Bread – Banners

April 10, 2017


Psalm 60

You [God] have set up a banner for those who fear You, that they may flee to it from the bow.”  Selah  Ps. 60:4

As I think about action pictures I have seen about wars a long time ago, what you always see are the standards of the fighting units carried high, so that the troops can rally around them.

This is the image created in my mind by this Psalm.  In the midst of turmoil, in the midst of day to day life, when we lift our eyes up we see the “banner” which God has “set up” for us to see and for us to flee to in the evil day.

For many Christians, that banner is the cross of Christ.

That cross was indeed set up by God so that it can be seen by those who fear God, who stand in awe of Him, but who are compelled by the Holy Spirit to follow it, to gather around it, to march behind it, to bow before it, and to offer thanksgiving for it.

And yet, like all banners, it is symbolic for the person or authority behind it.  The banner in the Psalm is set up by God but it is not God.   The cross is set up by God but it is not Christ.   We may flee to the banner because when we see it it, we know God is there, but at the same time we know that the banner is not God.

When we are in trouble, it is our nature to look around for a banner we can rally around.  But we often do not see one.  Why is that?

Maybe it is because God is raising up a banner, but the banner is not over there, it is here.  Maybe the banner is us.

How would we act if we knew that people flocked to us because we stood for God in the evil day?  Are we ready to let God set us up as a banner for those who fear Him?

Where are the banners for people to flock around?  The better question is, where are we?

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Testimony

January 16, 2017


Psalm 48

As we have heard, so have we seen...”  Ps. 48:8

Psalm 48 is generally about Jerusalem as representative of God Himself.  In the middle of it is this phrase, “As we have heard, so have we seen…”  The direct reference is that the writer has heard about God’s victory over Israel’s enemies, and has witnessed this very same victory himself.  The inhabitants of the City of God have heard about God’s salvation and have themselves seen that salvation.

If we had merely heard about God’s faithfulness, His power, His majesty, His mercy, and His love, would we have a testimony to give?  In a court of law, the answer may be “no” because we lawyers might call it is “hearsay.”  We have only heard about it from third persons, so the fact we have heard it is not itself evidence of its truth.  And so, in that place (a court), we may have no testimony to give.

However, we do rely on documented history in our ordinary life.  In fact, we say that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.  So, at least in this context, since the Bible contains documented history, we certainly have a practical testimony based upon what we have heard about God’s work historically.

But our God is a living God, God of the present as well as the past.  And, therefore, each of us has an actual testimony.  Each of us can say in their own lives, “as we have heard, so have we seen…”  We have seen God’s mercy, grace, love, and power in our own lives and we have seen it in the lives of others.  We have each seen things which are miracles, even though as “educated” man we may be inclined to mark them up to “predictable, but low probability outcomes” or perhaps “mere coincidences.”

We have a good testimony from what we have heard and what we have seen, but is it the best testimony?

Psalm 48 is about Jerusalem, the place of God’s residence.  It is a physical place, a place which can be touched and felt.  It is a place in time which can be observed.

God’s residence today is in us, in our souls, our hearts and minds.  Can people touch us and know that God lives in us?  Are we a physical, walking, breathing, touchable place of God’s habitation?  Would people see us as a fortress, a sanctuary, a place where God is in residence?

There is the testimony of what we have heard.  There is the testimony of what we have seen.  There is the testimony of who we are.

What testimony will we give this week?  About whom and about what?  To whom will we give it?

_________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Many

May 4, 2015


Readings for Monday, May 4, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: **; Col. 3:18-4:18; Luke 7:36-50; Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65

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When I prepare this Bread, I first edit the top line, putting in the verses for the day from the Book of Common Prayer. Sometimes while I do this, I get an image. Today, I have to admit, it was a negative image. When I was writing down the list of Psalms to read for today, my thought was – “This is a lot, this is too many.”

Too many for what? Too many to read because I am busy? Too many to list because I am running out of room? Too many to think about because I can have only one thought at a time? How ridiculous! And yet that is what I thought, “Why so many…”

To tell you the truth, isn’t this one of the questions we ask ourselves every day? Why so many problems? Why so many burdens? Why so many telephone calls? Why so many angry people? Why so many bills? Why so many things? Why so many “To Do’s”? Why so many …?

