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The Nourishing Place
The Nourishing Thought: “It is said a person just needs three things to be joyous in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Anonymous
Words of Wisdom: Peace is the beauty of life. Today I choose life. Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
Scripture: Philippians 4:4
Sermon, April 29, 2018
Sometimes it is helpful to hear from people in all walks of life and from different centuries and eras, regarding their values, their beliefs, and life-purposes, especially as they pertain to God, Spirit, or later, Christ. There is much we can learn from wisdom in the past when people took time to think, read, study, and converse in small groups about things that matter. In the past there have been many people who experienced God in ways different from our own, yet just as spiritual as our more modern way.
There was one man named Baruch Spinoza who said, wrote, and taught things that Jesus himself had taught but in different language and images.. Let’s look at this man’s visions of God are.
Baruch (Baruch meaning blessed one) Spinoza was one of the most controversial figures in human history. He was born to Jewish parents in Amsterdam in 1632. His religious life was centered in the Holland-Portuguese Jewish community. Early on, Spinoza showed signs of deep thinking, based on the realism of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Which was all good and fine until he applied the realism of individual thought and Nature to the Jewish faith, which was and is filled with laws and regulations conforming people to a specific way to worship. Spinoza rebelled against that strictness of faith.
Spinoza believed the very first apparent sign and image of God is nature...it’s splendor, its diversity, its combination of impetuousness and calm, and its ability to self-regenerate, resurrect. He thought God’s main house was in the mountains, woods, rivers, lakes and beaches...a huge house where everyone had equal access. Spinoza taught that appreciating the majesty of a sunset or sunrise is feeling the love and care of the God of all. He taught that humans, as part of Nature, have a natural inclination to holiness and joy...one can not look at tiny new baby without automatically smiling...one can not see the full moon illuminate a body of water without naturally experiencing awe and joy.
The Jewish priests decided among themselves that his fascination of nature as the first image of God , Spinoza’s disregard of priests who claimed to know more what God wants than others do, and admitting that much of the Bible was simply moral stories, made Spinoza an atheist, claiming he created abominable heresies without listing any specifics...therefore they excommunicated him and actually insisted all Jews shun him. No one was to listen to him, talk to him, or read his writings. The Jewish leadership stated Spinoza’s joy in life trivialized faith...to be truly holy people had to know their wretchedness, and they must be somber, guilty, and fearful to truly worship God.
Of course, Spinoza rebelled against this condemnation, shunning and excommunication so he looked elsewhere for spiritual alliances. He studied many religions and found the ones that taught all life has value, that sees God as good and loving, and which teaches people to love and respect one another are all good religions. However, he became quite interested in the Christian missionary Paul who also at one time had been a Jewish man who left Judaism to teach the love of Christ. Spinoza studied Christianity but never officially converted. He did however, write volumes about his beliefs and experiences of God and the Christ. Like all philosophers he was a deep thinker and verbose in his writings. Yet those who could read and did read his writings found him to be God-intoxicated...seeing God in everything...a universal God of nature including humans.
Here are a few of his conclusions regarding God: “Whatsoever exists, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived.”
“Godly wisdom has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus the Christ.”
“Jesus is the son of God because he lives the wisdom of God; therefore he is like God, therefore, his son.”
Later he added, all humans must sooner or later learn to live the wisdom of God, based on love.
What the followers of Spinoza’s thought processes came to believe is that God wants us to be joyful, sing, have fun and enjoy all that God made for us. If you read scripture, read it first in the power and love of Nature which expresses most comprehensively God’s infinite care and connections...all are one.
Spinoza told a friend, “Don’t fear God. He does not punish nor judge because he is pure love. Therefore, if you believe in the power of love your major and at all times primary emotion should be joy.”
In another letter to a friend, Spinoza wrote: “God created us to be free. Every person is free to create in his own life a heaven or a hell. Love can only blossom to its fullness in freedom of choice.”
Then my favorite saying of his is: “When you die this is what God will ask you, not if you behaved well or badly, rather God will ask: “Did you like life? Did you have fun? What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?”
