Having said that I would write on justice during Lent this year, I find that I have not addressed at all what I thought I would. The Scriptural texts that I have used seem strange even to me. And today I use another odd one. Romans 12:9-21 is really about how we treat one another, how our relationships should be transformed when we become Christian. For example, love one another, serve the Lord by serving others, be joyful, be hospitable to guests. These may be common ways of acting for anyone.
But then Paul goes on to speak of how we should relate to our "enemies." I suspect most of us relate to our enemies by avoiding them. But that is not what Paul anticipates. He says we should bless them, live happily with them, celebrate with them, don't hold a grudge, don't think we are better than they. "Beloved, don't be obsessed with taking revenge, but leave that to God's righteous justice. . . . 'If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch! Win him over with kindness. For your surprising generosity will awaken his conscience, and God will reward you with favor.' Never let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good." (TPT)
It's a tall order. And as in another Scripture where it is asked, "Who is my neighbor?", I am tempted to ask, "Who is my enemy?" In America today it seems as though we have classified entire groups of people as our enemy: immigrants, the poor, the rich, those who wear a mask or those who don't, Republican or Democrat, White, Black or Brown, followers of QAnon. Take your pick. There are plenty of enemies to go around.
Buy him lunch, be kind, generous, defeat evil with good. We might even add listening during lunch.
#justice #peace #Lent #prayerandfasting #generosity
"What is justice?" may seem like a simple question. But what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear it? Some think of punishment: who deserves it, how should it be meted out, where should it be administered, how long should it last. Others think of the lack of justice: disproportionate rates of poverty, higher rates of arrest among minorities, the work load of public defenders with too little time to concentrate on the abundance of clients, implicit bias and racism, who is offered a plea deal, the role of rehabilitation and keeping people out of prison to start with.
Both kinds of justice aim for transforming the world. But one would lessen the need for the other.
#justice #fastingandprayer #prayer #Lent #punishment #reform
Captain America, Steve Rogers, in the movie The First Avenger, is a skinny, asthmatic guy who wants to fight the Nazis. Finally he is accepted into a special unit where he is the least of the raw recruits and he is ridiculed and bullied from the officers on down. One day in the training yard the CO tosses a (supposedly) live grenade into their midst. Everyone runs for cover except Steve. He runs toward the grenade and throws himself on it. He is willing to die for those who fought, bullied and shamed him. Not what anyone expected.
Upon reflection, it struck me as the Christ-like thing to do. As the Scriptures tell us, Jesus died for us even though we did not deserve it and still don't deserve it. In fact, we can never deserve it. God does not mete out to us the punishment we deserve for our sins, but the mercy of his Son's death for us. He gives us mercy in place of justice. Not what anyone expected.
We are challenged by Jesus and Captain America to apply mercy rather than justice. Are we up to the challenge?
#Mercy #Justice #Romans5 #CaptainAmerica #SteveRogers #Prayer #Unexpected
God is not unfair, unjust, or evil. I would call that damning Him with faint praise, but it is what is said in Hebrews 6:10. The context though is that God will remember our good works even though he chooses not to remember our sins which we have repented. What a deal that is.
The author continues on, noting the group's support of others and #encourages them not to lose their enthusiasm (Heb 6:11-12). Great words of advice for these days of pandemic, deprivation and unrest.
#justice #prayer #Lent #enthusiasm #Hebrews
"God seems to reveal Himself to man as rapidly as man . . . is prepared to receive the revelation". So says John G Lake in his reflection on Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Although Lake was speaking of God's revelation of himself to mankind over the centuries, perhaps we should ask ourselves, "How ready am I to receive further revelation of God?"
Sometimes we get stuck in the "same old, same old". We can ask God to show us where we are stuck and how we can get "unstuck". Now is the time; today is the day.
#JohnGLake #Lent #Prayer #Baptism #Baptism in the Holy Spirit
There has been much discussion through the years about Paul's "thorn in the flesh" mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Personally, I've decided that the problem was Jews following him around (see Acts 25:24), harassing him, making charges against him, and demanding his death much as Paul did to others before he became a follower of Jesus. What great irony that provides.
