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Lighthouse June 18, 2024

Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed are the poor

Which version of the beatitudes do you prefer? Matthew or Mark. While Mark seems to make people have value just for what they are, being poor, Matthew tends to make one think of how they are growing spiritually. For me Matthew's beatitudes are almost arranged in the form of a progression, a stair-step to perfection. If so, I would like you to read it, inserting your name or just saying “I” as a form of self examination. Can you say: “I am poor in spirit’? In other words if I am meek enough to know all I am and have is God’s; I belong in His family. Jesus says the kingdom is yours. Do I mourn over the sin I see going on in the world? Do I try to do something about it? Do I at least take it to God in prayer? Can I say “I am meek”?, that I am willing to bow to all God’s designs? If so, I will surely be in possession of the new heaven and the new earth Jesus speaks of. With that we begin to see where Matthew calls us to a more positive act on our part. Now, can I really say “I hunger and thirst for righteousness.” To hunger and thirst is not to just acknowledge the lack of righteousness in the world but it is to begin acting with my whole heart to please God in bringing about righteousness; I will be working on my own failures first and seek to remove that plank from my own eye before judging others. With that can I say “I am merciful.”? We pray “forgive me as I forgive others.”, a prayer God will surely answer. But, in that very act I will know God’s mercy and be satisfied with that. From there we should be able to say: “I am clean of heart.” “I want nothing in any way that belongs to others and in no way do I want to withhold from God what He has a right to.” In doing so, one will realize they are totally open to God and, unlike Adam, have nothing to hide from Him and so, be able to see Him. As I continue to grow spiritually can I say: “I am a peacemaker” “I want everyone to have what is theirs because they are made in the image of God. No matter what.” And finally, if that is what I truly desire and work for then I will also find myself saying “I am being persecuted for righteousness.” Jesus promised “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” If others gossip about you for the work you do for the kingdom. “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven”

Lighthouse June 4, 2024

REMEMBER THE ALAMO

As you read this, that is where I will be. Probably not for the reasons you would guess. I will be there with a group on pilgrimage. We just finished celebrating Passover and Pentecost, two of the three days Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem each year. A pilgrimage can involve any religious destination, with the awareness that the whole journey is a prayer. Why Alamo? It is one of the Spanish Missions established in Texas, one of 54 built during the 1600-1700s. A number of years ago I retraced the Missions of California. They were each about a days walk from one another created to help the natives prosper by living in community, come to know Christ and politically on the northern frontier to stave of Russian incursion. These in Texas were more to a totally spiritual purpose. The first one in Texas was San Clemente in 1632 while the Alamo would not be built until 1718. the ones we will be seeing are the five in the Alamo area, Mission San Juan 1731, Mission Conception 1731, Mission San Jose 1720, Mission Espirito Santo 1722, Nuestra Senora de Loreto 1721, and Mission Espada 1731. Just as on Memorial Day we visited the graves of those who gave their lives for freedom, these places are reminders of those who sacrificed themselves to bring God's word to the natives. After we visit and pray at these places which are now part of a National Park and Heritage, we will go north to Oklahoma City to the tomb of Fr. Stan Rother. Fr. Stan served in Guatemala and because of his involvement in helping the natives make more from their crops by working together he was put on a hit list. He came home on vacation knowing that, and when powers that be tried to convince him not to return there he said 'a shepherd cannot abandon his flock'. So, late one night he was killed. It was also a privilege for me to be at the spot where he was shot, an inspiration to all shepherds. Then on Friday we will stop at three of the churches on the western part of the state which were named Sacred Heart. If we have time I would again like to stop at one of my favorite saints right here in Missouri, George Washington Carver. He was an epitome of an example of how to use one's gifts from God for the good of mankind. If you've never made a pilgrimage I'm sure you would find George Washington Carver National Park a real inspiration or if you vacation in Florida check-out St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the US, 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before Plymouth Rock. And finally, right now, there are thousands walking and by boat from four different directions to meet for a large religious event in Indianapolis in mid-July. They're coming from four directions: the Golden Gate Bridge, Ca., from Wisconsin, from Louisiana, from New York. Thousands will join for different segments of this pilgrimage as they make their way to Indianapolis. Join in if you like when they come through Missouri.  