An important comment on what God’s love is is something each of us might want to consider: “Don’t just believe in me...believing is to suppose, guess, or imagine. Rather than believing in me, I want you to feel me in you when you kiss your beloved, when you cuddle your baby, when you caress your dog, when you swim in the sea. Do not look for me outside, you will not find me. Look inside, I am there, beating inside of you. The world is full of wonders and you are one of them.
Another Jewish man, Albert Einstein, was asked who is your God? His reply was, “My God is Spinoza’s God.”
The age old question is often still pondered: was Spinoza an atheist or a Christian of his time?
What do you think? And more importantly, how comfortable are you thinking outside the prescribed, traditional images of God...or can and do you think of others that may be deeply spiritual though not bound in a book called Bible.
The Nourishing Thought: Six Ethics of LIFE: Before you pray, believe. Before you speak, listen. Before you spend, earn. Before you write, think. Before you quit, try! Before you die, live!!
Words of Wisdom: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly good sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” C.S. Lewis In other words, break out of your box, be true to yourself, go for it! If you want something you have never had you‘ve go to do something you’ve never done.
Sermon, April 15, 2018
Shepherd, warrior, musician, outlaw, faithful friend, empire builder, sinner, saint, failed father, ideal king! Who in the Bible but for David appears In so many roles? His name occurs more tan 1000 times in the old and new testaments, more than any other. In his early years David was a good, worthy, and innocent young man…it was after he became king that he strayed from righteousness to become a self-centered, greedy murdering man. Yet God never stopped loving David.
When David was chosen by Samuel to be the eventual king of Israel, Samuel sent David to live in King Saul’s palace and comfort Saul in his fits of depression. All was well for a while, then because David was so very popular among Saul’s people, Saul became jealous. Over a period of several months Saul attempted to kill David.
Some say David wrote the 23rd Psalm as a prayer during the years he was hiding from King Saul and his army of 3000 men. David was terribly afraid. So, he left his home, his comfort, his status, to hide in caves, mountains and the wilderness for 8 long years. And he learned to pray!
In reading the psalm I can almost see David curled up in the darkness of a deep cave hoping Saul and his armies would not find him. In his deep aloneness, David began to think about his life. He recalled the good, almost unbelievable, things that had happened to him. He had been a poor shepherd boy. Samuel had come and anointed him as the next king of Israel, then placed him in the palaces of King Saul where he was treated as a son to Saul and a brother to Jonathan. He was grateful for that time of easy living. Yet, he remembered when he had been a shepherd how sheep needed constant oversight to protect them. He could never turn away from even one sheep that was lost. He also remembered shepherds are the ones to find endless nourishment for his sheep. David hoped because God had provided these things in the past maybe God would continue to care for him.
David prayed: “The Lord is my shepherd.” David expressed this kinship with God…for both David and God had jobs that required protection for others. God had taken him away from a rural environment as a shepherd ultimately to make him king over all of Israel. Yet even now when he hardly had any food or comfort at all, he knew he still lacked for nothing. He said to God “I shall not want.”
Running and hiding every day made him tired, exhausted. He needed rest. He had to trust God long enough to allow him to have a quiet time, perhaps a nap or a full night’s sleep. David remembered that in the past, God had made him lie down in green pastures for a rest and led him beside still waters for cooling nourishment. Since God provided for his basic needs for many years, perhaps God would continue to do so.
Admitting his exhaustion and fear, David finally acknowledged he needed spiritual healing. He prayed, “God restore my soul.” Do we not all at some time yearn for that experience of having a restored soul? An OK-ness with God?
David needed to know what to do in his extreme and dangerous circumstance. He prayed, “God lead me in the paths of righteousness.” That is guidance…if only he could follow that guidance. To do so he needed a purpose for his life…and he finally acknowledge what his purpose was: “I will do all for His name’s sake.” He will be who God has asked him to be.
Then David realized he was being tested, yet even in this awful testing, he knew God would protect him once more: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me.” Protection, faithfulness, and discipline are all part of God’s plan for David…and for us.
Out of despair David began to be hopeful, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” He honored his chosen-ness, his consecration: you anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over….David had plenty to sustain him from the gracious hand of God.
Finally, David stated an affirmation about God and himself: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (what a blessing) and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,’ that is eternal security.
