Matthew 13:44

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“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

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In His book, Bible Windows, author Ivar Powell tells the story of a rich man who died and left no heirs and, apparently, no will. When his household goods were auctioned, the bidding was fast and furious until a small painting of the dead man’s son was brought forward. The painting had been cherished by the wealthy father because the boy died at an early age.The auctioneer did his best but the crowd showed no interest. Finally, a frail, elderly woman in drab garments placed a small bid and the painting was hers. She had been the boy’s nurse when he was a baby and had loved him dearly. Later, as she examined the painting closely, she noticed a bulge in the backing. Making a small cut, she removed an envelope which turned out to be the man’s missing will. The document stated very clearly that he wanted to leave his entire fortune to the person who still held dear the memory of his beloved son.

There are many facets of church life that draw our attention. Those who desire structure may be drawn to its’ institutional aspects. Others with an aesthetic interest may be drawn to its’ rich musical and artistic heritage. Still others see value in the church’s social concern, youth programs or congenial fellowship. The “bidding wars” over these matters in church life can be fierce. But they are penultimate matters at best.  Preoccupation with them can blind us to the great center of church’s life.

The priceless treasure of the Church is Jesus Christ. In Him God has revealed His will and grace, His determination to forgive sins. In a real sense, if we have all the things mentioned above but do not have Christ, we have nothing of any lasting value. If we have Him, though we are poor in every other way, we can say with joy and gratitude that we are rich. 

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understaning keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Romans 13:10

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“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

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The first major storm of the hurricane season recently came on shore near New Orleans. Unwelcome flood waters drove many from their homes. News reporters stood in the withering downpours, like battlefield journalists, giving blow by blow descriptions of the storm and its’ progress. They brought us live pictures of driving rain, devastaing winds and the valiant efforts of people as they struggled to stand against  the onslaught.

We are also in another storm of sorts. It is has far more power than many hurricanes, inflicts untold amounts of damage and roars through the world virtually unchecked. That storm is the willfulness and assertion of the unrestrained self.

This is no more apparent than in contemporary efforts to redefine marriage to include same sex unions. Advocates of this particular expression of willfulness are storming across the landscape, putting the culture on the defensive. Like all storms, the effects of this movement are not to build up but to destroy. The millions of selves that are wittingly or unwittingly engaged in this effort are well on their way. And this is but one issue among many.

Self-indulgence and unfettered self-expression have become politically correct, even ‘chic’. But this storm of self-expression is wreaking havoc on our society. Hedonism is no joke.

Christian people are called to stand against the maelstrom of human willfulness. And this begins with the self.  At times, this requires from me a return to the diminutive, to repentance. It may also require me to support  the application of human law in defense of society and its’ interests.

At all times the Christian is called to stand against the chaotic forces within life with the law of love. This is the God-given place of tranquility within the eye of the storm. This law is always defining for us and seeks to do no harm to the self or the neighbor. As St. Paul has reminded us,

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

 

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ephesians 10:9

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“I am the gate; if anyone enters by me he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

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Ancient sheep pens had only one gate. Sheep entered or left the pen by that gate or not at all. At night, when the sheep were gathered within the enclosure, the shepherd actually slept in the opening. He was there to keep the sheep from wandering off and to protect them from predators.

The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians gives us some perspective on the one Gate who is Christ, the Word of God. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:4-5)

The image of Jesus Christ as the Gate, the place of access, is focused, narrow and exclusive. It is meant to be. For it is only in the Word and promise of God by which the Holy Spirit unites us with the One Lord, into the One Faith, through the One Baptism. God in His gracious love not only tells us in His Word about what he has done for our salvation, but in the One Baptism He places the seal of promise upon our heads. In baptism God, the Gate, opens the way, becomes the Way. In the One baptism God says, ‘Everything my Son has done is for you, not just for the world in general.’ In the One Baptism God makes the promise specific to you.

There is nothing flattering about Christ referring to us as sheep. It is an image of a creature who becomes easily lost, is vulnerable to predators and cannot look out for its’ own welfare. But because we are blessed to have a Good Shepherd, One who loves us and and has given His life for us, we may enter the dicey business of living with confidence and assurance.

He who has called you by name in your baptism and watches your going out and your coming in has opened your future. You can trust Him.  For even this day He is leading you into the safety, abundance and freedom of His kingdom.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew 6

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“Our Father…”

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Just looking at outward behavior (allowing for those who perhaps offer up a silent prayer of gratitude) it would appear that there are lots of critters nosing up to the troughs at those high-class barnyards we call restaurants, mindful of little else beside their appetites.

When my kids were small I used to say them, “Only the animals don’t pray before they eat.”  This was not meant to reflect badly on pigs or chickens. They follow unerring instincts and appetites. When pigs scramble for the slop you will hear no grunts of gratitude. No higher dimension of life is required of them. The same cannot be said for you or me. We give ourselves away at the table when the gifts there are not recognized as such and the Giver is not acknowledged.

Even a cursory reading of the gospels reveals that our Lord Jesus Christ lived in an attitude of prayer. He prayed habitually, regularly seeking out times and places to talk with the Father. Prayer was, and is, a dimension of what it means to be truly human. In this respect prayer is not something we do as simply an aid to faith nor is it an exercise in manipulating God in our direction. Prayer is a symptom of a living relationship. We pray because we are aware that we are being heard.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray (and it is instructive that they had to be taught) He taught them to address God as Father. It is not how we pray that is significant but to whom we pray. When we call God “Our father…” we dare to trust Him as provider, defender, One with whom we walk hand in hand, life in life. 

So, the next time you are at the feed trough, before you and your appetite dive in, remember, prayer is something you do because you are somebody – you are the child of a loving Father “from whom all blessings flow.”

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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