A Fresh Experience

I love to cook. Even more, I love it when a recipe turns out perfectly. Truthfully? When anything I do turns out better than I expected it to, I write it down, step by step, and save it. No matter what anyone suggests, I will do it exactly the same, every single time because in my mind, if I don’t deviate, it will always come out perfect.

This morning we sang a couple songs and in both songs the phrase, “Spirit of God fall fresh on us” hit my heart like a gong. The words literally stopped me from singing and I didn’t understand why. So, I started praying and I knew I was hearing from God, but it was different this time. Immediately, I thought about all the times that I had one those “goosebump” moments with God. Those moments have always seemed so perfect to me and this was different. It was a very matter-of-fact conversation between my spirit and the Holy Spirit.  And when I could feel myself getting frustrated that it was one of those perfect moments with Him, I felt Him comfort me saying, “If every moment we had together was the same, it would get boring.” This was a fresh moment I was having with God. But, because I am not perfect, I didn’t get very excited about the fresh moment… I kinda wanted the goosebumps. Then I realized this…

Last night I made an amazing salad full of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, and chicken. It was perfect. On the menu tonight was steak, sweet potatoes, and corn. If I had showed up with the fresh ingredients from last night, it would have been good, but it wouldn’t have made sense for tonight. I needed something different to have an equally amazing experience at dinner. And at the same time, something different, something fresh, in my experience with God today.

 

Second Sunday of Easter by JoAnn Huber

Second Sunday of Easter by Rev. JoAnn Huber
Acts 5: 12-16 Psalm 118: 2-24 Revelation 1:9-19 John 20:19-31
I love the readings in the Easter season leading us to Pentecost. They strongly
invite us to live out the teaching and modeling of Jesus love and mercy, and show
us too, how others attempted to do so. They also remind us of the basis of our
faith – Jesus lives!
Many signs and wonders were done by the apostles – the people esteemed
them but none dared to join them our first reading says. Many believed in the
power of Jesus after they saw the Apostles working miracles yet still could not
“give up’ their old confidence in the established religious authorities. Less risky to
stay put even though the witness of all who were being healed/cured was
wonderful. In James 1:22 it says,” Obey Gods message! Don’t fool yourselves by
just listening to it!
The author of Revelation finds himself on Patmos- a small island where
Romans sometimes kept prisoners. He was condemned for his faith and his
teaching. He sees and hears a vision rich in symbol. Verse 16 was left out of
today’s reading a part of which pictures “a doubled edged sword coming out of
his mouth”. This sword is the word of God that irresistibly penetrates the heart
and is then fulfilled in events. It deals death as effectively as it saves! If we want
fullness of life we must always die to something/lose something. A hard choice.
We can’t be lukewarm or risk free. God wants all of us and modeled for us what
that entails.
John is also using “I am” statements. I am the first and the last; I am the living
one. I died but now I am alive for evermore. Unspoken, yet there is again the
invitation, “Join me”!
In the Gospel the disciples were very afraid and in hiding behind locked doors.
Jesus enters and says “Peace be with you.” When they see his hands and side they
recognize him with rejoicing. Again Jesus says peace be with you and says “as I
have been sent so I send you”. He then breathes on them the gift of the Spirit.
“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” This message is for all the disciples – not
just the apostles – which is of course all of us as well On another visit Thomas,
called Didymas, which means twin, according to John, shows up after having
missed the first visit from Jesus. Jesus again says peace be with you and invites
Thomas to touch the wounds. Does not say that Thomas touched. Thomas saw
and responded, “My Lord and my God” – a statement of faith. In the Gospel of
Thomas, Thomas is said to be Jesus spiritual twin in that he saw that God’s light
was shared by all – in everyone open to receive. He saw Jesus and his heart was
opened for all. Some believe it was Thomas who then traveled to the east to
evangelize where he learned even more about non-duality.
People who strive for a deeper spiritual life often suffer from a depth of
awareness of the universal presence of sin or wrongdoing. There is grief over the
imperfection. Forgiveness is the greatest gift – it always involves mercy and love.
The capacity to forgive is the only power able to release the great tensions within
humankind. It does not easily conquer hearts, yet it is an invaluable secret
treasure. One who does not know how to forgive does not know how to love
deeply. Forgiveness is a way of showing a more authentic love. Words like
forgiveness, love and even mercy can sometimes seem like mere jargon words –
not practical at all in the culture in which we live where we are taught to fight
back, get even, and have a judicial system that does not restore life.
January 30 – Gandhi’s death day – began the season of non-violence. April 4
we end the season of non-violence, as it is the day MLK Jr was killed. With
today’s gospel it seems fitting to speak of forgiveness and the power Jesus has
given us to forgive, as we recall the great modeling that Gandhi and King and so
many others demonstrated.
During the Civil Rights movement one Sunday morning King was preaching at
his church the day after his people had been severely beaten up. They were in
bandages and casts, were bruised and saddened and angry and he said to them,
“The forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged,
the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some great injustice, the absorber
of some terrible act of oppression.” Can we even imagine the difficulty of
hearing that message? How about allowing yourself to be beaten up and not
physically fighting back? King went on to say that, “Forgiveness is a catalyst
creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.”
Another story I am fond of is one where a man took a daily bus ride and the bus
driver was consistently unfriendly, rude and offered his passengers only gruff
words and frowns. One rider was always friendly and encouraging toward the
driver. When asked how he could do that when met with such rudeness day after
day, the passenger responded. “I refuse to let this man dictate to me how I am
going to act.” This man made an act of the will, a decision, not to be led by
another’s negative behavior, nor to respond in kind but rather to act from a place
of freedom. A new beginning every time. NOT seeing the person who hurt you as
an enemy requires depth of understanding, great acceptance of self, and of the
other, and often a huge leap of faith! “Forgive them for they know not what they
do,” says Jesus.
The question is often not can I forgive, but, can I love enough, or how can I
show mercy? We are given deep responsibility to show mercy and love in our
forgiving actions. Who do we need to forgive? Who do we label enemy? From
where does our courage come? Forgivers are peacemakers and lovers and
followers in the footsteps of Jesus and Gandhi and King. We have good
teachers. Be not afraid. Christ lives!