Having looking at David’s dilemma and reading his prayer, what do we as 21st century residents, far removed from being shepherds, take from this prayer, this 23rd Psalm?
I think this prayer of David shows each of us who we are as humans and as divine.
As humans we are fearful, we live in a hostile world, and we worry about our lives and those who we love. We too need a personal relationship with God to keep us hopeful, faithful, and fearless. When we rely on God to strengthen us in those ways, we too look forward to whatever the future hold for us because God is with, He does supply assurance, guidance, forgiveness, mercy, and always love.
As people who have the divine within us, what does that prayer mean to us? I think it means no matter who we are, what we have done, God relies on us to live his story and to tell others his story of love, compassion, mercy, and redemption…but first we must acknowledge those in our day to day living.
Our lives will be expanded abundantly if we read and ponder the23 Psalm several times a week until we know without a doubt that our God provides healthy relationships, rest and nourishment, healing and guidance, protection when we are tested, discipline which leads to hope, and our own consecration as children of a living and loving God. Our lives do run over with abundance and blessings. We must acknowledge the blessed state of love in which we live and have our being.
Pray on it and live into the life-altering statements this prayer gives to us. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched...they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller
Words of Wisdom: “Gifts are free. If you work for a gift, it is no longer a gift. Gifts, in the truest sense of the word are undeserved. If we feel we deserve it, then it ceases to be a gift and becomes an award. The eternal life God gives us is truly a gift of the highest order. It is given for one reason only: His love for us.”
Sermon, April 8, 2018 First Sunday After Easter
Luke is the only gospel writer that tells us this story...it is deeply spiritual in meaning….for it reminds us that we are very much like the two who were walking home to Emmaus. How are we like them?
The two people knew all about Jesus. They had a preconceived notion who he really was, what he was here to do, and how he should do it. In other words, they thought the Messiah would have come with an army to free the Jewish people from bondage. When that did not happen, they seemed to dismiss the whole thing. They lost faith and trust. Don’ twe also lose a little bit of hope, faith, or trust when God does not answer our prayers the way we want them answered? Don’t we back off from him a bit when we are disappointed?
Maybe it would behoove us to not be so quick to be disappointed...perhaps God is up to something we do not yet understand.
Another reason we are like these two people is that we too have not seriously dealt with who Jesus truly is. Just because they knew about Jesus, like reading his biography, it doesn’t mean they really knew him on a personal basis. Apparently, they had never had a heart to heart talk with Jesus. They did not know him well enough to recognize him when he was two feet away from them and enjoying a conversation with him. How many of us do not recognize the risen spirit of the Christ, the divine in each other, even when that sacredness is being revealed?
Maybe we need to be reminded that knowing about Jesus and knowing him are two very different things...knowing about him may be interesting. Knowing him is life changing...always for the better.
A third way we are like the people on the road to Emmaus is that we listen to preachers, Sunday School teachers, parents and friends to tell us who Jesus is. Learning from others is only a first step...we must get to know him through the scriptures because they are in actuality the only stories about how he lived and loved told by people who knew him and their disciples. Every biblical story about Jesus not only tells us about him, it shows us how to know him, love him, serve him, and thereby know and understand ourselves and our place in God’s plan for humanity.
Maybe reading the scriptures with an open mind and a new point of view might change the way we live, love, laugh, and grow into our own unique holiness….which is eternal.
A last way we are similar to the people walking with Jesus is that we, like those men, see Jesus most clearly in table fellowship...meaning, not only in the Lord’s supper, but in intimate relationships with others who believe. Acting on Jesus’ teachings is a life-changing, joyous, creative way to be...for it emulates Jesus himself. It is intimacy with one another that opens our eyes to the power and majesty of love, of unconditional love. Jesus revealed himself to the men at table fellowship...then he disappeared from their sight. A relationship with Jesus is not going to depend on our ability to see him, rather on our ability to experience him, trust him because he loves us even more than we love ourselves and those special to us.
Ultimately, once we recognize God’s compassionate, holy divinity in each other, we should not be able to contain that love...it will be spontaneous, all-encompassing, and will definitely include all others...family, friends, and enemies alike. Any response less than those is no response at all.
