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Hear Us Lord 8-17-14

stain glass peace
Some of you might agree that being a grandparent gives you the right to talk about your grandchild anytime you want. It just so happens that I have something to share about Samantha that applies to today’s theme:
“Hear us Lord”

When Sammie was between 2 and 3 years old, she picked up on the pet names her parents called each other.  She also learned their first names.
When she wanted her mother to pay attention to her, and mom was talking to someone, Sammie would start off with:
“ mommy…mommy…mommy…mommy!  Then switch to Honey?…Honey?…Honey?…then she would get closer and put her hands on her mommy and raise her voice an octave and say:
“ COURTNEY COURTNEY COURTNEY COURTNEY!” until her mom paid attention. ( I had never heard a two year old call her mother by her first name!)

I used to think that a parent should teach a little child to be quiet and wait for mom to answer.  I understand better now.  At that young age, the child needs to know that mom or dad is there,  is paying attention,  is listening. They can’t stop until they get that assurance.

Do we do this with God?  God is our parent, how many times do we cry out to be heard?  Do we fear that we are not being heard?  Do you ever feel like your prayer is falling on deaf ears, even though, intellectually, you know otherwise? Even though you realize you may not get the answer you want?
Let me assure you right here and now,
God IS listening.
God hears YOU.
I used to keep a prayer journal when my son was a teenager.  There were so many things going on in his life that I prayed so much,  I had to write it down in order to keep my thoughts straight,  and somehow it made me feel as if I was praying more effectively.

Years later, I found that old journal and read it,  and I realized, as I read my prayers,  that every one of them had been answered.  Not on the day I prayed,  or even the same week,  but not too long either.

God is listening.

The Lord does hear you.

Our prayers are heard,  every word we speak or think,  and every tear that falls, is also heard.

I want to talk about this first part of the scripture where Jesus is telling them that it is not what goes into one’s mouth that defiles the person, but rather what comes out.
Remember, God is listening!
So what does this mean, to defile ourselves by what comes out of our mouths?

Being followers of Christ,  we are supposed to have become changed people.  We are supposed to be growing in the Spirit, receiving gifts of the Spirit as we become ready for those gifts.  We are supposed to be a blessing to the world around us, to pray for each other and those who hate us.
We are supposed to Love,
to BE love,
to show love,
to teach love,
to lead in love,
to lead to love,
to serve out of love.

God is listening.

The Lord does hear us.  Our Lord is listening through the eyes and ears of the smallest child.  Our Lord is listening through the eyes and ears of the homeless ones on the street, or in the shelter and soup kitchen.  God is listening through the ears of the alcoholic, the addict, the men and women trapped in prostitution. God is especially listening through the ears of the children who are trapped in that same world.

God is listening through the eyes and ears of the single mother on food stamps and welfare. God hears the desperate loneliness of the mentally different, the confusion floating in their mind, and God hears what you say and do for them.
We have all heard in the news about the tragic death of Robin Williams.
I wondered why? Why would he do this to himself when he had everything?  Did you wonder too?  I have found out that he didn’t have everything after all.   He had Parkinsons. He lacked self esteem,  he felt guilt over things he had done in the past and was not able to find a way to forgive himself.  He was bi-polar.  I can tell you from experience that the meds for this disorder will rob you of your creativity.  I can imagine how he might have been feeling, having just come out of a rehab, probably in a place in his mind where his creativity was hidden, he could see only that horrific darkness of hopelessness and never ending pain.

And the people who have taken lives with guns.  The ones that break into a school or movie theater,  or a student in a school who brings the gun to class.

God heard the words that may have set them on the path they took.  Did God hear the words of love spoken?  Did someone try to show them that love is the way?  We don’t know their stories, we only know the outcome.  But if faced with a situation like this,  what would God hear you say?

I am telling you this because we all need to understand the human condition better than we do.  How can we break through the darkness
if we don’t use the Love God gave us to sooth the shattered soul?  Some people will refuse to hear, but God. Is. Listening,  and we must try to be the voice that makes a difference.