How to Feed Your Holy Hunger in a Hurry

You have a busy life with a to-do list longer than a voicemail from your mom, and even going to church is just another thing you have to get done. And don’t get me wrong, you love it once you’re there, you’re always glad you went, but by Monday at 3pm all those good, spiritual feelings can be a distant memory. With everything you have to get done, with all the places you have go, how can you get your time in with God and feel spiritually connected throughout your week?

The trick is, being aware of our opportunities and jumping on them like a five-year old on a trampoline! Spiritual things are fast and fluid and in-our-face. But we can miss them if we don’t know what we’re looking for; every action of our lives can be one big prayer offering to God. The scriptures say that we are living, eating, and breathing epistles, living love letters written by God.

You might miss the most spiritual moments if you’re not counting that genuine smile you gave your co-worker, the mercy you extend your brother, that nice text in response to your mom’s voicemail, the dollar you gave at the corner, the full attention you gave that child, or the quick ball toss you played with Spot. These things are spiritual when done in love, and they count to God, so let them count to you and feed you spiritually.

Spiritual hunger pangs feel something like the following: you feel lacking and anxious, your brain is shuffling the same playlist of worries, simple problems keep you stumped, the opinion of others matter to you way too much, you want and need something but you can’t put your finger on it; get the picture?

You need to eat! Spiritually, that is, and here are a few suggestions besides the cool stuff you already do every day that you can count as spiritual!

  1. Listen to a good sermon on your phone while getting ready or while driving,
  2. Read a quick scripture from Colossians while your bread is toasting.
  3. Download praise music on your phone and sing in the shower.
  4. On a coffee break, offer a prayer of thanks to God.
  5. During the next break, tell Him you’re listening for His voice.
  6. Go for a short walk and smile on purpose.

God is doing life with you, so don’t be so hard on yourself and realize that your life’s moments can be turned into one big prayer offering to God. You gotta eat!

Fresh Inspiration

We have a unique opportunity during the first month of the year to ignite the power within us, using the fresh inspiration of the season, to realize more of who we are in Christ.

Adhering to God and His Word(s) becomes our launching pad, “…for without me you can do nothing. For those of you who adhere to me and my words take hold [become strong] in you, whatever you wish [are satisfied with] to ask for, you shall have” John 15:5b, 7 from the Aramaic.

Notice the phrase, “Whatever you…are satisfied with…you shall have.” It’s becoming clear to me, that much of what we receive from God, or experience as the over-arching theme of our story, is more determined by what we are willing to live with, rather than what God actually desires to manifest in our lives.

We watched God become himself in the life of Jesus on the earth; we beheld his glory (John 1). God expressed his nature, his intentions in Christ Jesus and gave us a beautiful example of how life could be. Jesus was the will of God in action.

Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, and everywhere he went he did good things for people, and brought healing to all those who were oppressed by the devil. God isn’t oppressing us, God isn’t putting sickness on us; God is good to us, God is healing us, God is bringing forth his life in us.

Becoming familiar with the revelations in the Bible, adhering to God by the Holy Spirit, and keeping an internal dialogue of prayer going in our heart, are ways to keep our mind open to receiving the good things God has for us in Christ.

During this month of fresh inspiration, be encouraged that God is for you not against you (Romans 8:31), and if you have been satisfied, or settling, with less than God’s good intention for you, you can begin changing that today.

Starter prayer: Father, thank you for showing me your good will for me in the life of Jesus. I want the life you lived in him to live big in me this year. I believe you are good and have good intentions for me. Open my heart to your Word, and please show me what it looks like to adhere myself to you. Thank you for all that you’re doing in me, with me, through me and for me. Let my life glorify you in all my ways. Amen.