Hope as a Way of Life

“Hope as a Way of Life”

Habakkuk 1:1-5; 2:1-4 (1:5) –November 27, 2022

            At the end of October, we celebrated Halloween, the day of scary stories, haunted houses, dressing up in all kinds of scary costumes like monsters, ghosts, and other frightening creatures.

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church year. Our Scripture reading comes from the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk, on the look out for God’s response to all kinds of scary and frightening things that were going on in the lives of the people of Israel at that time. Long time ago, at the beginning of the 6th century before Christ was born.

Every October, we observe the season of scary things, and every year, many people truly enjoy being scared down to their shoes. Because – isn’t it true that scary things or frightening places are not so scary after all? Especially when we consider that many scary monsters and creatures turn out to be just like us? And, just like the people in Habakkuk’s day, too?

However, Habakkuk talks about not only scary and frightening stuff, but about violence and injustice, causing so much pain in the world. This was not only true many centuries ago. It’s even more true today, with all the fear, uncertainty, anxiety and dread people encounter each day, In our neighborhoods and towns, as well as nationally and internationally.

How about you? How about me? Don’t we regularly see fear, uncertainty, and anxiety in our individual lives? And what about violence? What about injustice? The world just had several instances of shocking, horrible events. Significant recent disasters include mass shootings of multiple people in the past weeks around our country, and the massive earthquake in Indonesia.

Quite different events, but comparable to the many different kinds of situations that the nation of Israel was dealing with during the time of Habakkuk. And, similar to many different kinds of things going on today, like regional wars, famine, drought, rampant inflation and unemployment! What is a person to do, in the face of all this happening? Where is God in the midst of all these tragedies, no matter what their size, big, medium and small? Where is God in your life, or in mine, or in the lives of our beloved relatives and friends?

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. At first glance, this is a different Scripture reading for the beginning of the Advent season! Or, is it? Advent is the season at the beginning of the church year where we – the Church – prepare for the coming of the Christ child, the Baby born in Bethlehem. The prophet Habakkuk’s “message of waiting with hope in the midst of despair offers a powerful word for both the Advent season and for the world we live in today.” [1]

It’s true that the first words of this prophecy are a personal lament. This cry sounds so familiar to us from the Psalms! “O LORD, how long?” This is the opening of a dozen psalms, and repeated again and again in the books of the prophets! I hear this lament from relatives, loved ones, and hospice patients themselves. “O LORD, how long?” People agonize over dire circumstances, and cry out to the Lord again and again. This has happened for millenia, too.

What we can learn from our reading today is – it is okay to complain to God! And, just like Habakkuk, it is okay for us to call God to account. Just like Habakkuk, we too can give voice to what we perceive as God’s refusal to respond to cries for help. Almost as if God is forgetful, or if the Lord has gone on a journey or is asleep.

“That in and of itself is an important reminder for congregations: that being angry at God, or feeling that God seems absent, is “allowed,” and in fact has biblical precedents—and yet those feelings of despair are never the end of the story.” [2]

The things we really fear – that bullies at school or at work will go after us, that something bad will happen to someone we love, that we will lose our jobs, that there will be a war where we live, that we will never be able to do what we want most to do….   If the thinking about fears leads to talking about real, actual fears and anxiety about jobs, the economy, world conflicts, and more, we all can learn that fear is a very real part of life. [3]

Let’s talk straight. In this fallen, imperfect world, people have been fearful and anxious for millenia. But, God promises that fear, anxiety, violence and evil will not be the final word! We can hold this real fear and anxiety in tension with the blessed fact that our God brings hope! Our God is present with us! We can be ready to hear God’s promise to Habakkuk and us in Habakkuk 1:5. ““Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”  

Do you hear? Do you understand what God is telling us here? “God’s goal in asking Habakkuk to write the message so big was that God wanted everyone to read it and know that God was on the side of the faithful [that’s us!] and against the evil [violence and fear so rampant in the world today].” [4] The Lord wants us to read this message of hope and faith on billboards, or even to have skywriting planes write this hopeful message in the sky above!

God brings hope! As Habakkuk said, God will be with us through the dark valleys and disappointments and tragedies of life, just as God is right beside us through sickness, poverty, conflict, disaster, and whatever other negative things may try to creep in and surround us.

The great good news is our God will not allow these bad things to overcome. God will have the final word, and will prevail. The Lord has promised, and God’s word is sure!

Alleluia, Amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/faith-as-a-way-of-life-2/commentary-on-habakkuk-11-4-22-4-33b-6-17-19-2

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2013/10/year-c-proper-26-31st-sunday-in.html

[4] Ibid.

Pray, Petition and Request

“Pray, Petition and Request”

Philippians 4:4-7 (4:6) –November 20, 2022

Sharing together. We share many things together. We share conversations, we share meals, we share good times together. We share sadness, we share worry, we share bad times together. We also share prayer praises and prayer requests together.

            I’m reminded of the time each Sunday we set aside in the services here at St. Luke’s Church, specifically for prayer concerns. We ask for concerns as well as praises. We lift up the joys that happen in our lives as well as the sad times. This time is a time of drawing closer together, of affirmation, and of caring and concern for one other as a community.

            We can see this kind of care and concern here in our Scripture passage for today. The believers in the city of Philippi had real love and concern in their hearts for the Apostle Paul. We see Paul had a deep and warm love for this group of believers in Jesus Christ.

            Paul was not the kind of guy who stayed in one place for very long. He was an itinerant minister, almost a circuit-riding teacher, preacher and evangelist. But, traveling around as Paul did, things came up. From Paul’s own account, a lot of things happened to him, and many of them were very unpleasant, including beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and other kinds of dangers. If anyone here is interested, a first-person account of some of Paul’s life and journeys as an itinerant preacher can be found in 2 Corinthians 11.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens in between the things you plan.” I’m sure the Apostle Paul could relate. Somehow, the Philippian believers found out about the difficulties Paul was having. Without any letter requesting money, without any beneficence inquiry, without anyone from the apostolic development office asking for a donation, the Philippians decided on their own to take up a collection and send it to Paul.