Words that we say without thinking, without love, will tear down someone’s self esteem that may already be damaged. Even when we think we are speaking words of teaching, of correcting behavior, and even expressing our own hurt, if the words are not spoken in real tones of love, they will come out harsh and damaging.  It is not enough to INTEND to speak in love,  to be harsh and stern and then lie to ourselves that we are speaking out of love.  The person we are speaking to must be able to feel the love as we speak our words to them, as we do things to help them.
Jesus weeps when we defile ourselves with harsh unloving words. This means that when we serve, we need to be ready to do so, take care of yourself so that you are rested and ready to be patient, pray for God to give you the words that need to be heard in the manner that creates love.

If you find that you have to be there for someone when you ARE tired,
it is good to remember that even though you are tired, the person you are helping is probably worse off and in great need.

God is listening through the frightened ears of the people in Gaza, Isreal, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, the rest of the middle east and Africa.  Our Lord is listening through the ears of the starving people in India, the displaced in Haiti and Malayasia.

Jesus hears every tear that falls.

What does Jesus hear us saying and see us doing about these situations?
Are we giving enough money to the initiative Abolish Poverty, End Suffering?  To special offerings?  It is not possible for every one of us to go to these places and give aid in person,  but we can support those who must make the decisions about what to do, and we can pray.
We must pray because God is listening.
What do we do with the prayer list printed in our weekly bulletin?
God hears the needs of those that WE have put on this list, are we praying for them after we go home on Sunday? If we are praying for them, the prayers are being heard.   If we forget and leave that list folded in a purse or pocket, that is heard as well!

God is listening through the ears of your next door neighbor,  the checkout clerk at the grocery,  the tired nurse taking care of your loved one.   Jesus hears that smile you give to a person who has served you
even though they would rather be somewhere else.  Jesus hears the words of thanks,  the words of blessing and the tone and sincerity with which you speak.

God is listening.

And what does God hear?

What words are we speaking in the name of Christ?  Are we judging?
Are we looking down upon someone out of disgust?  Or are we looking and seeing them in order to lift them up?

God hears with His eyes.  Our Lord hears more than what we say,  our thoughts and actions are heard.  Our lack of action is heard.  Let us not defile ourselves by forgetting who we are,  and Who we are to serve.
We serve the Risen Lord.  The Christ.  And we find the Divine in everyone we meet.  Everyone, from the smallest child to the most desperate person clinging to life.

Tell them your story.  Talk about the love of Jesus, what that love can do.
Tell what you have seen and felt.  Tell someone you love them,  tell them you want to help in any way.  Ask them how you can help.
Tell them there is a place you know of where they will be welcome and loved.

How do people know that God is listening to them?  They know because God brought you to them on that particular day when they really really needed to hear from God.   Those we are called to serve also have a story they need to tell.   They need to tell it and they need to be heard.
God hears all of us, all the time.   There is no time when He is not listening.
Cry out to Jesus, for yourself , for your mission in the path, for each other.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”  Blessed Mother Teresa

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Talk given 4-27-14 -Peace Be With You -Second Sunday of Easter John 20:19-31

stain glass peace

Today is the second Sunday of Easter. It is a time to reflect on what the resurrection of Jesus means to us as individuals
and as a church body. The body of Christ on earth. When have you had an Easter experience in your life?

When I went to Congregational Leaders Workshop at Graceland University a few years ago, I took a class on healing ministries. This was a very untraditional class, I learned a lot about the energy present in each of us, the energy of the Holy Spirit and how to focus these energies on healing. As each day went by and my knowledge increased, the more I felt and believed in the connectedness of all creation.

I noticed as I was walking through the campus that people were smiling at me, and then I realized they were smiling BACK at me,
because I was walking around with a big smile on my face!
I could feel the energy emanating from me. The power of the Holy Spirit was with me as I learned and grew and practiced, and it could be seen and felt by others!

As time went by and I continued to practice the healing arts I had learned, and to focus on the path of Jesus in my life, I began to feel and understand His love for me and for everyone on the planet.

This love has become an integral part of my ministry. This type of love is the energy of the Holy Spirit, the energy that heals both mind and body. It is the energy that brings the wellness of the peace of Jesus into our lives.

I began to understand that the primary function in my calling to serve Christ and the church through priesthood is to affirm that love and peace.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves you!

