Episode 48 | The Inn: The Religious

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-pupgc-a13c5f

In this episode, which is part 2 of a 5 part series entitled, “The Inn”, Rev. Todd discusses how “being religious” does not necessarily equate with being faithful.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

God’s People, part 138: Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.”  (Luke 2:4-5 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JosephFatherofJesusPart 138: Joseph. One of my favorite Christmas films, a must watch annually on Christmas Eve, is The Nativity Story. Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary and Oscar Isaac as Joseph, the story chronicle Mary’s betrothal (aka engagement) to Joseph, her becoming pregnant through the Holy Spirit, Joseph’s initial reaction and final acceptance of her. It follows them as they make the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and concludes with what everyone is there to watch: the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

This is my favorite portrayal of the Nativity because the actors really pull off their roles convincingly. The vulnerability that both of the actors bring out of their characters helps the audience to connect with them on a most personal level. This is especially true for Joseph. Oscar Isaac takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride as he falls in love with Mary, is broken by her seeming betrayal when she comes home pregnant, to accepting her story as truth, to supportive husband caring for Mary on the journey to Bethlehem (even to the point of short changing himself.”

Of course, Joseph was a flawed individual, just as we all are. It would be easy for us see the final result of Jospeh, rendering him to a two-dimensional character. It would be easy for us rush to the Joseph who was by Mary’s side in the manger. Yet, the reality is that Joseph almost broke off his engagement to Mary because he could not believe that she had conceived of a child through the Holy Spirit.

Honestly, which one of us would actually believe that if someone came to us and said that they got pregnant by God without having sex with anyone. Most of us would have a hard time believing that. So, we cannot judge Joseph for his disbelief; however, he did struggle to believe Mary.

That left him with two options, to keep Mary as his wife and take her shame upon himself. If he stayed with Mary, people would think the two were sexually active, which would put both of them in a bad light socially speaking. The other option would be to break off the engagement and distance himself from Mary. That would keep the shame from falling on him; however, it would put Mary in a dangerous situation. If that became public she could have been stoned to death for adultery. This was serious business.

Scripture tells us that Joseph was a just (aka righteous) man and did not wish to disgrace her publicly. So he was going to quietly break the engagement off. How he would have pulled that off without others knowing, only one can guess; however, he came very close to ending the relationship with Mary for fear that her “shame” would fall upon him and his “good name”. In other words, he was putting his own “name” and reputation in society before the woman, the human being, he was engaged to.

It took an angel in a dream to tell Joseph that he need not fear taking Mary as his wife, for all that Mary had told him was true. Thankfully, Joseph listened to the voice in that dream. The question for us is this, how do we let fear take control of our lives? Do we allow fear to dictate our actions and do we allow fear to make our decisions for us? The challenge for us is to listen to God’s voice over the many voices of fear. Let us seek God’s voice out in all things and allow God, not fear, guide us in our lives and in our decisions.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from allowing fear to take control. I put my trust in you. Guide me in your love. Amen.

God’s People, part 137: Mary

Read Luke 1:26-56

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said…Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them.”  (Mark 3:21, 31 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

the_nativity_story_15Part 137: Mary.

Áve María, grátia pléna, Dóminus técum. Benedícta tū in muliéribus, et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus. Sáncta María, Máter Déi, óra pro nóbis peccatóribus, nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.

You may be scratching your head and saying, “Well, that’s Greek to me.” Actually, it’s not Greek, but it is LATIN. It is the traditional Ave Maria prayer that has been set to some of the most beautiful music. My favorite rendition is Gounod’s setting of the prayer to his own arrangement of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846.

The prayer reads in English as follows. “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. It is a prayer to the Jesus Mother Mary, who is seen by Roman Catholics as set apart from other women because she is the Mother of God Incarnate. Some protestants like to state that this is idolatry; however, it really is NOT idolatry but rather an expression of reverence to Mary who did, Biblically speaking, who was set apart and chosen by God to bear God’s incarnation into the world. As a Protestant, I do not believe praying to Mary herself is necessary, or even effectual, but I do understand what is at the heart of it even if I believe it to be unnecessary and misguided.