They weren’t close by, so they sent a member of their community to hand-deliver their love-gift to Paul, their pastor, Epaphroditus. There was a complication. Paul was in prison. Not just in some sleepy little backwater of a town. No, Paul was in jail in the capitol city. Serious jail, guarded by career army personnel. The Philippians needed to send their gift all the way to Rome.

As Dr. McGee said in his commentary, the Philippian church was the group who came to Paul’s need when he was in prison. They sent him badly needed support! Paul was their former pastor, and their missionary, too. [1]

            One of the reasons that Paul wrote this letter in response to the Philippian believers was to send a thank-you letter. Sandwiched in among the suggestions and commands Paul gives his friends, long-distance from Rome, is this command—“don’t worry!” What a thing for Paul to say! Of all people, he had good reason to be anxious and concerned about his own situation!

He is waiting in prison—remember, in serious jail—looking at the capital charge of treason and blasphemy for denying that “Caesar is Lord.” At this point, it was quite possible that Paul was going to die, probably from beheading. From our point of view, today, just thinking about all that Paul was dealing with, how could he say “don’t worry!”??

            Worry can be insidious. Gnawing away at our insides. Like acid, eating us up. (And sometimes that is exactly the case, as in stomach ulcers!) You and I have lots we can potentially worry about: the economy, the government, fighting and violence near and far, our health and our loved ones’ health, our homes, our families, even worry about our pets.

            Now that we know a little more about what Paul was facing, let’s listen again to several verses from chapter 4: “6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

            Wow! Paul—in prison, mind you!—tells the Philippians “don’t worry!” But instead—pray! Pray, and let your requests be made known to God! Paul says that prayer is the antidote for the problem of worry!

            I am especially intrigued about what Paul says after “Pray!” He says that God’s peace will replace worry. This peace of mind from God, from above, will guard your heart and mind. The Greek word “guard” means “will stand watch over your heart and mind.” In other words, the peace of God will come and occupy the place anxiety once held! Like a nightwatchman, or a soldier keeping watch. God’s peace helping keep us peaceful!

            How many of us know people who worry? How many of us are related to people who worry? . . . How many of us are people who worry? Such a difficult habit to dislodge when worry is so deeply ingrained. Worry and anxiety can become a terrible, negative, corrosive habit. As I said, eating us up, from the inside out. Here, the Apostle Paul gives us the antidote for worry. Prayer! And, we need something to put in the place of worry and anxiety.  

Let us list Paul’s Pointers on Worry. We’ll recap! One, Don’t Worry! Two, Pray! Three, God’s Peace will stand guard over your heart and mind! And now, Four: God is going to help us develop a new mental program, a new way of thinking that will build us up, instead of tearing us down. This new way of thinking will be nurturing and helpful, instead of negative and corrosive.    

Verse 8 tells us, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things!” God doesn’t want us to be worried and anxious. That is not living life abundantly. God dearly wants us to have positive, helpful, nurturing things on our minds and hearts. To be helpful and loving, inside and out. What a command from Paul!

Don’t worry?? Yes!! And God will help us with this new way of thinking, anytime we want to start! We can leave worry and anxiety behind, and God’s peace will help us guard our minds and hearts. Then, we are freed from worry to live life God’s way. The positive way. Thinking and acting in nurturing, loving, praiseworthy ways. Lord, let it be so. Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] McGee, J. Vernon, Through the Bible, Vol. V (Thomas Nelson Publishers: United States of America, 1983), 286.

Why Perseverance Matters

“Why Perseverance Matters”

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (3:9) –November 13, 2022

            My line of work is called a “helping profession.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s a minister, a chaplain, or a pastoral caregiver. These types of jobs are “helping professions,” just as a social  worker, nurse, teacher or therapist is, too. All jobs where we are involved in helping others!

            In this reading today, the Apostle Paul talks about himself and his friends who were traveling with him. “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you.” Paul certainly did not stay idle when he was on the road! And, neither did his fellow missionary friends.

            How ought we then live? This section of the letter to Paul’s friends in Thessalonica is the last part of the letter, where Paul gives his recommendations for Christian life and living. The believers in Thessalonica are called to seek after God, and to follow Christ’s example. Paul also tells us here to follow his example, and the example of his friends, in working diligently.

Paul firmly speaks to people: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.” If people sit around on their couches, eating junk food and simply watching YouTube or reality television all day and night, Paul has a strong criticism for them! “Hey! You! Get up and get going!”  

I don’t want to heap this strong recommendation on everyone. There are lots of people who are unable to do a hard day’s work. Do you know any friends or acquaintances who are chronically ill? Not able to do anything, and exhausted by simply getting dressed, or walking from one end of the house to the other? For example, the dear people in my line of work, hospice patients, their caregivers, and close families. This is a sad reality for many families, right now. 

I’ve often spoken of one of my favorite commentators, Carolyn Brown. She writes of children getting asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Often, children are focused on fancy or flashy jobs or occupations. Like, a major league sports player, or a member of a famous music group, or a television or movie star. But, why not suggest to children that they consider work that makes the world a better place? Why not a helping profession? What better thing to do than to do something that will make life better for everyone around them?

For that matter, we can think of the newer hymn that we sang last Sunday, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” This hymn talks about all kinds of people and all kinds of professions, like a doctor, a queen, a shepherdess, a soldier, a priest, and lots more, too.

But, there is a down side to caring and helping. People who help others can do too much helping. Did you realize that? There is a state called “compassion fatigue” or becoming weary of doing the next right thing. This is exactly what the apostle Paul is talking about, right here in this Scripture reading! “Brothers and sisters, do not become weary in doing what is right.”

