Category Archives: Uncategorized

Monday Matters (January 24, 2022)

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If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
-I Corinthians 13

What we believe and refuse to believe

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 

-Matthew 5:31, 32

A mentor once helped me with a way to read scripture, given that the books of the Bible were written so long ago. How do we go about applying the text to the realities of life today, when the times, they are a-changin’? He spoke about what he believe and what he refuse to believe. We might want to consider those alternatives as we reflect on what Jesus said about divorce. To our ears, where divorce is a reality in so many families (including my own), can his pronouncement serve as a blanket ban on divorce?

We might think that if any group was likely to embrace such a ban, it would be the biblical literalists in our midst. Which makes it interesting that a 2018 study by the Barna Research Group indicated that the highest divorce rates are in the Bible Belt: “Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma round out the Top Five in the frequency of divorce…the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average” of 4.2/1000 people. Nine states in the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Maryland) have the lowest divorce rates, averaging just 3.5/1000 people. Go figure.

Having said all that, I choose to refuse to believe that these verses call for a ban on all divorce. In my experience, divorce is never pain-free, but it is sometimes the best course of action. At the same time, I’m not dismissing what Jesus has to say.

What I do believe is that Jesus is providing an interesting and helpful way to bring the ancient tradition into our own time. In several places in this long sermon, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said…” It’s his way of acknowledging the tradition. And then he says: “But I say to you…” In other words, he himself was no biblical literalist. And like the E.F.Hutton commercial, my ears perk up when we hear Jesus say: “But I say to you…”

He moves beyond the letter of the law to explore its spirit. He recognizes that the law of his tradition made provision for divorce, a certificate that served as protection for a woman who may have been dismissed for inconsequential reasons, like cooking a bad meal. Jesus speaks of a higher calling, one marked by values of mutuality and fidelity, two guiding principles of committed relationships. He says that the law of love which he came to incarnate does not allow for people simply to be dismissed.

His standard moves beyond legalism to a more rigorous standard, found in the greatest commandment which he gave: love of God with everything we have, and love of neighbor as self. Those two loves are inextricably intertwined, which is what makes this such a rigorous standard. I’m not sure I’ve run across anyone who has been able fully to live into that call.

You can decide what you make of Jesus’ pronouncement on divorce, believing or refusing to believe what you want. But it’s clear to me that he was calling his disciples to have a new heart, filled with love of God and neighbor, described in that famous chapter from I Corinthians printed in the column on the left. He sets a standard I’m not sure any of us can meet this side of glory. But we can take steps, even this week, to live more fully into that call, to let the way of love be the way we move forward, even if it’s only very small step by very small step.

-Jay Sidebotham

Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at www.goodbookclub.org.

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!

Monday Matters (January 17, 2022)

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Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cost and promise

Jesus said: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

-Matthew 5:29, 30

What gets in the way of your spiritual growth?

Over the past years, as we’ve worked with congregations, we’ve posed that question and gotten a lot of different responses. The church can obviously get in the way. Folks often tell me that the church has let them down, that it’s just full of hypocrites, to which I can only reply: “Guilty as charged.” One study indicated that busy schedules impede a deeper relationship with God. Others have given up hope that anything could ever be any different. Some, like me, admit that our lives are filled with competing interests, that devotion to the life of the Spirit competes with other goals and purposes and vocations, e.g., work, success, approval. Love of God is usurped by love of something else.

As we work our way through the Sermon on the Mount, today we come across another rigorous (to put it mildly) passage from Jesus, making me grateful I’m not a biblical literalist. Jesus says that if your eye (the way you look at things) or your hand (the way you grasp at things) cause you to sin, get rid of them. One way to think about sin is to describe it as brokenness in relationship with God. Jesus shows that obstacles to deeper faith, a deeper relationship with God and neighbor are nothing new. He invites disciples, you and me, to get rid of obstacles in the spiritual journey.

I hear Jesus say that we should put first things first (Seek ye first the kingdom of God), that we should make sure the main thing (love of God and neighbor) remains the main thing, that in the words of the Civil Rights movement, we should keep our eyes on the prize. And that often comes with a cost.

Jesus sets a high bar for disciples, not just in this passage but in others. He says that if you want to find your life you have to lose it. Unless a grain of wheat dies it can’t come to life. He asks: What’s the benefit of gaining the whole world if we lose our soul? As he traveled with disciples, he repeatedly told them they were on the road to Jerusalem where he would suffer and die, and they along with him. It’s a marvel they followed at all.

He didn’t hide the cost of discipleship. It reminds me of wise advice I got from a bishop who said that as we journey through life, discerning choices, there is always cost along with promise. That may be what Jesus is getting at, in a most graphic way. What cost have you encountered in your spiritual journey? And what’s the promise?