The issue I have with this prayer, and our general image of Mary, is that it paints her as someone who is too holy to be human. We imagine her as a reverent, quiet, compassionate, loving woman. We think of her as having a halo over her head and as having guided Jesus from childhood to adulthood and preparing him for his ministry.

Roman Catholics, in fact, have the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, in which lies the belief that God removed Mary’s sin at the moment she was born. In other words, she was born untainted by sin due to God’s divine will. This doctrine officially came about under Pius IX during the 12th century in order to explain how Jesus was born without sin. If his mother was without sin due to divine intervention, then that makes the explanation easy.

Sadly, it also takes away the divine mystery of the Incarnation. What’s more, the Gospels do not all agree on how much on board Mary was with Jesus or his ministry. The power of the song, “Mary, did you Know?” (one of my all-time favorites), lies in the Biblical possibility that Mary did NOT know. For instance, while in Luke Mary clearly knew what was going on, in Matthew it is less clear how much she knew. In Mark, she seems to not only be ignorant to Jesus’ teachings and methodology, but to also be disapproving of him doing ministry in the first place. Don’t know what I am talking about, read the today’s suggested Scripture.

The challenge for us is to recognize that each of us is human. We must not put anyone on a pedestal as if they are holier than the rest. Whether it be Mary, the apostles, our pastors/priests, etc., each human being is just that: a human being prone to wander and sin. The only one who was and is sinless is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Let us put our trust in Jesus and show the kind of humble faith that Christ is calling for.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” – Jesus Christ in John 14:1.

PRAYER
Lord, I place my trust in you. Have mercy on me when I don’t and guide me toward trusting you again. Amen.

Episode 47 | The Inn: No Room

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-yvyge-a0acb7

In this episode, which is part 1 of a 5 part series entitled, “The Inn”, Rev. Todd discusses the original innkeepers who closed their doors to the Holy Family and the ways in which we might be doing the same.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

 
 

God’s People, part 136: Theophilus

Read Luke 1:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach”  Acts 1:1 (NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, from left: George Carlin, Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, 1989, © OriPart 136: Theophilus. “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught”  (Luke 1:1-4 NLT).

These are the opening four verses of the Gospel According to Saint Luke. In Luke’s Gospel, he is clearly writing to someone named Theophilus an account of Jesus’ life, teachings, betrayal, torture, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. In fact, Luke is not just writing the Gospel to Theophilus, he also wrote the Acts of the Apostles to him as well. Actually, the Gospel of Luke and Acts were two back-to-back volumes, that got split up by the Gospel of John when the Biblical canon was put together.

Scholars are not entirely sure who this Theophilus actually was. Some believe that it may be a person whose name was Theophilus. The name Theophilus (Θεόφιλος, pronounced Theh-of’-il-os), literally means lover or friend of God. In more plain words, it means one who loves or is a friend of God’s. While it would be hard to imagine Theophilus’ Gentile birth-name was Theophilus, many early Christian converts changed their names as they were reborn into a new life in Christ (e.g. Saul became Paul, Simon became Peter, Levi became Matthew, etc.).

Still, it is quite possible, maybe even likely, that Theophilus was not the name of a person at all. It could be that Theophilus was a code word for a wealthy, prominent patron of Luke’s who did not want to be outwardly named and risk persecution. It is also possible that Theophilus wasn’t a single person, but perhaps a codeword for a group of people (e.g. Luke writing to a church and calling them, collectively, Theophilus).

Whatever the actual answer may be to that question, I believe that Luke was not intending his Gospel letter to go to merely one person; rather, he wanted it shared with the entire Christian community in the region he sent it. Therefore, one can accurately say that whatever Christian heard Luke’s Gospel read was Theophilus.

To carry that one step forward, anyone in any part of the world at any time who hears or reads Luke’s Gospel is potentially Theophilus. Why potentially you might ask? Simple. Because the name means friend of God and not all people who read the Gospel are “friends of God”. Everyone, on the other hand, has the potential to be friends of God and, certainly, all who are receptive to the Gospel message ARE friends of God.