            Rev. Sharon Blezzard talks in all seriousness about compassion fatigue. It is when these sincere, caring, helping individuals help too much, and become overwhelmed by the sizeable needs and the huge crowds of people who are waiting in line to be helped. Their sincere wishes and deep desire to help and heal and ease the way for many people in need ends up in cynicism and disillusionment.

I hear about this so often, among pastors, ministers, missionaries and chaplains. Many seriously talk about burn out. There is nothing so sad than to see religious leaders and professionals cynical and disillusioned. Plus, they often leave their jobs if not the ministry altogether, and need serious therapy and recovery. I hear similar things from social workers, teachers, nurses, and other medical professionals, too. They can burn out and leave their work, too.

So often in the Bible there are recommendations on how to live. Like here, for example. How are is too far when it comes to caring too much? Having “compassion fatigue” when you and I are in helping professions? Yet, the apostle Paul is perfectly correct in recommending to his friends that they work diligently! He is correct when he tells his friends to “do not be weary in doing what is right.”

Striving to follow God and do what Christ calls us to do is what Paul recommends. Except – our Lord Jesus rested. Our Lord Jesus took time away to pray and to rest and to be with His friends. Paul was often with his friends, too, and I suspect Paul took breaks, too. We can see the good example of Paul and his friends here, in today’s Scripture reading, and take it to heart.

Perseverance matters. Paul knew that very well. “Because we WILL face opposition [in life], perseverance matters. Because culture and the forces of evil WILL place stumbling blocks in our path, perseverance matters. Because our lights will shine in the darkness, reflecting the light of Christ to a hurting, chaotic, and broken world, our perseverance matters.” [1]

We can all walk with God, strive to be the best Christians we can be, and follow Paul’s example, too. Don’t be weary and disillusioned; your perseverance makes all the difference in this world and for the sake of the life to come.

Which leaves us with…what? I offer the last verse of last week’s hymn, again. All three verses talk about the saints – the believers – of God everywhere. The last verse tells us “You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, in church, by the sea, in the house next door; they are saints of God, whether rich or poor, and I mean to be one too.” Paul encourages us to go, be a saint. Follow his example, and above all, follow the calling of our Lord, Christ Jesus.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2013/11/why-perseverance-matters/

We Will Be Like Him

1 John 3:1-3    November 2, 2014   (St. Luke’s Church, Morton Grove)

(I was ill this weekend, and did not preach a sermon today. This is my All Saints Sunday sermon from November 2014.)

“We Will Be Like Him”

            Going on vacation. Who remembers vacations? I remember long car trips with smaller children. We did not have all the latest devices, the video games, Game Boys, small DVD players. No, those were simpler times. A number of years ago. And the children would ask, “Are we there yet?”  The trip would seem like it took forever! We would be on the road. Not quite there. Not quite yet. Still on the way. Still waiting.

            Of course, an extended car trip only seemed like it took forever! Here, in the first letter of John, the aged disciple is telling his friends something similar. But—I’m getting ahead of myself! We ought to go back to the beginning of this short passage. Just a little chunk, really, of what John says in this whole letter. 

            Let’s start with an overview. This letter was written to a group of dispersed believers. Similar to several other New Testament letters. The Apostle John was older by this time—late in the first century. He wanted to straighten out some misunderstandings. And, he wanted to get several main points across.  I’m not going to test you on these, but for people who were just wondering. Number one, God is light. Number two, God is love. Number three, Jesus Christ was a real human being, not just a spirit. Those main points were to combat some disagreements and squabbles that had already come about. Even though Christianity was only fifty or so years old.   

            I’ve given you all an overview, a bird’s eye view. Now, let’s dive in with a magnifying glass, and look at two verses in Chapter three.

I’ll remind us all of verse one of chapter three: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” This statement of John’s is significant! Why? Because this verse tells us such an important fact. We are called children of God. That’s incontrovertible. Why? Not just because you and I say so. No! But because God says so, that’s why!

I am not sure, but I suspect that John’s friends, the people he’s writing the letter to, have a similar problem as the disciples did. I’ve mentioned this problem before, when Jesus was here on this earth. A couple of decades before the writing of this letter. I don’t think the other believers “got it.” I don’t think they fully understood where John was coming from. That’s why he tells them in several different ways and several different places in this letter that God is love, and God gives love.  

The starting point, where John starts from at this point in the letter, is that God has named us all God’s children. Bam! Named! [ hand forward ]  Done! [ ref signal ]

We have a problem, though. The problem is the world. As the first chapter of the Gospel of John verse 10 tells us, Jesus “was in the world, and the world came into being through Him; yet the world did not know Him.” The world has a huge blind spot. The world is not in sync with God. The world is hostile to God, even though God made the world. And the solar system. And the whole universe. It doesn’t matter—the world is reeling under the effects of sin, and is therefore hostile to God.

What can we do about this negative state of affairs? Check out verse two. John says it again! “Beloved (or, friends), we are God’s children now.” John wants to make certain that we have got it!

We all—each of us—are called God’s children. Who is the oldest member of our congregation? And who is the youngest member of our congregation? All God’s children. Each of you is, and me, too! Each of us is God’s beloved child!

Yes, the hostile world gets in the way of living life God’s way. Nobody ever said the Christian walk and the Christian life was going to be a piece of cake. Ask the Apostle Paul. Ask the other apostles, including John.

But let’s move on. My favorite part of this passage is coming up! Remember how I started this sermon, a few minutes ago?  I started with the mention of vacations. Who remembers vacations? I remember long car trips with smaller children. A number of years ago. And the children would ask, “Are we there yet?”  The trip would seem like it took forever! We would be on the road. Not quite there. Not quite yet. Still on the way. Still waiting.  

I’m suggesting the concept of being on a very, very long trip. Not arriving yet, still being on the way. We are still in transit. We are children of God now, but not yet, too! We have a seeming paradox of both/and. Now, and not yet! That’s what I compare with this statement of John’s. Listen to verse two: “What we will be has not yet been revealed.”

