One God

“Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too…” (Romans 3:29). Try to imagine how these words sounded to Jewish first readers. Think they were difficult to hear? What kind of emotions do you think they evoked? Try to imagine how these words sounded to Gentile first readers. What kind of emotions do you think they evoked? If there is one God and he is God of the Jews and the Gentiles, what kind of behavior does that encourage? Listen to hear the word of the Lord!

A Prayer for Lafayette

Almighty God,

You are Father, Son, and Spirit.
Yet You are one.
We see Your glory.
We want to reflect Your glory.

We are black and white.
Make us one so we can reflect Your glory. 

We are rich and richer.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are young and old.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are honor roll students and struggling students.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are creative thinkers and linear thinkers.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory.

We are male and female.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are political and apolitical.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are republicans and democrats.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are rejoicing and mourning.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are conservative and liberal.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are from north, south, east, and west.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory.

We are confident and fragile.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory.

We are introverts and extroverts.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

We are weak and strong.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory.

We are boisterous and quiet.
Make us one so we reflect Your glory. 

Make us one.
May our oneness reflect Your glory.

We pray in Jesus’s name,
AMEN

A Prayer for Sunday

God,

We come to You as our Father.
We are Your children.
We are brothers and sisters.
We are a family.
A Jesus-family.

Forgive us when we forget
that You are our Father
and that we are family.

Forgive us when we put up walls.
Forgive us when we drift apart.

Forgive us when we are more concerned with self than You.
Forgive us when we are more concerned about self than each other.

Tear down the walls, God.
Make us one.
One Heart.
One Mind.
One Body.

Bind us together, God.
With mercy.
Grace.
Love.
Forgiveness.
Self-control.

Fill our hearts, God.
With compassion.
Concern.
Respect.
Appreciation.
Humility.

Defeat the temptation to run from one another.
Fight the desire to be isolated.

May we be committed to You.
Committed to one another.
Committed to the Lafayette church.

We pray in Jesus’s name,
AMEN

Quotes on Sectarianism

“A sect is a front for narcissism. We gather with other people in the name of Jesus, but we predefine them according to our own tastes and predispositions. This is just a cover for our individualism: we reduce the community to conditions congenial to our imperial self.” – Eugene Peterson

“The sectarian impulse is strong in all branches of the church because it provides such a convenient appearance of community without the difficulties of loving people we don’t approve of, or letting Jesus pray us into relationship with the very men and women we’ve invested a good bit of time avoiding.” – Eugene Peterson

“A sect is accomplished by community reduction, getting rid of what does not please us, getting rid of what offends us, whether ideas or people. We construct religious clubs instead of entering resurrection communities.” – Eugene Peterson

 

Peterson on Sectarianism

I have been re-reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. For some reason these words on sectarianism seemed very significant to me this morning. I want to share a paragraph from page 240.

Sectarianism is to the community what heresy is to theology, a willful removal of a part from the whole. The part is, of course, good–a work of God. But apart from the whole it is out of context and therefore diminished, disengaged from what it needs from the whole and from what what’s left of the whole needs from it. We wouldn’t tolerate someone marketing a Bible with some famous preacher’s five favorite books selected from the complete sixty-six and bound in fine leather. We wouldn’t put up with an art dealer cutting up a large Rembrandt canvas into two-inch squares and selling them off nicely framed. So why do we so often positively delight and celebrate the dividing up of the Jesus community into contentious and competitive groups? And why does Paul’s rhetorical question, “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13), continue to be ignored century after century after century?

I never grow tired of reading Peterson.

Corinth or South Jersey?

The goings-on at Corinth still grab my attention every time I give 1 Corinthinas even a passing glance.

  • There are quarrels among you (1:11)
  • There is jealousy and quarreling among you (3:3)
  • One brother “goes to law” against another (6:6)

The relationship issues in the Corinthian church ran deep, so deep that their assemblies were affected. At one point Paul even says, “…your meetings do more harm than good” (11:17).

So I am not naive when it comes to realizing that sometimes Christians go to battle with one another.

But I was still not ready for the headline I saw today —

Two stabbed fatally at Pennsauken baptism party

Stabbing at a baptism party?

The scene was South Jersey, not Corinth, but the problem was the same. Division. Quarreling. Fights. What should have been a scene of celebration became a crime scene of violent anger and stabbings. What should have been a time of unity became a time of fighting to the death.

When I read this stuff I want to point an accusing finger.

When I read this I find it easy to pass judgment.

When I read this stuff I want to feel so superior.

But the real story for me is not in Corinth or South Jersey. The real story for me is in my head. And in my heart. And in my relationships. And in my church. And in my house. And in my car. And when my phone rings. And….

Truth is, I can  quickly turn something beautiful into something  ugly. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. Have you ever turned something beautiful into a mess?

So the next time we go to witness and celebrate a baptism, let’s leave our knives at home.


Rubbernecking

Have you ever railed against rubberneckers only to find yourself slowing down to gawk when passing the scene of a car wreck? You look at the tangled vehicles and start asking questions. Was anyone hurt? What caused this crash? Do I know any of these people?

The headline caught my eye and while I tried to keep moving, I slowed down to read the story and gawk at a different kind of wreck.

The headline?  “Children Fight Over Mother’s Ashes” was what caught my eye.

The wreck? Well, an eccentric artist died and left her estate to one son rather than the three other children she considered estranged. She refused to have a funeral and requested to be buried with her pets under a rose in her garden. Fighting ensued with the children arguing over where and how she would be buried. The estranged children even accused the favored brother of scattering their mother’s ashes without them and replacing her ashes with wood ashes in an urn.

Again I found myself asking the usual questions. Was anyone hurt? Not only have people been hurt, but the damage might well go on for generations. What caused this crash? My guess is there is enough sin to go around in this story. Do I know any of these people? While I have never met the artist or her family, I know these people well, don’t you? Fighting, bickering, quarreling people.

Sometimes when you rubberneck you see things that afterward you would like to “unsee.” Such is the case with this story.  Some ancient words provided just the cleansing my mind needed.

Psalm 133 (NLT)

“How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.

And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.”