For many of us, we’ve arranged things so that the cost of discipleship is low. We haven’t had to give up much. But today’s passage asks us to take a hard look at those things in our lives that stand in the way of a deeper life with God and to get rid of those things. They may well be very good things. We need eyes and hands. But Jesus calls us to take a gut check, a fitting thing to do on a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., someone who knew a lot about the cost of discipleship.

In a 2019 article in Christianity Today, a biblical scholar named Dante Stewart wrote about King’s vision of discipleship: “King lamented that much of American Christianity “often served to crystallize, conserve, and even bless the patterns of majority opinion.” Sanctioning slavery, war, and economic exploitation, “the church has preserved that which is immoral and unethical.” He concludes that “the church must acknowledge its guilt, its weak and vacillating witness, it’s all too frequent failure to obey the call to servanthood.” If the church in any place and any time fails to recapture its prophetic zeal, “it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

God sends people like Dr. King to push us to count the cost, to see what we are called to lose in order to gain the kingdom, in order to realize beloved community. It’s hard work. There’s the cost. It’s life-giving, liberating, loving work. There’s the promise.

I invite you to observe this holiday, this holy day, by thinking about your own spiritual journey. What is getting in the way of full expression of your love of God and neighbor? Perhaps with more pertinence, how, in the spirit of Dr. King, can you move out of your comfort zone to do something for the cause of justice and peace? How, in the spirit of Dr. King, can you claim the promise of the power of love at work in the world, even if it comes with a cost?

-Jay Sidebotham
Note: Here’s a link for the article I referenced if you want to read it as part of your holiday observance:
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/january-web-only/martin-luther-king-day-exemplar-hope-tribute.html You might also want to read Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail.

Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at www.goodbookclub.org.

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!

Monday Matters (January 10, 2022)

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Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.
-Psalm 51:11

 

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
-The Collect for Purity

 

I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I’m going to do it anyhow, because I’m human and I’m tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. Christ said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.” I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do–and I have done it–and God forgives me for it.
-Jimmy Carter, in an interview with Playboy magazine in 1976

Lust (That’ll get your attention)

Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

-Matthew 5:27, 28

After a break for the Christmas season, we’re back with weekly reflection on the Sermon on the Mount, taking it in small bits to see what Jesus has to teach us about being a disciple these days. And as promised, this morning we get to reflect on lust and adultery. Don’t worry (or don’t be disappointed): content is PG.

Those of us of a certain age will remember that Jimmy Carter, a president who actually read the Bible, referenced these verses during his 1976 campaign. He admitted that while he’d been true to Rosalynn, he did at some point have lust in his heart. For a culture that was probably not as biblically literate as he was, it triggered both outrage and ridicule. These days, his offense seems tepid, given that one of his successors was caught lying about an adulterous affair with an intern and another was caught on tape boasting about sexual assault.

Jimmy Carter, a committed disciple of Jesus who demonstrates indefatigable discipleship well into his nineties, seemed to appreciate that Jesus is saying that what matters is what is in your heart. It’s in our nature to look at notorious, egregious acts of sinners and say: “Thank God I’m not like that person.” Jesus told parables to that effect. Meanwhile, we can easily mask, or perhaps deny what’s in our own inner world.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaking to disciples, people closest to him, ostensibly spiritual/religious folks and not notorious outsiders. While Jesus affirms the law forbidding adultery, he takes it further. He says that one needs to look at where that kind of action comes from. That lustful heart regards other people as objects. It ignores mutuality and fidelity, virtues that are key to committed relationships. And it is never quite satisfied. If that lustful regard is in the heart, Jesus says it’s not all that different from committing that sin forbidden by the law.

Again and again, in this sermon and elsewhere, Jesus says that the bottom line is what’s in the heart. If we harbor hateful or lustful thoughts, that puts us in the same boat as those who act on them with murder or adultery. So there’s no need to get all worked up about someone else’s failings. It’s better to begin with a look inward and see where we are giving our hearts.

I don’t know about you, but I often feel powerless over my own hateful and lustful thoughts. I often regard folks as objects, wondering what they can do for me. I can let resentments get the better of me, which brings out the worst in me. Those resentments are often fueled by a willful unwillingness to extend forgiveness, and a bit of amnesia that the dark terrain of my heart needs forgiveness too. I can imagine the joy of getting revenge and indulging in schadenfreude. Basically, I need help. In the face of powerlessness, where do we go for that kind of help?

