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Cotton Patch Evidence: Ch.6 “Elusive Unity”
10.27.11

The more I read about the history of Koinonia, the more I wonder if it has anything to teach a contemporary congregation about living in community.  As we saw in the last chapter, Koinonia really struggled with the reality of living in community.  Clarence Jordan was steeped in the Scriptures and believed whole-heartedly in the model of community demonstrated in Acts 2:44-45 (“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” NRSV).  Clarence, however, “was no student of community.”  The community’s struggles for unity continue in this chapter.  While they learn a lot from the experiences with the Hutterite and Bruderhoff communities, unity, as the chapter titles suggests, still eludes them.

Sometimes, I feel a little like Clarence.  As a pastor, I hope–down to the marrow in my bones–that our congregation might become a true Christian community, sharing goods and good news with each other and with others outside the community, making all our decisions through conversation and prayer, living out the Gospel in every aspect of our community’s life together.

But the members of our church don’t live (geographically) together…our members probably come from seven or eight different counties.  We certainly aren’t a “community of goods;” several economic “locations” are represented by our members.  We don’t worship, or work, or eat together daily.  In fact, we have very few members–some, but not many–who come to worship weekly.  And in this age of “Why did you call when you could have texted?” I am coming to despair that true community–outside of true communities like Koinonia and the Hutterites and the Bruderhof (which are called “cults” by some on the web, by the way)–can really happen.

Sigh.

So, what can these intentional communities teach congregational communities about living as a Christian community?  Is there something to be gleaned?  Or is the gap between intentional community and church community simply too wide to learn anything?

These are the questions that will continue to guide my reading of “Cotton Patch Evidence.”



Sermon: “Just Think What We Could Do” (Oct. 23, 2011)
10.23.11

How are your investments going?  Are you getting a good return on your stocks, 401Ks, CDs, money market account?  Is your house worth more or less than it was worth three years ago?  Do you owe more on your house than it’s worth?  How are your investments going?

Jesus tells the story of an investor who got a great return one yearBhis fields produced abundant crops, more than he was able to store.  Mulling over what to do with the abundance, the man decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones.  But before he had the chance to fill the new barns, the man died.

That=s what you call irony.  Or maybe tragedy.  Jesus frames the story as a warning: ASo it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.@  Kind of makes you want to go right out and buy some God stocks, doesn’t it?  I mean, when you consider the alternative.  Perhaps our stewardship theme this year should be “Give, or Else!” 

No, I’m joking.  I really don’t think Jesus meant that if we aren’t generous toward God we’re going to die.  At least not die physically.

I heard once about a woman who died with a large balance in her bank account.  Just days before illness would claim her life, the woman had the chance to help someone with a small sum of cash.  She refused.  Despite her healthy bank balance, despite her advanced years, that woman died a spiritual pauper.  She hadn=t invested wisely.

Twelve-year-old Nkosi, on the other hand, was an extremely wise investor.  Born HIV positive in South African, Nkosi was raised by a white mother.  That mother, Gail Johnson, worked tirelessly for Nkosi and for other people with AIDS inSouthern Africa.

Among Gail’s many projects was a home for people living with AIDS, many of whom were children.  The place was called Nkosi=s House.

By the time he was 12, Nkosi was into full-blown AIDS and wasn’t doing well.  Even so, one of his favorite pastimes was going to Nkosi’s House and playing with the children there.  One evening, Nkosi asked Gail if he could spend the night at the shelter and maybe take his allowance money and buy the kids pizza for supper.  “Sure,” his mom said.

When Nkosi arrived, he asked the matron if he might treat the children to some pizza… but supper already had been prepared for the evening.  “Perhaps tomorrow night,” the woman said.  Nkosi looked disappointed–he loved pizza–but agreed.

After a lively meal–Nkosi was a charmer–the diminutive child climbed into the tub for one of his famously long baths.  The hot water relieved his body’s significant pain.  During that bath, Nkosi had a seizure.  He lived for several more months, but never regained consciousness.

