Stop being
bland.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

We all face the challenge of blandness. We get bored, complacent, and just don’t have the energy we used to. It certainly isn’t an age thing, for it happens no matter our age.

It happens in our relationship with God. A friend once told me that he gave up going to church because he’d heard it all before. There was no new sermon, was no new inspiration, the same platitudes got trotted out season after season, year after year.

We crave stimulation and newness for very healthy reasons. If we do not receive proper stimulation, boredom creeps in. When boredom is left unchecked, disgust forms and leads us into cynicism, anger, and distrust. Unchecked boredom is a red flag. This red flag can result in two outcomes.

The red flag can cause us to go off the rails; lead us to reinventing God. Boredom becomes license to add to and change God’s teaching, or to turn God from what He is into a false image created to satisfy and justify our sinful desires. This is damaging Christianity.

On the other hand, we can use this red flag as God intended. It should drive us to dig deeper, to invent anew, and to be creative. Digging deeper, creativity, and newness are hallmarks of healthy Christianity.

If we are feeling bored with the Jesus we think we know, we need to dig deeper. Read and study more – find that aspect in His eternal and infinite perfection that we haven’t plumbed yet. Learn and enter contemplative prayer. We could spend an entire lifetime and still not grasp everything in just one aspect of God’s life. We won’t get bored doing this.

If we are getting bland in our practice of Christianity, let us resolve to add something new to the life of the Church. A new ministry? An added form of prayer? Lead a bible study in our homes or at work. Gather a focused prayer circle to pray for those who have struggles in our parish family. Make it fun, interesting, and new. In the process, we share our faith with new people and expand our family.

Let us get creative. Let us work together to do exactly what God commanded through Isaiah: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Because then our light shall break forth like the dawn, and any wound shall quickly be healed.

When we end blandness, when we make a new and creative difference, the glory of the Lord dwells with us and our light shines.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Christians, in attempting to understand the tremendous nature of God, Who sent and sacrificed Himself out of love for us, adopted the Greek word agape to describe God’s love for us and how our love is to be. Agape is love that is universal, unconditional and extraordinary. Agape its stronger than circumstances… We are invited to accept God’s real love and to let it envelop us. Accepting His love we are overcome by its unconditional nature. We move from saying, ‘How can He love me.’ to swimming in the sea of His tremendous love, letting it draw us in, allowing it to refresh and renew us and finally allowing it to become agape love in action in our lives.

Join us as we move from the season of Christmas into the Pre-Lenten season. Check out all the great events we have planned for the month ahead, find some beautiful prayers, reflect on the true meaning of stewardship, and so much more.

You may view and download a copy of our February 2017 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?Matthew 16:26

Pray the week: Lord, eliminate my self-reliance. Grant that I may place my complete trust in You.

Starting and ending
with Jesus.

Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.

Imagine a world in which some criminal, a reactionary and revolutionary becomes everyone’s hope. Imagine a world in which being foolish, weak, lowly and despised is more powerful than power.

Paul was telling the people of Corinth to be focused on Someone and something the world saw as completely absurd. A criminal in the world’s eyes was crucified and had become the center of their faith. Jesus – Who the Jews saw as a stumbling block and Who the Gentiles saw as foolish – was their means of salvation. In fact, Jesus specifically called them, chose them – the lowly of the world – into the fullness of salvation and victory. Can we be foolish enough to get there?

Around 300 a philosopher explained that Christian “simplicity” attracted people. It is a fact of human history that power and strength and its benefits are limited to a few. The power of the strong and their cruelties make us question whether their way is our goal and hope or is it a corruption of what life was designed to be.

Jesus’ life calls us to question what is important. It helps us to realize that we, the foolish, weak, lowly and despised, are chosen and worthy of God. Jesus’ life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension calls us to realize that all He said and did was meant to raise up our everlasting status and to make us His coheirs – that’s real power.

Like us, the Corinthians probably doubted. Worldly power and status is powerfully attractive. Yet there they were, none of them powerful or aristocratic. Paul reminds them that the real victory in not being “all that.”

God’s way is to choose those of apparently little account to show the apparently important that they are wrong, to “shame” them. It is a paradox with a beautiful outcome. Instead of choosing learned, perfect, and proud figures to bring about the greatest good; God chooses the small, imperfect and weak. It that, God works the most beautiful of miracles. He does away with boasting so that His faithful might place their boast and receive their power from Him alone.

God asks that we grasp the real power that comes from boasting in Him. We are to rejoice in our simplicity and rely completely on the One who gives us real power. Seeing Him as our beginning and ending leads us into becoming His blessed, His coheirs, the receivers of His real power.

This week’s memory verse: And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6

Pray the week: Lord, bring me to completion in You.

Love to
completion.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Mr Jinks is an orange tuxedo cat. Mr. Jinks was always outfoxed by Pixie and Dixie, the mice. Mr. Jinks trademark line was, “I hates those meeces to pieces!”

Reading today’s Epistle, we could easily imagine all sorts of Christians saying the same thing about other Christians. “I hate those _________ to pieces!” What we fail to recognize is that saying things like that ends up as I want Jesus in pieces.

We have a centuries long legacy of that which Paul warned against, people choosing Church leaders over the Lord. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Paul words show a hint of weariness and frustration. The Church, just a few decades old, was descending into factionalism. Yet Paul’s love and devotion to this quarrelsome community would not let him stand by. He understood that the sinful side of human nature eventually reveals itself. The brokenness of our human condition causes all manner of brokenness in the flock.

