Cold feet and socks

Hebrews 10:32-39
I’d like to continue a talk I gave last night.

Gloria and I attended an interfaith prayer service. This gathering was part of several city-wide events planned to commemorate MLK Day. It was a simple night, and a blessing to share.

I told those gathered about a question Gloria asked me yesterday morning. In Corpus Christi, it was forty degrees before I left home. That’s not the kind of cold a lot of the country experienced. But it was enough to make my hands cold. When that happens, I can’t but let Gloria know how cold they are.

No, I can’t just tell her. She has to experience it!

So, I put both my cold hands on her arms. She jumped and asked me, “Why are your hands cold if you’re wearing socks?”

Now, that may sound like a silly question to you. It’s actually a loving one. She knows me. She knows if my feet are cold my entire body will be cold for the rest of the day.

That question allowed me to offer this theme last night: if one part of the body is hurting, the rest of the body suffers.

Unfortunately, many within the body don’t recognize how other parts are suffering. I’m convinced one of the greatest sins we perpetuate is the disunity of the body of Christ. We let our agendas and ideologies cloud our vision of one another. As a result, we can’t see what many of our sisters and brothers endure.

Is that a willful choice? Is ignorance our greatest fault? Maybe we do see it, but we’ve learned to excuse away our responsibility to walk in faith with one another.

Quite often Christians talk about the will of God. They mostly mean that in personal terms. What is God’s will for me? Is it God’s will for me to take this job or make this decision? I don’t have a problem with that. Only, it can cloud our vision, if we’re not careful. 

Hebrews 10 encourages Christians who are struggling. Once, they were a lively congregation. As an example, they “had compassion for those who were in prison.” But something happened. Persecution set in and deterred them from living a full life of faith.

Part of that meant their personal faith declined. It also meant their compassion and concern for others faded, too. So, the writer admonishes them, “For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” In this light, the will of God isn’t something personal. It seems to connect to how we serve those in prison or suffering any other plight.

MLK, in his Letter From Birmingham Jail, wrote, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

What about our generation? What keeps us from acknowledging the suffering of others? What keeps us from working for their well-being? Could it be we miss how much our humanity connects us?

Stay blessed…john

We should celebrate more

Ephesians 3:1-12
Today is Ephiphany!

I remember first learning about the different festivals and holidays of the church. Christians around the world keep celebrating long past Christmas Day. When I discovered that, I wondered what was wrong with us. We are prone to open gifts on Christmas morning and almost immediately begin moving on.

All the while, our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world continue honoring the magnificence of the Incarnation. Epiphany is only one way they do so. I’d encourage you to look up ways Christians celebrate this holy day.

In the meantime, let’s reflect on mystery.

That’s part of what we recall on Epiphany. In Christ, God revealed the mystery hidden for ages. It wasn’t that God was keeping something from us. In fact, as we learn the Bible more we can see a pattern emerge. God was showing us where we were going. We knew what to look for. Even the wise men knew something was happening in the cosmos.

Think of how excited people were when John the Baptist began preaching. They understood God had always had this time in mind. That’s why many people flocked to Jesus, too. Yes, he healed many and taught with power. But people could imagine how all that fit into what God had prepared them for.

Of course, there was more to see and understand. Fast forward to the apostle Paul.

He understood his ministry in light of the revelation of Jesus. You’ll remember how he met the Lord. His eyes opened to the realization of Christ. So, his life’s purpose became to share the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. This is the great mystery he feels blessed to share.

God had always planned to incorporate all humanity into the family of God. We couldn’t always see that. We didn’t know that could be possible outside of the covenant God made with the Israelites. In Jesus, though, the revelation came.

So, now what?

I love how The Message Bible translates Ephesians 3:7. It reads, “This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message.” He’ll go on to say the church shares a similar purpose (3:10). But here’s the part I think we need to rethink.

Ephesians 3:9 says that Paul wants “to make everyone see what is the plan.” Many of us feel as if we should “make” people believe. How do you make someone do anything? Jesus made Paul see, of course. Are you and your church able to do something like that? No. And we’re not called to “make” people do anything. The sense of verse 9 is not that we force our belief on anyone. We certainly don’t shame anyone either. Instead, we shed light on what God has done.

Yes, that can mean that we teach something. But we’re also shining a light. 

That’s part of the reason why we need more celebrations. We need to wonder more together at what God has done in Jesus. What light can we bring if our own hearts have yet to be illuminated by this mystery?

Contemplate what God revealed to us. What does that mean for you? For your church? How is that revelation supposed to shape your ministry and world perspective? Even how you see other people?

Give glory to God and celebrate the mystery!

Stay blessed…john