Tag Archives: Good News

Dynamic Spirit Power!

“Dynamic Spirit Power!”

Acts 2 Pentecost mural

Acts 2:2-4 – June 9, 2019

Have you ever been outside in hurricane-force winds? Either you, or a loved one you know and who is very dear to you? How about a massive storm that has huge bolts of lightning, and loud cracks of thunder? Can you imagine God’s mighty power displayed, for everyone to see and hear and feel? Anyone who has ever been caught in such a powerful storm can tell you, such a dynamic panorama can be earthshaking, literally. That mighty God-sent power is just what I’ll be preaching about today.

Most of us, perhaps even all of us are familiar with the disciples’ fearful reaction after our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven. And, for good reason! The Roman authorities were still hunting for the body of the Rabbi Jesus that disappeared from the tomb, some weeks before. Remember what happened on Easter morning? Not only the Roman authorities but also Jewish leaders were still demanding to see the body of this itinerant rabbi that they said was stolen from the tomb! Of course, we know better.

God’s mighty, miraculous power intervened, by way of the Resurrection and Ascension. Our Lord rose from the dead, walked and taught on this earth in His resurrected body for seven weeks, followed by His bodily ascension into heaven. What is more, the last instructions of Jesus to wait for power, to stay put in Jerusalem, were still fresh in people’s ears.

But—still, God left the disciples very much afraid, and very much in hiding. At least, after the risen Jesus went away for good. That’s what humans thought, anyhow.

Here we are, on Pentecost morning, waiting with the disciples. As was their custom, they were gathered for prayer in the Upper Room. Can you imagine a large group of disciples, with Jesus’ mother Mary in the midst of them? Talk about a prayer meeting! Still, they were huddled, in hiding. These disciples were being faithful, as best as they could. When, on Pentecost morning, a God-sent happening occurred. But, you don’t need to take my word for it!

Listen to what Dr. Luke says at the beginning of Acts 2: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Now, today, if something like that happened, we might look around for the fancy special effects team in the background. We might wonder where the cameras were placed when those tongues of fire wondrously appeared above each person—marking them, letting everyone know that God was director, and God wrote the script.

Getting back to a description of a display of God’s mighty power, that other-worldly power was certainly on display in the sound like the blowing of a violent wind from heaven. In keeping with my analogy, God was also producer and certainly handled all special effects.

The Koine Greek word for “power” is dunamis, which the Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament defines as: able to produce a strong effect power, might, strength” and “as supernatural manifestations of power, miracle, wonder, powerful deed.” This is the same word that is used ten times in the book of Acts to refer to God’s mighty power or acts. Plus, dunamis is the root word for dynamite: the mighty, powerful dynamite of God!

This dynamic power was on display to the disciples, in the upper room. Dr. Luke mentions that “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” On display only among the disciples—at first. But, soon, other people started to get in on the action!

Let’s hear from Dr. Luke: “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?”

Once the dynamic Holy Spirit blows in on the disciples with tongues of fire, and their physical tongues are loosened in many other languages, what an awesome display of power! Passersby from other countries off the street gathered around. They heard the violent wind of the Spirit and the expression of many languages that quickly followed. All of the disciples were telling the Good News, that Jesus our Messiah is risen from the dead—in many different languages. And, probably because of the regional pronunciation, the expat onlookers were able to tell that many of those who were speaking different languages were Galileans. Is it any wonder that these onlookers were totally amazed?

I am reminded of a flash mob in some public place, like a mall or in a downtown square. Just as passersby are engrossed in the performance the flash mob does, in a similar way, the onlookers are fascinated by the whole God-sent operation that happened in Jerusalem on Pentecost morning, especially by the sharing of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ in their own heart-language, their own mother tongue. And, since the Holy Spirit was present in mighty power on that Pentecost morning, many came to believe in Jesus as their Messiah that day.

But, Pentecost was not just a one-time event. You know, an event that happened just in the distant past, in Bible times, never to be repeated. No! Whenever anyone believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, a Pentecost happens! The Holy Spirit blows through that person, that beloved one of God. The Holy Spirit blows into each of our lives, and the power and possibility of God acting with and through each one of us is an amazing and awesome truth!