Did you hear what John told us? That is why I say we are still in transit. Nobody knows for sure what we will be. And the best part of all, in my opinion, is this last sentence of verse two: “What we do know is this: when Jesus is revealed, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” Did you hear? “We will see Him as He is.”

Did you all know we all are wearing veils? Invisible veils, that keep us from fully understanding the words of Scripture. We hear in Exodus that Moses talked face to face with the Lord. As a man talks to his friend. And whenever Moses talked like that, face to face with God, his face actually shone. The glory of the Lord made his face shine supernaturally! Did you know that the people of Israel were so scared of Moses after he talked with the Lord—and his face got all shiny—that they begged Moses to wear a veil? They wanted a separation between them and the glory, the power, the presence of God.   

Isn’t it similar with us, sometimes? The straight-up glory of God is too much for most of us to handle. We are still in transit. Still on the road, on this very long trip to heaven. Both/and. Now, and not yet.

Again, verse two: “What we do know is this: when Jesus is revealed, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” Today, when we commemorate All Saints Day, is that time of year when we remember again and again the ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ of God’s kingdom. Yes, we are God’s children! Yes! A thousand times yes! We have the best guarantee in the world for this, too. God says so.

But what about the ‘not yet’ part? How can we reconcile that? Let me tell you my take on that: I do not know.  NOW but NOT YET. We are not quite sure. We don’t know the fullness of what that means. But I’ll tell you who does know. The saints in glory, our fellow believers who have gone before us, have received that fullness. They know. With unveiled faces, they see Jesus, glorified in heaven.

As for us? As we are here, in transit? Now, and not yet? We wait in this world, expectant. We live in hope, thankfulness, and gratitude as we gather around this table. As we gather for this meal, joined with the church of every time and place – with all the saints.

Alleluia, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

Our Mighty Fortress

“Our Mighty Fortress”

Psalm 46:1-7 (46:7) – October 30, 2022

Here we are at Reformation Sunday, the week of the year when we remember Martin Luther posting his list of grievances against the church establishment of the Catholic Church, more than 500 years ago in 1517. These 95 grievances against the Church sparked a movement of protest that was felt around the world. And thus, the Protestant Church was born.

Our psalm reading today was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm. And, what a marvelous psalm to choose! Martin took this psalm to heart, for a whole host of reasons! These were literal reasons, too. The Lord was indeed his fortress, helping him to stay safe through all danger.

The official Catholic Church hierarchy certainly had it in for Martin Luther! After defending himself against strident criticism from scholars and theologians, and legal challenges for years, the official verdict registered by the Catholic Church was not in Luther’s favor. He broke with Rome in 1521. Because he would not recant his views on God, salvation by faith, and the Bible, Luther was officially on the run from the Catholic establishment.

I think of Martin on the run, like young David, after Samuel anointed him king. Martin Luther needed the Lord to be a strong and secure refuge for him, what with all the military and operational might of the Catholic Church coming after him! Looking at the first verses, “God as a Fortress against the threats of nature (verses 1-3). The dominant theme of the psalm is trust in God, first sounded in verse 1, “God is our refuge and strength.” [1] A mighty fortress indeed!

This brought me to thinking, how do you and I trust? Do we – do you trust God to be a secure protection for us and our families? If not, why not? Just like King David, we can see time after time where people from the Bible – both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament – trusted in God to be their refuge and strong fortress, as Martin wrote in the hymn we sang today.

We also remember Father Martin Luther – for he was a Catholic priest – as a sincere, devout follower of Jesus Christ. He thought long and hard about sin and confession, faith and grace. He thought a lot about God’s Word, and eventually translated the whole Bible – both Old and New Testaments – into German, the common tongue of his day and area of Germany. And, thank God that Martin was not only a theologian, but a skilled writer, translator, preacher and musician, too.

The Catholic Church hierarchy did not approve of the Bible translated into the common tongue, which was one of the reasons Martin was on the run. As we examine Psalm 46, one big feature of this psalm is the word “help.” “’Help’ has a more active sense, identifying God as one who takes action to assist those in trouble. Verses 2 and 3 indicate that God’s people need not fear the worst that nature can hurl at them, whether it be earthquakes or floods. Because no matter what, God will be with them.” [2]

Like Martin Luther on the run in parts of Germany, like King David in the wilderness of Israel, God can be our help and refuge, too. Let’s be clear: this psalm is not talking pie-in-the-sky, or looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. This psalm is clear and realistic. It does not promise “we as God’s people will be free from the ravages of nature or of war or of individual suffering. But they do promise that we will not have to go through these things alone. ‘The LORD of hosts is with us … ‘” [3]

This precious hymn written by Luther was not only a refuge from earthly disasters, but is also personal in nature. Rev. Janet Hunt, a Lutheran minister, mentions that she hears it “as much more personal now, knowing as we do that ‘the old satanic foe’ threatened him with the sorts of ‘woes’ one could only begin to understand if one has been there. The heart-wrenching, life altering death of a child, to name but one. The days and nights of struggling to hold on to faith when the Church which had borne the faith to him no longer lived up to its promises. The fear which must have possessed Luther as his very life was threatened.” [4]

Sure, with everything going on in the world today, we also have reason to be scared half to death! Yet, we have “a God who has been time-tested and, over and over again, can be trusted upon to keep you secure in your time of trouble. Either way – and in all times and circumstances – we have a God who has got us covered. That is what Psalm 46 declares. And that is what Luther wanted to proclaim in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”” [5]

Can we – you and I – loosen our tight grip on all we are clutching to our chests, knowing that God indeed holds everything? Including us?

This Reformation Sunday, Psalm 46 talks of a refuge, and a help in our great need.

Yes, God is indeed our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. That’s something to truly celebrate. Alleluia, amen.


