Tag Archives: Christianity

The Categorical Imperative

Read Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 23; Matthew 25:31-46

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NRSV)

In the church and in the corporate world, the word “stewardship” often floats around congregations in the form of campaigns to raise “funds” for the mission and ministries of the church. As such, many people hear the word “stewardship” as just a church-speak for, “cough up some dough for us.” This particular perception has risen up as a result of the way stewardship has been discussed and handled in the church and corporate settings.

Yet, the word steward is used in other ways that point to the fact that, deep down, we know stewardship to be more than just monetary support. Back in the day, flight attendants were known as Stewards and/or Stewardesses. The steward, in the airline industry, is the person who cares for the needs of the customers boarded on the plane. They fetch pillows, bring food and drink, listen to and address issues specific travelers may be having, and they instruct people of safety procedures in case of an emergency. What’s more, in the event of an emergency, the steward risks their own safety in order to save lives and get people off of the plane (if it has been grounded). The role of a steward is the same on trains and ships as well.

There are other examples of stewardship as well. Rather, than belabor the reader with a million examples of stewardship, it is more important to point to the definition of what a steward is, in order to better grasp the concept of stewardship. A steward is a person how cares for the needs of other people, organizations, events, and/or places. Thus, stewardship is the ethos that embodies the responsibility of caring for those needs, which absolutely includes the management and planning of resources. With that said, let us not simply limit resources to money. Google defines a resource as, “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.”

In other words, stewardship is the embodiment of managing and planning resources, whether those resources are monetary, material, human, natural, or any other resource. Being a good steward is about managing those resources well; however, this sounds more corporate and less spiritually worded. In terms of being Christian and living out our Christian faith, being a good steward means taking good care of all that God has given us and making proper use of the resources God has given us. If we don’t share our resources with others, we are not being good stewards, and the same is true if we neglect, abuse, misuse, or mismanage the resources shared with us.

Thus, to be a good steward, spiritually speaking, we must recognize that ALL THINGS are FROM GOD. Our money, our natural resources, our real estate and property, our congregation members (in the case of churches), our staff members (in the case of corporations and/or organizations), and all other resources are from God. If we do not recognize the divine value within each of the non-living resources, and the divine presence and/or image in all living resources (especially in humans), then we are not embodying the ethos of good Stewardship. We cannot abuse/neglect the environment, be misers, and/or see our congregation members, our staff, our friends and family as expendable means to an end, and still call ourselves good stewards, let alone stewards in any sense of the word.

This latter part is often overlooked in stewardship talks and campaigns and, yet, is the most important part of stewardship. PEOPLE MATTER and are to be valued. LIVING BEINGS are ends unto themselves and never should be seen as a means to an end (to summarize Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative). So, today I challenge you to start evaluating your stewardship and start working toward being the best stewards you can be. That is what it means to be disciples of Christ, that is what it takes to truly follow Christ and uphold Christian values. STEWARDSHIP IS VITAL. Be good stewards and work to user in God’s Kingdom on Earth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant
PRAYER
Lord, forgive me for when I’ve used people as a means to an end. Help me to treat people as divine persons and not tools. Amen.

I WILL BE

Read 2 Samuel 7:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
God said to Moses, “I [WILL BE] WHO I [WILL BE].” (Exodus 3:14)

foZt7gKLimited. If there is one word I can come up with when thinking about human beings, it is “limited.” We are limited in our perceptions, limited in our abilities, limited in our vision, and limited in just about every other aspect of our being. This is not a negative judgment, but rather an observation. In our minds, we love to imagine ourselves as being limitless. We watch TV shows and movies about superheroes who seem to be unlimited in their abilities, heroes who can literally fly to the moon and back in a single bound.

Yet, our reality is far different from the ideal we hold in our heads. The truth is that, as much as we would love to not have limits or bounds, we are totally limited. We are limited in our physical abilities, our psychological abilities, and we are limited emotionally as well. While all of this seems pretty pessimistic, and I am sure you are wondering what kind of point I could possibly be leading up to in this dour opening to a reflection, the truth is that this is not pessimistic. In fact, it is neither pessimistic or optimistic; rather, this is realistic.

What’s more, not only are we naturally limited in our capabilities but we limit ourselves in ways we should not be limited. While this is the case in a wide range of things, and across a wide range of people, I want to focus on Christians. While we are called to be a people of faith, we limit ourselves by our fear. We allow our fears to take over in our lives and we make them our lord rather than following our true Lord and Savior. We limit our understanding and conception of God as well. We build up church institutions, create polity to govern and control them, raise up church buildings, and fill those buildings with people. Over time, the people get so caught up in the institution, the polity, the buildings and their own little cloistered community that they end up limiting God to their own time, place and context.

