation to keep us ‘in good standing’ with God.  I say all this to remind us that being a Christian is 24/7/365.  Either we live our faith with a bit of inconvenience or we are Christians in name only.

This year, with Covid19 in our midst, we have the best excuse in the world not to gather with one another to celebrate this major event, Ascension Day, with others at church.  Yet, we can take a moment to celebrate at home.  

Remember why Jesus had to leave His disciples after he spent forty days with them.  Remember that Jesus said that he must leave before a greater power can reside in his faithful followers.  “I will send an advocate, a comforter, One who will lead and guide you in all matters that God sets before you.”  Jesus had to leave this earth in order for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us.

Stand outside.  Look up at the heavens, enjoy the beauty of the clouds and imagine Jesus ascending right before you.  Remember that, in God’s timing, Jesus will return to this earth the same way He left.  Call out a prayer of thanksgiving to our Lord that He ascended so that the Holy Spirit could descend upon us.

Breathe in the magnificence around you, especially today when smog is the lowest it has been in decades, when the noise level is quite manageable, while spring growth is before us, while our natural setting is in the mode of re-birth.  B R E A T H E  deep as you invite the Holy Spirit to show you next steps in your Christian walk.

Read aloud Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53, hopefully with others surrounding you.
Give thanks that the Holy Spirit is so very present and active in our lives because of our faith-choice and because Jesus left this earth and ASCENDED into the heavens, to sit at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow . . . as we remember the Ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


May 22 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Psalm 85,86,91,92; Ephesians 2:1-10; Matthew 7:22-27
Matthew 7:22-27  A wise man who builds a house on rock is the same as one who hears God’s word and acts on it.  The foolish man builds his house on the sand
and it rains then floods.  Harsh winds came and it fell and it was a great fall.

Rock, cement or very solid materials.
The foundation of most homes that will last through storms.
Even the most primitive home should be built on a solid foundation.

Our ‘home’ is with Jesus, the Christ.
The one Jesus chose to continue building the foundation of our New Covenant is Peter.
Peter means “the Rock.”
Yet, Peter was simply called into God’s mighty work for a very short time to be used as one ‘Rock’ among many.  
Each person who accepts Jesus as Lord and chooses to live in the ‘house’ of the Lord, needs to begin with a strong foundation.
One brick or rock at a time, one built upon the other, can be formed into a very strong foundation.

Formation.
A word that many may not understand.
A dear friend who was beginning to understand the basics of Christian growth said, “It’s as if we must first ‘form’ a person before they are ready to serve others.”
Yes!  Amen!
We must first be formed, shaped, given a strong foundation before we can withstand the challenges of sharing the gospel and teaching others how to grow in Christ.

We are each the ‘housing’ for the Holy Spirit we receive
when we are baptized.
We are the new ‘temple’ the new home for the One who lives in us and directs our lives.
If our foundation is not strong or if we choose not to continue to mend the chips in our foundational bricks, we will collapse.

Forming ourselves into the image of Christ is not a ‘once and done’ deal.
It is a life-time endeavor.
We cannot give where the Lord directs unless we maintain our strength.
Daily devotions, prayer groups, weekly scripture study groups and so many other growth opportunities can easily be maintained even as we continue to be separated physically.

Chat rooms and internet gatherings can sustain us.
Virtual worship is not the best.  
In fact, it is imperative that we congregate together and worship as one group . . .  eventually.
Yet, coming into the presence of our Lord in any way . . .  daily . . . will maintain the most basic foundation in Christ so that we can stand firm in Him.

Let’s keep working on our foundation through formation opportunities.
When our foundation is firmly formed, we can serve.

May 23   
Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; Psalm 87,90,136; Ephesians 2:11-22; Matthew 7:28—8:4
Numbers 11:16 “Pick 70 elders who can carry the burden with you.  :25Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him [Moses] and put some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them they prophesied.  But they did not do it again.”

Do you ever read one paragraph in the middle of a long article and realize it means nothing?
I often read the last paragraph in a news article to save time.
I want to read the ending before I even see the beginning.
More often than not, I must return to the beginning and read the entire story.
This paragraph is like reading the end of a news article.
What on earth are we talking about here?

It’s about Moses and angry Hebrews.
Moses has led this motley manage of murmuring meanderers from slavery into freedom.
Of course it is not as comfortable as working 16 hours a day, doing back-breaking work, not finding enough straw for the number of bricks they are required to make each day.
Of course it is not as lush as the gardens they could tend in Egypt because God’s chosen people were too busy working.
Of course it is not as comfortable as living in Goshen with miles of green grass for their sheep, which only the children could enjoy as shepherds, while everyone else worked from dawn until dark.
Of course this was desert life with meals of manna that had become more than they were willing to manage.
So let’s murmur to Moses all day!
Needless to say, Moses was beyond exhausted and ready to collapse.

Bright idea!  

His father-in-law had mentioned this in earlier passages.
Invite others to stand at the Tent of Meeting at designated hours.
Seventy others would come to the Tent to be anointed for service.
These were elders who had long since been devoted to God, wise in their advice, and willing to help in any way.
Finally Moses taps their gifts to be listening ears, to give good advice and stand firm in their walk with God.

Seventy.
The same number who surrounded Jesus and his disciples.
It’s the ‘seventy’ who became the strength to Moses as well as helped so greatly in spreading the gospel in Jesus’ time.

None of us can act alone, no matter how qualified we are.
The Lord always sends people out at least two-by-two.
Every president has a vice president.
Every ‘chair’ should have a ‘co-chair’.
Every team leader needs a co-leader.
At the very least, we know we are never working alone with Jesus by our side.

Yet, it is good to review any committees in which you share your gifts.
Are there at least two people helping one another to lead?
If not, would you be the one to step in and offer your services?
Moses took a long time to learn this lesson.
Perhaps we can learn from Moses . . .  and Jesus.


May 24  Seventh Sunday of Easter  
         Ascension Day celebrated
Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10,33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
1 Peter 4:12-14  Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal . . . which comes upon you for testing as though some strange thing were happening to you . . .  as much as you suffer in Christ .  .. rejoice so at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exaltation.

Usually each Sunday the Gospel message stands front and center.
However, this Sunday we focus on the Ascension of Jesus Christ that I covered on the actual day of Ascension, Thursday, forty days after the day of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Most people do not attend church during the week so Ascension day is usually repeated on Sunday.

So, this passage in 1 Peter is a perfect follow-up to Ascension day.
Jesus reminds His disciples that they will need ‘power’ to face the “fiery ordeal . . . which comes upon you for testing as though some strange thing were happening to you.”  
“Don’t be surprised,” Jesus says . . .  but be prepared.

The only preparation needed is being steadfast, maintaining a firm stand with Jesus.
To help us hold fast to our convictions, Jesus sent an advocate to stand beside us, to give strength within us, to give us the power from on high.

Jesus left this earth so the Holy Spirit can do a mighty work in and through us.
Instead of being overcome with suffering or strange things that happen to us when we share the gospel with others, we are able to rejoice at the revelation of God’s glory.

Let us use the power given to us to withstand challenges as our soul sings to our Lord.
Let us show others what it is like to be overcome with joy!

Jesus ascended so the Holy Spirit could descend and plant himself in those who live by faith in Christ Jesus.

Let’s embrace this power from God and rejoice.