Paul’s trip to Athens Greece (highlighted in our reading from Acts: 17: 16-25) takes place on his second missionary journey which was from 50-52CE. Paul made three missionary journeys in his lifetime, walking into all sorts of situations. In our reading from Acts his first dialog is with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicurean’s believed in gravitating to things that were pleasurable and avoiding pain. They were interested in the finer things in life and God for them was just some being out there not very interested in the world. The Stoics believed that virtue was the highest calling and that one should use logical reasoning to control their emotion. Hearing about Jesus, discipleship, and taking up the cross not to mention having faith didn’t appear to play well with either group. Despite this Paul continued on and learned from the experience.
Paul would have walked past the Acropolis, and the towering buildings of the Parthenon and Erechtheion. Even at Paul’s time these buildings would have been built 450 years before his arrival there. He also would have walked past many pagan temples and one even dedicated to the “unknown God” (talk about keeping your bases covered). For Paul Christianity was not narrow, he met these people where they were. He recognizes that the Athenians are a religious people he does not ridicule their Gods, he was able to use the “unknown God” to tell them about our God and about Jesus. He tells them that how our God is present in the world and cares for his people. Paul shows us that we need to meet people where they are, if we hope to have dialog with them, about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the peace that surpasses all understanding.
So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
The elder brother had every right to be stunned at the sudden turn of events. The younger brother arrogantly had demanded his inheritance in advance of their father's death. Their father was sorely grieved, but had agreed. The portion his brother took had depleted the family's wealth and removed assets that might have continued to appreciate prior to their father's death and increased the elder brother's eventual inheritance. Now his penniless brother had returned and his father had lavished him with gifts and thrown a party in his honor. Not only that, but the party started before the elder brother had even returned home from work. Why had he not been consulted? Why was his love, loyalty and hard work not recognized in a similar way? Or in any way, come to think of it? No, he was left standing on the outside looking in as if he didn't matter at all.
His father had come out and tried to explain it. Your brother was lost, but has been found, has returned. It is a time to rejoice. Come on in and join the celebration, he said. I have love enough for both of you because you are my sons. Everything I have I share with you. As he remained in the darkness outside looking in, the elder brother pondered the implication: My father's love is his to share. He loves his sons because we are his sons, regardless of what we do or say. Merit is irrelevant. All that he has he will share with his sons, but my father will lavish gifts as it suits him.
Did the elder brother join in the celebration and reconciliation? Or did he remain outside looking in? I wonder.
Mary Beth Frederick
“My God, My God why have you forsaken me”? We are all familiar with this Good Friday lament. The Story of Job many consider a parable rather than actual history, that is a story to teach an actual spiritual lesson. In the story Job we me Satan, but this is not the Satan of the New Testament. In the Hebrew we meet ha-Satan, "the Satan.". Many bible translations omit “the”, and what we really have here is more of “the office of”. Satan translates here as “the accuser”, The accuser says to God, he is faithful when things are going well, would that be true when they are not?
The story debunks the idea that good things happen when we are good and bad things happen when we are bad. We would like to think that those who are corrupt, dishonest, or bad will get their just deserts, but that is not always true from our perspective. We also like to think that good people will be rewarded and that is not always true from our perspective. The story is about having faith through the bad and the good. Later in the story of Job we find that God has a much wider view than just little old me, more may be at play. We also know from the New Testament that God is with us, Christ is with us and the Holy Spirit are with us. Bad things and suffering may happen, but it is faith that will get us through those times.
Prayer: I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Amen. (Psalm 121).
We have all been in the footsteps of the “Prodigal Son”, the Brother and even the Father.
Remember the time when you felt ashamed, all alone, or so far away?
Remember the time when you saw and felt with your heart someone in your life who was ashamed, all alone, or so far away? These times brings tears to my eyes.
The feeling and empty hole of being lost. Each day being a struggle to return to some type of normalcy, whatever that is.
Thank God for people in our lives to be Christlike in those times. The ones who will help you lift your head, be there for you in your lost times, pray with you, and offer grace. Those are the “Welcome Home” times in our lives.
Blessings and love,
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
“When God closes one door, He opens another.” Notice the old adage stops there and fails to mention that in the meantime one is in the corridor. “Corridor” as in hospital, school, office – that dimly lit place where one waits. And waits. And in turn may grow impatient, get angry or fall into despair.
Psalm 27:14 dispenses with the candy coating and delivers a daunting simple directive: “Wait for the Lord”. The psalmist knew his Bible stories. Abraham who was promised fatherhood of a nation was a 100 years old before he held his child. Joseph suffered decades as a slave and prisoner until this childhood vision came true. The Israelites wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised land. Noah and his crew sailed through 40 days and nights of rain to wait who knows how long for the waters to recede and the olive trees to recover sufficiently to produce a branch a dove might pluck. Waiting, the psalmist warns, is a lifestyle.
While waiting in life's corridors it is good to remember Jesus's promise to never leave nor forsake us. We can take heart in that. God fully knows the human emotions of impatience, anger and despair and takes no offense. He appreciates authenticity. He listens to prayers of frustration and desires as much as those of thanksgiving and praise. God can use the time in the corridor to draw us more closely to him as he did Abraham and Joseph, if we are open to his touch. Through his mercy and grace He will grant us the strength needed await the next open door.
Mary Beth Frederick
While watching one of the Hallmark channel’s Christmas movies (yes, I enjoy them) one of the song lyrics stuck in my head, “Love is found within.” The phrase just wouldn’t leave my head. As I thought more about what the phrase meant to me, I realized that is how I feel when I walk into church for worship. We have a great Gathering Area that is full of smiling faces, people who greet you and care about you. I definitely feel the love within my church. Who wouldn’t want to come to a place where you are surrounded with love and caring?
The phrase also means the love that is found within our own hearts. When we are surrounded by the outpouring of love from our Christian family, how can we not be filled up with the love that Jesus gives to all of us? In fact, we are so filled up that it pours out of us in our actions. We love our neighbors, not just because this is what Jesus commands us to do, but because we can’t help but share this overwhelming love that overflows from our hearts to others.
Blessings on your day and spread the love within,