Commentator Rev. Gary Simpson brings out the fact “I am more aware of the numerous ways the Holy Spirit comes into people’s lives and affects positive change. No longer is my understanding of Pentecost simply wrapped around the phonetic languages we speak out of our mouths. Rather, I am aware of the many ways the Holy Spirit speaks through us and to us through sounds, pictures, ideas and even hope.” [1]

I am reminded that some people think Pentecost was just a day, an event that happened two thousand years ago. But, no! Wait a minute! Are these well-meaning people putting limits on the mighty power of God? What about that violent wind of the Holy Spirit that blew through the house on that first Pentecost? Are these well-meaning people trying to put God in a little box of their own devising and understanding?

As the Rev. Simpson reminds us, Pentecost is not simply a day to remember the birth of the Church, but it is also a day to celebrate the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the dynamite of God, active and present in each believer’s life and heart. It is God’s power working in us and through us, so we can be witnesses to what the risen Lord Jesus has done for us. Yes, we are changed, too! And we have the opportunity to change the world, just as much as the first-century disciples of Christ—by the power of the God-sent dynamite of the Holy Spirit.

Alleluia! Amen.

[1] http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupLectionaryReading.asp?LRID=88

Lectionary Commentary, Acts 2:1-8, Gary V. Simpson, The African American Lectionary, 2009.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2019: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

Prayer, Life-Breath of God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 20, 2018

breath of God, mountains

Prayer, Life-Breath of God

Father Nouwen calls the Gospel—the Good News—the life breath of God. Isn’t that it, exactly? If we name the Good News as indispensable for life, how then shall we orient our selves? Our lives? Indeed, our souls?

“The person who prayerfully goes about his life is constantly ready to receive the breath of God, and to let his life be renewed and expanded.” [1] (Fr. Nouwen wrote this several decades ago, when “he/him” was commonly seen to be representative of all humanity.)

If I am receptive and ready to receive God’s life-giving breath, God’s Ruach ha Kodesh, into my life and self and soul, isn’t that the essence of being? Isn’t that what it means to be a child of God? (These are rhetorical questions.) I agree with Henri Nouwen. Then, I can stand upright, stretch out my hands and come out of the corner where I have been hiding and cowering in fear. Then, I am free to boldly stride through the world, because then I can move without fear. [2]

Fear is just what I am preaching on, in my summer sermon series. I am looking at just a few of the hundreds of “Be Not Afraid!” passages in the Bible, and highlighting these each Sunday. But, to return to Nouwen’s idea of God’s breath, it is truly life-giving.

Nouwen describes someone who never prays as someone who has asthma. (Or, from my direct experience as a hospital chaplain, someone with COPD.) So difficult to breathe! As I have had it described to me, life becomes as small as the distance an affected person is from his or her oxygen source, as far as their oxygen tube can take them. What a sad commentary on living and existence.

It is prayer that opens up the world for anyone, even if some do have mobility difficulties and challenges. Prayer becomes that gift from God for which we need not give anything in return. Thank You, dear God, for the remarkable, immeasurable gift of prayer.

@chaplaineliza

(Here is last week’s “Be Not Afraid” sermon: June 17 Sunday Sermon: “Joshua Called Courageous!“ Joshua 1:8-9 @StLukesChurch2 #pastorpreacherprayer )

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 1972), 31.

[2] Ibid.

Christ, and Him Crucified

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, March 15, 2018

St. Paul, Guercino_stpaul3.jpg

Christ, and Him Crucified

Sometimes, Paul’s words are just that—wordy, pedantic, with run-on sentences. He did not craft parts of his writings with meticulous care. (Which of us in email regularly crafts the words we use with great care?) Some of Paul’s letters were, I suspect, written in some haste. At least, not given the great amount of care with which Paul wrote the letter to the Roman church. I’m reminded of the quote from Jane Austen, paraphrased, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Brevity and clarity in writing sometimes take considerable time and thought.

At times, Paul gets really excited. His subject matter, of course, is often weighty and even exalted—if not transcendent. Seriously, why not get excited about such things? This is only natural. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” As Prof. Williams says in his book of reflections, Paul is a passionate man, speaking passionately about this subject so meaningful to him and what has become his whole life—Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and ascended. [1] Spreading the Good News, to Paul, has become his primary, even sole purpose in life.