The challenge for you today is this: are YOU Theophilus? Are you a friend of God’s? Are you receptive to the Gospel message? Or are you not? If you are receptive to the Gospel message, then you are Theophilus. This does not hinge on how perfectly we live out the Gospel, it hinges on our hearts and on our willingness to change direction when we fall out of line with the Gospel. It is my prayer that you are, indeed, most excellent Theophilus. It is also my prayer that you share this message with others who can also receive the Gospel and become friends of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”  – Jesus Christ (John 15:15 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, friendship with you is my heart’s deepest desire. Draw me close to you and never let me go. Amen.

God’s People, part 135: You

Read James 1:22-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.”  (John 17:20 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MirrorBiblePart 135: You. Yes you, the one who is reading this devotion. When one thinks of the Gospels most people do not think of themselves as one of the main characters. One thinks of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the disciples/apostles, Herod, and the Romans. Heck, one even thinks of the devil and his demons; however, most people do not think of themselves.

I believe that this fact points to a major reason there is such a disconnect between most people and the Gospel message when/if they read the Bible. The Bible, Old and New Testament alike, is being read as a bedtime story filled with two-dimensional characters who bear little to know resemblance to us. At best, the Bible may be read as a work of history, something to look back upon and imagine what it must have been like to be there. Still, we read the Bible as if there is a distance between us and the characters within.

The truth is, however, that there is less of a distance between us and the books of the Bible than we think. It is true that the authors lived in a different time period than us as well as in a different culture and different part of the world. It is also true that the authors wrote with their own contexts and audiences in mind. With that said, the authors also wrote with YOU in mind. The New Testament authors, especially, wrote to all who would be reading them. Thus, YOU are very much a character in the New Testament.

YOU are the one who needs to hear and learn of the Good News about Jesus Christ. YOU are also the one who is being called to follow Jesus and become a disciple. YOU are the one the author intended to teach what the Rabbi/Teacher taught and YOU are the one to whom the author witnessed about Christ’s miracles.

The reader should not, nay, MUST NOT distance him or herself from the Bible. We are the people the authors are writing to. Mark starts off his Gospel cluing YOU in that he is writing about the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. In the very first sentence, YOU are given a clue that the people in the accounts did not have. Then Mark lays before you the accounts of Jesus, not just to tell a neat and fanciful tale, but so that YOU might believe and become a disciple yourself.

The same is true for the other Gospels. Luke has something else going on as well, but we’ll touch upon that next time. Suffice it to say, the Gospel writers, Paul, the other letter writers, and the writer of Revelation all write for YOU, so that you might come to know the truth about Jesus Christ, become a disciple and carry on sharing the Good News with others.

The challenge for us is to read the Bible, especially the New Testament, from a fresh perspective. We need to learn to read it without reading our own contexts into it (because it was not written in our context); conversely, we need to learn to read it as if it were speaking directly to us and as if we were among the characters within it. The truth is WE ARE among the characters in this narrative. What’s more, every time we share the Gospel with others and bring them into a direct relationship with the risen Lord, they too become a character in this ongoing unfolding of God’s redemptive, salvific work in the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.” – Martin Luther

PRAYER
Lord, illumine me through the Bible and allow me to see that it was not just written about others, or merely for others, but that it was also written for me. Amen.

Episode 46 | Fake News

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-5k83b-9feae9

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses how important it is not to get caught up in the “fake news” of salvation that this world offers.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

 
 

A LOOK BACK: The Categorical Imperative

Well, it is Thanksgiving Week and I am busy preparing for an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service and lots of time with family over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Thus, I have selected two devotions from the past. Both are as relevant now as they were when I initially wrote them. I pray they speak to you and challenge you to grow in your faithfulness. Click here for today’s devotion. HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

A LOOK BACK: Ixnay the Cliché

Well, it is Thanksgiving Week and I am busy preparing for an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service and lots of time with family over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Thus, I have selected two devotions from the past. Both are as relevant now as they were when I initially wrote them. I pray they speak to you and challenge you to grow in your faithfulness. Click here for today’s devotion. HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

Episode 45 | Special Episode: Happy Thanksgiving

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-89ae3-9f52d4

In this special holiday episode, Rev. Todd reflects on how one can truly experience a Happy Thanksgiving.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

A biweekly devotional