Jesus tells us “do not be afraid, do not stay in the dark, I am the light you need to see well, to love extravagantly, and to enjoy life abundantly.” Let’s you and me not settle for less than those Godly promises. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: “God loves you, yes you, as though you are the only one!” Saint Augustine
Words of Wisdom: “The resurrection of Jesus in us is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” N.T. Wright
Sermon, April 1, 2018 Easter Morning
Easter: Isn’t is strange that the most significant event in all of history happened when no one was around. There was no fan-fare, no trumpets or parades, and no celebrations. Nothing. Just stillness. Quiet. Almost like a whisper.
The week before had been a horrible week...a week of brutality, murder in the bloodiest of ways. When people were just beginning to come to terms with the horror of it all, that their beloved leader/rabbi was gone, then all of a sudden he wasn’t gone. He was here! They must have thought “How can this be?” “Are we crazy?”
Nonetheless, people said they had seen him, had touched him, and dined with him. But that good news seemed too good to be true.
Even today, some of us still think it’s too good, or too far fetched, to be true. We don’t understand. It is confusing. So to pacify our confusion, to forget about trying to understand the mystique of it, we look to other images of Easter...like soft, cute Easter bunnies, or brightly colored eggs….both of these symbols are more about the pagan festival of springtime and reproduction than about Jesus. So, to be frank, there was nothing soft, sugary, colorful, or sexual about Jesus’ murder. It was horrible, a tortuous crucifixion which is perhaps one of the most painful ways to die.
In truth after Jesus’ death he was placed in a dark tomb...and some of us still kill him and bury him in the dark corners of our minds so we don’t think about him too often. Are we any different from those who physically murdered him? If we don’t allow him full access to our own lives, we are guilty of keeping him locked in a dark hole, whether in the ground or in our minds. We forget Ester happened in a cemetery, a grave yard, a grave.
The women who went to the grave that early morning did not sit and visit and say, “Oh, how sweet, he is not here.” Oh no. They were scared. The men disciples were so frightened and perplexed they ran away. Even the Roman soldiers didn’t have a clue.
Yes, Easter, is bewildering. It moves beyond the practical reality we deal with. We are seldom comfortable with the intangibles of life. We often don’t have the words or mental capacity to understand it. Yet, we are asked to accept Easter, and to manifest that remarkable good news in our own lives
Jesus lives. He lives within each one of us. And more than that, we as a church, the bride of Christ, are the living body of the resurrected Messiah. We are the people who keep him alive. We are the people of the good news. We are the people who spread his love, who shine light in the dark areas of our lives and communities. We are the people of the new life that Jesus bequeathed to us.
What kind of citizen are you in this new life? This life that encourages love and compassion for all people, respect for the divine in each person, a world of forgiveness, peace and joy? Which side of the cross do you live on today? The side that leads to a living darkness or the side that glories in the fullness of life right now, and forever?
Easter is not just about the resurrection of the Christ Spirit. It is more than that. The true meaning of Easter is our own resurrection. Yours and mine. Scripture tells us Jesus is the first fruits of this resurrection that honors and values all life. First fruits always have a harvest that follows and we are that harvest. We, who choose to live for Christ and to be God’s person.
Maybe the only way to experience Easter is in the way it happened. Alone. In the stillness. In the early morning when the sUn rises in the east and the son rises in us.
I ask you again...on which side of the cross do you choose to live ? The dark side, which kills the spirit of a person. Or on the side of light that gives birth to love, laughter, joy, peace, and eternal communion with God through Christ, the Holy Spirit.
Answer carefully. Your answer will be the defining moment of your life. Amen
The Nourishing Thought: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no
cross, no crown.” William Penn
Words of Wisdom: “I think, therefore, I am.” When Descartes wrote those words, he
remembered the “i am” statements found in the gospel of John. They were initiated b Yahweh
when he told Moses who he was/is. Descartes’ message is to use our minds as the mind of
Christ to fully realize we are indeed one Spirit serving One God, represented by one Christ. I
am who I am because God is who God is. Think! Think and consider this unique place you
have in the world.”