I have been teaching my granddaughter Samantha about Jesus.
I sing to her the song Jesus Loves Me, and also Jesus Loves the Little Children. I read her story books about the life of Jesus.

One day when she was visiting me, we were in the living room and I said to her ,” grandma loves you Sammie, and so does Jesus!”
And she stood there and said loudly, “Yes! Jesus loves me! Jesus LOVES ME!” She is getting the message.
Do you get the message?
Do you believe?
Please everyone stand up for a minute.
Thank you,
now shout it out with me,
JESUS LOVES ME!
RAISE YOUR HANDS AND SHOUT IT TO THE WORLD,
JESUS LOVES ME!

Read John 20:19-31
This scripture describes for us what that first Easter was like for
those first Apostles. In this scripture are signs that Jesus gave
to show the Apostles that he really is who he said he was, their Lord. He greeted them with peace, he showed them his scars,
he gave them a mission that was the continuation of his mission.

He breathed on them, giving them the Holy Spirit to be with them,
as he had promised.

He returned again when Thomas was present so that Thomas would have the chance to believe as well, like the shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep.

Oh! He appeared to them with the doors shut! Who can do that?
He revealed himself so completely that Thomas recognized God in Jesus, as is stated in other scriptures.

John chapter 14 verses 8-10 teaches us: “Phillip said unto him, show us the Father and it will suffice me. Jesus said until him, Have I been so long a time with you, and yet have you not known me Phillip? He that has seen me has seen the father, so how do you say now show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak unto you are not of myself, but of the Father that dwells in me, He does the work.”

John chapter one teaches us that “in the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and through Him all things were created.”

The use of the word “Word” with a capital W is a metaphor for Jesus. It is teaching us that Jesus and God are one. This is what Thomas recognized when it became clear to him just who was standing before him. Jesus blessed Thomas for believing what he was seeing, then Jesus blessed all those who had not seen what Thomas had seen, but believed anyway.

He has put his blessing on our faith, because of our faith he has blessed us with gifts of the Spirit, calm in the storms, peace in our souls. And so much more. He promised that with the Holy Spirit, He would be with us always.

There was another time in my life…Looking at that time now, I can see that even though I had an Easter experience years before, once again I was feeling cut off, separated, abandoned. Broken. Like Thomas, I doubted Jesus was with me. But he was with me, in the form of the friends and family and church family who reached out to take care of me. I am truly… truly humbled and grateful, that even in my forgetfulness and disbelief, Jesus was there to love and heal me. This is the Resurrection in action for me in my life, that he felt MY suffering while on that cross, because Jesus overcame death and lives, I can fall down and be lifted up
again and again. My renewed faith that Jesus is always with me
was rewarded by the knowledge that He is indeed with me at all times. This was a true awakening for me.

It is part of my personal Easter story…that He lives! He lives in me! I hope that you can see that this is true in your lives as well.

Today’s theme is “peace be with you”. At the beginning of the service we sang Peace, Salaam, Shalom. Did any of you know that there is more to Shalom than peace?

True shalom means reconciliation, justice, responsibility, love, inclusion, completeness, wholeness, the breaking down of ethnic and social boundaries, for the world as well as within each person. For everyone and the earth, a physical and spiritual peace.

The Shalom of Jesus’ ministry was lived out in his life, death, and resurrection. I admit I only understand part of this. For me there is a mystery here. But I trust that as I keep going along the path that I am on, all things will be made clear.

John chapter 14 verse 27 reads:” Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

I think this verse touches on the full and true meaning of Shalom.
When we use the english word Peace, let it mean Shalom. All of it’s meanings are reflected In the Community of Christ Basic Beliefs.

Doctrine and Covenants section 164 9b says:
9b. When your willingness to live in sacred community as Christ’s new creation exceeds your natural fear of spiritual and relational transformation, you will become who you are called to be. The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of Christ, awaits your whole-hearted response to the call to make and steadfastly hold to God’s covenant of peace in Jesus Christ.

Will you accept… that Jesus loves you?
Will you accept… that Jesus loves all people?
Will you accept… that Jesus has given you peace not as the world gives, but as He gives?
Will you accept… that He has blessed your faith with the gift of the Holy Spirit to move in and through your life?
Will you accept… His call to bring His peace to the world?
He loves you, each one of you, and accepting this call is our response to this great love.
It is meant to be.
And now,
Peace be unto you all.