@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/reformation-day/commentary-on-psalm-46-12

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://dancingwiththeword.com/being-still-letting-go/

[5] “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is not the only English translation of Luther’s “Ein Feste Burg.” Thomas Carlyle, the nineteenth century Scottish commentator, offered this version: “A safe stronghold our God is still, a trusty shield and weapon.” Carlyle’s contemporary, George MacDonald, rendered stanza one, verse one, in this way: “Our God he is a castle strong, a good mailcoat and weapon.”

Be Merciful to Me!

“Be Merciful to Me!”

Luke 18:9-14 (18:13) – October 23, 2022

When you were young, in school, did the other kids joke and horse around? Sometimes, did the other kids make fun of some people in their school or down the block, or tease and belittle them behind their backs? Even worse, to their faces?   

I can relate to this, very strongly. I was one of those kids who was picked on. I wore glasses ever since kindergarten, and on top of that, I was a chubby girl. The mean kids used to call me “four eyes” and “chubby, chubby!” Do you remember a couple of other kids who were really picked on, in your acquaintance? Called names like shorty or pipsqueak, jerk or baby. These names were so hurtful. Sometimes, the picked-on kids still remember, decades later.

Do these negative names or labels remind you of anything? They certainly did, with me! In our parable this morning, it sounds like our Pharisee could be one of the really mean kids on the playground! With such a high and mighty air, and a real feeling of superiority. What do you see from this Pharisee? He was a show-off, for sure! Plus, he did not particularly care how hurtful his statements about the tax collector were. That tax collector was standing nearby, too! How do we think that poor guy felt, with the Pharisee talking trash about him?

Just listen to what the Pharisee says about the tax collector: “The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this rotten tax collector.”

I know I have talked about tax collectors before. These people were Jews, and they grew up in the villages and towns where they plied their trade. Except – they were turncoats. Sell-outs. Someone had to collect taxes for the Roman Empire. They took the pay and authority from their Roman overlords and were despised for it by their fellow Jews. These tax collectors soon received the reputation for graft and shake-downs, and usually that unsavory reputation was well deserved. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector came into the Temple before the Lord. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector had sin in their lives – missteps, missing the mark of how God wanted them to live. Their attitude toward their sin was as different as night and day!

We need to consider two basic truths when we take a closer look at this parable. First, God loves us! Yes, it is true! The Lord loves each one of us, more than we can ever imagine.

But, the second truth is also very evident. We are all sinners. We all have missed the mark, and all have mis-stepped. We all do things and say things and especially think things that are displeasing to the Lord. Commentator Carolyn Brown says “The Pharisee understands only one of them – God loves me.  He sees only his strengths and good deeds and tells God all about them.  It is a one sided conversation.” [1] 

Do you know people like this? People who are full of themselves, self-important, and proud? Arrogant, even? They might set themselves up on pedestals and look down their noses at anyone who doesn’t come up to their exacting, stuck-up standards. Especially “inferior” people like “thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”

The Pharisee does speak truth about himself, however. “Truth be told, he is righteous. He leads a life blameless according to the law. He fasts and gives alms and indeed bears no resemblance to the unsavory characters with which he compares himself. What, then, is his problem?” [2] He is overwhelmingly self-righteous, self-involved and blind to his own failings and shortcomings. He does not have a true picture of himself, from the inside out.
            What about the tax collector? This parable is one of my favorite parables that Jesus ever preached. I relate so much to this tax collector! We don’t even know his name. But, he understood both of these important truths that underlie this narrative. “He is well aware of his weaknesses and sins.  (Lots of people point them out to him regularly!)  If that was all he knew, he wouldn’t be at the Temple at all.  But he also knows that God loves him in spite of his sins.  So he comes to God to confess and leaves OK with God.” [3]

Do you hear? That is what the assurance of pardon is all about, after our confession of sins each Sunday. God forgives us our sins! God loves each of us very, very much! This does not negate our sinfulness, or sweep it under the rug, But, you and I have a realistic picture of ourselves as sinners touched by mercy, saved by grace, and much beloved by God.  

Carolyn Brown reminds us: “Jesus tells his listeners to be honest with God.  When we come to God honestly, admitting our sins and trusting that God loves and forgives us, we are OK with God – and also OK with ourselves and the people around us.” [4] 

I invite you – me – all of us – to look around the room. See your family, friends, strangers or people you don’t really know. Each one of us is a sinner, in thought, word and deed. Each one does or says hurtful or thoughtless things. Now, look around the room again. God loves every one of us. Every single one of your friends, your neighbors, your enemies, even.

I ask you: which man went home justified with God? Both men were loved anyhow, but the truthful, humble, repentant tax collector was embraced by God. We can take this parable to heart, and follow the truthful, humble example set for us. We can all strive to be humble and penitent, just like this repentant tax collector.

Praise God we are loved by this amazing God, the God who delights in justifying the ungodly, welcoming the outcast, and healing all who are in need. Alleluia, amen.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2013/09/year-c-proper-25-30th-sunday-of.html

[2] https://www.workingpreacher.org/dear-working-preacher/the-pharisee-the-tax-collector-and-the-reformation

[3] worshipingwothchildren, ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Times of Tumult

“Times of Tumult”

2 Timothy 3:14-15, 4:1-5 (4:2-3) – October 16, 2022

Have you turned on the television or the radio lately? Even looking at social media, political advertisements seem to be everywhere. Are you familiar with anyone who wants to only be with people who tell them exactly what they want to hear? Campaign rhetoric is constantly beating on our ears, and will be until the election in just a little over three weeks from now. And for some people, their itching ears lead them to hang out with cookie-cutter people who agree with them and their viewpoints one hundred percent.

The Apostle Paul knew a good deal about people with itching ears, who only wanted to hear cookie-cutter opinions from cookie-cutter people who agree with them, one hundred percent of the time. I am afraid life does not work that way, and neither does the Word of God.

This whole service today lifts up the Word of God. The books of the Bible – both Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament – are so meaningful to Christianity. Especially Protestant Christianity, which we will continue to celebrate in a wonderful way in just two weeks, with the marking of Reformation Day on October 31st.

