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Don't Focus On Your Sins - God Doesn't

Oftentimes we are told that the way to come to God is to be sorry for your sins and to ask God to forgive you of them. Whether we are discussing the Sinner’s Prayer, an altar call, or “praying through,” this idea that focuses on our sin is ubiquitous in Christendom and a common refrain on religious radio and television shows. This theme is often supported with the story of the Prodigal Son who we are told, came to his senses, felt bad, and decided to ask to be a servant. These ideas will preach and they have for centuries. 
They’re wrong. 

The invitation from God isn’t “feel bad and ask for forgiveness.” Rather the invitation of God is to return to him; to come home. In this sense the Prodigal Son story is correct – come to your senses and come back where you belong. But what about our sins? 
Well, God says He will not pay attention to them. Why and when does God not pay attention to our sins? The answer is simple – when we come home. It is the coming home that matters. This return invol…
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Ministering Angels

"Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?" Hebrews 1.14.

Wow! Did you read that? Angels serve for your sake. Sent from the throne of God and Jesus, angels serve your interests. Let's try and wrap our heads around the implication of these things. The Creator God made the world for you to live in - as his own image and in his presence. Even though we messed that up, that same Creator God sent his Son into the world to reveal to us the Father; the Father's character and love for humankind. He did that for you. Then, after the ascension of the Son, the Father sent the Spirit - his own Spirit into our very beings to nudge, to witness, to correct us on our journey of transformation into the most perfect image of God - the likeness of Jesus. But even more fascinating still, the angels are sent from the throne of God for you.

The entire enterprise is focused - from God's perspective - on you. The …

The Current Catholic Quagmire

The Catholic Church is at least putatively an organization oriented toward forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. In fact, Paul tells his readers that his ministry is specifically one of reconciliation - between Man and God, and between all persons. Paul will also tell us that he doesn’t quite understand why disciples go to court with disciples - surely the body of Christ has the wherewithal to discern justice within its members. The entire rite of penance is to correct and restore rather than punish wrongdoing, and that within an atmosphere of confidentiality and grace. Your priest, after all, isn’t supposed to publish your transgressions in next week’s parish newsletter or assign you inhumane or even harsh penance. This is intended to communicate God’s and our acceptance of imperfect humans as our brothers and sisters, and to restore them to right standing with God and the community. Christian discipline isn’t intended to punish but rehabilitate. It is understandable then, at lea…

The Kingdom of God Is Now

We have mentioned a number of times and we will no doubt mention it again, that Christianity isn’t only about something that happened 2000 years ago. Oh yes, the coming of the Christ in real time was the hinge point of all history but if we simply think of our faith as expressive only of that coming, we have missed the purpose of the incarnation.
The Gospels tell us of the event and provide little future thinking. Their purposes included to authenticate the life of Jesus and to establish his claim to be the Messiah and the savior of the world. Within the Gospels there are indications that the events recorded will impact the future,  but their themes are God’s keeping His promise to Israel.
It isn’t until we enter the world of Acts and read the epistles that we get the idea firmly established that the message of Jesus is applicable to all, and is expected to have an impact far into the future. The Spirit is given to empower and help the new communities of disciples grow in the character…

Now Abide These Three

Love, Paul tells the Corinthians never fails; it never ends. In speaking about the gifts of the Spirit he tells them eventually some of their current gifts will end but that there are three things that will continue: faith, hope, and love. These last three are related to one another in a variety of ways for disciples of Jesus. Faith, probably better understood as faithfulness, fidelity, or even allegiance speaks to an on-going alignment with Jesus as our teacher and mentor. Living our lives in consonance with the way in which Jesus lived his is the very basic expectation of a disciple and the first evidence that a disciple is, in fact, a disciple. Being gentle, being kind, and such like, but at the same time not failing to align ourselves with Jesus and the God to whom he points are the parameters of a disciple’s life.

Hope provides a bit of the reasoning that we can continue to be disciples, and points in a couple directions. Hope as we know, isn’t the childish, “I hope I get a red wa…

The Enterprise

Over the past 2000 years, Christian communities have largely come to focus - almost exclusively - on doctrinal tenets and common activities that occur “in church.” This isn’t surprising overly much because the history of the early church at least was in many instances and locations - although certainly not all - characterized by rejection by established systems including Jewish and Roman social structures and authorities. It is understandable then that the communities would begin to focus on their times together, protected from outsiders and buttressing each other’s faith and commitment. They still lived their lives, but having defined communities likely allowed them an identity that was both concrete and safe.Over time - and certainly after the faith was putatively “legal” - and for a number of social reasons no doubt, the local sign of the community became their meeting places and having been shaped in fear their practices became tradition and sources of comfort and normalcy. They w…

Sin

So, sin. We have a variety of opinions on what sin is. Perhaps the most frequently offered is "missing the mark." That's OK I guess, as far as it goes. The problem is that it doesn't tell us what it is that we've missed - just that we've apparently missed it. To understand sin, it is necessary to understand why we have the word. We have it to identify and label our failure to live as the image of God.  "Life as God" is the mark we have missed when we sin.  Concretely, this can be understood as not acknowledging God, and living or acting in an unloving way. If God is Love and you are the image of God, your purpose, your reason for existing, your most complete you is Love. Love here isn't emotional or physical excitement but a higher kind of love. This love is defined as volitional self-giving for the nurturing of the other. A mature love acknowledges the being of the other, the value inherent in them, and rejoices with them in their own self-givi…

These Soldiers

Today in the United States we remember the soldiers, the sailors, the airmen, and the Marines - and the Coasties and merchant mariners who have died in almost every corner of our world. These soldiers didn’t intend to be killed or to die when they joined up and likely not even when they got up on that last day. Some experienced fear, some loneliness, some numbness, and for some it was just another day. Some thought they couldn’t be killed, and some in those last few minutes or seconds knew they would be.
These soldiers died because of us and they died for us. Whether as part of a great invasion or as a lonely sailor floating in shark infested waters, or perhaps trapped in the hull of a ship as it sank beneath the waves, they died so that we might be able to live in freedom, with liberty, and yes, pursuing our own versions of happiness.
These soldiers have been proclaimed heroes in victory, and decried as baby killers in a war we wanted to forget. They have been pawns in international m…