Do we ever ask the question, “Why so many blessings?”

In today’s reading from Luke, we witness the woman with the alabaster flask of nard, who pours it out on and over Jesus’ feet. The Pharisee host asks Jesus why He was permitting a sinner to do this for Him. Jesus asks the Pharisee a question regarding who would love Jesus more, the person who was forgiven few debts or the person who was forgiven many debts. After the Pharisee responded that it would be the person who was forgiven many debts and Jesus points out all of the ways that the sinful woman had expressed love for Him, He said to the Pharisee “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven….” Luke 7:47

How many sins do you have? How many of those sins have been forgiven by Jesus’ finished work on the cross? How many sins remain unforgiven? Hopefully, you answered “Many,” “All,” and “None.”

There are two lenses through which Christians can look at the world. One lens emphasizes the many forgiven sins and the many blessings we receive now and in eternity. The other lens emphasizes the many burdens, sorrows, and injuries which we suffer from every day.

Our job as Christians is to proclaim the gospel, to reap the harvest which God has planted. What lens of many would be most effective at doing this? The lens of many blessings or the lens of many curses?

What lens of many do we see the world through? Are five Psalms really too many given the many blessings poured out upon us daily?

I fell into our natural trap of saying, “Yes, five Psalms are too many.” But God rescued me from that trap by bringing to my mind how many sins I committed this morning which have already been forgiven.

And I realized that my many whinings should be turned into many thanksgivings. And my heart of selfishness turned into a heart of gratitude. And so a day begun with many aggravations turned into a day going forward with many hopes, all because God has done for me what I could not do for myself. Now, all I have to do is to offer many prayers at many moments during the many minutes of today.

From our reading in Colossians – “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving … Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person.” Col. 4:5-6

God, help us to set aside our many hurts so that we can realize Your many blessings and graciously speak to many people about You. Amen.

__________

© 2015 GBF

**The Book of Common Prayer lesson omitted today is from the book of Wisdom, which is from a group of writings which some churches do not consider valid at all and others consider useful for teaching but not for doctrine. Because these books are disputed by many in the church, I choose not to include them in Bread.

Bread – Piper

March 25, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, March 25, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 25:30-38; Rom. 10:14-21; John 10:1-18; Psalms 119:145-176, 128-130

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There is an old fairy tale called the Pied Piper. The net result of the story was that the Pied Piper played his flute and a bunch of children followed him and disappeared (probably died). It is because of our readings today that I thought of the Pied Piper.

There are many warnings in many writings telling us not to follow the siren song, the will-o-the-wisp, the call which is pleasant to our ears but death to our souls, the Pied Piper of worldly wealth, good health, position, power, importance to our neighbors. We know we should not follow these Pied Pipers, but we do anyway.

Why? Because, I think, it seems good to us. The music is pleasant, the siren song is enchanting, the allure of peace, health, and prosperity is appealing to our egos, our pride, and the call of those people who reflect those “it is better over here” philosophies has the sound of truth (without the reality of truth).

It is because of this that many people, many shepherds, take the approach of dressing up Christianity like the music of the Pied Piper. “Come join Jesus so that there may be peace on earth.” “Come relate to Jesus so that you will have prosperity and can drive that brand new car.” “Come be with Jesus so that you can associate with the “good people.”” “Come talk to Jesus so that you can can leap tall buildings.” And so forth.

Our reading from Romans today tells us to be a Piper for Christ … to pronounce the gospel because “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching…” Rom. 10:14 But what is that gospel? Is it a gospel of better living through Christ, be all you can be through Christ, ride the wave of Christ’s good will toward man, jump on the bandwagon of belief, buy the true bread of prosperity? Is this the gospel?

We are not Pipers for Christ because we do not attract people to Christ through our wiles and wares. We are Proclaimers for Christ, tellers of the message of sin, death, resurrection, and life eternal through Him. We are actually purveyors of an unattractive message – sin, repentance, faith, perseverance, intercession, death to selves, allegiance to Christ, obedience to God’s Word, eternal life.