Church leaders can behave unethically and inappropriately. Parishioners can turn into a pack of church-going coyotes attacking the weak and vulnerable in their midst. Pastors burn out and leave ministry. Parish Committee members become disillusioned by the dark underbelly of the church world or by grabs for power and control. Children of church workers see this and decide that organized religion is hypocritical and vile. We’ve all seen the fallout from trying to follow the call of Christ in a wounded and difficult world.

“Follow me,” Jesus says to the fisherman by the Sea, “and I will make you fish for people.” Those fishermen knew that fishing is dangerous business and hard work. Did they think fishing for people would be any less? And yet they immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus.

We have been called to follow and disciple for Jesus. He believes each of us is worthy. We all have our story of how Jesus called us into discipleship. Whatever expression our call takes it is not going to be an easy journey but will be one of great reward. Yes, we are called. We are called into discipleship that does not hate or divide into pieces. We are called to make the Holy Name of Jesus known; to magnify Him above all else. We are called to live in real agreement with all who proclaim Jesus – loving all in Jesus to completeness.

This week’s memory verse: His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ — Matthew 25:11

Pray the week: Lord, help me to recognize You daily and to be Your face and hands as I work to build Your kingdom.

Look!
Jesus!

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

I saw a cute little poster. Kermit the Frog is drinking tea and reflecting: ‘You slow down when you see the police but you don’t stop sinning even though God is watching.’ It makes me think of exactly how scared I was as a kid when I heard that God saw and knew everything.

Of course, now I know better. Certainly, God is all knowing, He sees everything – but He sees us through a kind of rose colored glasses – He sees us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus who gave Himself for us. If I have placed my faith in Him, all my sins have been washed away and I need no longer fear. As the hymn proclaims: ‘Grace, my fears relieved. The hour I first believed.’

The one error we fall into as people freed by grace is to maintain a two-plane view of our relationship with God. He is ‘up there.’ We are ‘down here.’ We do stuff here; He watches from there.

Having a two-plane view of our relationship with God sets Him apart from us. As Kermit surmises in the poster, we see the police and slow down. We fail to see God’s near presence in our lives, our workplaces, and our community because we do not believe He is with us, near us.

The changes we are called to make begin with our breaking down separateness from God.

Indeed, Jesus came into the world to demonstrate God’s desire to be with us. He did not leave us alone and apart, but sent His Holy Spirit to live with us, advise us, and to fill our lives with grace as we encounter Him in sacrament and community. We are called to break free of our two-plane view and live closely with God – as St. John tells us, walking with Him ‘in the Spirit and in truth.

The next step moves us from concept and thought. We must decide how we will see God – Is He apart or near? This is where the rubber-hits-the-road. If God is on another plane and apart from us, we may choose to live just as we live, disconnected from Him, not seeing Him. But if He is with us, part of every aspect of our lives, not just watching, but involved here and now, then we must take John the Baptist’s observation seriously. John pointed to Jesus saying ‘Behold!’

If we believe that He is with us, we are called to point to Him just as John did. We are called to bring clarity where there is doubt and to make Him completely real – on the same plane – as those we encounter. That happens when people recognize Jesus in their midst when they recognize His very real presence. That happens when they see the face of Jesus in our faces and feel His touch in our work – when the light goes on and they say, ‘Look! Jesus!’

Hurry
up.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste

Reflecting on this team of shepherds we see some amazing things happening.

For the shepherds, their meeting an angel and seeing the whole heavenly host would be amazing enough. Hearing that the Messiah had been born – for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah – represents a promise that had become a dream that for them had now been fulfilled. Amazing to have one’s dreams fulfilled in an instant.

We have several choices when we encounter something amazing. We might stand there with our mouth open. We might jump for joy. We might, after the initial shock, begin to question whether it was real. Would we leave everything, would we abandon our entire life, for that amazing thing?

Throughout faith history we encounter amazing things happening. An elderly barren couple becomes the progenitors of God’s chose people. The people of Israel, enslaved, are freed. Judges are chosen to lead the people against enemies that vastly outnumber them. A youngest son, a shepherd, is anointed king.

In Jesus’ coming those amazing things are magnified. The deaf will hear. The poor will have the good news preached to them. The dead will be raised.

On this Solemnity of the Humble Shepherds the amazing teaches us an important lesson.

Among the amazing things that happened that morning was the fact that the shepherds left their herds. They abandoned their herds, their means of livelihood and hurried toward Bethlehem “to see this thing that has happened, which the Lord made known to them.”

This is the same thing that was to happen thirty years later along the shores of lake of Gennes’aret. Men would leave their livelihood; abandon their families and boats to follow Jesus.

Let us reflect on our faith journey, that moment we finally recognized the power of accepting Jesus and placing our faith in Him. In that the amazing became real for us.

Following Christ goes far beyond just believing certain things about God. It is more than intellectual endeavor. It comes down to our willingness to be part of the amazing and to do the amazing because our lives have been changed by God’s agenda for us.

By God’s grace, the shepherds left their flocks; the apostles dropped their nets. What are we to do? Our call is to hurry up in leaving the old self behind and join with Jesus in living amazing grace filled lives.