Like the elderly woman, Nkosi died with money in his pocket.  But unlike the woman, it had been Nkosi’s deepest desire to share that money with others.  Nkosi didn’t live long, but he did live generously in the few years he had.  Nkosi invested his life and his resources wisely.

How about you?  How are your investments going?….your investments in your family, your children, your community, your church?   How are your investments in your church going?

Have you ever thought about giving up on church?  I sure have.  The first time was in seminary.  When you learn about things like the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the advocacy of slavery, it makes you wonder if the church is something you want to be part of.  By the end of seminary–after some close encounters with some rabid fundamentalists–I was toying with what has been called post-Christianity.  I was this close to ditching church.

But then I moved toAtlantaand got involved in a couple of really cool churches, one of which–Virginia-Highland Baptis–ordained me and called me to serve as Minister of Education.

My second flirtation with post-Christianity came one morning in 1999 at theCivicCenterinMacon.  Two thousand plus delegates of the Georgia Baptist Convention were considering whether to dis-fellowshipBthat is, kick outBVirginia-Highland and Oakhurst Baptist inDecaturfor our ONA commitments.  Two people spoke for us, and each church’s pastor said a few words. But the speakers who got the crowd riled, the ones who elicited whoops and hollers and applause were the ones who called homosexuality an abomination.  That’s the only time in my life I’ve had 2,000 people cheering against me and people I cared for.  I was terrified.

That negative encounter with Christians almost did it for me.  If this is what Christianity is all about, I thought.  Forget it.  Just forget it.

But then I remembered the faces of our church members in Macon…the way they winced every time the word “abomination” spewed from another speaker’s mouth.

And I remembered another church member’s face, the person who, after hearing a sermon I’d preached on the good news that God’s love is for everyoneBwhich seemed pretty everybody’s-heard-that to me…Even so, that person looked me in the eye and said: “Thank you.”  When I remembered that man’s “thank you”…when I saw how devastated my friends were that morning in Macon, that’s when I knew that–despite its flaws–I couldn’t leave the church.

Because, yes.  The church is deeply flawed.  There are too many parts of the body of Christ who beat up on the fragile, the vulnerable, and the different.  But despite its flaws, the church is still the best means we have of sharing the Good news that God’s love is for everyone.  All of us can cite examples, personal experiences with churches that have gone bad–or worse yet, churches that have gone boring–but what might happen if church went right?  What might happen if we took the Gospel message seriously, this good news that God’s love REALLY is for everyone, the good news that God really does hope for everyone’s wholeness?  What might happen if we really tried to live out that message?

Oh, man!  Can you imagine if the church were “clicking on all cylinders?”  What might happen to this world if the entire body of Christ lived the good news of God’s love for every person?  What might happen to this church and the community around us if we got even more intentional about sharing the good news of God’s love?  Just think what we could do!  Just think what kind of return we’d get–that God’s kin-dom would get–if we invested even more of our time, talent, and treasure in this place!  Think of all the people whose lives would change– people whose lives would change!–because they experienced God’s love in this place, among these people.

Don’t you know that that’s why we’re here?  We’re here to live God’s love and share it with others so that their lives can change…

so that the spiritually hungry might be fed,

so that the wounded might be healed,

so that the grieving might find comfort,

so that the lonely might find friendship,

so that the weary might find rest,

so that the outcast might find acceptance,

so that we all might experience God=s love

and in that love discover our own worth,

our own dignity,

our own preciousness in God=s sight.

What we’re doing here is holy work!  We are busy building God’s kin-dom.  What will you invest?  

 In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

 Kimberleigh Buchanan   (2007)  2011

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

 

 



Sermon: “We Give Thee but Thine Own” (Oct. 16, 2011)

            The next few Sundays, we’ll be looking at some of Jesus’ parables.  Last week we looked at a dramatic or acted-out parable—the time when Jesus turned the water to wine as a sign of the abundance of God’s love and grace.

            This week, we get a more traditional narrative parable, the story of the talents.  This parable—like most of Jesus’ parables—is about the kin-dom of God.  That means it reveals something about God’s dreams for how the world will be when all God’s children wake up and get to work helping God’s kin-dom come on earth as it is in heaven.                                