We’re in the Epiphany season now, a season about light shining in darkness, about coming to see things in new ways, about Jesus showing up to help. As we launch out on this new year, perhaps each day we could pray the Collect for Purity which kicks off our worship when we gather for eucharist (conveniently reprinted above). It asks God to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts. Perhaps we could pray with the psalmist, asking God to create in us a clean heart (also found above). Perhaps we can cut each other some slack, suspending judgmental perspectives on others, a particular challenge for religious people. And maybe we can give thanks for the wideness of God’s mercy, God who knows our innermost thoughts and loves us anyway. Feel like giving that a try this week?

-Jay Sidebotham


Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at www.goodbookclub.org.

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!

Monday Matters (January 3, 2022)

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In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
-Matthew 2:1-12

Searching for joy: a poem in anticipation of Epiphany

If I could meet the magi, the question on my mind:
What made them take that road trip? What did they hope to find?

Assume their lives were comfortable. It paid well to be wise.
They spent their days at camel chase. At night they scanned the skies.

They knew the stars like back of hand. They’d studied well and hard.
Advanced degreed astrology, In school they got gold stars

Another way to ask it: What was it they were lacking?
Was there some royal restlessness that sent them westward packing?

One eastern night when moon was hid and stars were shining bright,
They wisely cast a glance above and spied a different light.

Next night the same, but brighter. Where did that star come from?
How could they have been missing it? And had it been there long?

Mounting camels, off they went following that light.
No need to go to mapquest. The star would steer them right.

I’m sure you’ve heard the gender jokes, how men can’t ask directions.
Not so for these astrologers: They made a course correction.

By calling on a colleague. King Herod, deemed much wiser.
They asked if he would point the way. He called in his advisers.

Who searched the scripture for a text to pass along to them
They told the Magi where to go “Head straight for Bethlehem”

We each are like the magi. I wonder if you know it.
(Though you may think it less than wise for priest to pose as poet)

Our lives become predictable. We live out our routines.
But then a light makes us look up and restlessness creeps in.

We realize then we’re seekers for things that fill the bill.
Will money make us happier? Relationships fulfill?

We sometimes shop at Herod’s (the king, and not the store)
To see if power fills that place. We’re always after more.

If we could just work harder. The next promotion reach.
If we could just act better. And practice what we preach.

We each are on a journey to find joy in our lives.
In many ways, we try to fill the gaps that life supplies.

What are you seeking in your life? Is search for joy your quest?
Have you a clue where it is found? Or where it’s best expressed?

A search for joy can lose its way when clouds obscure the star.
And pain of life can hide the light and then we don’t get far.

Our search for joy can get bogged down, get gridlocked spiritually
Our lives get in a traffic jam. There’s no green light to see.

We focus on what others have. But what we fail to do
Is seek for joy by looking up, by looking for what’s new.

What’s new is represented in Bethlehem’s young boy.
That’s where we find an answer if we’re really seeking joy.

Like those kings who made that trip and left their status quoing.
There’s new life to be found by all if we will start let going.

Let go. Let God. Our travel tip. Let star become the guide.
And know that when we take a step we go with God beside.

We each are on a journey that’s guided by the Spirit.
It sometimes is a bumpy road. It’s sometimes hard to steer it.

But the journey is a gift itself when made by me and you.
When traveling with other folks we come on something new.

A life we’d not expected. Grace that helps us cope.
A light that shines in darkness. Amid the cold night: Hope.

Community in loneliness. A place to bring our gifts.
A common spirit traveling. A star that spirits lifts.

It’s possible to travel far and never leave this place.
A journey of the spirit starts with one small step toward grace.

The biggest trek can be one step of welcoming God’s love.
Of worshipping with eyes raised up. That is the way we move.

Our world sure needs us magi. Needs wise folk seeking love
Who look beyond the glitter to see a star above.

So let’s head back 2000 years to what these magi teach us.
Across the miles, across the years their witnesses still reach us.

We find the magi traveling. The Exit: Bethlehem
They’re slouching in their camel seats. The next step’s up to them.

They’ve traveled far. They’re tired. They’ve quarreled just a bit.
Go right. Go left. Head north. Head south. But it was worth the trip.

For when they met the infant king, entitlement surrendered.
They offered gold, incense and myrrh, the best they had to tender.

The star they followed led them to the child they now adore.
The one they flood with presents has given them back more.

It all made sense, so quickly clear, the reason for those miles
The search for joy now ended with holy family smiles.

It all made sense in worship. They found it filled their needs
And when we worship Christ child king, our search for joy succeeds.

This ending a beginning. Move ahead they must
They headed home another way, left Herod in the dust.

Their story teaches lessons still, through years more than 2k
It teaches us to move ahead. Go home another way.

