Thursday, September 29, 2016

            A couple months ago my wife and I adopted a rescue dog from a veterinary clinic. The dog-still a pup-has become attached to my wife. My wife, always an early riser, is usually the one to let the dog-whose name is Tracy-out in the morning. Truth is, Tracy won’t go out for me. The other morning, however, was one of those rare occasions when I was up very early, before my wife. I was able to lure Tracy out of the bedroom with a biscuit and get the door closed before she could get back in, giving my wife some extra sleep.
            We have two coffee makers; a Keurig, for the times when only one of us is up, and a Bunn, for when we are up together. That morning I made my coffee in the Keurig. While I was enjoying my first cup, it occurred to me that the coffee I was drinking was for me only; it was mine and no one else’s. I know, no-brainer, right? But here’s the thing-at that moment I also realized coffee from the Bunn had a sacramental aspect to it. Here’s why.
            When my wife and I (and anyone else who happens to be visiting) drink coffee from the Bunn, we are sharing the one common pot; the one for the many (or at least, the two). Same thing with a meal, which is why meals had such significance in the Bible. That’s what the Passover meal was-one lamb for the many. That’s what Jesus’ sacrifice was too-one sacrifice for all humankind to share.
            And that’s why I said the common pot is sacramental. It is a visible sign of a spiritual reality; the one feeds the many. So the sacrament of the common pot (communion) isn’t necessarily limited to the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist or however your faith tradition defines and practices it. It is available anytime two believers share a meal. Or a pot of coffee. God’s presence is all around us; all we need do is recognize it, and celebrate.
            I believe God is really looking forward to the time when we will all share the wedding banquet together; much more than we can possibly realize. In the meantime, while we are asking God to bless our meals (or our coffee), why not invite Him to the table to share? He has, after all, invited us to His.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

17 September 2016
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:11-12 (NRSV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
            This is a repost from my other blog, I’m thinking some of you might not read that one and this is appropriate here as well, so here it is.

            Good morning, welcome. Yesterday I inadvertently included today’s Gospel lectionary reading in the blog. That’s ok because now I have the opportunity to talk about a story in today’s local paper, and discuss our response.
            According to the story a Bible was removed from the waiting room of a clinic on a local military base in response to a complaint lodged by a retired vet. The clinic in question provides medical care for active duty and retired vets, and any other vet that may be eligible for benefits. According to the story, our vet emailed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to express concern that everyone in the waiting room had to stare at the Bible. The end result was the Bible was given to the Hospital Chaplain who will ‘place’ it in the chapel.
            My first thought was why a Bible in a waiting room would make anyone uncomfortable. There are as many answers as there are people in the room, but this particular retiree felt compelled to take action. The whole incident has high conflict potential which we will get to in a minute. For now, let me ask you this-regarding the complainant, what was your first response?
            While you’re thinking that one over, let’s move on to the removal itself. Again, the question-what was your first response? Let’s consider our options. Some will interpret this a blatant denial of their religious freedom. They are the ones who operate in the realm of imposition; the realm where the Kingdom would suffer the violence of those who would impose their views by force. For others, like our retiree, this is an affirmation of their right to be free from any religion. Do you see how the violence of the one incites violence from the other (I am using violence metaphorically here)? In this battle of rights, who is right?  So let’s reframe the question-what response do you think would best demonstrate the Kingdom presence?
            Considering the complainant first, I believe our first response should be prayer for his conversion. We don’t know his circumstance; we do know God desires all men to be saved so we can start here. Not some half-hearted prayer but persistent petitioning for his eternal destiny. Ask God to lead you in this and be open to His response. Maybe He will show this is not to be your concern; that’s ok too.
            Now concerning removing the Bible itself. My first response was the Bible really can’t be removed from anywhere. If you have a smartphone you have access to the Bible. If you want to read it in the waiting room no one would even know, much less attempt to stop you. Which led to this thought-why would you want to isolate yourself from a room full of people in the first place? This is a big part of our problem as a society-we are constantly connected but never related.
             A room full of people-especially in a hospital or doctor’s office-literally begs for the presence of Jesus. I am not talking about preaching here, I’m talking about conversation. Listening. Comforting. Sharing experiences. If you can focus on Facebook for ten minutes (Facebook-social media-how ironic is that) you can listen for five. I mean really listen. If you’re not the outgoing type, that’s ok-you can pray. No one will ever know (although you might be surprised). Except God.
            So I’ll ask again-how do you respond to all this? There’s an opportunity here. Something to think about, next time you find yourself in a waiting room. Any waiting room. Don’t forget to worship tomorrow. Monday Lord willing we get back with the regularly scheduled program.
May the Lord bless you and keep you this weekend. JRG

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I read a story on Facebook this morning from The Guardian about a Muslim woman being set on fire in New York. In a follow-up story The Guardian reported this was not considered a hate crime because several other women had been set on fire by the same man and ethnicity did not appear to be a factor. Excuse me, but how is setting someone on fire not an act of hatred? Christians should be outraged at this. By allowing ourselves to be defined by what we are against, we have lost our sense of community, our sense of responsibility to one another, our God-given mandate to care for one another. I said Christians should be outraged, but not surprised. Until we recover some sense of what it means to be in relationship-and we are in relationship, whether we want to be or not-this will only escalate. Our Gospel is not spread by imposition of will or imposition of law or imposition of anything. It is spread person to person and witnessed to by personal conduct. Paul did not assert his rights when he was beaten and jailed in Philippi. There were two supernatural events in that jail that night-the earthquake and the conversion of the Jailer and his family. The one facilitated the other and Paul's imprisonment facilitated both. When Paul did assert his rights as a Roman citizen, he did so to protect the church he had founded, to give it legitimacy. Forcing our morality on those who do not want it while ignoring blatant crimes of hatred does not glorify God, it does not advance His Kingdom and it does not demonstrate His presence. To do these things, we need to learn the importance of relationships, from the Gospel point of view.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)