In this story, the kin-dom is like a man going on a journey who called together his servants and gave each of them a certain number of talents.  A talent in those days was a sum of money equal to about 15 years of a day laborer’s wages.   So, this man who’s going away on a journey gives 5, 2, and 1 talents, respectively, to three of his servants, then leaves.  The first two servants double their boss’s investment, yielding a total of 14 talents on an initial investment of 7.  When the boss returns from his journey, he’s pleased with their results.  ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave,’ he says to each of them.

The third servant…well, the third servant is scared of his boss.  Afraid he’ll lose his boss’s investment, he hides the 1 talent, buries it in the ground.  When the boss returns and the third servant comes back with the same single talent, the boss is not pleased.  ‘You wicked and lazy slave!’ he says…then he says something about casting the servant into outer darkness where there’ll be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  No Christmas bonus for him!

So, what was Jesus trying to say with this parable?  Some churches have read this story literally…they give everybody in the church $100 and ask them to give a good return on the money after a certain period of time.  Now that I think about it, I don’t recall ever having read a follow-up story about how they did.  Interesting…

Reading the parable literally like that is one way to interpret it.  But if we look at it  more closely, I think we’ll see there’s more to it.  The first thing you notice when you take a closer look is that this parable comes at the end of Jesus’ ministry…in fact, it’s the next to the last parable he tells before his arrest and crucifixion.  By this point in the story, Jesus knows his time with his disciples is very short.  Like a professor does when she realizes the term’s about to end, Jesus is trying to cram everything he can into his final lessons.

So, what’s he trying to say?  What might this parable have meant to his disciples?  First off, the “man going on a journey” is most likely Jesus.  He’s arrested in the very next chapter and crucified in the chapter after that.  Yes, Jesus definitely was a man going on a journey.  But having roamed the countryside without a salary to speak of for three years, it’s doubtful he had any money to give his disciples.  So, if Jesus wasn’t giving the disciples money on his departure, what was he giving them?  What had he been giving them?

Remember, now, this is a parable of the kin-dom, a story that reveals something about God’s dreams for how the world will be when we all wake up and get to work.  So, what was it Jesus had given the disciples that he would want them to double?  What investment had Jesus made in the disciples whose return would help to prosper the kin-dom of God? 

The things that Jesus had been investing in his disciples all this time were…his ideas, his stories, his radical notion that God loves all people, perhaps especially, the poor…his idea that the outer trappings of religion don’t mean nearly so much as what’s going on in the hearts of believers….his idea that loving our enemies is part and parcel of the kin-dom…his idea that eye for an eye theology isn’t God’s theology…

Jesus is a man going on a journey, a professor at the end of the semester…he knows his time on earth is short and getting shorter fast…so, through this parable, he’s trying to tell his disciples that if God’s kin-dom is ever to come, they’re going to have to multiply everything he’s given them— every idea, every story, every prayer, every sign… If they take his gifts–these radical ideas about God’s kin-dom–if the disciples were to take Jesus’ gifts and hide them, if they were to bury the good news he’s given them, what would happen to God’s dreams for the world?  They’d die.  If the disciples didn’t take Jesus ideas and, as the parable says, “trade” with them, all God’s hopes for the world would die.

That’s why Jesus told this parable at the end of his ministry.  It’s what Clarence Jordan called a “kick-in-the-pants” parable…a story that’s meant to get people up off their comfortable chairs and working hard for the kin-dom.  In his three years with them, Jesus had given his disciples everything they needed to know to get working on God’s kin-dom…he’d given them grade A starter seed…but if they buried those seed in the ground without any nurture, without any support, without any tending, those seeds were going to die in the ground.  Jesus was desperate for those first century disciples to get what he was saying and multiply his teaching…because that was the only way, the only way God’s kin-dom was going to get off the ground.