In other words, they try and box God in. That’s not to say that God is actually boxed in or that God is actually limited; rather, it is people’s perceptions of God that are limited. This is nothing new, David wanted to box God in when he wanted to build God a house. God’s response to David was this: “Do I need you to build me a house? Am I not the God who created the world and all that is in it? Am I not the God who wandered with my people through the wilderness without any temple or house to live in? Do I really need a home? No, David! You will not build me a house.”

God WILL NOT be boxed in. Up on Sinai, when Moses asked who he should tell had sent him to free the Hebrews, God responded by saying “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them that I AM has sent you to them.” That phrase, “I AM WHO I AM”, can in Hebrew also be translated as “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” God’s message to Moses, and to us as well, is that GOD IS. That God is with us, that God is always present with us. I AM WHO I AM. On top of that God is also reminding us, perhaps even warning us, I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.

We cannot box God in. We cannot contain God and we can not have control over who God is or how God will manifest in the lives of others. Are you boxing God in? If so, in what ways? I challenge you to ask yourself those questions. Wrestle with them, for God wants you to trade in your perceptions for the reality and the universality of God’s presence and God’s love. GOD WILL NOT BE BOXED IN. The only house God wants to reside in is our hearts. I pray that, if you haven’t already, you open your hearts to the GOD. I pray that you are filled with the great I AM WHO I AM and that you are opened to the limitless possibilities of a God who WILL BE WHO GOD WILL BE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Boxes are square or rectangular, have a beginning, an end, and are not infinite or eternal. God is not a box; rather, God is a circle of which has no beginning, no end and is both infinite and eternal.

PRAYER
Lord, help me not to limit who you are in my life or in my world. You are the great I AM, as well as the great I WILL BE. Amen.

I AM

Read Exodus 3:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58 CEB)

i-amOne of the most powerful stories in all of the Bible, for me, is the story of Moses and the burning bush. While the concept of a bush that is on fire but not consumed is pretty cool in and of itself, but that miracle is not what draws me to the story. It is also pretty awesome that a voice is coming from this burning bush, but that is not what draws me in. I mean sure, that would be pretty powerful to witness, at least in the moment. It might even be powerful and remain cool the next couple of days; however, overtime it would end up getting stored on the back shelves of cool things in my mind, right along with sightings of ghosts, my first kiss, and other such things.

As we know, Moses was tending sheep at the base of Mount Horeb (aka Mount Sinai) when he looked up on the mountain and saw an odd flickering light. It looked to him like a fire and, like most people would, Moses went up on the mountain to check it out. Upon reaching the flickering light, he noticed that it was a bush that was totally caught up in flames, but wasn’t actually burning. In fact, it is kind of ironic that this bush became known as the “burning bush” because it wasn’t burning at all. Naturally, and probably cautiously, Moses began to step closer and closer to the bush. As he approached it, a voice cried out from the flames, “Moses, remove your sandals for you are standing on holy ground.” Now, I don’t know about you, but if I heard that I would have thrown myself off the mountain in fear. Moses was far braver than I and he did as the voice instructed him.

To make a long story short, and so as to not completely repeat the story you already just read in your Bible or e-Bible, Moses ended up having a complete conversation with this disembodied voice emanating from the not-so-burning bush. This voice told Moses that he was the voice of God and that it wanted Moses to carry out a very important task: to go back to Egypt and meet with Pharoah, telling him to let God’s people go. Moses tried to turn down God’s call, but to no avail. Finally, after Moses realized that God had convinced him to go, he asked, “Who should I tell my people sent me when they ask?” God’s answer is what, for me makes this one of the most powerful stories. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM sent you.”

Now, on the one hand, that must have thrown Moses for a loop. How could Moses even consider that an acceptable answer? Would people really get what he meant when he said “I AM” has sent me to you, let alone believe him? Yet, Moses carries that message to the Hebrew slaves, “I AM” has sent me to you. What is powerful about that is that it fundamentally shows us who our GOD is. Our God is our I AM. God is always with us, present with us in all of our struggles and trials. Our God is always with us, celebrating with us in our joys and triumphs. Our God is the great I AM. There could never be any greater hope than the hope of God’s presence with us.