Let us listen again to the words of Paul from 2 Timothy 4:3-4. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Isn’t this very similar to what I have just said about turning aside to gather cookie-cutter people around them with cookie-cutter opinions? Saying what their itching ears want to hear?

On a pastors’ message board which I look at from time to time, Pastor Sybil from Kansas posted recently, referring to this very Scripture reading. “My dogs frequently scratch their ears, and our vet recently told us that ear infections can be common in dogs, especially if they swim in ponds (like ours do). One sign of the infection is constant itching. Our ears have been assaulted for months by campaign rhetoric (in the USA), and we have trouble discerning what is truth in what we hear.” [1]

We not only need to watch what we hear and what we listen to. But because Paul raises up the Bible as such a wonderful resource for us, we need to be careful of what we read, too!  These verses from 2 Timothy as well as our verses from the great Psalm 119 give us a lot of insight into God’s Word and how much good it can do for us. God’s Word can aid us to grow in Godly wisdom and understanding, too.   

Timothy was trained in understanding the Scriptures from a very early age, from his mother and grandmother’s careful teaching. So, Timothy had great training in and respect for the Word of God. Yet, Paul directs Timothy to continue to study the Scriptures, which make us wise for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, this does not only go for pastors and ministers. Yes, it’s true that pastors have a special responsibility to care for their churches, their flocks. But Paul’s words go much further than that. When you and I read the Bible, we all have the responsibility for passing on the truths we absorb. We all need to share the wisdom and experience we receive from Scripture. We can continue to learn ourselves, to better understand the teachings, doctrines and texts of our faith.

I suspect we all remember receiving letters. Maybe not much anymore, but I have several handwritten letters I received many years ago from two older friends. I still keep them, and take them out and read them from time to time. Both older friends have died, and I can’t just lift the phone and call them to continue the friendship. And, we did not agree all the time. We were not cookie-cutter friends, agreeing one hundred percent of the time. But, I still have those several letters. I can still read them and reminisce about the things we said and did together.

Isn’t the Word of God so similar to those letters of mine? We can pull out our Bible and read those letters to friends from the New Testament where there were disagreements, or the other parts of the Gospels or Hebrew Scriptures. Paul tells us to “embrace the totality of the scriptures, even the parts you wrestle with, the parts that confuse you. Don’t just hold on to that which agrees with your current preference and inclination. Keep reading, be challenged, be stretched, be troubled by this word. And keep asking this question: how does this text help me know Jesus better? How is the Word made flesh revealed in this written word?” [2]

Just like my dear relationships I had with my two older friends, we can think about our relationship with our Lord Jesus. As you and I read these sections of the Bible, do the words of Scripture help me – help you – to draw closer to Jesus? Are we in a closer relationship with God because of the amount of time we spend with God?

“All of us are charged with sharing our most precious relationship [with Jesus]. All of us are called to reveal that which defines us, the one who shapes us. All of us are called to tell our story in ways that issue invitations and gather up those who have been left out. And the mentor [Paul] tells us that it isn’t always going to work. There aren’t always going to be responses that let us know we’re on the right track.” [3]

The more you know this Jesus, the more you can preach this gospel, the more you can tell others this good news about our BFF, our best friend forever. Jesus. Isn’t this the best news of all?


[1][1] https://desperatepreacher.com//texts/2tim3_14/2tim3_14.htm

[2] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/not-ashamed/nineteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes/nineteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-preaching-notes

[3] Ibid.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

Turn Back in Thanksgiving

“Turn Back in Thanksgiving”

The Healing of the Ten Lepers – Luke 17:11-19

Luke 17:11-19 (17:15) – October 9, 2022

People in need of healing are often seen in the Gospels. Can you imagine a sudden, spontaneous healing happening right in front of you? How about ten people being healed, all at once? That is exactly what happens here, in today’s Scripture reading from Dr. Luke.

The Rabbi Jesus is on His way towards Jerusalem, traveling with His disciples along the way. He comes upon not only one or two people in need of healing, but instead ten people. What would you do when faced with a group of people your society says are “untouchables?” Who cannot even come close, or come into the town, near other “healthy” people? Who have strained relationships, even no relationships with larger society?

Since Luke was a doctor, he must have had some experience with people with various types of skin conditions. What we now know today as simple eczema, or hives, or allergy-related skin issues must have been sources of great dismay. Much less actual leprosy, known as Hansen’s disease, where extremities get diseased as a part of this disfiguring wasting illness. Imagine your fingers or toes or ears just getting diseased and falling off. Horrible.

Let’s look at the verses from Leviticus 13, giving instructions to the people of Israel. “The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp” This is what all people with serious skin conditions were required to do. Imagine yourself, a relative, or a good friend forced to put their hands out in a stay-away gesture. A very sad state of affairs, indeed!

We start to understand how very much alone these lepers are. Not being able to come near their families or friends? “It wasn’t uncommon for lepers to group together. They can’t have much social contact with the “clean” members of society, so they form their own society of the “unclean,” the “untouchables.” Being just outside a village would be common, since they probably obtain food from family members or those in the village who have pity on them. Since they have no land to till, no livestock to look after, they are dependent upon others.” [1]

These ten lepers asked Jesus “Have mercy upon us!” Notice, not the Greek verb for “heal us!” but instead the verb eleeo,“have mercy!” This Greek word means “to be greatly concerned about someone in need, have compassion/mercy/pity for someone.”

What was it Jesus said to the group of lepers? Not, “Go, be healed!” but instead, “‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” (17:14)

As interested observers, we see that much that happens in this brief interaction is fairly typical, looking at all the healing miracles of Jesus from the Gospels. “Neither the pattern of healing — a plea followed by an eminently observable command [from Jesus] — nor the response of worship from the one who returns — to praise, prostrate, and thank — is unique. Both are reliable elements in healing stories. God acts in and through the ordinary.” [2]

I used to attend church with a missionary who now is retired. I haven’t been in touch with Kathleen for a number of years, but she was in Africa for quite a while doing work for a Christian organization. As she did this relationship-building work with mostly moms and their children, and sometimes the elderly, Kathleen observed miraculous healings going on. These healings were sudden, and happened either with the help of fellow missionaries or pastors. Overwhelmingly, the healings took place in very ordinary, everyday circumstances. In people’s homes, in the marketplace, on the side of the road. God acted in and through ordinary things, and places, and actions. God miraculously built bridges, to draw many to God in relationship, in radical welcome.