Go forward from the place you offered gift on bended knee.
Go forward to the journey next based on Epiphany

Go forward based on glimpse of light that guides when dark surrounds.
Go forward on your journey. There’s more joy to be found.

-Jay Sidebotham


Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at www.goodbookclub.org.

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!

Monday Matters (December 27, 2021)

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Here are excerpts from the collects for this week. Let us pray;
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors…
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth…
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims…
O God, our strength and our salvation, you called your servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of your people and a defender of your church…
Merciful God, who raised up thy servant Frances Joseph Gaudet to be a champion of the oppressed: Grant that we, encouraged by her example, may advocate for all who are denied the fullness of life to which you have called all your children…
And we pray in thanksgiving for the life and witness and ministry of Desmond Tutu, who met hatred with love, and brought joy to the world.

Tis the season

We’re going to take another week in this season of Christmas before we return to reflection on the Sermon on the Mount. While the culture has been celebrating Christmas since Labor Day, the church sees December 25th as just the beginning, with a season of observance that lasts until January 6.

It’s a season filled with special feast days, and if you’re looking for more holly-jolly, you might be disappointed. We got a hint of this when we observed the Feast of St. Thomas, of doubting fame, right before Christmas (Dec. 21). And this week, there are a few special days that make us realize why we so desperately need good news of great joy which shall be to all people.

Today, we observe the feast of St. Stephen (as mentioned in the carol “Good King Wenceslaus”). Stephen’s story (not Wenceslaus’) is first told in the book of Acts. As one of the deacons of the church, one of the folks set aside by the church to address the needs of the poor, Stephen was the first martyr of the church. St. Paul was cheerleading those who stoned Stephen to death.

Tomorrow, we observe the feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist, who by tradition was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Though he seems to be the only one of the twelve disciples that didn’t give his life for the sake of the gospel in some gruesome, violent way, he had his own experience of persecution. That may have made the book attributed to him, the Apocalypse (a.k.a, the book of Revelation) all the more vivid.

Day after that comes the feast of the Holy Innocents, which marks the day when King Herod put all two year old boys in Bethlehem to death. I will always remember doing a funeral on this day for an 8-year old boy who died of brain cancer. I loved that kid. The feast reminds us that the suffering of innocents continues. Why is it so often the children who bear the brunt, especially the brunt of foolish and heartless political leaders?

Later in the week, we observe the feast of St. Thomas a Becket, that troublesome priest that King Henry II wanted to get rid of. The king thought he had succeeded when murder took place in the cathedral. Of course, Thomas is remembered with reverence. Henry, not so much.

And then comes a lesser known feast as we recall the life, ministry and witness of Frances Joseph Gaudet, an African American woman born in Mississippi in 1861 (just those facts indicate a challenging life). She dedicated her life to prison reform, coupled with provision of education for those who would otherwise not receive it. Her death in 1934 marked the conclusion of a life dedicated to prisoners, a reminder that our culture that seems to think the solution lies in mass incarceration needs to hear the good news of the liberating love of Jesus.

I’m not sure what the thinking was way back when to fill the Christmas season with these stories reflecting the challenges that mark the human condition. It’s a season filled with martyrs, a word which is loaded in our culture. We often think of a martyr as some unattractive, whining self-righteous person who says something like “Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit here in the dark corner by myself.” But martyr means witness, someone who shows that the good news of Jesus, the news of that loving, life-giving, liberating Lord is news of greatest value, more valuable than life itself. That’s news we all need to hear.

Maybe your life is free of challenge. Maybe you’ve had no encounter with the hard heartedness of our world and its people. Bless you if that’s the case. But if you’re like most of us, you know that life is difficult, that there’s a crack in everything God has made. The Christmas season tells us that that is where the light can shine through.

Of course, saints lived not only in ages past. There are hundreds of thousands still. And we lost one of the great modern saints in this Christmas season. Desmond Tutu showed us what it meant to meet the ugliness and injustice of our world with love and joy. He countered the love of power with the power of love. May God grant him peace as the Archbishop sought to bring peace to the world. And may God grant comfort to those who mourn, and to those who look for others to continue the fight against injustice.

Each of these saints call us to be witnesses of the light this week, which comes to us with grace and truth. Perhaps we can resolve to be that kind of witness in the coming year, in the new year, in all the days ahead.

What might that look like in your life?

-Jay Sidebotham


Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at www.goodbookclub.org.

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!

Monday Matters (December 20, 2021)

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Luke 2:46-55: The Song of Mary
And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,  according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming (i.e., reflections on the Sermon on the Mount) to celebrate news of great joy which shall be to all people (i.e., the last days of Advent and the Christmas season. We’ll return in the new year to reflection on the Sermon on the Mount, when by way of coming attractions, the theme will be Jesus’ reflections on lust and adultery.Thought that might grab your attention.