From this account of God’s eternal presence comes a powerful message for us. If our God is the great I AM, and if we are the children of God, then it follows that WE ARE. Each and every one of us ARE. We have been created to celebrate the I AM within us. We have been created to live and to live abundantly. We have been created to BE, and celebrate our BEING. Do you do this? Do you celebrate who you are? Do you celebrate the divine I AM that resides in you? Do you see yourself as a child of the great I AM? Today’s challenge, and really everyday’s challenge, is this: look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes. Stare deeply, get lost in the iris sea and peer into your soul. When the moment feels right, I want you to say the following words out loud to yourself: “I AM.” Seriously, look yourself in the mirror, get to know yourself and tell yourself, “I AM.” Then, go out into your day, everyday, and see the divine I AM in others. In that I AM will set you and others free.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically – I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.” – Stevie Wonder

PRAYER
Lord, I am because YOU ARE. Thank you for making me who I am and help me to fully realize who I am. Amen.

The Gospel Truth

Read Luke 20:9-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.’” (Matthew Luke 20:9-19 CEB)

copy-of-jesus-faceIf I were to walk into any given church, or up to any random person, and ask them what the heart of the Gospel message is, I would more than like receive something like the following: “The Gospel message is that God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because Jesus was perfect and without sin, he became the spotless lamb led to the slaughter in order that he may die the death we deserve in order that those who believe in him might be atoned to God and saved.” This is the, in essence, the modern, popular Christian understanding of the heart of the Christian Gospel. Jesus came to die so that we might live.

Yet,  when you read the Gospels themselves, we find that Jesus dying as a sacrifice for our sins is just a part of the Gospel story. It is not the whole of it. Yes, Jesus’ death and resurrection are vitally important to Christian theology, Christology, and the Gospel message; however, only so when it is told in the context of the other components that we find in the Gospel. When those components are missing, what we end up is with a skewed, inaccurate portrait of the purpose of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as a skewed and inaccurate portrait of God’s purpose for sending Jesus, the Christ.

While it is certainly true that Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought about salvific and transformative atonement from our sins, to only tell that part of the story does an injustice to the life and the teachings of the Christ. In fact, it not only does a disservice, but it completely ignores Jesus’ life and teachings altogether, as if they are simply secondary and/or non-important. Yet, was Jesus’ life and teachings trivial? Was his life and teachings secondary, just a necessary back-story to his ultimate death and resurrection? If that is the case, if Jesus’ teachings are trivial and secondary to the work of salvation in the world, then why go down the route of teaching and preaching at all. The Gospel writers could have simply just had Jesus proclaim that his the messiah and the son of God, have people reject that, have him crucified, died, buried, resurrected and be done with it.

But that is not what the Gospel writers did. Rather, they included the whole of Jesus’ life and they dedicated most of their time on Jesus’ teachings. For them, the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings were both as integral to God’s salvation plan as his death and resurrection were. Jesus came, not to die, but to bring TRUE LIFE into the world. To show them what God means by LOVING GOD and NEIGHBOR. Jesus came to set the example and to personally deliver the beginnings of God’s reign in the world. But, like Jesus’ own parable of the wicked tenants suggests, some of those in the world to whom the father sent the son (e.g. the Romans, the politicians, some of the religious leaders, etc.), rejected his identity, as well as his authority, and tried to eliminate him.

That plot, though, ultimately failed; rather, what happened was that God made the greatest good EVER come out of both the life and the death of Jesus. Instead of remaining dead, Jesus resurrected and now sits in power and authority in a complete union with God. Those who believe in him have found the power of redemption, as well as the transformative presence of the Holy Spirit and the perfecting grace of God in their lives. They are not saved, but are transformed and are living out their FAITH in real and tangible ways.

The challenge for us is this, don’t be misled by a lopsided and misguided Gospel. Jesus wasn’t born merely to die. What kind of God would scheme up that kind of plan? Rather, Jesus was born so the he might LIVE in the world and that through him we might attain TRUE LIFE. Even in the face of evil, and even when finding himself in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus perservered and triumphed over death because in him was a presence greater than death…the very presence of GOD. Through our belief in Christ, through our following his example as detailed in the Gospel, and through his death and resurrection, we have found REDEMPTION and have been placed on the narrow path that leads to life. Let’s start walking it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We cannot have the fruits of the gospel without its roots.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

PRAYER
Lord, I open my heart to the truth of your Gospel. Perfect me in it and set me a part a witness to its power. Amen.

Cubic Zirconia

Read Matthew 15:44

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.” (Matthew 13:45, NLT)

cz2webWhat do you value? What is it that you place all of your stock in? What is it that you would spare no expense for? What is your gleaming treasure? In today’s suggested reading, Jesus tells of a man who stumbles upon treasure hidden in a field that is so precious to him that he then sells everything he has in order to purchase that field and, by extension, purchase that treasure.

