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Glimpses of Grace … A Baptism Story Continued

“Go and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I have told you…”(Jesus, Matthew 28, “The Great Commission”)

While on a mini-sabbatical in Scotland this fall I wrote in this blog about an Asian woman who was my “host” at an AirB&b who could not find a church to baptize her. Having a Ph.D. and doing post graduate work, she failed her membership test, according to one church. Another church told her to wait as they only baptize at Easter. Still a third church said that they would tell her when they were going to do baptisms and be sure to let her know. They didn’t.  After she told me of her faith journey and her understanding of what it means to be a serious follower of Jesus, I couldn’t understand the thinking of the leadership in those congregations. Had they gone all Gnostic or Pelagian or something ? Several people expressed disappointment that did not baptize her that night. Maybe I should have but something held me back.

When I sent e-Christmas cards to my “friends” in far-away lands, I sent one to her. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I received this message from her in response to my Christmas greeting.

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Btw, I got baptized about 3 weeks ago! My church actually arranged a special one at morning service like a baby shower with a golden basin for me instead of the poor which is available for evening service because my bf usually has to catch her train at evening service time. I really appreciate(d) that.”

As the old hymn said, “God is working out His purposes.” I thoroughly believe that God works through us or in spite of us.  God’s will, will be done. To me, that baptism was a glimpse of grace.

Lord God, thank you for this baptism and for working Your will in spite of us when You cannot do it through us. Amen.

 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 24, 2017–Christmas Eve

Daily Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 1: 18-25

Text: Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her (Mary) to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had decided to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream… (vss. 19-20a)

And the story took a different turn than Joseph ever imagined.

That’s the way it is with God–you decide to do the “righteous thing”, the right thing, and then God steps into the picture. It seems that God always steps in to do God’s thing. Over the years I’ve grown to accept this fact about God. Paul was right when he wrote that “in everything God works for good” (Romans 8: 28).

You don’t get accepted to your “dream” school. You don’t marry the person you thought you’d marry. An planned pregnancy interrupts your plans. An MRI doesn’t turn out “good.” Life is full of “setbacks” but the setbacks are never the end of the story. The “dream” school really wasn’t right for you. You meet someone else who is a better match. The MRI forces you to reassess your priorities. The unplanned child turns out to be God’s greatest blessing.

I don’t know how God does it or even what God is doing. I don’t know oi God simply sweeps up my life’s broken glass or if something else is going on. But then, I don’t really need to know. All I need to know is that God is brings new life from ashes and triumph out of tragedy.

We are on an amazing ride in Life. And even though we like to think that we are in the “control”, we really aren’t. When we finally grasp this reality, we are amazed at how God works in our lives. I call this glimpses of grace. May you see at least one every day.

Lord, thank you for picking up the pieces of my life and creating new possibilities. Thank you, simply thank you. Amen. 

 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 23, 2017

Devotional Reading from Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 1:1-17

Text: An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, Son of David, Son of Abraham. (v. 1)

Ancestry has become quite a fascination in recent years. A couple of popular television shows helps celebrities trace their ancestry and uncover family secrets. There is always a surprise or two, as well as tears–sometimes tears of joy and at other times tears of sorrow. I’ve taken a couple of DNA tests and discovered some interesting things. For example, my surname is German but my DNA indicates that I am more Irish and British than German.

Matthew begins the gospel that bears his name with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Him through David and Abraham. His genealogy doesn’t match Luke’s but that’s not the point. Neither was meant to be “biographical”. They are “theological” documents that wanted to make a point. In Jesus, God did something new and transforming. God revealed the Eternal Divine Self to us lowly, broken and sinful human beings. God reached out (and down?) to save us from ourselves.

Advent leads us to the story of Christmas which leads us to the story of the Cross and ultimately the Resurrection. In each story we are only secondary players. The main player is the Almighty. God is at the Beginning and the End.

Over the years I have become increasingly fond of Romans 14:8: “If we live, we live unto the Lord; if we die, we die unto the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord.”

Lord God, I am Yours. You created me in Your Image. You know the number of my days. In this season of Advent use my spiritual inventory to draw me closer and closer to Your divine Image. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 22, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 1: 57-66

Text: They said to her, “But none of your relatives has this name.” (v.61)

A colleague once told me that when Tradition conflicts with Truth, it needs to be dismantled. Traditions for traditions’ sake is hallow.

I thought of my friend’s wise words when I read that  Elizabeth and Zechariah named their son “John”. They were breaking with Tradition in order to live toward Truth.

Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done. The birth of John was the beginning of something new. And when John’s kinsman, Jesus, was born a few months later, God did something totally new, something that theologians call the incarnation. God became one of us as well as with us in an entirely new way.

As Advent rapidly draws to a close, take time to reflect upon the Traditions in your life that conflict with Truth. What are you going to do about it?

O Lord, do not let me allow Tradition to make me small. Let me honor the Past while living the in Present and moving toward the Future. May in my Past, Present, and Future may You be glorified. Amen. 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 21, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 1: 39-56

Text; My soul magnifies the Lord… (v. 46b)

“The Magnificat”is Mary’s response to her kinswoman Elizabeth’s “blessing”.  When Bach set them to music the piece was so beautiful that listeners seldom listen carefully to the words or their. Why does Mary’s soul magnify the Lord? The answer may surprise you.

He scattered the proud in the thoughts of their (own) hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he had filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (vss. 51-53)

God has always had a bias for those who have nowhere else to turn. From the blood of Abel crying from the earth for justice through the prophets of the Old Testament who called for Justice to roll down down water and Righteousness like an everflowing stream to Mary’s song, to Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats, God reveals a bias for the Least, the Last and the Lost.

I believe that one of the spiritual disciplines of Advent is for us to learn how to be Generous. To paraphrase minister and author John Ortberg, when the game of life is over, all of the pieces go back into the box.

Lord God, in the closing days of Advent, plant within my heart the seed of Generosity so that I may sing with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 20, 2017

Devotional Reading from The Daily Common Lectionary: Luke 1: 26-38

Text: then Mary said (to the angel), “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” And then the angel left. (v. 38)

Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Such faith. Such submission. Such servanthood. This is the heart of what it means to take Jesus seriously.

When we say that “Jesus is Lord”, do we mean it? Is He our “all in all” or is that just a lyric in a song’s refrain? Are some places in our lives off limits to God? How about some of decisions?

Advent calls us to take a spiritual inventory. It is an invitation to recommit ourselves and to rededicate our lives to the One in Whose Image we have been created. It is to walk a new path or return to an old one; a path that is the Way to Truth and Life, real Life. It is to be a living glimpse of grace.

Lord God, let Mary’s response to the angel he my response to You. Use me as You will so that in the end You May be glorified. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 17,2017

Devotional Reading from Daily Common Lectionary: John 5: 30-47

Text: I can do nothing on my own… (30a)

While I understand the sentiment and the power behind its lyrics, one of my least favorite songs is “I Did It My Way. There is an air of arrogant selfishness about it. None of us can do it my way. None of us can do anything totally my way! We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. We have been helped by hands that reached out to us.

If anyone could have done it “my way” it would have been Jesus, and he knew better. “I can do nothing on my own”, he said.

Maybe in this season of Advent it is time for us to quit asking God to bless our plans and our dreams, and instead ask God what his plans are for us…for me are. It is only then that we’ll find that which we truly seek.

Lord, show we where you want me and I will go. Only then can I see and be a glimpse of grace. Amen.

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