Friday – August 30, 2019
Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and God will get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! 1 Peter 4:7-11 The Message (MSG)
A Word of Hope
The writers of our scriptures saw life through the context of their own experience, much like we do. They had experienced the life and teachings of Jesus and they would have heard his preaching.
The writings of 1Peter were written about a year after the beginning of the war with the Romans which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state. Peter, the Apostle would have heard and remembered the prophetic words of Jesus concerning these events, and wrote with them in mind. He had good reason to reflect and to write, preparing the people for what is often referred to as “end times”.
There was a general assumption that Jesus would return in the lifetime of the early disciples and apostles and that this second coming would be about the end of the world. However, as we know, more than 2000 years later the world is still very much in existence and perhaps our question is: then, what might Jesus have been referring to? What did Jesus mean when he talked about the destruction of the temple, the separation of the goats and the sheep and what some have come to understand as Jesus’ return and an end of civilization when some will be “left behind”?
Perhaps, what Jesus might have been referring to in his speaking was not so much an end of the world, but an end to the ways of the world if we are to chose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. -An end to “empire” and the rule of those who collude with “empire”. An artificial rule that is not concerned with the many but only of the few.
Peter encourages us to, “stay awake in prayer”, “to take nothing for granted” and “most of all to love each other as if our very life depended on it”. He says, “Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless and to be generous with the different things that God gives you.”
These things were certainly not the things of common practice in the world that Jesus encountered. They were not the things of Rome or even of those who considered themselves, “religious”.
Following Jesus means that by doing these things we get to change the world and to reject the ways of power for the “power of God’s rule”.
In a theology of “end times”, people have no concern for others, but only for themselves. They are concerned that they will get into heaven and not be “left behind”. They are centered on self, not on others.
In a theology of grace, a theology of Jesus, the world as we know it comes to an end when we reject the ways of selfishness and surrender to the ways of selflessness – of giving and being of service. We give ourselves away in order that we receive the greatest gift of all. God’s love.
It is time for our world to come to an end and to welcome in God’s new realm where all of equal, all are loved, where all are fed and sheltered and reap the benefits of living together as one human family.
God help us to herald in the ending of a world of greed and selfishness and surrender to the ways of God’s new realm of caring and sharing with one another.
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Cazares- Thomas
Senior Pastor Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ
Thursday – August 29, 2019
Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me. Revelation 3.20
A Word of Hope
As a young child, when certain religious groups came through our neighborhood knocking on doors, my mother would have me sit very still as they knocked so they would think we were gone. As an adult, everyone from door-to-door salespeople to religious cults have come to my door, and I rarely, if ever, open my doors to them.
I believe Jesus knows the same disappointment of knocking on closed doors. Jesus stands before the heart of us all knocking on our door with every gospel message we hear and sacred sacrament we consume. He knocks on our door when we are filled with depression, worry, fear, anxiety or sickness. He knocks on our door every time we receive an unexpected blessing and answered prayer. It’s reassuring to know Jesus will never cease knocking until we draw our last breath of life. It is always our decision whether we surrender to the calling and receive the promise of everlasting love.
Jesus isn’t knocking because He wants something we have; he asks to come into our hearts because he has something to give! Jesus wants to give all His love, mercy, and grace! He wants to give us peace, joy, happiness, fulfillment in life and hope for the future!
Many may be familiar with the painting of Christ knocking at the door by Warner Sallman. (https://www.warnersallman.com/collection/images/christ-at-hearts-door/) In it we can almost see the patient, loving look on Jesus face as he holds the light in one hand and knocks on the door with the other. Noticeably, there is no handle on the door from the outside which suggests, like our hearts, the door to the soul opens inward. Jesus comes to us, and is asking to be let in.
Gracious Creator, I am grateful for the yearning to open my heart inwardly, allowing the light of life to fill my dark corners with your love, and welcome in every promised blessing! In Jesus name, Amen
Wednesday – August 28. 2019
…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3.5
A Word of Hope
Would the writers of Scripture be astounded that people would still be reading and interpreting their works? In this stage of human evolution, we have a rare opportunity to understand that what we write will have an impact in the distant future. Why? Because, like the Scripture writers, what we write becomes news and eventually history about who we are.
We have the unique opportunity of purposefully creating not just our day to day chronicles, but examples for future generations multiple times over. The ancient writers may not have known the impact of their letters and grocery lists, but here we are, the stewards of their thoughts, who have a unique glimpse into how these civilizations lived, loved, fought, and died. -A snapshot of time. We try to ‘read’ what we can into the lives of those people who struggled to live in such a mysterious and violent era. The struggle of peoples who fought to survive, but who had a much bigger puzzle to fill in about their own origins, how they grew into their present, and whether or not they had a greater purpose. Yet, here we are, casually reading their mail, which was postmarked 2000 years ago. What an incredible gift they left us.