Nice parable.  Nice story, isn’t it…for those first century disciples?  Whoo-ee, Jesus really laid it on them.  And, if you read the rest of the New Testament, they seemed to get the message, didn’t they?  Take a look sometime at the book of Acts.  It’ll make you tired reading how fast the church grew in the next few decades after Jesus’ departure from the scene.  Oh, there might have been a few of those first century disciples who took Jesus’ lessons, put them in a notebook, and shoved the notebook to the back of the closet…but enough of the other disciples took those radical kin-dom ideas out and traded with them, exercised them, nurtured them, and grew them, that God’s kin-dom grew, too. 

What a great first century parable.  I sure am glad those disciples way back then were able to “crack” that parable.  Based on the evidence, they cracked it good.  They got its meaning and lived it out.  Good for them!

What about us?  What does this parable mean to us, 2,000 years later?  What does this parable mean to us in the 21st century?  It means the same exact thing it meant in the first century.  Just look around the world, friends.  Do you think God’s dreams for the world have been fulfilled?  With all the war, all the crime, all the poverty and hunger and thirst and disease and hatred and eye-for-an-eye justice seeking that goes on?  Not even Pollyanna on her very best day could say that God’s dreams for the world have been fulfilled.  God’s kin-dom is not yet come on earth as it is in heaven.

And why not?  It’s been 2,000 years, right?  Why hasn’t God’s kin-dom come on earth as it is in heaven?  God’s kin-dom hasn’t yet come on earth as it is in heaven because somebody somewhere along the way buried the treasure Jesus gave us.  God’s kin-dom hasn’t yet come on earth as it is in heaven because somebody somewhere along the way hid Jesus’ radical ideas about living our religion authentically and loving our enemies and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.  God’s kin-dom hasn’t yet come on earth as it is in heaven because somebody somewhere chose to take the amazing gifts of his words and his life and bury them in the ground.

Was it you?

 In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  ©   2011

 

Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’



Daily Devotion – October 23, 2011

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.     I Corinthians 1:10

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.   I Corinthians 12:7

My appreciation for Paul has grown by leaps and bounds since I became a pastor.  For me, there is no higher work, no more rewarding work, no more holy work than leading a congregation.  But, oh my goodness.  It’s not easy.  Christians in agreement?  People in a Christian community being united in the same mind and the same purpose?  It’s just not easy.

Ours is such an individualistic society; in so many ways, it’s every person for himself or herself.  If we like it, we do it.  If we don’t like it, we don’t do it. We seem to be losing the ability to set aside our own wants and desires for the good of the community.

I’m always struck when I talk with one of the sisters at the monastery and they tell me about taking a job (inside or outside the community) that they really don’t want.  I hear the frustration in their voices; I see it on their faces.  But for them, determining what they will do in their lives in not simply a matter of what they individually want.  The community has a large say in what they will do.  The interesting thing is that, when I visit with one of those sisters a few months later, tshe seems always to have made her peace with the new job.  She has found her true calling somewhere in the nexus of her desires and the good of the community.

Prayer

God of us all, help me to honor my own gifts and desires, but to do so in ways that gives life to others.  Amen.



Daily Devotion – October 22, 2011
10.22.11

2 Corinthians 2:5-10

Forgiveness for the Offender

”But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ.”

Let’s be honest, forgiveness is hard!  Forgiveness takes self reflection, time and sometimes it requires us to have some difficult conversations with the people who need to be forgiven.  It is oftentimes easier just to make excuses about why we can’t or shouldn’t forgive someone who has done something to hurt or offend us and stay angry.  Paul wrote to the church telling them to forgive so that the offender (already having been punished) wouldn’t be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes (although I am not always proud of it) I don’t mind seeing the people who have hurt or angered me being affected by sorrow.  However, it seems as though the anger and energy it takes to NOT forgive causes ME excessive sorrow.  Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  I have found in most cases, forgiving someone ends up doing more for me than it does for them.  Paul wanted the church to forgive as an act of obedience, isn’t it nice when an act of obedience can ultimately make us feel better too?

Prayer:

Dear God,

When we find ourselves angry and hurt over someone else’s actions, open our hearts and minds to the possibility that NOT forgiving is causing us even more anger and hurt.  Grant us the ability to see beyond the infraction and look inside ourselves to recognize how we can be the change we wish to see in others.  Amen

 



Cotton Patch Evidence: Ch. 5: “Churched”
10.21.11

This chapter describes two main tensions in the Koinonia community–the tension between the community and established churches and the tension between the ideals and the reality of living in community.