 

Hear and Understand

stain glass peace

Hear and Understand – a talk given at Burleson TX Community of Christ July 12, 2014

Read the story. Matthew 13:1-7, 18-21
( funny how today is the 13th and our lesson is from Matt chap. 13)

Why did Jesus teach in parables?
To get one to Hear and understand. To get one to think about the meaning of his words and how they relate to our lives. What kind of ground is good for seeds and do we need to worry about it? In the garden yes, but what about spiritually? Yes we do, because the seed will only take root in good soil,

read verse 7 again.

Spiritually speaking, what is Good soil? Those who hunger for God, those who want to serve others, children, those brought up with an understanding of scripture and the promises of God.
What about those who are hungry for food and shelter and alone? Are they good soil too?

I am not judging anyone’s ability to understand. But I am using certain terms for examples
and based on my personal experience with people in particular groups.

Skeptics, those who require scientific proof before they will believe anything, even knowing that in the past people have believed things to be true that were not already proven but were later proven, these are like the seeds who fell by the wayside:  read verse 18 again.

What about agnostics, atheists ? These groups of people are like the seeds thrown onto stony and thorny places: read verses 19 and 20 again.  From my experience, these are people who have been hurt by the church and/or Christians.  Hypocrisy is like stony and thorny ground that chokes the seed that once sprouted.

I had a good opportunity to plant a good seed about Jesus with my son, but I feel I failed to do it well.I had many things on my plate. I was slowly developing a mental illness, and being a single parent, it was all I could do to work and keep house and make sure he got the education he needed.

Looking back I could say that during the times we spent together in playing games I could have taught him more about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but by the end of each work day, my mind was a fog.

My parents tried to help, they did take him to church and to camps, and he did learn some things, but because of some childhood traumas he has forgot some of the things he learned
and now questions all that we tried to teach him.

It’s a good thing to question everything, but he is raising his own child now and I so wish he had the spiritual assurity to be able to pass on to his daughter the things that my parents passed on to me and to him.

But I know we have a good and close relationship, and when he is of a mind to think about the workings of the universe, he will call me or my dad, depending on the topic, for a sounding board or for our opinion or some answer we might have.

Because of this I have faith that he is good soil, and he does have a root, and he will come back to the things he was taught.

Meanwhile I am grateful that he lets me teach Samantha about Jesus, and bring her to church.
Both of her grandmothers love the Lord, so she is getting an education from both sides of the family. Who knows, maybe it is going to be her job to lead her father back into the fold.

Sammie is receptive. Children are receptive and perhaps able to see what we can’t and hear what we can’t, like angels.Very young children have not forgotten where they came from.
Sammie tells me that she comes from the stars.

We also know that scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit wrestles with man, although we are told she will not continue to do so and one day will cease to do this.

But as long as that day has not come, there is still hope.The key is to develop and maintain a personal relationship, after all, that is what Jesus wants us to have with him. Keeping the relationships building and growing, leaves the door open for a seed to be planted.

Indeed just by doing this the seed is planted as a person watches how we live our lives and how we accept them for who they are, right then and as they grow, without judgement.

So we need to be on our toes, keep our own hearts open to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, become grounded in scripture, especially the words of council received in our faith movement.

LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND what we are being told!

Planting a seed is done when we work to ABOLISH POVERTY AND END SUFFERING.

Planting a seed is done when we work to DRAW THE CIRCLE WIDER,

BRINGING INTO OUR MIDST THE MARGINALIZED and DISCRIMINATED.

Planting a seed is done when we say and mean ALL ARE WELCOME AT THIS TABLE.

Planting a seed is done in RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS AND ALSO INTENTIONAL ACTS OF KINDNESS!

Planting a seed is done when we are watched by others as we work to heal the EARTH.

Planting a seed is done when we teach our children and grandchildren about Jesus,
and teach them that they are created in the image of the Divine, that they have that spark of Divine within them,

Planting a seed is done when we include the children in the work of teaching. When we listen to them and understand what we are being taught by them.

In the children lies our future and hope.

Be a planter,
sow a seed,
and teach a child how to do the same.