It started out as an ordinary day. The ten lepers all were cleansed and healed as they went to show themselves to the priests. However, only one leper out of ten came back to say “thank You” to Jesus. What a bridge to build a relationship!

“By the end of the story, all ten are made well. But one has something more. He has seen Jesus, recognized his blessing and rejoiced in it, and changed his course of action and behavior. And because he sees what has happened, the leper is not just healed, but is made whole, restored, drawn back into relationship with God and humanity. In all these ways he has been, if we must choose a single word, saved.” [3]

Can you see God building relationship in your ordinary life? Helping you along your ordinary comings and goings? That is what God does. It was an ordinary day when these ten lepers suddenly met the Rabbi Jesus – at a distance. Nothing particularly unusual until they had their interaction with Jesus. Can God act in and through our ordinary life? Most important, can we say “thank You” to God for kindness, provision, even miracles that happen in our lives?

It does not matter whether we have any illness or infirmity: physical, mental, relational, psychological. We all have the possibility to be made whole, restored, drawn back into intimate relationship with God and with humanity. Even though we are all at a distance through sin and separation from God, thank God that our Lord Jesus is so willing to draw each one of us into an embrace, a radical welcome, and a close relationship. Thank God each of us can be made whole. Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] http://www.jesuswalk.com/luke/074-thankful-leper.htm

[2] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-28-3/commentary-on-luke-1711-19

[3] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-28-3/commentary-on-luke-1711-19

The Lord’s Great Love!

“The Lord’s Great Love!”

Lamentations 3:19-23 (3:22) – October 2, 2022

I know everyone here has been sad, at one time or another. Who hasn’t? Lots of things cause sadness. Just think of things that have caused you sadness, either long time ago, or more recently. Being sad is part of having emotions, and is part of the human condition.

Looking at our Scripture reading today, we see the word “affliction.” This is a more serious state than simply being sad. Feeling sadness can affect us enough, emotionally speaking! Who hasn’t been downcast and sorrowful from time to time? But, being afflicted, with bitterness? That is a different aspect to being sorrowful, even grieving deeply.

Listen to these verses from today’s reading, again: 19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” Affliction is more than sadness. The prophet Jeremiah knew that very well! He was called to be a prophet to the nation of Judah and its people during one of the most challenging periods of its history! Jeremiah could not help but cry bitter tears when all of this prophecy and future trauma was revealed to him by the Lord.  

Any healthcare worker who works in a critical care area or trauma care unit is familiar with great sadness and affliction, in the lives of patients and their families. For some seriously ill patients, they have indeed been afflicted, and some for a long time. This can be devastating. As a hospice chaplain, I have the privilege of walking with some of these families during some of the darkest times of their lives – when they are drinking from the cup of affliction.

The prophet Jeremiah was quite familiar with the cup of affliction, too. He walked with, traveled with, the whole nation of Judah as they made their way through the valley of the shadow, and through some of the most difficult times of the nation.

The people of Judah had stubbornly rejected the Lord their God, and their stubbornness and selfishness would bring them suffering, destruction of their capital city of Jerusalem, and finally, an extended exile in Babylon for almost a century. Are people today any better? Do they follow the Lord, or do they run off after gods of their own devising? Their own creation? And by referring to “people today,” can’t that refer to you and me, too? Do we faithfully follow God and what God has directed? Or, do we stubbornly stamp our feet and go our own way?  

We can see how great is Jeremiah’s grief if we look closely at this book of Lamentations, and see him grieve with God. No wonder Jeremiah’s heart was breaking for his people; he knew what God was going to allow to happen to them, as a result of them forsaking their loving God!

I know there are some here who have experienced that deep affliction, much more than sadness. What have you done when you have experienced that deep trauma? That agonizing depth of despair and wordless, breathless sighing? What is your help and stay?

Carolyn Brown tells us: “Sometimes, it just feels like we’re yelling and God is not listening. That is the hardest time.  But even then, lots of people tell us that if you keep talking to God about it, eventually, sometimes after a very long time, it helps. No one can say exactly how or why. But it helps. So, we need to tell children that, when they are really, really angry and hurt and sad, they can tell God all about it.” [1] 

Jeremiah has a clear answer, too. “21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for Gods’s compassions never fail.” Yes, we can run away like disobedient preschoolers, dashing away across the playground. But, God never stops loving us. God may be grieved with us, as God was very grieved with the nation and the people of Judah, in Jeremiah’s time. But, God never stops loving us. Ever.

 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for God’s compassions never fail.23 They are new every  morning; great is your faithfulness.” And, these are the bible verses where the lyrics for that marvelous hymn come from: “Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” Yes, no matter how stubborn God’s children are, no matter how much they ignore or run away from God, the Lord’s love and mercy and faithfulness are great. God’s compassions never fail. Never.

We can see how great God’s love is for humanity through the incarnation. Yes, God sent God’s son to earth to become human, live among us, and die for us. And, on this World Communion Sunday, we remember how our Lord Jesus provided communion for us, as a sacrament, a means of grace, and to remember Him. Through the centuries, all believing Christians have celebrated this meal, this Lord’s Supper, in remembrance of Him.

“Today, through World Communion, we are also celebrating that though each church does things differently, we each and all of us need God and His grace. By participating together around the world in Holy Communion, we celebrate our common need for God, and together we celebrate receiving His love and grace.

