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Saturday, October 11

Today’s Readings: Psalm 52; Numbers 10:29-36; Luke 23:13-25; Ephesians 3:7-13; Psalm 43

Today marks the 20th anniversary of National Coming Out Day (NCOD). NCOD was created by Dr. Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary in 1988 to provide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender people (and their allies) the opportunity to come out and share the fullness of themselves with those around them – thereby raising people’s awareness of LGBT people in their lives and moving us closer toward a just and more inclusive world. The timing of NCOD coincides beautifully with today’s reading from Ephesians. For in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote: “When we trust in [Christ], we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!” (Ephesians 3:12-13 from The Message). Each Coming Out Day, I realize that it’s not just members of the LGBT people who need to heed Paul’s advice to be “bold to go wherever we need to go”. There are lots of other people who feel as if they too need to hide a piece of themselves in order to be acceptable to others: people who have lived/who are living in abusive relationships, people living with physical or mental illnesses, people living in poverty, people struggling with addictions… sadly, the list of those who have been shamed or silenced could go on and on. Maybe there’s an element of your life that you have felt compelled to keep hidden– not knowing how that element would be received. On this National Coming Out Day, I would encourage you to think about finding someone you trust and sharing that piece of yourself. If you don't feel safe enough to share that piece of yourself with another, then stand in front of a mirror - look into it - and "come out" to yourself. In taking that “bold” step, you wouldn't just be making a bold statement about yourself. You'd be making a bold statement about God. You will be saying God’s love and embrace is deeper than any bias or prejudice that might be perpetrated by those who profess to follow God. Til next time…

Friday, October 10

Today’s Readings: Psalm 57; Numbers 9:15-23; Luke 23:1-12; Ephesians 3:1-6; Psalm 73

There are literally hundreds of amazing quotes that came from either the mouth or the pen of Martin Luther King Jr. Many folks would have a hard time choosing which of those quotes is their favorite. For me, it’s an easy choice. I love the quote that reads: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I was reminded of that quote as I read today’s lesson from the Gospel of Luke. In that passage, we hear the story of Jesus’ appearance before Pontius Pilate. What fascinates me about the story is that there are multiple instances when Pontius Pilate could have summoned the courage and had Jesus released from captivity; and yet each time Pilate had a chance to do the right thing, he chose not to. In the end, Pilate chose to entirely remove himself from the situation by passing the responsibility on to Herod. In other words, Pilate chose to remain silent. As a result of this, Pilate has gone down in the annals of Christian history as a weak person who helped contribute (albeit passively) to Jesus’ ultimate demise. While it would be easy to single Pilate out and rain down our judgment on him, it seems to me that do so would be hypocritical since each of us often finds ourselves in places where we could do the right thing and yet opt not to as well. Maybe we’re standing at the water cooler and hear a co-worker tell a racist/sexist/homophobic joke. And how do we react? We say nothing and hope that someone else will stand up and do the right thing. Or perhaps we are at the grocery market and see an adult act abusively toward a child. And what do we do? Nothing – other than hope someone else will take care of the matter for us. On so many occasions, we are placed in opportunities when we – like Pilate - have an opportunity to do the right thing. On so many occasions we do what Pilate did and look for our own version of Herod to take care of things for us. In other words, we remain silent. Let us take a moment today and ask God for the strength and courage to find our voice so that we might overcome our tendency to remain silent. Til next time…

Thursday, October 9

Today’s Readings: Psalm 62; Numbers 6:22-27; Luke 22:54-71; Ephesians 2:11-23; Psalm 4

When it comes to the way human beings treat their leaders, I’d have to say we are a pretty fickle bunch. We spend lots of time putting our leaders on pedestals – only to tire of them when they get up there. Once they're firmly established, we then start pulling them down from the very same pedestals we put them on. We don’t just do that with our modern leaders – we do it with folks in the Bible as well. It’s particularly easy to do with someone like Peter. We can look at his life and find many, many things to praise ranging from Peter’s willingness to walk away from friends and family at the drop of a hat when Jesus’ first called him to be a disciple to Peter’s willingness to take a risk and step out of the boat and onto the stormy waters when Jesus reached out to him. Those are pieces that make Peter seem well-suited for the praise that often gets showered upon him. But those experiences are only a part of Peter’s story. Another part of Peter’s story includes his denials of Jesus as told in today’s Gospel reading. It can be difficult for some to reconcile those two aspects of Peter. We wonder to ourselves, “Is Peter a saint or a sinner?” The answer is that Peter is both. Buried in that answer about Peter is an important point for all of us to remember. God reaches out and calls us right where we are. God calls the pieces of us that are saint as well as those pieces of us that are sinner. The even better news, however, is that while God calls us right where we are (foibles and all); God’s transformative love doesn’t leave us there. God’s grace helps grow and nurture those seeds of the saint within us until they reach amazing new places. That explains how the same Peter who acted so cowardly in his denials of knowing Jesus was later able to give his life for his faith. Today, let us give thanks for two things: (1) a God who is gracious enough to reach out and embrace us exactly as we are – warts and all; and (2) a God whose love is so powerful that it takes us to places we would never dream. Til next time…

Wednesday, October 8

Today’s Readings: Psalm 130; Numbers 3:1-13; Luke 22:39-53; Ephesians 2:1-10; Psalm 7