We may preach and the people may listen and respond, but is it because we are Pipers or Proclaimers? Or is it neither? Our proclamation of Christ is foolishness to the world, to those who have not been chosen by God to hear the Word and respond to it. If there is a response, it is not because we attracted them ourselves, but because God has let us participate in the miracle of new birth in Christ, in His work and not ours.

The Piper pipes and those of the world follow because they are attracted by the music. The Proclaimer proclaims and those chosen by God follow because God’s work as brought them to belief and into the kingdom of God.

We have a job to do today. It is not to make ourselves into attractive people so that people will be attracted to Christ. It is to proclaim God’s message that there is a way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, beginning with seeing ourselves as the sinful creatures we are, deserving nothing but ready to receive God’s mercy, repentant toward ourselves so that we turn to God’s way of doing things. This is not an attractive message, because most people are more thoughtful about where to have lunch than where to spend eternity.

Jesus says today that “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

There are two characters in this reading, Jesus and the sheep. Who are we in Christ? Sheep. We are not the shepherd and we are not even the staff advisor to the shepherd. We are the sheep who need Christ, we are the sheep who want Christ, we are the sheep who love Christ, we are the sheep who lay down in His shelter, we are the sheep to be led by Him into eternity, and we are the sheep for whom He died.

Are we a Piper for Christ? I hope not because I do not want people to come to Christ because they are following me, but because they are following Him. The Piper was not a good shepherd. But Christ is. Follow Him.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Declare

October 13, 2014


Readings for Monday, October 13, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Micah 7:1-7; Acts 26:1-23; Luke 8:26-39; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

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The Gospel of Luke today informs us about Jesus’ encounter with the man possessed by many demons, whose name was “Legion.” This is the event where Jesus told the demons to leave the man, but they begged Him to let them go into the herd of pigs, which He did. The pigs then ran into the lake and drowned. The people were afraid of this great work of God in their midst, and asked Jesus to please leave. The man who was healed of demons instead asked Jesus whether the man could stay with Him. Jesus’ response was to the point – “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Luke 8:39.

There was a great miracle performed in this man’s life by God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. And notice that there were three reactions by the people involved.

The first reaction was the one we see today in secular society about how they deal with Christians — “Please go away and take your Christ, Holy Spirit, prayers, blessings, miracles, hope, and love with you. We don’t understand who or what you are and we don’t want to. Thinking about the things of God and Jesus Christ give us a headache.”

The second reaction is that of the man who, after being healed, clung to Jesus. We have seen people like this and maybe we have been or are one ourselves. Our desire is to hold on tight, not let go, sit under the wings of God, lay in His rest, soak up His blessings, be with Him all the time. We might think of this as being on the mountaintop.

But Jesus did not let the man stay there and He will not let us stay there. He said to the man, “Go home.” Go to where you live, work, and play. Go to your family. Go to the familiar. Go into the world.

And, once you are home, remember the good works which Jesus has done in your life (He is the one who throws out the demons so that the man may come to understand what is real and Who is God).

And “declare how much God has done for you.” Declare, speak out, pronounce, explain, tell, state. To whom? To those at home, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your various groups and among your friends. What about? “How much God has done for you.”

How much has God done for you?

Are you declaring it?

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Vanished

October 16, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, October 16, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 37:3-21; 1 Cor. 14:13-25; Matt. 10:24-33; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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Within the virtual space called “social media,” many, many opinions are given over everything. On one topic recently, the commentator was estimating millions of opinions were being generated within a day or two on the Internet.

Where is wisdom in this? Where is understanding? Although it is called the “social media,” it is more aptly described as the “anti-social media,” since it permits us to hide in our hidey-holes to engage people on our terms rather than force us to deal with people, life, and society in the raw.

Back in the days of King David, I wonder if the men and women of God didn’t have their own form of places to hide from society. In our reading today from Psalm 12, titled “The Faithful Have Vanished,” the Psalm begins this way: “Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished among the children of man.” Ps. 12:1

The faithful have vanished.