Paul describes the thorn as "an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated" over the revelations he had from God. Obviously then, the thorn in the flesh is not from God. Paul admits that he asked God three times to remove it. But God assured him that he was strong enough to handle it. So Paul accepts it and goes on to say, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints . . . ." We can imagine how Paul might respond, in weakness, to insults and persecutions, even heckling, while he is trying to preach. The types of things being said about him are listed by Paul in Acts 25: 7-8, when Paul is defending himself before Festus in Caesarea. "On Paul's arrival in court the Jews from Jerusalem gathered around, hurling many serious accusations which they couldn't prove. Paul denied the charges: 'I am not guilty,' he said. 'I have not opposed Jewish laws or desecrated the Temple or rebelled against the Roman government.'" These are three serious charges. And it is the harassment, heckling, false accusations and being followed from town-to-town that I think comprise Paul's thorn in the flesh.
For Reflection: It may be that we find people hindering us in our work or our ministry. We may have one or more people whom we consider to be our thorn in the flesh. If so, have we asked God to remove them, as Paul did? If not, this may be the next option. But if we have done so, and God has not seen fit to remove them, have we found God's grace to be sufficient?
Let us pray. God, my Father, I thank you whether you remove my thorn in the flesh or not. I know that in all cases your grace is sufficient. Like Paul, I work toward being content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints when they come about through preaching the Good News.
Moses lived an unusual life. Before he knew anything of what was happening to him, his mother made a life-altering decision for him by placing him in a basket and putting it in the water where Pharaoh's daughter might see it. The Princess could easily have agreed with her father's decree and had baby Moses killed. But she didn't. Later, when she took him to the palace to be raised in the royal household, Pharaoh could have had him killed. But he didn't.
So many unlikely events came together in Mose's life to make him the man he became. Raised as Egyptian royalty, he became a murderer, a shepherd, a messenger, deliverer and leader. To the Egyptians he was a Hebrew, to the Hebrews he was Egyptian. A man without a country, he was a foreigner to all. In fact, he named his first child "foreigner".
Having fled Egypt for the desert, he learned to be a Hebrew shepherd in Midian under the guidance of his father-in-law Jethro, a priest. He would have stayed there with his family and his flocks, but God had other plans. God had plans to use his royal Egyptian education, his Hebrew slave roots, the passion of the murderer and the compassion of the shepherd. God used all of Moses's life experiences to make him into the leader that he was. Not your typical career path. (For more details, read Exodus 2-3.)
For Reflection: What experiences in my life have particularly made me into the person I am? Where do I see God's hand in my life?
Let us pray. Father, I hadn't thought about the varied experiences of my life being put at your service. I thought they were just odd things that happened to me, some good, some bad, some I liked, some I regretted. However, I offer them to you now, as I offer myself to you, to use them as you will, and to help me become the very best that I can be in serving you.
Often I have heard preaching on the story of the woman at the well (John 4:4-42) which portrays the woman as basically a “bad” person. A lot of assumptions are made in order to reach this assessment of her, and I’d like to propose some different assumptions.
The woman, unfortunately we don’t know her name, comes to draw water at noon time. According to the practices of women of the day, this was not normal. Ordinarily women would draw water in the morning. All the women would be there about the same time before the heat of the day would set in, and we can imagine a bit of a confab, catching up with each other on what’s been happening in their lives.
One theory about why this woman draws water at noon is that she is not welcome there at the same time as the other women (based on the fact, we learn later, that she has had five husbands and is now with a man who is not her husband). There are other possibilities though. Perhaps she was attending a sick person that morning and had to wait until one of the other women relieved her before she could go to the well. Perhaps she herself was not feeling well. Or, perhaps, she was late because she had a divine appointment to meet her Savior that day.
While she visits with Jesus (alone!) he witnesses to her and then asks her to get her husband and bring him back. Here is where we find out, from Jesus, that she has had 5 husbands and the man she is currently with is not her husband. Is she a “bad” woman or a “fallen” woman because she has had 5 husbands? Not necessarily. Possibly one or two of those husbands died and the others divorced her. Even if all five of them divorced her, we don’t know why. But we do know that five men thought enough of her to marry her. There could be any number of reasons for a husband to put her aside, and one possibility is that she was infertile, something for which she would not be at fault.
What we can say definitely is that she has known love, rejection and loss. So Jesus is once again ministering to someone who is hurting, and he has thoughtfully chosen to do this while his disciples were away and he could speak with her privately.