First, the church tension. From the beginning, there was some question as to whether Koinonia was a church community or not. Some Koinonians chose to do all their worshiping within the community; others chose to join and/or attend Rehoboth Baptist Church…which worked fine until the Brownes brought an agriculture student from India to worship. This student was not Christian and wnted to learn about Protestantism in the South while he studied at Florida State University. Because the man was dark skinned, the church took offense. A dis-fellowshiping process was begun.

I’ve been dis-fellowshiped before. While I was on staff at Viriginia-Highland Baptist Church in Atlanta, we, along with Oakhurst Baptist in Decatur, were dis-fellowshiped by the Georgia Baptist Convention. At the Macon Convention Center in November 1999, 2,000 Geogia Baptists cheered for us to be removed from the rolls. I was frightened, perhaps more frightened than I’ve ever been. (We later learned that sheriff’s deputies had been assigned to follow us around the convention center to provide protection.) It was the ugliest display of “Christian” conviction I’d ever seen.

Even when you know that you’re living contrary to many of your brothers and sisters in Christ, the experience of being excluded from the fellowship is traumatic. It makes you rethink everything you ever believed about Christian faith….at least it made me re-think my faith.

Because Clarence and the Koinonia crew were so committed to living into God’s kin-dom, and because they already had begun to stir things up in their Sumter County community, perhaps they were better prepared to deal with being dis-fellowshiped…or maybe it was just as traumatic for them as it was for us in 1999.

Now, the other tension addressed in this chapter–the tension between the ideal and the reality of living in community.

Before reading “Cotton Patch Evidence,” I always assumed that Koinonia was a little piece of heaven (or kin-dom of heaven) on earth. I began studying Koinonia because I thought here was one Christian community–a community started by Baptists, no less–who had gotten it right.

Then I read this chapter and learned that living community, really living it is hard. How do you handle finances? How do you divvy up the workload? Should each home have a kitchen, or should everyone depend on community meals for nourishment? Who raises the children, individual families or the community? If everyone is equal, how is the community led? How does the community account for the differing gifts of the community’s members?

To figure all of this out–to figure out any of it, really–you have to have meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

Congregational (with a little c) churches make a lot of their decisions by meetings/talking. There have been times when church members (usually Catholics or Methodists, churches with hierarchical structures) have pulled me aside after a council meeting and said, “I think things would go more smoothly and efficiently if you’d just tell us what to do.” Those people are exactly right. Things would move more quickly if I pulled rank…but we are a congregational church through and through (which basically means, I have no rank). To the best of our ability, all major decisions made FOR the community are made BY the community. It might not be as efficient as a hierarchical model, but it is a model that honors every voice in the community. As one person has said, “In the UCC you might not get your way, but you always get your say.”)

The thing that I think is so hard for church members today is this idea that community is hard work. So many people come to chuch looking for exactly the kind of worship experience, exactly the kind of outreach programs, exactly the kind of small group experiences they want. If they find everything they want, they stay. But the minute something happens that doesn’t fit with what they want, they leave….

…which is a fine process for nurturing one’s own spirituality, but it is not a means of living in community. Living in a community means working it out together. Living in community means learning from the things that happen that aren’t your cup of tea. Living in community means listening as much as you speak. Living in community means setting your own desires aside on occasion for the good of the community. I fear that, in many ways, our society has become so individualistic, so attuned to instant gratificiation, that we are losing the gifts of true community…all because we simply don’t want to do the work.

The biggest surprise for me in reading “Cotton Patch Evidence” came in this chapter. I never knew that Clarence asked the community if it would be better if he and his family left the community. His speaking engagements kept him away from the community and its work for long periods of time. His constant leaving and returning was disruptive. A person who could recognize his disruptiveness to the community and who was willing to sacrifice membership in the community for the good of the community…that is a person who was truly committed to koinonia.