Articulating an understanding of the word “humility” is a huge challenge since most of the ways a person could define it would still end up sounding as if you are tooting your own horn., for instance, defines humility as having a “modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.” The definition still makes it sound as if humility is a virtue that reflects well on the individual. I don’t think that’s what humility is about at all. Today’s words from Ephesians play more into my understanding of what humility is really about. Ephesians 2:8 says, “Saving is all [God’s] idea, and all [God’s] work. All we do is trust [God] enough to let [God] do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role” (The Message). The way I see it, humility has little if anything to do with having “a modest opinion” of oneself. Instead, humility is about giving credit where credit is due. So where do you believe credit is due in your life? Do you believe that you’ve pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and therefore deserve the lion’s share of credit for your life; or do you believe that all you have is “God’s gift from start to finish”? Where you place that credit will go a long way in determining just how humble you are – regardless of how you might define humility. Til next time…

Tuesday, October 7

Today’s Readings: Psalm 70; Leviticus 26:27-42; Luke 22:31-38; Ephesians 1:16-23; Psalm 60

There are lots of words or phrases that are used to describe the times in which we live. One of those phrases is “post-Christian”. Let me tell you my understanding of what the phrase means. From the time of Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century on, the Christian movement has enjoyed a degree of power and privilege; this has been particularly true in Western cultures. While there was some degree of ebb and flow to this, for the most part this was true. Over the last Century, however, that power and privilege has decreased dramatically. The implications of this decline? Christianity went from being front and center in people’s lives to being on the periphery. As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, I actually think it was a good thing that Christianity lost its institutional power because I think that institutional power caused the movement to stray away from Jesus’ values in desperate attempts to maintain its societal status. I think the shift of peoples’ faith from the center of their lives to the periphery is a tragedy, however, at the personal level. Today’s reading from Ephesians addresses this very issue and makes a powerful challenge for each of us when it comes to the location of our faith. The passage reads: “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church” (Ephesians 1:22 from The Message). My question for you to consider today is this: where would you locate your faith in terms of your life? Is it at the center of your life, or does it lie along the periphery? Til next time…

Monday, October 6

Today’s Readings: Psalm 67; Leviticus 26:1-20; Luke 22:14-30; Ephesians 1:11-15; Psalm 141

I have many passions in life. One of those passions involves issues of leadership. I’m interested in the topic because it presents a fascinating glimpse into the minds and values of people. Over the past 7 or 8 years, I’ve noticed a profound shift in the way people are thinking about what leadership means at the most basic levels. People use to expect leaders to be the ones to give them answers; now, people are more comfortable with leaders being the ones to ask the tough questions. I noticed that people use to expect leaders to do all of the work for them; now, people are looking for leaders who will inspire them to do the work for themselves. I could go on and on detailing other shifts in the understanding of leadership, but those first two changes I listed should give you a feel for what I mean. Given my interest in leadership, you might wonder what source I turn to for guidance on the topic. “Does he consult the New York Times’ list of best-sellers? Does he regularly peruse the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble or Borders? What listservs does he subscribe to on line?” While I do those things on some occasions, I have to confess that one of my favorite sources to consult regarding issues of leadership is the Bible - for in the Bible, you get amazing models of what a true leader should look like (and some cases what a leader SHOULDN’T look like as well). In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives us a couple invaluable insights into how a true leader operates. The passage, for instance, tells us that a good leader doesn’t surround him/herself only so-called yes-people; a good leader (that would be Jesus) should be so comfortable in his/her call that he/she can surround him/herself even with those who might ultimately betray him (that would be Judas). Second, the passage gives us an important principle of good leadership: a good leader couldn’t care less about titles (“let the leader act the part of the servant” – Luke 22:26 from The Message). And third, leadership isn’t about having others tend to your needs; leadership is about tending to the needs of others (“I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves” – Luke 22:28 from The Message). One of my fundamental beliefs is that each and every one of us has an area in our life where we are a leader. It may be at home; it may be at the office; or it may be in a special interest or community group. My question for you to consider today is this: what kind of leader are you? Are you a heavy handy, autocratic leader who demands you get your own way; or are you the type of leader who embodies the wisdom and values of Jesus? Til next time…

Sunday, October 5

Today’s Readings: Psalm 19; Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Matthew 21:33-46; Philippians 3:4b-14

Today marks the 72nd observance of World Communion Sunday (although it was originally called World-wide Communion Sunday when it first began in what we know today as the Presbyterian Church USA in 1936). The purpose of the event as described on the National Council of Churches USA website is to “celebrate our oneness in Christ, the Prince of Peace, in the midst of the world we are called to serve”. What I’ve noticed is a particular bias in the way we observe the event. Most of us focus solely on the first half of the description – the “celebrate our ones in Christ” piece – that puts the emphasis on humanity. What we often leave out is the second half of the description – the part that locates our celebration “in the midst of the world we are called to serve”. The second half of the statement of purpose can be interpreted to speak more to the ecological aspect of our faith. I was thinking of this particularly in light of today’s Psalm that begins with words that point us powerfully in this direction: “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening” (Psalm 19:1-2 from The Message). The psalmist’s words got me to wondering about two things. First, what do the wonders and beauties of our natural world teach you about God? Second, how can you incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into your daily routine so they aren’t simply acts of self-preservation or self-interest but rather are passionate expressions of your spiritual beliefs? Til next time…