Our Old Testament lectionary passage for this week comes from 2 Samuel chapter 1. It deals with the death of Saul and Jonathan. It is an account of grief. It is a story of one’s love for one’s enemies and the grief of losing one’s closest and dearest friends.
It is not easy to love one’s enemies. It is hard enough to forgive someone who has hurt you but to actually love an enemy moves us into the deep waters of God’s grace. To be able to truly love one’s enemies is evidence of the strength of the Holy Spirit indwelling us.
In the lectionary passage, David expresses true grief and sorrow at the death of Saul. Saul had tried to kill David. Saul made David a fugitive and brought suffering into David’s life. In spite of this, David still honored Saul. David cared about Saul. David shows why he is called a man after God’s own heart.
This coming Sunday is Communion Sunday. In communion we remember our Lord and how he died for us. He died for us willingly out of love while we were still enemies of God. Perhaps, in our remembering, we will be moved to be more like the Lord who loved us and seek to be one who can let God help us love our enemies.
The phone rang and I rushed to answer. I looked at the caller ID. It listed the name of a member who had worked on the parsonage, but whom I had not yet gotten to visit with since my arrival. I happily answered.
“I am so glad you called,” I said. “I have been hoping to talk to you.”
The conversation continued for a few minutes and then I thank the individual for the work he had done on the floors. However, the person I was talking with had not worked on the floors. It was someone else entirely. I was very embarrassed. Fortunately, the individual who called is very easy going and forgiving. Still, a lesson learned. Don’t make assumptions about who it is you are talking with.
The same is true in our spiritual lives.
I attended a meeting today of pastors. Three amazing things took place at this meeting.
1) There were 18 in attendance. Some of them had driven for more than an hour to get there just for the privilege of being able to meet together.
2) Not one single individual was there for the purpose of engaging in denominational politics. Not one person patted me on the back. This was so refreshing.
3) The waiter (yes the waiter) thanked the group for the encouragement we had given to him! I have never experience this before.
It was so good to gather with other ministers and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit! This kind of encounter I hope is habit forming!
The OT lectionary text for this Sunday is from Samuel 17. It is the account of David and Goliath. This an OT story often covered in a child’s years of Sunday School. It is a story of courage. It is a story faith. It is also a story of immaturity and the providence of God in spite of human actions.
The problem of dealing with a text like this is that it is so familiar and has such an ingrained history of common interpretation that people can believe it has no real application for their lives today. Yes, a preacher can use analogy and allegory but again, with such a familiar story, it is easy for listeners to quickly file what is being said into the “been there heard that before” mental file.
The passage is a gateway passage. In its complexity we might find not only God interacting with his people, but Satan working as well. There is a seeming righteousness in this story that in fact may have brought much heartache and grief to the hero. If this is the case, this passage is a warning and an assurance that has a direct application in our lives today. This is especially true in a secular election year when many will use try and use God and His Word for their own ends.
More to come in days ahead.
I had forgotten how physically demanding and exhausting a move can be. Add to that exhaustion the mental strain of everything that needs to be: remembered, filed, paid, purchased, organized and accomplished.It is easy to start having a pity party. Throw in a crisis and some emotional blows and you can really feel you are in the pits.
But then, I opened up a box which contained a crown of thorns like the one which was placed on my Lord’s head and suddenly I do not feel I have any real reason to complain. God never said this life would be easy. In fact, the Scripture makes it quite clear that life will bring challenge after challenge. We have the choice of letting this overcome us or letting God take us through it. I am seeking with all my heart the latter.
My pet dog was severely injured on this move. I do not know if he will survive. He has been a wonderful friend to me. His pain hurts me deeply. I find myself praying for him often. I am also praying that the Lord will lead a buyer to purchase our house. I am praying for my wife to get a teaching position. I am asking a lot of my Lord. At times I feel like I am asking too much (not that the Lord could not provide, but a feeling of my being selfish).
I also give thanks. I am thankful for my new place of service. I am thankful for my new support structure. I am thankful for all God has done for me. I feel these prayers are drawing me closer and are giving me renewed perspective on the purpose the Lord has for us in this life. I am so grateful.
God never said it would easy. He did say He would be with us, even to the end of the age.
When God confirmed a new direction in my life, I immediately set out a plan on how the transition would take place. I planned to accomplish certain things by a certain date. I made check list, put reminders on a calendar, and also had contingency plans in case there were unforeseen problems. There are always unforeseen problems.
Needless to say, my flawless plan did not materialize as I intended. I did not accomplish all the things I planned to accomplish. I did not meet all my deadlines and discovered that the things I could easily do years ago are a lot harder to do now. Even my “contingency plans” proved that Murphy’s Law could care less how well you have planned.
However, as hard as these last few days have been there has been a brightness, a confirmation, that makes the pain and problems pale in comparison. This brightness is the support, affirmation, and genuine expectation of our arrival I have received from the family of faith I now have the privilege to serve. Whereas the problems of the preparation for the journey have been humbling, the expression of love, offers of help, and support already provided by God’s people have been even more humbling (in a very positive way).
Thank you Lord. Help me with my fears, my fatigue, and please smile and bless the good people who you have already used to bless me.
I feel a bit guilty. I wonder how many trees gave their lives so that I might have enough boxes to move. Many of the boxes are boxes we salvaged (and yes there are a lot of wine boxes and no I did not buy or consume the contents). I have moved so many boxes that my arms want to stay in a robot-like position.
And then there the books that have filled many of the boxes. I love my books. My books are my friends until I have to move them and then they become the enemy! However, as soon as they are back on the shelves we will be a contented community again.
As I was packing my office I came across pictures, notes, and gifts that I had been given by members over the years. These pieces of the past invoked memories of blessings and the joy of serving God. I can hardly wait to begin building new memories and relationships which God will bring our way as we are allowed to serve the new community of faith I have been blessed with.
It is so much easier to unpack than to pack!
Today in our worship the focus was on the truth of the Trinity. This doctrinal foundation is more than just a theological teaching. It is a revealing reality that is a mystery. It is mystery which offers the opportunity to live in accord with reality. It is a call to faith. Faith is a call to trust. Trust leads us to deeper love for God.
The OT passage for today is Isaiah 6:1-8. This passage reminds us of the holiness of our God. It is this understanding of holiness, of perfection, that consumer Christian culture tends to downplay. It does not market well. Holiness calls us to responsibility. Responsibility interferes with convenience. However, responsibility is reality, convenience is often merely a passing pause in the situation of life. It is a big mistake to make this our goal.
The doctrine of the Trinity reminds us that God was perfect before we came along. God was not lonely. We exist because of a plan founded in love that is still beyond our ability to comprehend. Still, some day will will and those who take this teaching seriously will be so glad they did.