Posts Tagged faithful

Where’s the Joy?

My favorite hymn is, “Ode to Joy,” from Beethoven’s 9th. Symphony. Our Sanctuary Choir does it beautifully so does The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a host of others. What follows in the sermon in churches and in television sermons is not joy. Unless you tune in to Rev. Susan Sparks at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City at 11:a.m. on Sundays. What usually follows is an indictment of the faithful for not being good enough, for missing the mark, for being less than holy. Let’s face it, the unfaithful are not there, not tuned in, not listening. Why do the faithful need a guilt trip?

In Jesus’s parable about the prodigal son’s return, there was no lecture from his father on what a terrible son he had been to waste all of his inheritance. Instead there was a lavish party welcoming him home. When the widow who had ten coins. but lost one and found it after diligently searching for it, ”she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ Matthew 15:9 (NIV)

Jesus tells us to leave the 99 sheep that are safe and go rescue the one that is lost. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ What does that sound like? It sounds like rejoicing. “Restore unto me the JOY of thy salvation….” Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always. Again I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 (NIV) Yes, I know a pandemic is taking place. Yes, I know there are race riots. Yes I know the economy is falling apart. How are these calamities any different than those in the rest of human history? When was there not an epidemic of some sort? When was there not a war? When was there not an economic crisis someplace in the world? Were we Christians not made for such a time as this?

We need an encouraging word, a cheerful word. We are not helpless pawns. God has given us everything we need to weather any storm that comes our way. We have not been left without resources. We have family, friends, and neighbors. We have brains, hearts and muscles. My neighbor mows my lawn. My friend takes me to the pharmacy and a delivery person brings my groceries. My daughter calls me every day and so does my sister. My son helps with things I need to get done. Another friend and I go out to lunch when we can find a place that is open. I have a healthy collection of male friends with whom I solve the problems of the world at least for an hour or two once each week. I go to Sunday school on a conference call. I even teach once in a while. Class members have become family. We check up on each other.  I go to worship services on the internet and I mail my offering to my bricks and mortar church building. I donate to the food bank.

We were not given spirits of fear. Fear breeds discontent and hate. Fear looks for a scapegoat. No one, no organization and no political party is responsible for our current situation. Our question should be, what can I do to be helpful? We all know that we should wear a face mask in public. We should practice social distancing and we should avoid large crowds. Why? Because these are the right things to do. These measures are not for ourselves, but for the protection of others. If you need a Biblical reason, listen to the words of Jesus, “…, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. “ Matthew 25:40 (NIV) or perhaps try St. Paul, “I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)

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Saints Are People Who Belong Entirely to God – Catholic News Service

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope said saints are people who belong entirely to God, they carry the seal of God in their lives and on their persons.

Pointing out that we are all children of God and that we received the seal of our heavenly father with the sacrament of Baptism, Pope Francis said that saints are those who have lived their lives in the grace of Baptism, keeping that seal intact, behaving like children of God, trying to imitate Jesus.

“Saints – Pope Francis continued – are examples to imitate”. And noting that saints are not only those who have been canonized, but can be anyone from next door neighbors, to members of our own families or others we have met as we live our ordinary lives, the Pope said we must be grateful to them and to God for having given them to us as examples of how to live and die in fidelity to God and to the Gospel.

“How many good people have we met in our lives; how often do we exclaim: ‘this person is a saint!’… These are the saints who live next door, not the ones who are canonized, but the ones who live with us” he said.

Imitating their gestures of love and mercy, he said, is a bit like perpetrating their presence in this world. Acts of tenderness, of generous help, of closeness can appear insignificant, but in God’s eyes they are eternal, “because love and mercy are stronger than death” he said.

After the recitation of the Angelus prayer the Pope reminded the faithful that on Sunday afternoon he will travel to Rome’s Verano Cemetery where he will celebrate Holy Mass in memory of the dead.

The Pope said that by visiting the city’s main cemetery he intends to spiritually join all those who in these days will be praying on the tombs of their loved ones in every part of the world.


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Healthy Disbelief by Dr. Molly Marshall

Healthy Faith includes disbelieving what is not of God. By Molly T. Marshall A rather heated exchange about the atonement theory of a hymn has ensued. Baptists and Presbyterians have weighed in on what the cross of Christ “satisfied,” the nature of divine wrath, and whether singing an objectionable phrase in a hymn constitutes doctrinal confession. (I find it amusing that the Baptist supporters of “In Christ Alone” are demonstrating more Calvinism than the Presbyterians who excluded the hymn.) It is as important to identify the God you do not believe in as it is to confess the One in whom you do believe.

Walter Harrelson, the acclaimed Old Testament scholar, told of learning the Bible at his aunt’s knee — the first critical interpreter he knew. When they encountered the texts in the Hebrew Scriptures that instructed the people of God to decimate the Canaanites, this mountain woman from western North Carolina would gently say: “Now boys, that is not what God is like. Let’s look at some other passages that tell the larger story.” Aunt Zora was teaching healthy disbelief in a God who purportedly inscribed violence. Theologian Christopher Morse calls thoughtful Christians to “faithful disbelief,” which allows one to winnow truth from falsity. In Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief, he observes the struggle of the German church following 1933. Co-opted by aspirations of national dominance and Aryan supremacy, most of the church abdicated its authentic role and became an instrument of oppression, subservient to the Nazi regime. Thus, Morse writes: “To believe in God is at once to disbelieve what is not of God. Faith in God … is not only believing; it is disbelieving as well.” Over the years my mind has changed on matters of faith. Faithful disbelief has compelled me to challenge imbedded theology and move to a more deliberative theological construction. For example, I no longer believe that God wills everything that occurs. To believe that every occurrence is somehow God’s intent creates insuperable obstacles — both for human free will and for a coherent vision of God.

Freighted arguments to justify God in the face of evil cannot survive the burden of the tragic. I do not believe that patriarchy is God’s intent for human relations or the spiritual leadership of God’s people. To maintain that God privileges men over women requires a hermeneutical bias that is not sustainable as we review the larger witness of the Bible. Further, a growing number of churches testify to the good pastoral work offered by women. I do not believe that Western culture is the only apt vehicle for Christian identity. Exporting culture along with the gospel has affronted other contexts by presuming them to be inferior. In our school’s work in Myanmar, we quickly learn of the commendable aspects of ethnic culture and hear the lament of those who felt disregarded. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit is the least member of the Trinity, nor do I believe that the Spirit is confined to Christian believers or church structures. Certainly followers of Jesus have more intimate relationship with the Spirit of the Risen Christ, but God’s Spirit is at work in creation as well as other ways of faith. Returning to the reason for the kerfuffle over the hymnal, I do not believe that the penal substitutionary view of the atonement gives an adequate interpretation of the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. The idea that forgiveness is only possible after divine wrath has been assuaged is contrary to Paul’s great declaration: “the proof of God’s love is that Christ died for us even while were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). One reason the church’s conversation about the atonement has continued is because the varied New Testament and historical images can only provisionally illuminate the great work of God through Christ for us. Yet, the church has perceived that some of the theories overly stress certain aspects of the divine character and, therefore, cannot be approved with good conscience. Disbelieving false gods is a faithful practice. It also helps clarify the confession we hold fast. This column originally was posted on Aug. 20, 2013. OPINION – See more at:

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Random Acts of Kindness – 42

 There is someone who needs your faithfulness. Be faithful to her or him. You will be glad that you were.

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