Theologians have been busy for millennia trying to decipher an ancient code that by chance fell into our hands. Perhaps instead of zooming in on their privacy with our modern microscope, it might be better to interpret the nature of the gift of our own lives with our freedom to speak our minds, and the choices to either do unto other humans what Jesus taught us or, on some days, to take actions that resemble atrocities in biblical proportion.
We so often manage to ignore the bigger picture teachings. To love our neighbor as ourselves has in many ways reverted to the ancient eye-for-an-eye, tit-for-tat mentality. This is especially apparent in what we write for all the internet world to see. The thoughts the Bible writers shared took thousands of years to reach us. Our writings, whether encouraging or devastating, circle the globe in seconds. That’s not a responsibility to take lightly, but so many of us do.
O Lord, hear my prayer. What will my life look like when somebody reads my mail in a few thousand years? What will I do today to create a better world with my life and works as an example? Guide my thoughts before I press that send or enter key!
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – August 27, 2019
In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
A Word of Hope
Forgiveness of Others and SELF
There at least two fundamental insights that we can draw from that ancient text. First, we are asking God to show us as much forgiveness as we have forgiven others. Do we really want to say THAT? To be forgiven completely, we must forgive those who have done injustice to us at every turn, every time. Now, that is a high expectation!
The other more subtle but critical message is that often we are our worst enemy. That is, we, at times, trespass against ourselves doing those things that keep us from loving, understanding, being compassionate, and forgiving of others. We sin against ourselves more often than we sin against God. How do we forgive ourselves? How do we say, “OK, I really messed up and I know I can do and be better.”
Many persons function less and less in a positive and happy manner due to the sins they have self-committed AND for which they have not forgiven themselves. It is more difficult to forgive yourself than it is to forgive others. Reflect upon your own behavior and perhaps the years of non-forgiveness you have stored up in your heart that needs to be freed so that you can be open to loving in the way you were made to be. If God has already forgiven you, certainly you can try to be open to forgiving yourself. “Forgive us our trespasses against others as we forgive ourselves the trespasses, we have committed against ourselves. For yours is God’s Realm and the Power and the Glory.”
Holy One! Thank you for still speaking to us. Thank you for your continual revelation of yourself to us in this time and place and in the language that we understand. Life is not always easy, and it seems that we are often responsible for the mess in which we may see ourselves. Help us not only to always forgive others, but help us forgive ourselves remembering that we are made in your loving image and likeness.
We make this prayer in your many names, O God! AMEN!
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Monday – August 26, 2019
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
A Word of Hope
I have sometimes been accused of being a bit of a “Pollyanna”, meaning that I am steadfastly determined to see the best in any situation. Well, I admit it is mostly true. I furthermore, believe it is what the Bible teaches us to do. Plus, it just makes good sense to me.
I once left my purse in a restaurant. My friend and I were miles down the road when I discovered it was missing. We headed back to the restaurant with an interesting conversation. I was sure that the purse would be either where I left it or in the Manager’s safekeeping. My friend said it definitely would not be there. He remembered the people who were seated at the table nearby. According to him, they were sleazy characters who looked like the sort of people who would take the purse and run.
He said his way of thinking was best because it prevented him from being disappointed. I argued that my way left room for everything to turn out just fine without worrying about bad things that never happened.
Arriving at the restaurant, the “sleazy” people greeted us with smiles, and said, “We took your purse to the manager. Just check with her.”
I rest my case.
It turns out this system works well for a lot of things. My newsfeeds inform me of all sorts of evil, vice, and turmoil that inhabit my world. I keep informed, but I do not let these things overwhelm me or keep me from noticing the wonderful blessings and many acts of kindnesses that also surround me.
It is a worthwhile exercise to notice our thoughts and conversations and compare them to those recommended in Philippians 4: 8-9. When we fall short, we need not spend time criticizing ourselves. We can simply redirect our thoughts and words…”And the God of peace will be with you.”
Beloved Creator God, I am so grateful for the numerous blessings you have lavished upon me and upon the country in which I live. Help me to be always mindful of the love the beauty and the grace that surrounds me every day. Help me to be generous, kind and loving to every person I encounter. May your Spirit live within me and flow through me to my world. Amen
Carole Anne Sarah
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)