With that in mind, let me pose this question for today:

What song do you sing?

What song are you singing this last week of Advent, as Christmas begins? Widening the lens, what song do you sing with your life? I’ve been told that you are what you eat. Let me suggest a corollary: You are what you sing. The fact is, everyone has a song. What does that distinctive song say about who you are, and what you hope to be?

The question is prompted by the music of this season, everything from holiday earworms (which we’ve been hearing since Labor Day) to the hopeful hymns of Advent to Christmas carols which in text and tune lift us to new appreciation of the wonders of God’s love. And a day after the Fourth Sunday of Advent, when the Magnificat was read in church, we think about Mary’s song, what it said about her, what it has to teach us.

Among the cast of characters in the Bible, Mary stands out as the one who heard God’s call and didn’t make excuses, or didn’t suggest that God had the wrong number. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of perplexity and pondering with this young girl who gets unexpected news. But she responds with openness to God’s intention for her, a devotion that will span her life, taking her all the way to the foot of the cross and beyond, as she joins with the disciples after the resurrection. In that way, she serves a model for those of us who seek, however haltingly, to be part of the Jesus movement.

Think with me about the opening line of her song: My soul magnifies the Lord. What do you make of the use of the word: magnify? It is not to say that somehow Mary’s soul makes God greater, in the ways that a magnifying glass functions. Rather, I believe that what Mary is sharing is her own expanded vision of God’s greatness, a glimmer of the divine character that exceeds her previous imagination.

And what is the character of that greatness? It is the love that came down at Christmas, the love from which we can not be separated, higher and deeper and broader than the measure of the mind. She sees God’s greatness in God’s heart for the “least of these,’ in the feeding of hungry, in lifting up the lowly, in strengthening those who stand in need of such power. As Covid is resurgent, maybe that’s all of us. That holy greatness provides the content for the song she sings.

How about you? Ask yourself this week where you see the greatness of the Lord. The song you sing in this season may say a lot about who you are, about where you give your heart, about what God has to do with it. As you sing this song, it has the power to shape your relationship with God. As we sing our songs of praise for amazing grace, our identity is formed and we are drawn in to deeper relationship with God and with each other.

Music is in the air, for sure. Add to it your own song of praise, offering that song in word and thought and deed.

-Jay Sidebotham


Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at www.goodbookclub.org.

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!

Monday Matters (December 13, 2021)

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Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.

I John 4:20

 

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
II Corinthians 5:20

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Ephesians 2:13, 14

 

The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.
Paul David Tripp

 

Before you do the work of reconciliation with another, you need to restore communication with yourself.
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Exchanging Peace

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
-Matthew 5:23-26

I’m told that this passage from the Sermon on the Mount provides scriptural basis for the exchange of the peace in our liturgy. In that liturgy, the sequence is clear. Before we can come to the table to receive bread and wine, we need to come to reconciliation with each other. So we exchange the peace before the offertory.

Covid has made us rethink this part of the liturgy, not only how we exchange the peace and remain socially distant. Covid has also made us think about what it means. That’s a good thing. What used to involve handshakes, hugs and even the kiss of peace has morphed into a long distance wave or bow or peace sign. This sits just fine with some. I remember a story about the reintroduction of the peace in one church some years ago. (It hasn’t always been part of the liturgy.) An earnest young parishioner turned to a mink-clad matron in the same pew, extended his hand ready to exchange the peace. She looked down her nose at him and said: “Don’t even think about it.”

What I’ve been thinking about this week is the fact that we exchange the peace of the Lord, and not our own peace. It’s the peace gracefully given to us by God. If I was exchanging the peace of Jay, it would probably be extended only to those I like, or those who agree with me on issues. I’m guessing it might be withheld from those who don’t fit in those categories.

But one of the distinctive (and occasionally annoying) things about the community that follows Jesus is that we don’t get to pick who gets in, who we are called to serve alongside, or who turns up in the pew with us. We sure don’t participate in a community of agreement. We enter into a community where there are people who drive us nuts, people who push our buttons, people who view life differently. Often those are the people who have the most to teach us.

In this sermon, Jesus teaches that his followers (you and me, folks) are to do the work of reconciliation with all of those folks, even and especially the irritating ones. Invariably we are going to hurt each other, as we note in the confession when we declare: “We have not loved neighbor as ourselves.” It doesn’t say if we have done that. It assumes we have, and that we do, and that we will. Our work is cut out for us. It involves taking inventory and making amends, thinking about ways, witting and unwitting, that we have caused injury, and asking forgiveness.

