Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Christ the King Sunday

The last Sunday of the Church's year.
The Sunday before Advent.

As a convert (2003), I had always assumed that Christ the King Sunday was some ancient tradition, but I was wrong. It started in 1925 as a protest against the government of Mexico which had demanded that Christian's "ultimate" allegiance be to their country, rather than to God. Most churches that follow the Revised Common Lectionary celebrate Christ the King Sunday.

My congregation is coming to the end of its read-the-Bible-in-a-year, and one of the readings for this weekend was Ezekiel 34:11-24. At the same time, one of the readings for Christ the King Sunday is Ezekiel 34:11-16, and 20-24! Coincidences happen - but they usually nudge me.

Ezekiel was a Priest and a Prophet around 580 BC during the Babylonian invasion and exile. He preached that his country had lost its way, had become weak and vulnerable, due to bad leadership in the Government and the Temple by selfish and short-sighted "shepherds" who worshipped power, money, and safety instead of God.

"The officials in her are like wolves ripping up prey. They shed blood and destroy lives for unjust riches. Her prophets have whitewashed everything for them, seeing false visions and making wrong predictions for them, saying, 'This is what the Lord God says,' when the Lord hasn’t spoken. The important people of the land have practiced extortion and have committed robbery. They’ve oppressed the poor and mistreated the immigrant. They’ve oppressed and denied justice." (Ezekiel 22:27-29; CEB)

What do we learn about good leaders from today's reading from Ezekiel 34?

1. Good leaders are Uniters: "The Lord God proclaims: I myself will search for my flock and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out the flock when some in the flock have been scattered, so will I seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered during the time of clouds and thick darkness. I will gather and lead them out from the countries and peoples, and I will bring them to their own fertile land." (v. 11-13)

2. Good leaders are Care-takers:"I will feed them on Israel’s highlands, along the riverbeds, and in all the inhabited places. I will feed them in good pasture, and their sheepfold will be there, on Israel’s lofty highlands. On Israel’s highlands, they will lie down in a secure fold and feed on green pastures. I myself will feed my flock and make them lie down. This is what the Lord God says." (v. 14-15)

3. Good leaders are Servant-Leaders: "I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak. But the fat and the strong I will destroy, because I will tend my sheep with justice." (v. 16) 

4. Good leaders are Just: "So the Lord God proclaims to them: I will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. You shove with shoulder and flank, and with your horns you ram all the weak sheep until you’ve scattered them outside. But I will rescue my flock so that they will never again be prey. I will even judge between the sheep!' (v. 20-22; see also our other reading for today Matthew 25:31-46) 

5. Good leaders are Empathetic"What you did for my people, you did for me." (Matthew 25:31-46)

On the other hand, bad leaders are self-centered:"As for you, my flock, the Lord God proclaims: I will judge between the rams and the bucks among the sheep and the goats. Is feeding in good pasture or drinking clear water such a trivial thing that you should trample and muddy what is left with your feet? But now my flock must feed on what your feet have trampled and drink water that your feet have muddied." (v. 17-19)

Things looked pretty hopeless for Israel in those days. I must admit, that some days I feel pretty hopeless in our present situation. But finally, in the thirty-fourth chapter, Ezekiel offers hope:"I will appoint for them a single shepherd, and he will feed them. My servant David will feed them. He will be their shepherd. I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be their prince. I, the Lord, have spoken." (v. 23-24)

The King came,and will come.Always here,Always approaching.Final Sunday 
leads to First Sunday.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Along the Way

Not all obstacles
Slow you down -
Some make your feet
Faster than your head.

             ~ Tiwago

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Jesus Wept

Jesus wept...

I don't want to leave you in the dark,
Nor leave you alone and confused -
You need not so grievously grieve,
As do those who live without hope.

But still,
Jesus wept...

He died and we die;
And yet he lived beyond,
And we shall live as well.

And yet,
Jesus wept...

He wept for a friend who died
Thinking that it was the end.
He wept for women he loved,
Who thought their brother 
Dead beyond hope of life.

And so,
Jesus wept:
For sorrow; 
For joy;
For them;
For us all.

First we die to self,
Then we die to earth,
Then we truly live,
Within his fullness.

Jesus wept
That we may know true love.
Let us encourage each other -
A baptism of cleansing tears.

~ Tiwago

Monday, November 6, 2017

Parable of the Coffeeless

My Kingdom is like this:

Ten people got in line outside the Apple store the day before, waiting to get ahold of the new iPhone X as soon as it came out. Five of them were foolish, and five were smart.

The foolish had coffee in paper-cups, but the wise had large thermoses full of coffee. It was cold and damp - a long and unpleasant ordeal. At midnight, there was a faceless shout: "Is that a Genius moving about in the store?" Awakened, the people who had come prepared poured themselves more revitalizing coffee for they needed a lift. But the fools had already drank all their coffee. "Please." they begged the five smarter friends, "Let us have some of your coffee." "No." they were told, "If we do that, then none of us will have enough to stay awake the rest of the night. There's an all-night coffee-shop down the street. If you hurry, maybe you can be back in time."

While they were gone on their java-run though, the store-doors opened. Only as many people were allowed in as there were phones available, and the doors started to close. Coffee in hand, the foolish five ran up to the door: "Let us in! Let us in!! We've been in line all night, and were just gone for a moment!!! Don't you remember us?" But the Genius replied, "No, I don't."

Stay woke therefore, for the day and the hour are shrouded in mystery.

Matthew 25:1-13

Thursday, November 2, 2017

For My Yoke Is Light

Jesus spoke to those who followed him, and to those who were just curious: "The religious authorities are Biblical experts. Listen to what they say - but do not emulate them, for they are dead-weight. They make life harsh and burdensome for people, but they don't lift even a finger to help them, comfort them, care for them! They make a big public show about their devotion to God and to the Law to appear "holy". They lust after, and are addicted to, fame, power, and status. 

But you - you are not to be like them. Jesus is your Master; not the Bible or the interpreters of the Bible. God is your Father/Mother; not a religious "brand". Live your life as a small-group facilitator rather than as an "expert".

The "important" people - the politicians, the celebrities, the religious leaders - are YOUR servants; not the way we have it now. All who praise themselves shall be humbled, while those who are humble shall be praised.

(Taken from Matthew 23:1-12)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Micah: Who's REALLY Like God?

God has something to say to leaders who lead people astray - leaders who cry for peace and obedience when things are going their way, but who call for war and rebellion when things don't: "It shall all be darkness to you because you are without true vision; your day is coming to an end."

Their perversions and corruption will lead to their public disgrace. Their fear-mongering and dire predictions of "social evils"shall be seen as small-minded self-centered lies. They will finally all just shut-up, and quit claiming to be God's chosen judges and messengers!

But I can't be quiet; for I am filled with the Spirit, the Justice, and the Power of the Lord - lightning in a bottle! I am DRIVEN to show my nation how it has fallen. Listen up governmental officials who abhor Justice and Equality, who built the nation on blood and lies. Hear me you corrupt leaders and profit-driven "prophets". Pay attention all you who claim manifest destiny, special providence, exceptionalism... You aren't warning us of the nation's collapse, you are causing it!

(Taken from Micah 3:5-12)

Christ the King Sunday

The last Sunday of the Church's year. The Sunday before Advent. As a convert (2003), I had always assumed that Christ the King Su...