Have we, as Christians, vanished from the public discourse, from the public arena? Have we so weakened our proclamation of the gospel that we are indistinguishable from the background noise? Is our belief system so worldly that we are now blended into the background, one of the many, engaged in our version of opinion-giving, but without influence in a sea of opinion-givers?

In our reading from 1 Corinthians today, Paul attempts to distinguish the application of the two spiritual gifts of tongues and prophesy. Of note to the topic today, Paul says “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” 1 Cor. 14:24-25

The essential nature of prophesy is not only speaking the wisdom of what will happen, but what is happening. It is the piercing action of seeing clearly, speaking what is seen boldly, and also telling clearly what the solution is. Yes, it is a spiritual gift given to those whom God wishes, when He wishes, and for the purpose He wishes. But it is really no different than what businessmen do every day when they clearly observe something wrong in their business, speak boldly with wisdom about what that wrong is, and promote a solution. The difference of course is that the prophesy of a Christian who is in fact prophesizing is provided his insight, wisdom, and boldness by the Holy Spirit.

There is a problem with prophesy, however, and that is that the people who have to change their ways in response to it do not like it; in fact, they probably will hate it and take out their anger on you.

But Jesus says, “so what?” In our reading from Matthew today, He says: “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:27-28

We all have spheres of influence, in our families, among our friends, in our churches, in our social organizations, in our business, in our industry, in our city, in our state, in our country, and in the world. Perhaps you are friends with only two people and you work alone and don’t participate in anything else. Well, you have a sphere of influence of two (or three if you include yourself). The question is, within your sphere of influence, have you, as one of the faithful, vanished? Do the other members of your sphere look to you as one of them or as a prophet, as a person with great wisdom and discernment, as a person who loves without condition, as a person who lives as a Christian? Are you at the forefront of their mind, challenging them to see clearly, to repent, to turn, to admit, to trust, and to claim Jesus, or have you merely faded into the background?

I know many Christians who will react with surprise at the challenge as whether they have “vanished,” because we are active in promoting our views of Judeo-Christian doctrine throughout law, politics, business, economics, and a variety of other “ics” and “isms.” However, is the proclamation of the benefits of free enterprise the proclamation of Jesus? Is the proclamation of a strong China policy the proclamation of Jesus? Is the proclamation of better health care the proclamation of Jesus?

See, the proclamation of some or many things may fail as the proclamation of who we are and whose we are. We may be fully present in the social debate, and totally vanished as one known as Christian.

There is a final thought in today’s readings. We may have vanished, but God has not. Psalm 12 also says this: “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Ps. 12:6. We may be blind, lame, lost, withdrawn, and gone, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. Thanks be to God!

__________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Swords

August 8, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, August 8 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 7:19-8:12; Acts 3:12-26; John 1:29-42; Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120

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As we read in Judges today, Gideon and his 300 men have crept up to the camp of the Midianites and “all the people of the East” who “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and the camels were without number…” Judges 7:12.

If we were writing a novel, this hearty band of brave souls would then creep into the camp and, taking their swords, would carefully slit the tents and then do the same thing to throats of the key leaders. Having surreptitiously decapitated the bosses, Gideon and his boys would take over the camp and declare victory.

We would have written the script this way, because swords are the weapons of old-timey warfare and, back then, they didn’t have guns and cruise missiles.

But wait, that is not the script which God wrote. Gideon’s and his men’s swords were not swords of steel but were the swords of God. “And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands…They held in their left hands the torches, and their right hands the trumpets to blow.” Judges 7:20.

And the Midianites and the people of the East with camels without number were defeated that night not by steel but by might, not by the arm of man but by the arm of God. God’s swords in this battle were broken jars, torches, and trumpets. Nothing that man would choose to use, but what man must use if he is to obey.

And what are these swords of God? A contrite heart (the broken jars), the light of life (Jesus Christ – the torches), and the Word of God spoken (the proclamation of truth, the gospel – the trumpets).

Who is it who possess a contrite heart, the light of life, and the Word of God? Christians do.