Even though Jesus has told her everything she has ever done (v. 29), presumably both the good and the bad in her life, she doesn’t feel chastised or denigrated. Instead she is energized. So when the disciples return, the woman leaves her water jar to go back to town. That’s one excited woman who abandons her water jar at the well. She goes in to the village like a town crier and the people listen to her; then they follow her out to hear Jesus. If she were a disreputable woman, the people probably would not have listened to her or followed her out to hear Jesus.
Again, I don’t believe this woman was an outcast or a “bad” person who drew water at noon because she was not welcome by the other women. I believe she was a hurting woman who had a divine appointment with Jesus, a man who proved to her that he was at least a prophet and possibly the Messiah. Yes, she is with a man now who is not her husband, but we don't know the circumstances that led to that decision.
In the closing of the story, we learn that many Samaritans of that town believed because of the woman’s testimony; and many more believed because of Jesus’ own words.
So, this woman, a Samaritan, not a Jew, married 5 times, hurt and rejected, became an evangelist to her town even before the disciples were able to recognize that Samaritans deserved to be evangelized. Jesus often chose the most unlikely people. What a divine appointment they had that day.
For Reflection: Have I judged someone whose story I really don't know? Have I failed to recognize people who are hurting?
Let us pray. Jesus, give me eyes to see people the way you see them. Give me patience to listen to their stories. Help me to recognize who they can be, not just who they have been. I need to remember that all are called to your kingdom.
Many people come to Washington, DC, every four years for the inauguration of the President. They don't attend the concert. They don't have tickets to the swearing in. They don't line the parade route. When asked, they are not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat. They are pro-Jesus and they are here to pray. Some come before the election and are back again before the inauguration. Others just come once. They may be here a few days or a week.
You may find them walking around the White House, the Capitol, or the Supreme Court buildings, heads bowed, arms raised. These people don't make the news. What they do is not exciting or glamorous. Instead they are often cold and wet, even bedraggled.
Paul spoke of this very type of prayer in his exhortation to Timothy (! Timothy 2:1-4). We should note that we are to pray for our leaders. We are not to pray against them nor at them. Our prayers should not be a veiled message of what we think they should do. We are to pray "intercessions and thanksgivings" for them. Why? So that we "may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity", and because God wants "everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Whether we are called to pray in DC or to pray from where we are, let us remember to pray for our leaders, for their salvation and for them to know the truth. Let us do so with thanksgiving no matter how we voted.
For Reflection: If our new year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside, perhaps a good resolution would be to pray for one member of government each day.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I thank you for all of our elected leaders at the federal, state and local level. If they don't know you, I ask that you send someone to tell them about you and to introduce them to the good news of salvation. I thank you for their hard work, their giving of themselves, their time, their lives. Grant them wisdom to govern as you yourself would. Help them to enact just laws and to keep our land at peace.
I also thank you, Jesus, for those who have been upholding our government in prayer for many years. Give them the strength and determination to continue.
Katrina, 9/11, the Challenger explosion, Kennedy's death. These are some events in recent US history by which people in the States date things. Every generation, every country has their own seminal event. No doubt for Cubans now an important date will be "the year Castro died." For refugees, it's "before we left our home."
Isaiah was using such a reference when he said, "In the year that King Uzziah died." Everyone to whom he was speaking knew when that was. It was a precise date, not once upon a time. And it told the people that it was a period of transition. One king had died; another ascended to the throne. Change was in the wind.
In the States we find ourselves in this same position as we approach a new year and the inauguration of a new President. It is the "last year of Obama"; "the first year of Trump." As important as the President of the U.S. is in world affairs, as Christians we do not place our faith in him. He is not worthy of our faith; only God is. Presidents can be used by God, nevertheless we don't put our trust in them. We put our trust in God. And though we hope that each President will do a better job than the last, our hope is not in them. Our hope is in God alone. He alone is our Savior. He alone is worthy of our faith, our trust, our hope.
Let us pray. Father, you alone are worthy. You alone deserve our faith, our hope, our trust. Jesus, you are our Savior, you are our King.
We ask you again, over and over, to bless our country, to give wisdom to our leaders, to lead us in ways of righteousness.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.