Lighthouse May 21, 2024

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

This past Sunday we celebrated the birth of the church when God poured out the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Acts: 2: 1-11 “Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them… Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” Why this emphasis on people from all parts of the world in context with the tongues of fire? If you remember the story of the tower of Babel you know how the people decided they could build a ziggurat up to the heavens and find God. In doing so that meant they could make demands on Him. Well, God didn't like that idea so he brought an end to that construction by having them all speak in different languages and not then be able to communicate with one another and finish the project. With Pentecost we celebrate 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. So first off we realize it is God who has come down to us. “it is I who have first loved you.” It is God who enters into our world and can make demands on us. What are those demands? That we bear fruit (Pentecost is the day of celebrating the harvest) and bring the message of His son to the whole world. Jews were not known for their evangelization. But Christians are now called to invite everyone to the heavenly banquet. They are called to work for unity –'Father, I pray that they may be one as we are one”. They are called to make the Gospel a reality in the world so that all might know, not only a new heaven and new earth but that all may come to know a fullness of life in eternity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If each of us are open to the work of the Spirit in our own lives we can make that happen and fulfill Jesus' prayer. Tongues is only one of the gifts of the Spirit. As a church we say we speak every language in the world. There is the gift of healing and so we have the greatest hospital system in the world. There is the gift of teaching and so Christians began the greatest education system in the world. There is the gift of leadership and so Peter declares that pagans can also be baptized and goes on to say 'it seems right to us and to the Holy Spirit' that we not impose circumcision on pagan converts. There is no Bible verse for him to make that decision but it was logical as Jesus established a 'new and everlasting covenant' 'not made by hand'. He later declares that Paul is to be an apostle to the gentiles and himself to the Jews. In all these ways the Spirit became manifest throughout the ages. What gift is the Spirit asking you to exercise?  

Lighthouse April 23, 2024

I am the good Shepherd. The fourth Sunday after Easter we always celebrate what we call Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus says that he is the good Shepherd and he knows his sheep. I think the most favorite psalm of all is psalm 23, at least for most funerals. We all seem to get a good feeling from listening to the words `the Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. He leads me to green pastures.’ It really seems to touch that me, me notion we have that God wants to treat us like spoiled children just as we do when we say ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ He will even leave the ‘ninety nine behind to go after that one lost sheep, me.’ But have you ever stopped to consider how we are to be like Jesus. While he is the good Shepherd he is also ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ He is the lamb whom John the Baptist points out who like the Passover lamb, will die on the cross on the day of Passover for the sins of the world. He is the lamb whom John the Evangelist saw as having been sacrificed but now standing victorious on the altar. Do we not realize that it is all about sacrifice and not about pleasure. If Jesus is the lamb who is sacrificed for others; no greater love can one have but to lay down his life for his sheep; then how much more are we called to lay down our lives for the salvation of others. To show how this progresses, see what happens to Peter after the resurrection. Three times Jesus would ask him if he loves him. Each time Jesus will say ‘feed my lambs.’ Peter himself will then be killed on a cross. To be Christ’s own we must all, to some extent, be ready to be shepherds for others. I think of Fr. Stan Rother from Oklahoma, whose grave I hope to visit next month, who had death threats against him when working in Guatemala and could have easily left but said ‘the shepherd does not leave his sheep.’   Yes, all of us are called to be shepherds and when others say those words ‘There is nothing I shall want’ it is because God uses you to help make sure nothing is lacking for their salvation. Parents are to sacrifice themselves, not just for the physical needs of their children, but to make sure their children know that the things of this world will disappear, to make sure their children know they have but one main purpose in life and that is to get them to heaven. Pastors, yes, like Peter have a special role of helping their sheep keep their eyes on the destination. And, by extension, we have that obligation to one another knowing there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We are all truly called to make the sacrifices necessary to help others come to salvation. What kind of sacrifice can you make this week to help your children or friends who are off-track?

Lighthouse April 10, 2024

And, Did you enjoy it?

“God saw that it was good.” Isn‘t it amazing how much hype we went through this week

concerning the eclipse. So much so you probably won’t give two seconds to this article. In any

case, just think about it. The very fact that we can predict such an event with such accuracy. In

terms of time and space. What an awesome God we serve. Can you imagine if the moon were

a little larger, or a little further from the earth how much different the results would be? If the sun

were just a little closer or a little further from the earth how much different life, if any, would be

on the earth. It is the very predictability of all of space and nature around us that gives us so

much power to do so much for the human race. So much exactitude can only be explained by

there being a greater all intelligent being responsible for it. Some believe that if God is God

then he would be capable of being unpredictable. Our experience would tell us that that is not the

case and therefore we can support the different sciences which continue to come to greater and

greater understanding of the order with which He has established everything. I mean everything.

That is why we can say there are natural laws that need to be obeyed. Because of such knowledge we

have been able to go from believing our own place of existence is the center of the. Universe to

thinking that this or that city was the center to thinking that the earth itself is the center. After all

we still say ‘the sun rises’ which of course it doesn’t. Then we thought we were smart because

we discovered that the sun is the center, and that worked well for us but now, with Hubble and

JWTF telescopes we realize we may never know the center of all that exists; if there is one. But

what we do know is, there is an order. We may have to keep refining our theories, because that

is all they are. Just as Galileo was asked to declare his proclamation of the sun being the center

of the universe as a theory. Getting to experience the eclipse should make us all marvel more

and more at the creativeness of our God and pray we continue to delight in discovering more

and more what he has created for us. When scripture tells us in Genesis that God gave Adam

the power to name the animals and the power to cultivate the land it is telling us that it all there

for us to discover and find ways to benefit all by using it according to His will. May you always

delight in your observation of all that surrounds us. I know I’m more than delighted in just seeing

the dogwood forest going out highway HH from Piedmont. Open your eyes to what else you

can see besides the eclipse this week. What have you observed that you never have before?

 

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