There is also injury that comes in interactions that leave us resentful. As we reflect on those who have injured us, we may refuse to forgive them, a violation of Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s prayer and elsewhere. When that happens, in a way we are inflicting injury on our relationship with those folks. Injury evokes injury. When we savor resentments (they can be quite delicious), treat them like trophies (we can regard them as precious), we are injuring others, and souring our soul.

Between the injuries we inflict and the resentments we harbor, it’s a wonder any of us ever make it to the altar. In all of our relationships, I hear Jesus saying: Be reconciled. It matters, because our relationship with God, including our worship, is hampered by the brokenness of our relationships with each other. Jesus tells us that the two can’t be separated.

That’s why it’s important that we exchange the peace of the Lord, and not the peace we muster on our own. Our own capacity for peacemaking is too shallow, too compromised. As the letter to the Ephesians says, Christ is our peace, breaking down dividing walls. We are asked, week after week, to remember that we are always on the receiving end of amazing grace. As we await the arrival of the prince of peace, think about the ways you can exchange the peace with those in your life, the ways you can be reconciled. How might you approach that this week and in this holy season?

-Jay Sidebotham


Ready to help your congregation refocus on their spiritual journeys?  Join our January cohort of RenewalWorks participants…

The mission of RenewalWorks is to help churches (and individuals in them) refocus on spiritual growth and identify ways that God is calling them to grow. Now is a great time to engage this process and chart the course forward. We would love to help you on that journey. Contact us if you would like to learn more about RenewalWorks, or if you have other thoughts and ideas about fostering spiritual growth as we emerge from the pandemic.

RenewalWorks – Digital Catalog

Monday Matters: Murderous thoughts

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Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

-I Corinthians 12:31

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
– The Confession

 

We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.
-Anais Nin

 

If there is one practical idea that encapsulates grace, it’s the belief that people are doing the best they can with what they have. People who believe this are more likely to cut others slack, give them the benefit of the doubt and remember they don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life or what traumas or wounds have shaped them…In other words, they know how to practice grace. When I first read Brené Brown’s claim that people are usually doing the best they can, my immediate reaction was “No, Brené, they aren’t.” In my judgy little head, I ticked off all the people who I knew were not trying hard enough. I had just learned how dualism was clouding my vision and was straining to wrap my brain around a new way of thinking, but I felt enormous resistance to apply this idea to people whom I didn’t like or who were angering me. It was one thing to say that about a friend or a like-minded person…It was an entirely different feat to offer this grace to the people who were driving me to the brink of madness.
-Kristen Powers

 

Murderous thoughts

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.
-Matthew 5:21-22

As I reflect on these verses from the Sermon on the Mount, I hope you will be relieved to know that I have never been charged with murder. But the truth is that I have been angry with a brother or sister (widely defined). In my own way, I have insulted the same. And there have been way too many times when I’ve at least thought someone was a fool, apparently making me liable to the hell of fire.

If Jesus was preaching this sermon today, he might refer to road rage. I have often yelled at some idiot driver. (My windows rolled up, of course, and without my clerical collar.) I would never speak that way to someone in the car with me.

If Jesus was preaching this sermon today, he might say something about social media, how easy it is to take off with dismissive language about someone else. In both the cases of road rage and social media, what is lacking is relationship (let alone compassion or empathy) with the person who has set us off. That lack of relationship can often reveal darker, toxic tendencies.

When Jesus says those things are somehow equivalent to murder, I can chalk it up to ancient near eastern hyperbole. But that misses the point, in many ways. Jesus is probing our hearts, to see where there might be murderous, hateful intent. The crowd knew the law which spoke against murder. For the most part they could say: Haven’t done that. But Jesus wants to go deeper, to say that what matters is the intent in our heart. Though we may keep it well hidden, there can be toxicity there.

If we are taking this bit of the Sermon on the Mount seriously, taking it to heart, we have to begin by admitting that we may harbor dark intentions. It’s amazing how they can even come up even among religious folks. I’m always struck that the first murder recorded in the Bible, when Cain killed his brother, was really a fight about worship. You could say it was a church fight. Once we’ve admitted that, what are we to do about it?

In today’s heated political climate, I’ve been praying about the toxicity in my own spirit towards folks who see things differently than I do. There’s a lot of hateful rhetoric being thrown around. It’s easy to respond in kind, to become what we judge.

I’ve received a couple answers to those prayers recently.

One answer came in a book I just finished called Saving Grace by journalist Kristen Powers. Give it to yourself as an early Christmas gift. The subtitle captures the aim of the book: Speak your truth. Stay centered. And learn to coexist with people who drive you nuts. I admit that subtitle may sound like mere tolerance. Her counsel is more profound than that. She speaks about how important it is to practice grace. You can get a sample of what she is up to in the column on the left.