“There are many different people. There are many different churches. There are many different ways of worshipping and serving God. But in the end, we all need God and we all are God’s children. Today we celebrate that we are different, yet we are the same.” [2] Yes, we can celebrate our particular way of observing the Lord’s Supper. And, we can respect and appreciate the many different practices of taking Communion, from all across the world.

So, let us come to the Lord’s Table, along with countless people around the world today, as well as through the ages. It does not matter whether we join together in a cathedral with elaborate ritual and reverence, or in a simple house church with plain words and equal reverence.

Thank God we all have God’s love, and we all have been gifted with the Lord’s Supper. We all do this, in remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!


[1] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2013/09/year-c-proper-22-27th-sunday-of.html

[2] https://onthechancelsteps.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/same/

Solemn Warnings!

“Solemn Warnings!”

Luke 16:19-31 (16:28) – September 25, 2022

Have you seen homeless people begging for money? Every so often I encounter them, along busy street corners, next to off ramps from expressways, along bustling downtown sidewalks. Often, they hold hand-printed signs with heartbreaking requests for money. So often, the passersby rush right past. I must confess that I often drive or walk right past them, too.

Today’s Gospel reading about the poor man Lazarus and the uncaring rich man is meant to make us a little uncomfortable. Even, a lot uncomfortable. Jesus spoke more about money than about faith and prayer combined! Jesus was so concerned with people’s attitude toward money, possessions and finances – and we ought to be, too!

I also want to point out the close connection today’s reading has with a reading we associate with Christmastime. Or, more correctly, Advent. This second reading from Luke chapter 1 is Mary’s song, the Magnificat. This reading also makes us feel uncomfortable.  

Both of these Scripture readings reference rich and poor, reversed. Both of these powerful readings turn things upside down. Talk about Topsy-Turvy Teachings!

Let’s look first at the rich man and Lazarus. This parable of Jesus is different, because it names one of the major characters. Plus, this parable makes the rich man anonymous. He, or, in today’s egalitarian view, she, could be anyone. “He could be the one Jesus was accusing of loving money. He could be those who have when they are surrounded by those who have not.” [1] One of the big points Jesus makes in this parable concerns the gulf that exists between the haves and the have-nots. This parable shows us how huge that gulf can be!

Let’s think more about that name: naming the character with a real name, not just “such-and-such” or even “John Doe.” Does giving him a name cause us to relate to the poor man better? Just think about the concept of knowing and using a person’s name. Names can communicate respect. Not just some faceless, nameless, anonymous one.

Doesn’t using their name also show we recognize their worth as a person? What’s more, their name shows that we give them dignity! And, doesn’t every human creation of God deserve some dignity? [2]

In my work, I often go into skilled nursing facilities. Some of the patients in the facilities are very sick, very sad, and have very little in the way of money. We can view these dear human beings as being extensions of the poor man mentioned here in this parable. Sometimes these poor and indigent patients receive very little in the way of visitation and attention, too.

I am friends with someone who is on Social Security disability. He lived in a studio apartment in Rogers Park. Yes, he had a mental illness diagnosis, and yes, it was controlled with medication, so he was able to live a somewhat normal life. But, he was on the edge of poverty, and was almost like the poor man Lazarus from today’s parable. I lost track of him around last Christmas. He just stopped answering his cell phone, and I did not know where he had gone.

Imagine my surprise when I just happened to come across my friend several months ago in one of the skilled nursing facilities I regularly visit, in Rogers Park. I was really relieved to find him, but really sad to see him there, an indigent patient with no money and no resources. And recently, he has disappeared again. I hope and pray his sister in Crystal Lake brought him to live in a skilled nursing facility out near her house. I can hope and pray for him and his situation.

Let’s switch gears, and turn to Mary’s song from Luke chapter 1, the Magnificat. Talk about reversals! Listen to several verses from this song that Mary sang after the angel came to her and told her that she would be the mother of the long-foretold Messiah: 50 God’s mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

Mary tells us through her song that “The poor are filled with good things, and the rich are sent away hungry;[she clearly states that] brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly. Here it is acted out in the parable Jesus told to those who were ridiculing him because they loved money more than God’s kingdom.” [3]

I suspect you all can understand that this message did not go over too well. The Rabbi Jesus was not popular at all with the rich people and religious leaders of His day And, I doubt that Mary would have been very popular either, given the reactionary nature of most of the Magnificat. Talk about topsy-turvy!

One of the main problems in both of these readings from Luke is the gulf between rich and poor. This gulf is not only an actual one, in terms of money. (which is serious enough!) “the gulf doesn’t seem fixable in that life. This means that it can only be crossed or closed in this one. Jesus is calling all his listeners to pay attention to the gulfs that exist in our world. How do we close the gulfs between the haves and the have nots? How do we close the gulfs between those who hold power and those who live on the margins? How do we close the gulfs . . . or how do we cross them?” [4]

Does this church build bridges to cross that gulf? Not only with the financially poor, but what about those with mental illnesses? (which sometimes can be in similar situations!) Does our church include both the folks with financial stability as well as those who are not, and who go to the Niles or Maine Township food pantries? Does our church include the people with mental health diagnoses, who often are also on the edge of poverty? Do we have ministries at our church for those who are struggling? These are serious questions, and ones we all need to grapple with.

Where are you in this parable today? Where am I? This is a serious question, and one that I am seriously considering.

Thank God our Lord Jesus is willing to help us! Willing to give us a hand when we ask, willing to assist when we start new ministries. God bless all those we encounter in our daily journeys, wherever they may be on the financial spectrum or the mental health spectrum. God be with us, every one!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

(Thanks to umcdiscipleship.org for their excellent notes and commentary on this week’s Gospel reading. Another reading in the Topsy-Turvy Teachings of Jesus!)


[1] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/having-words-with-jesus/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-preaching-notes

[2] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/having-words-with-jesus/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-youth-lessons

[3] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/having-words-with-jesus/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes

[4] https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship-planning/having-words-with-jesus/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-lectionary-planning-notes/sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-preaching-notes