Daily Devotion – October 21, 2011

2 Corinthians 2:1-4

“So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you. For I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”

Reflection by Wayne Scott

This scripture is part of a letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians when he decided not to return to Corinth for another visit.  It was difficult for me to gain much from this text without having additional context.  It is helpful to know that Paul’s prior visit toCorinth was full of conflict and that he had also previously written them a letter addressing certain problems of immorality and division within the church.  So why did Paul decide not to go back to Corinth?  Was he simply trying to avoid an uncomfortable situation?  Or perhaps Paul felt that another visit would somehow cause more conflict and division within the church that he started?  Or could it have been that Paul felt it would be best for the people of Corinth to rely on faith to help them solve their problems instead of relying on him to solve them?  Whatever the real reason for not returning to Corinth, it is clear that Paul cared deeply for the Corinthians and hoped for their wholeness just as God hopes for ours today.

Prayer:

Caring, loving God, in times of conflict with others grant me the wisdom to know when to let go and let faith be my guide.  Help me also to be as compassionate as Paul towards those that cause me pain. Thanks and Amen!



Daily Devotion – October 20, 2011

October 20, 2011
2 Corinthians 1:18-20
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.

Reflection by Monty Wynn

This is all about God being true to His word. He does not waver when he speaks to us. There is no falsehood or indecisiveness. He never promises that, which He does not perform. God does not say “yes” one day and “no” the next. It is His steadfastness that in turn creates honesty and faithfulness in us.

How many times have we taken someone for his or her word only to be let down or deceived later? This destroys trust and faith and results in broken relationships and hearts. Like a building, it eventually destroys the foundation and the walls, and the roof tumbles, leaving nothing but rubble.

Prayer:

Dear God,

Let us be true in our relationship with you, for you are true to us. As sure as the sun sets and the sun rises, your word and deeds do not vary. Your words carry the weight of truth, the clarity of light and the solidity of stone. Let our words and promises be equally worthy. In His name we pray.

 



Daily Devotion – October 19, 2011
10.19.11

2 Corinthians 1:8-11
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Reflection by Lynne Buell

This scripture creates curiosity for me as to what actually happened to Paul that was so horrific. 
Isn’t that what we all do when we hear of someone who attempts to talk about a horrible experience, yet they leave out the details of what that incident was?  Darn.  There’s that brick wall as the story stops there.  We’re thinking, ‘the most important part was left out.’

So I go over the words that Paul wrote for a second time .  And I read it again.  There is the underlying message.  So simple.  The significance of these verses is not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’.  The ‘how’ to place your destiny in God’s hands, and then you will be taken care of.  As students of Jesus, we shouldn’t be focusing on the details of the event.  Don’t be afraid to ask others to pray for you.  How many times have we been through a traumatic event; and as time passes, the realization that we survived it and are stronger from it is due to the fact that we have a strong faith.  Or, perhaps we also sought out the comfort from our friends and family who kept us in their prayers.  Oh, the warmth of it all.

Gracious God, I am, indeed, the gracious one. Help others not to turn away, but to seek the comfort of your love as well as those who surround us in our everyday lives. Amen.

 



Daily Devotion, October 18, 2011

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

Devotion
Although short, these passages speak volumes. First of all, Paul reminds us to give thanks to God, from whom all help comes. He goes on to say that not only is God the source of comfort, but that God expects us to provide consolation in return. That brought to mind my friend, Lynn, whose son committed suicide when he was a teenager. A few years later, her daughter died while awaiting a liver transplant. Lynn found comfort in her faith, knowing that God was grieving with her. She was able to transform her grief into service, working through groups such as The Compassionate Friends to support parents after the death of a child.
Lynn’s trials were of Job-like proportions, yet Paul encourages us to be a help to those with troubles of all kinds, large or small. We need only look to God’s example. We’re all familiar with the saying, “Give and you shall receive.” Paul might have put it like this: “As you receive, so shall you give.”

Prayer
Compassionate God,
We give thanks for your tender mercies, knowing that we can call on you in our time of troubles. Guide us, we pray, as we seek to comfort those whom we find in need, just as you comfort us.