Another answer came in a recent RenewalWorks call focused on how we can learn about prayer. A rector spoke about what she shares about prayer with her congregation. She explores a variety of ways to teach about prayer in a series of 2 minute videos. She shared one in which she speaks about praying the news. As she reads the paper, instead of fuming or despairing, she prays for the situation, including prayers for those who drive her nuts.

Finally, we can always go to the baptismal covenant, which calls us to answer these questions: Will we seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving neighbor as self? Will we respect the dignity of every human being? Note that they don’t say seek and serve Christ in all Episcopalians, or people who agree with us, or Americans, or liberals, or conservatives? Same with the dignity piece. We are called to an expansive love, which recognizes the centrality of a relationship with God and with each other.

Jesus came to give us a clean heart, to give us his heart. As we get ready for his arrival at Christmas, may we be given grace to practice grace. What will that look like for you this week?

-Jay Sidebotham


Ready to help your congregation refocus on their spiritual journeys?  Join our January cohort of RenewalWorks participants…

The mission of RenewalWorks is to help churches (and individuals in them) refocus on spiritual growth and identify ways that God is calling them to grow. Now is a great time to engage this process and chart the course forward. We would love to help you on that journey. Contact us if you would like to learn more about RenewalWorks, or if you have other thoughts and ideas about fostering spiritual growth as we emerge from the pandemic.

RenewalWorks – Digital Catalog

Monday Matters (Novmeber 29, 2021)

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Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
-I Corinthians 12:31

 

There are few practical roadmaps to show us how to generate and integrate grace in our lives. When I decided to make grace my touchstone, I unknowingly fell back on flawed Christian teaching that has left many of us throwing up our hands and declaring grace an unachievable and impractical goal. I imagined that by engaging in Olympian amounts of prayer, meditation, church attendance, and consumption of spiritual texts I would be so filled up with the love of God, I’d just overflow with the stuff. I’d be a veritable human Pez dispenser of grace. The contempt coursing through my veins would drain out of me, and I’d be a new person. I’ll cut to the chase. It didn’t work.
-Kristen Powers, Saving Grace

 

We do not become righteous by doing righteous deeds but, having been made righteous, we do righteous deeds.
-Martin Luther

 

There are only two kinds of [men]: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous.
-Blaise Pascal

 

Inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given.
-Richard Foster

Exceeding righteousness

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
-Matthew 5:19-20

When I embarked on a journey through the Sermon on the Mount, I knew there would be Mondays that would leave me saying, “Huh?” Today’s one of those days.

Let’s get right to it, with that bit about righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees. As I scanned commentaries, I found I’m not the only one who finds this perplexing. The whole narrative of the gospels seems to be that the scribes and the Pharisees, the really religious people of the day are clueless. (Let’s just say I hear that as a caution to those of us who serve as clergy.) Little children and promiscuous persons and tax collectors and outsiders have more understanding of the kingdom than religious leaders. Is Jesus saying that we need to try to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, whose hypocrisy is in plain view? Are we supposed to follow their script when Jesus has called them blind guides and whited sepulchers? That’s one possibility.

Another possibility is that Jesus is asking disciples to consider these questions: What race are you running? In what stream are you swimming? What do you think will get you where you want to go? What do you value?

If you want to play the scribes and Pharisees game, which is to try to get your theology right, try to get your practice right, try to cross every “t” and dot every “i”, to never make a mistake, go for it. But that’s a big mountain to climb, that teeth-gritting effort to be a spiritual super-hero. Trying to make sure we get it all right can be a rat race and it’s been noted that the problem with winning a rat race is that at the end, you’re still a rat. We can enter into that kind of righteous rat race, if we so choose. It can all be so exhausting.

But there is another way, which in my mind is what the Sermon on the Mount is laying out for us. That way says that the way to the righteousness of spiritual over-achievement is simply the way of love (which is the commandment Jesus embraces). It begins with understanding righteousness not so much as a moral checklist as a matter of relationship, being rightly related. And that way (St. Paul called it a more excellent way in the lead-in to his hymn about love in I Corinthians 13) exceeds the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees. By way of a sneak preview, the verses we’ll look at in the coming weeks talk about lives lived in righteousness. Jesus says it’s not as much a matter of outward actions as it is a matter of the heart that sets us in right relationship with God and with each other.