Sermon, March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday Zachariah 9:9; Matthew 21: 1-11
As Jesus was entering Jerusalem there was a small parade of his believers marching toward
along with him...they cheered him as the messiah, the one who would rescue them from
Roman rule and religious persecution. The people were so excited they placed their cloaks
and palm branches on the ground before him as he rode on a borrowed donkey. However,
this was not the only parade going on toward Jerusalem at the same time. Pilate, as the
Roman leader of that province, led a parade of hundreds of armed soldiers all dressed with
gold helmets, swinging swords and chanting “Hail to Caesar and to Pilate.” Of course
thousands of local people stood along the roads to watch this entry of powerful soldiers, many
on steeds, some in gilded wagons. This was the military power of Rome on display for all to
The time was nearing the Jewish festival of Passover...the place was the temple in
Jerusalem, where thousands of Jewish people were commanded to go offer blood sacrifices
of bulls, cows, doves or other creatures to pay for their sins. Of course, the priests ended up
with both the meat from the creatures and the money. That’s why the book of John says
Jesus stopped by the temple a couple of days before his arrest to overturn the tables of the
money changers and accuse the priests and money changers of high crimes.
Once he wrecked havoc in the temple then told the Jewish hierarchy the temple itself would
be destroyed in three days he had signed his own death certificate. The temple was the
source of income and power for the ruling elite, the Pharisees, the Sadducee, the Roman
military and political leadership….so these people would not tolerate the loss of their status or
income...so Jesus had to go straight to the cross, his death.
Well, what happened? What changed in only a week’s time, from shouts of joy and thrilling
anticipation to the crowds turning on him by the end of the week and demanding his death.
How did that parade that sparked patriotic hopes and dreams turn into tragedy?
We must remember all of Israel was ruled by the Roman Empire that needed to be
replaced..the people were anticipating and looking for a war-like Messiah to come and
replace Rome with the return of the empire of David...they still wanted their place in among
the powers of the world.
The Jewish people, a tribal God’s chosen people, had forgotten that their significance came
through an anti-empire concept through a covenant made with God in the wilderness, to
restore a broken humanity.
The people had forgotten their heritage was an alternative to the kings and emperors of
Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria. God was to be their sovereign God, not just their king or
emperor. Sovereign meaning in all ways, spiritual, mental, physical...where all people of all
nations had equal standing, where there was no higher nor lower class of people.
They had forgotten their commandments based on the power to attract all nations to the light
of God given in love to this special people. Military might, opposing and killing others who
disagreed with the empire were no longer acceptable.
So, what went wrong? The Messiah the people expected brought no military with him. He
was not a general on a great white horse. He did not talk about overthrowing the Roman
Rule...rather he talked about commitment, that all people are worth loving, and he talked
about suffering, as in the cross.
Jesus brought an entirely different set of expectations. He came not to replace the empire, he
came to replace the claims and authority of the empire. The power of all empires lies in the
threat of death to those who oppose it. Jesus destroyed death itself, which triumphs over the
empire’s claims of salvation just for those people on top of the societal classes.
Empires can and do fail. Love and forgiveness never fail.
Empires offer temporary security. Jesus offers eternal security.
Empires consider only their own people. Jesus offers to all people a right, holy, and healthy
relationship with the only Power that truly matters, their God. In Jesus murder on the cross, and his spiritual resurrection,
God dealt a blow to empires and empire thinking.
Today, as we think of the hosannas in our lives, we need to keep singing them for all the right
reason. Our expectations of the Messiah must be on target. We are one with him. We are all
worthy of love. We all have the right and freedom to choose commitment to Christ and
thereby live life for him. It does require a change in thinking, a change in attitude, a change in
the words we use, and a change in the actions we take on a daily basis.
Today, this Palm Sunday is a good day to remind us of the Good News...Christ is the only
Lord, the only Power, the only life worth having in our earthly experience.
Praise Almighty God that he has not nor ever will give up on us. He has put the power of his
kingdom in our hands...may we treat it with respect, devotion, commitment and honor. And
remember, the church, l like this one, is the living body of Christ...and we are to learn to be
and practice being Christs to one another.