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Glimpses of Grace–“Is It I, Lord?”

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Text; “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22)

At Jesus last earthly meal with His disciples he told them that one of the twelve would betray Him that very night. Matthew’s gospel says that they were “deeply troubled” and began to ask, “Is it I, Lord”  I’m constantly amazed that none of the disciples knew if they were the betrayer! That means that each of them had it in them to betray Jesus. At one time or another, each of them consider doing just that!

I’ve often wondered why Matthew told the story this way. It’s not the way John told it. I think that Matthew wanted to make a point. All of us–the disciples then and us today–are are capable of betraying Jesus. In fact, we do!

We betray Jesus when we judge someone by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

We betray Jesus when we judge others by their place of birth or native language.

We betray Jesus when we ignore the plight of the refugee, the homeless or the poor.

We betray Jesus any number of ways, often every day!

Like the disciples, we are more capable of betraying Jesus than we wish to admit. Unlike the twelve we don’t have to ask, “Is it I, Lord?” for deep in our hearts, we already know the answer.

Being brave enough to face the answer, though, is a glimpses of grace.

Lord, here my confession as I confront the times that I betrayed you this day. Forgive me and show me how to be stronger in my faith journey. Amen.

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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 16, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 24: 1-14

Text: The Jesus asked them, “Do you see all these buildings?  I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” (v. 2)

Everything in this world is temporary. Everything. This is hard for us to accept, but it is the truth. It is a truth that we know instinctively but too often deny.

In today’s reading Jesus’ disciples marveled at the beauty of the ancient city of Jerusalem. In the midst of their wonder, Jesus reminded them not to become too attached to things of this world for they are fleeting.

Once upon a time there was a holy man who had a precious tea cup. His grandfather gave it to him before he took his final orders. It was his prized possession. One day a strong wind blew it off of the shelf and it broke into a hundred pieces. A fellow holy man came into the room as the man swept up the pieces of the cup. “I’m sorry,” the second man said. “You must be very sad. I know how much that cup meant to you.” “No,” the holy man replied, “I am thankful.” This surprised the friend. “I don’t understand,” the friend said. “Well,” the holy man replied, “now the cup is more precious because it is no more. I will never drink from it again, but I have the joy of many memories. I am thankful that Grandfather brought it from the Old Country and gave it to me. I am thankful for the many cups of tea I drank from it.”

After reading the story I began to see the things of this world differently. I try to focus on the pleasures of this moment and become thankful for the memories that have graced me.

Maybe in this season of Advent you can learn how to be less attached to things of this world and learn to be thankful for the Present moment. For in the Present moment there are glimpses of grace.

Lord, let me not become so in love with the things of this world and I miss Your Grace contained in this and every moment. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 15, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 23:27-39

Text: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, …oh, how I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but you would not. (v. 37)

At times I wonder if God doesn’t get awfully frustrated with us. I imagine God looking upon the world that He created good and sees accelerating it being desecrated. I wonder if the Almighty doesn’t look at how we treat one another and just shake his head. The selfishness, the cruelty, the destruction.

Maybe God became one of us to show us a better way; a Way that leads to Life, real Life, Eternal Life That begins Now and flows int Eternity. In the person of Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary and Joseph God became one of us and one with us. As the letter to the Colossians says, Jesus Christ is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. I tell both the young and the questioning, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you’ve tried your way and it’s not working, why not try taking Jesus seriously.

You can start by reading what is commonly called The Sermon on the Mount or The Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12) Practice, consciously and intentionally, the teachings. My favorite has also been the one about being a peacemaker (There is a difference between being a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, but that’s a different glimpse.) Which one is yours? I’d really like to know.

Lord, move my heart to take Jesus seriously. Give me the grace to live into the Beatitudes. Amen.

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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 14, 2017

img_1631-8Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 23: 13-26

Text: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. (v. 23)

Several years ago I noticed that the tile in our bathroom shower seemed to be bubbling on the surface. I never saw anything like this before. Over the next several weeks the bubbles began to break and paint began to peel away from the tile, exposing 1950’s coral colored tile! The previous owner, in getting the house ready to sell, decided to paint the bathroom tile white in order to make it look more modern! They presented a false reality in order to sell a house!

I thought of this as I read today’s reading, especially verse 23. For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to that verse. Jesus criticized those who “play” or “pretend” to being faithful to God rather than doing the hard work of being a faithful. They are being “hypocritical”.

It is this hypocrisy that causes a lot of people to say that they are “spiritual” but not “religious”. It is people who say that they take Jesus seriously and tell you that you should take Jesus seriously but there seems to be little evidence that they take Jesus seriously in their own lives Monday through Saturday. They are the ones who gossip and “tsk-tsk” about others or never find a “church” that “feeds them spiritually”. They are the ones who are quick to criticize and condemn but the least likely to forgive.  They are the ones of who U 2’s Bono once said in an interview, “I love Jesus; it’s Christians I can’t stand.” My wife is fond of saying that someone should not be surprised to learn that you go to church!

Religion is simply the discipline that helps us practice the teachings of Jesus and do the work of God’s Kingdom. When religion or the maintenance of an institution becomes an end in and of itself, it ceases to be Holy.  If our religion does not challenge us to work for Justice and Mercy than it has, as Jesus said in another place, become nothing better than a white-washed tomb. Dead.

Lord, let my “religion” be alive and push me to do the work of Your Kingdom. Amen.

 

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