If this is indeed what Jesus had in mind (and folks, I could be wrong), then we are called to pursue a righteousness that comes by faith in the power of God’s grace to make us what we were created to be. It begins by recognizing that we can’t do this on our own, by our own willfulness. We need help because we will fall short. It continues with expressions of gratitude (which we observed over the past weekend) that it’s not all up to us. We will with God’s help. And then it finds expression in the practice of love of God and neighbor, the two being inseparable, the two commandments that sum up all the law, even the least of the laws. That practice is a reflection of the grace that has been shown to us. When we all get around to that kind of practice, I imagine that is what the kingdom of heaven will be like.

Give it some thought, give it a shot this first week of Advent.

-Jay Sidebotham


Ready to help the folks in your congregation refocus on their spiritual journeys?  Join our January cohort of RenewalWorks participants…

The mission of RenewalWorks is to help churches (and individuals in them) refocus on spiritual growth and identify ways that God is calling them to grow. Now is a great time to engage this process and chart the course forward. We would love to help you on that journey. Contact us if you would like to learn more about RenewalWorks, or if you have other thoughts and ideas about fostering spiritual growth as we emerge from the pandemic.

RenewalWorks – Digital Catalog

Monday Matters (November 22, 2021)

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Jesus said: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34, 35

 

Oh to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee;
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for the courts above.
-Hymn 686, Stanza 3

 

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of the mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.
-Hymn 469 Stanza 3

Jesus and the law

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
-Matthew 5:17-18

In discussions in church, I often run across the opinion that the God of the Old Testament underwent some kind of personality change in the New Testament. That’s based on associations people have with some stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, where God seems to resemble Zeus throwing lightning bolts down on unsuspecting earthlings, or perhaps a more recent image, a Gary Larson cartoon where God is depicted sitting at his computer. On the screen, we see that a street scene. A rope lifting a grand piano has snapped. The Steinway, plummeting earthward, is about to smash a pedestrian. God is pressing the smite button on his keyboard. Does that ever fit your image of God?

No doubt about it, there is judgment in the earliest books of the Bible. But there is also judgment in the New Testament (Have you read some of Jesus’ parables of judgment, or the Book of Revelation recently?) And while the God of the New Testament is associated with grace and mercy, there is plenty of grace and mercy to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, surfacing in the oft-repeated word hesed which means lovingkindness.

All of which is to say that we often pit grace and law, mercy and judgment against each other. Our faith seems to be either about rules or relationship, about laws or love. You can have one or the other. Our proclivity for dualistic thinking tells us you can’t have it both ways. But Jesus shows us another way.

As we continue reflection on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we can imagine listeners, including critics, imagining that he was trying to scrap tradition. In today’s verses, he makes the point that he comes to fulfill the tradition, not abolish it. Fulfillment is the keyword.

We get a glimpse of what he meant by it when he was asked about the most important commandment. Jesus didn’t come up with some new-fangled vision. He returned to the first pages of the Bible to find that all the law and prophets is summed up in grace, in love of God and neighbor.

It is apparently easy for religious folks to turn the law into a matter of rules, and thus a source of division, using the law as a bludgeon. Jesus chooses another way, as he speaks about embracing the law given by Moses. He says that those laws are key to the healing of our souls, and the healing of the world. Those laws (the word teaching may be a helpful synonym for law) given by God, we’re all about helping people, coaching people, leading people in the way of love. And when those laws seemed to butt up against each other (e.g., when Jesus is led to heal long-term illnesses on the Sabbath), the law of love and compassion takes precedence. Lord knows we could use that kind of guidance in the wilderness of our broken world.

So what’s the so-what factor in all of this? Religious rules are ultimately about relationship. When they divide us, or damage relationship, the law is not fulfilled. But even the nit-pickiest, most persnickety religious rule can be seen as an expression of love of God and neighbor and self. When that happens, we see the law fulfilled.

Sure, we can turn our faith, our religious practice, the scripture, even a theology of grace, into something that divides people, into a source of pride. But Jesus calls us to see everything we do through the lens of love of God and neighbor, a fairly rigorous standard (perhaps even a law) which turns out to be a pretty good way to look at the world. It’s a good lens to regard our religious practice, whatever that may be, to think about how we put faith to work in the world, as a response to God’s call to the way of love. It’s a good lens to bring into this week when we’re asked to think about thanksgivings. How will you be a follower of Jesus, fulfilling the law?

-Jay Sidebotham


Ready to help the folks in your congregation refocus on their spiritual journeys?  Join our January cohort of RenewalWorks participants…

The mission of RenewalWorks is to help churches (and individuals in them) refocus on spiritual growth and identify ways that God is calling them to grow. Now is a great time to engage this process and chart the course forward. We would love to help you on that journey. Contact us if you would like to learn more about RenewalWorks, or if you have other thoughts and ideas about fostering spiritual growth as we emerge from the pandemic.

RenewalWorks – Digital Catalog