Now for those of us who really hear that parable and really give it some thought, we are left there stunned. I mean, why would someone stumble upon treasure hidden in a field and sell everything they own just to purchase the field with the treasure they stumbled on and could have had for nothing. That just doesn’t make any sense, does it? That seems like the most ridiculous and unlikely scenario ever told, does it not? Come on Jesus, surely you can do better than that?

Yet, the power in the parable is not in its plausibility but in its implausibility, for it is in the extreme and implausible actions of this seemingly lunatic man that we find the truthful point that Jesus is making. Sure, the man could have just taken the treasure and kept it for himself; however, that action would have been cheap and worthless and it would have rendered the treasure as such; rather, by selling everything and purchasing the land, and the treasure by necessity, makes that treasure the most valuable thing the man possesses, for he now owns nothing but the small plot of land and that treasure. The things we value the most will consume our very lives, and our actions will follow suit. Nothing else will stand a chance in competing for our devotion.

So, let me ask the question again. What do you value? The treasure above represents the Kingdom of God. Do you value the Kingdom of God…do you really, really value it? Do you value what God values? Do you value love, compassion, presence, respect, hospitality, service, sacrifice, grace, faith, faithfulness, justice, mercy, and social/economic/ecological/spiritual responsibility? Do you value the dignity and the divine spark within the all people you know and deal with. Do you treat everyone with equal respect and honor? Are you real in your values? Are your values real in you?

Plenty of people list their values and claim to live by them; however, values are not cheap like talk can be. The very word value denotes something of worth or cost, something to be treasured and sought after. When we claim to hold values that we don’t follow we show that those values are not real to us, we show that we are really seeking after Cubic Zirconia as opposed to the diamond in the rough. When we use values as a mask to hide the truth of who we are and/or the things we do, we are showing ourselves to be disingenuous and fake. We may fool some with that kind of an act, we may even fool ourselves, but we will never, ever fool God. God knows our hearts.

The Kingdom of Heaven is something of profound worth, something worth selling our very selves to purchase and to possess. The truth is that we can never, ever possess it; rather, it possesses us. Though we seek the Kingdom of Heaven, we discover that it searches us out. Though we may be Cubic Zirconia on the outside, God sees in us the diamond in the rough and chisels away the shells that surround us to reveal the inner gem. And once God does that we are transformed into a people who live by the very values that have claimed and shaped us. We become transformed to the point that the very values of the Kingdom of God become our own identity. We not only believe in them, we live by them. Not because we feel obligated, or because we’re putting up some sort of manufactured front, but because it’s who we are.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.” – Socrates

PRAYER
Lord, help me to not only proclaim my values, but to actually live into the values I proclaim. Amen.

Closet Cleaning

Read Daniel 2:20-23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 CEB)

191-skeleton-in-the-closetThis past August, I went to the theater to see the film entitled, “The Gift.” It was a psychological thriller written and directed by Joel Edgerton who had played Rameses, the Pharaoh who opposed Moses in last year’s Biblical Epic, “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” The film is centered on a young married couple who recently moved from Chicago to California while recovering from a recent miscarriage. The husband had grown up there and the couple decided to move back there after losing the baby. While shopping for furniture for their new house, the husband (played by Jason Bateman) bumps into someone he knew back in high school named Gordon Mosely, who went by the nickname Gordo. The meeting was, of course, awkward to say the least and when it was time for the young couple to leave, you could see the relief on the husband’s face.

The story doesn’t end there. Gordo is a pretty resourceful guy and ends up showing up on their door step with a house-warming gift. They eat dinner with him and when he leaves the husband starts questioning his wife about the oddness of Gordo’s sudden appearance in their lives. Gordo continues to have interactions with the husband, and the wife, and starts to weird the couple out. It is at this point the husband starts to feel threatened by Gordo, and confronts him directly in order to send a clear message that he wants him out of their lives. Without giving anything else away, it is obvious the story doesn’t end there and that Gordo isn’t done harassing this young couple. But what becomes clear, is that as weird and offsetting as Gordo is, we begin to see that the husband has a good many skeletons in his closet and, should they be revealed, they could not only threaten him personally, but also the very fabric of his marital relationship.