So who are the swords of God? We are.

In Acts today, Peter, who has been broken and forgiven, stands in the public square and proclaims the gospel. In John today, John the Baptist acknowledges Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…I have seen and bear witness that this [Jesus] is the Son of God.” John. 1:29, 34.

John is using the torch sword, the light of God. Peter is using the trumpet sword, the truth of God. Both have previously broken their jars, repented and turned, acknowledged their rightful place in relationship to God. In Acts and in John, as well as in Judges, the swords of God are in full display and in full use.

Are we any different than John the Baptist or Peter? Are we? Are we using ourselves to bring light into darkness? Are we using ourselves to acknowledge in the public square our need for repentance, our need for Jesus, our need for the Word of God, our need for truth and love? Are we using ourselves as the swords of God in the battle for life?

If not, maybe it is because we choose swords of our own making, of our own design, of our own strength. God would use broken jars, torches and trumpets. He would use us as broken jars, torches, and trumpets. He would use us as His mighty warriors. But to be so used we must first drop our weapons and take on His. But to be so used, we must first drop ourselves and take on Him.

Will we be warriors today? Will we first repent and then take on the torch of Christ and the trumpet of truth?

We only have two hands. If we break our pots only to pick up the pieces, we are either laying down the torch or the trumpet or both. If we pick up our own weapons in our own strength, we are either laying down the torch or the trumpet or both.

So, what swords will we carry today?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Command

April 27, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, April 27, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Micah 7:7-15; Acts 3:1-10; John 15:1-11; Psalms 97, 99, 115

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I am not sure what to call this Bread and the word “command” may be the wrong word. If it is, pick your own.

Our focused reading this morning is from Acts: “The Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” Acts 3:6

In most commentaries, the ordering of the crippled beggar to walk is an example of the apostle’s exercise of the Holy Spirit to perform a miraculous healing. Theology debate may exist regarding whether this exercise of Holy Spirit power was limited to the age of the apostles in order to demonstrate their authority or whether it is still alive today, but neither this debate nor the fact that this involved a healing is going to be discussed today.

Instead, I want to focus on the nature of the command which Peter gave. To get away from the medical aspects of this, pretend that the beggar is not crippled but is hungry. We as Peter, then, walking in the power of Jesus Christ, can say to the beggar “In the name of Jesus Christ, eat.” The result is the same. The non-believer has a need and, “in the name of Jesus Christ,” the disciple satisfies the need.

There are several aspects to this reading. First, there was a beggar – someone in need. Second, there was a disciple of Jesus Christ present, who today we might call a “Christian.” Third, grace was spoken by the Christian “in the name of Jesus” to the non-believer. Fourth, there is no exclamation point at the end of the sentence.

This last point is fascinating. Normally, we would follow a command with an exclamation point, for example “Halt!” Here the imperative is no less. Peter does not wish good tidings upon the beggar, he orders him to walk. There is no exclamation point though to the command. Why, maybe because when an act of charity, of grace, of outreach, of Christian power is done “in the name of Jesus Christ” there is no need for one. The God of the universe has no need for exclamation marks to punctuate His commands, and as His ambassador representing His full power in the world, neither does Peter.

The third point (working backwards) is that the command to satisfy the need was issued “In the name of Jesus Christ.” Now, what does this mean? I have heard it said that, for example, if you want someone to be healed, you say something like this “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command ….” This strikes me a whole lot like magic words or an incantation. If we only hold our mouths the right way and say “Abracadabra” then wonderful things happen. It appears to me the better meaning of this is that I, as a Christian, am so sold out to Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and am therefore so identified with Him that for purposes of the command I am Him. The use of the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” in this context is therefore no more than a reminder that, apart from the power of God (Jesus Christ), we can do nothing. This is in fact the very lesson we have today from John, where Jesus says “I am the true vine….No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me….; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:1, 4, 5b.

The second and first points are almost obvious except that we routinely forget them. There is a person in need and there is me, a Christian.

You will meet people all day long today who are in need. They are sick, they are hurt, they weep, they are hungry, they lack a place to sleep, they do not know that God loves them and sent His son to die for them, they are lost, they are broken. We are around these people. Why are we not speaking commands full of grace, hope, love, wisdom, and power into these people’s lives? Why are we content to let others feed these people, house these people, care for these people. Why are we not engaged like Peter was?

Maybe it is because we cannot really speak for Jesus, we cannot really speak in His name, because we do not abide in Him, we do not love Him, we do not honor Him, we do not obey Him, we do not worship Him. Where are the Christian commands into a dying world – walk, eat, love, pray, worship, live? Where are they – where am I?

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Bread – Messengers

November 17, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, November 17, designated by the Book of Common Prayer:  Mal. 1:1, 6-14; James 3:13-4:12; Luke 17:11-19; Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144

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We are messengers of God on earth. We know this to be true, but do we act like it is true? Do we behave in ways which clarify the message of Good News in Jesus Christ or do we cloud it? Is our message sharp and to the point or is diffused and unfocused, scattered among our responses to the world’s cares?

Our readings today are a compilation of warnings from God about all of the different ways our message can be destroyed. Listen to these and ask yourself how many of these you are guilty of.

The first reading is from Malachi, which means “messenger.” In Malachi, God criticizes Israel for lazy worship, for not offering God our best, but only offering Him the leftovers. Are you guilty of that? Have you compromised the Sabbath, staying in bed rather than spending it in worship? Have you been distracted during the sermon, wondering if the local football team will improve from their sorry record or wondering if you turned the oven off when you left the house? Have you offered to God the popcorn prayer of “Help me do (fill in the blank)” rather than spend time with God in prayer and reflection, building a relationship with Him? If we are not drinking deep from the well of living water, how will be refreshed to give a fresh, strong message to a tired world? Will we be an effective messenger of the truth about a caring God when we do not believe it ourselves sufficiently to give Him our best?

The second reading is from James. Any of you who have read James know that he was very good at describing all of the different ways we can fall short in our daily witness of Christ in our lives. In our short reading today, we find described the following limitations on the effectiveness of our message – (a) bitter envy, (b) selfish ambition, (c) boasting (self-promoting), (d) lying, (e) earthly thinking, (f) disorder, (g) evil practices, (h) selfish desires, (i) quarrelling and fighting, (j) improper motives, (k) self-centeredness, (l) adultery with the world, (m) hatred of God, (n) double-minded, (o) criticizing others, (p) criticizing the burdens and requirements of life, (q) judgment of others, (r) slandering others, (s) pride. Which of these apply to you? When I was listing them, I thought that (m) probably did not apply to me, because I did not hate God, but James says otherwise – “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” James 4:4. So I guess (m) does apply to me too. After reading this list and examining ourselves, does anyone wonder any more why our message is weak and ineffective? Why should anyone care about the message of the Kingdom of God when the messenger is dressed in rags and speaks with forked tongue?

The third reading is from Luke. Here, the physician relates the healing of the ten lepers by Jesus. Of the ten which were healed, only one – the least, the Samaritan – returned to give thanks. Ungratefulness. We have now come full circle to Malachi. We do not give God glory by giving Him our best because we are ungrateful.

Why was the Samaritan leper the only one to return to Jesus and give thanks for his healing? Maybe because he knew he was an outcast. Maybe it was because he knew that he was not a member of the “special people,” the Jews, except indirectly. Maybe it was because he really understood his disease – that it was incurable, that it isolated the bearer from life and fellowship and love, that it always resulted in death. And knowing the depth of his removal from position in society, from health, from wealth, from life itself, maybe he realized how wonderful it was that God showed him mercy, removing his affliction, and restoring him to life.

With a clear view of how utterly dead we were in our sins we may have a clearer view of how much mercy has been shown to us by the gift of salvation, by the gift of the cross. With a clear view of how much mercy we have been shown, we may have a clearer view of how grateful we should be. With a clear view of how grateful we should be, we may have a clearer view of how we fall short in our worship, in our prayer, in our speech, in our behavior, in our love, and … in our message.

And once we have a clear view of these things, maybe we will have something to say.

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