If that teaser doesn’t get you to want to see the film, nothing will. As I was watching it I found myself being judgmental of the characters. Each of them had skeletons in their closet, things that they had hidden and buried for years. How could they do that? How could they possibly think that they would get away with trying to hide those things? It was in the moment of such judgment passing that I realized the hypocrisy in my own line of questioning. After all, which one of us doesn’t have skeletons in our closet? Which one of us doesn’t have dark aspects to our thoughts, our personalities and even, sometimes, our deeds? Each of us have thought or done something we are not proud of and each of us have buried those things and tried to move on from them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to move on from previous sins; however, when we do it in a way that is dishonest, when we do it in away that allows us to not come to terms with and repent for what we’ve done, then those sins become skeletons. While the closet door is closed, those skeletons hang silently on their noose-like hangers and we forget they’re there. We may even deceive ourselves into thinking they were never there to begin with, that we hadn’t sinned at all; however, when someone or something opens those doors, those skeletons bare themselves and clink together like wooden reeds in the wind.

Today’s challenge is two-fold. First, don’t judge others for the skeletons that are in their closets. For you know it is true that you have skeletons of your own that could just as easily be exposed and judged. Second, deal with your own skeletons. Acknowledge the sins and/or mistakes of your past and be repentant of them. I don’t mean that you have to shout them out to the world but, where reconciliation with others is needed, work hard to reconcile with them. If you work hard to clear out the skeletons in your own closet, and we all know there is a lifetime full, then you won’t have time to notice the skeletons in another’s closet. Even if you do, you won’t judge because you know you’ve been there; rather, you will reach out in love and offer them a helping hand in their closet cleaning.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.” – St. Jerome
PRAYER
Lord, help to acknowledge the skeletons in my closet so that I may truly move forward from them in grace. Amen.

The Search for the Holy Grail

Read 1 Corinthian 11:17-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26 CEB)

The HolyGrailI just recently watched the film, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” This has always been my favorite of the four films because it deals with Indiana Jones’ quest to find the Holy Grail. While I am sure most of you know what the Holy Grail is, for those of you who don’t the Holy Grail is the cup of which Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles drank from during the Last Supper. Indiana’s father (played by Sean Connery) had been searching for the Grail his whole life, but when he gets close to finding it he disappears. Indiana then picks up where is father left off in order to not only find the Grail but to also find his father.

Before embarking on the quest, Indy turns to his friend, Marcus Brody, and asks him if he thinks there is actually any truth to the legend of the Holy Grail. Marcus responded, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” This statement hit me in a way it never really did before. I think as a younger person, I never fully understood the profound implication of that statement; yet, as a grown adult and a trained theologian, the proclamation is actually a revelation of the nature of who we are in Christ Jesus. This is not just some Hollywood-contrived revelation, but is a revelation we find throughout the Bible.

When we think of the Holy Grail, we think of the Last Supper, we think of the Knights of the Round Table, we think of Indiana Jones, we think of Monty Python, and some may even think of Dan Brown’s controversial work of fiction, “The Da Vinci Code.” Almost always, the Holy Grail is thought of as an object, as the cup that held the wine (aka blood) of Jesus Christ. In the case of the Indiana Jones film, the cup itself was holy and had magical powers of healing and rejuvenation as a result of Christ using it it in such a holy moment in history. In books like the Da Vinci Code, the Holy Grail is a woman (going back to Mary Magdalene) who carried on the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Again, like the cup, the woman is merely important because she’s bearing the bloodline of Jesus.

What I noticed was that, when thinking of the Holy Grail, we tend to lose the bigger picture for the smaller details. We lose the significance of the Holy Grail when we cheapen it to being a “cup” or a “womb” or anything else. Marcus Brody points us to a deep truth when he says, “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” Indeed. Jesus didn’t hold The Last Supper in order to turn a cup into an idol. Also, to get caught up in the “married Jesus” debate is to completely miss the entire point of Jesus ministry and the Last Supper.

In the act of “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood”, the disciples are taking Jesus into themselves and making him a part of their own identity. In other words they, in that sacred moment and from that time forward, become the Holy Grail…bearing the grace and the love of Jesus to all the world. Just as Jesus was the Son of God, we who believe in Christ and partake in Holy Communion as a public profession of our faith, take on the identity of sons and daughters of God. I am sure some of my Protestant brothers and sisters might be questioning if I am taking Communion a little too literally. While I am not, I would say that to question that is to miss the truth of the above.

Whether we believe in Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, or we believe that the Sacrament of Holy Communion is a symbol of God’s grace and forgiveness for us, the fact remains that Holy Communion is a reminder that we are called to be the Holy Grails of Christ. We are called to be the vessels that bear Christ’s love in the world. We are called to be Sacramental and to be transformational. We are called to be agents of Christ’s grace and witnesses to the presence of God. Remember this the next time you partake in communion and be transformed.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “The search for the Holy Grail is the search for the divine in all of us.” – Marcus Brody in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.

PRAYER Lord, I am your vessel fill me with your grace so that I may bear witness to your grace in the lives of others. Amen.