Going back to Prof. Williams and his in-depth look at Paul the man, one thing stood out to me. “It is always worth remembering that Paul didn’t know he was writing the Bible; that is to say that, when he is writing (or rather dictating) his letter, what we have is a flow of argument which, because Paul is an emotional man, sometimes gets so tangled in its expression that a sentence breaks off and you have to start all over again.” [2] His construction can be wordy, or labored, or even in sentence fragments. And, this is the apostle Paul in all his imperfect humanity. Like all of us, Paul was not perfect, and certainly admits as much a number of times in his letters.

I have very much enjoyed renewing my admiring acquaintance with Paul, both through the book of reflections Meeting God in Paul as well as through the readings Prof. Williams has chosen for daily readings. Dear Lord, I pray this can lead me to journey closer with You not only in Lent, but also throughout the rest of the church year. In Christ’s crucified, risen and triumphant name I pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 19.

[2] Ibid. 20.

Dangerous Newness of Jesus

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, February 22, 2018

2 Cor 10-10 Paul in person, words

Dangerous Newness of Jesus

I am striving (and struggling) to do my Lenten devotional, as has happened for years. It is not because of the reading material! No, the book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams is a fascinating read. (Did I mention that I love the clarity of Prof. Williams’ writing?) No, I have struggled to have regular devotions for years. God knows. (And, we have had many conversations about this, over the years.) But, I was fascinated by the readings set for this week.

As I read the assigned chapters from 2 Corinthians, 10 and 11, I was struck again by Paul’s forcefulness in speech. Sure, he might have been a less-than-impressive figure in person. I know—from what he wrote—that he was fully aware of that. However, that did not stop him from being forceful, convincing, and persuasive in his letters. I have no doubt in eloquence in speech (and sermons), too.

I went back to Williams’ introduction, just to refresh my memory. I was struck by what he said: “…we need to have at least some sense also of the social world and the world of ideas Paul inhabits…It helps to have some feeling for this, otherwise we shall miss the moments when he is being most courageous and creative, when the dangerous newness of what has happened because of Jesus most clearly comes through for him.” [1]

What a statement! “Dangerous newness.” Almost two thousand years after the fact, having been raised in an atmosphere where the Biblical figures and the Old and New Testaments were fairly common references in literary culture, it’s difficult for me to separate myself from my “pre-set,” from the ideas and concepts that I learned about the apostle Paul from school-age (1960’s and 70’s) to seminary, shortly after 2000. Yet, reading 2 Corinthians 10 and 11 once again brought this newness starkly to my attention.

How can I tell others about the newness of Jesus? Of His love for me, and of His very Good News? In the 21st century, as modern culture is becoming less and less knowledgeable and welcoming to the Gospel message, the news about Jesus Christ is gaining dangerous newness, again.

How can I communicate this? Dear God, I wonder. Help me learn how to reach out effectively, in this day and age. Help me to understand better how to tell others about You, I pray.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), xi.

Take Delight in God’s Decrees

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Psa 119-14 God's statutes, bible

Take Delight in God’s Decrees

I am amazed at how earnest the psalmist is, sometimes. Taking delight in God’s rules? Laws? Decrees? I know this psalmist really meant it, with all his heart.

Let’s read verse 119:14, as translated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I have taken greater delight in the way of Your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

As Bonhoeffer said, “’Delight’ is the great word, without which there can be no walking in the way of God.” [1] He then mentions the Gospel of Matthew, where a man found a treasure hidden in a field, and then buys the whole field for the joy of it. Such exuberance. Such joy.

Sometimes, I cannot quite bring up the joy of the Lord from within me. I wonder why? Perhaps the day-to-day routine covers up that joy. Maybe the week-in, week-out rat race gets me down. Yes, I can read statements like Bonhoeffer’s, that “God’s word creates joy and delight in the one who receives it.” [2] Yes, it is delight about restored fellowship with God, and the ability to walk with God, sit with, cry with, even be angry with God.

But, I suspect it is much more than that. I am delivered from fear and separation and alienation from God. God’s Word – which is both the Bible and the Logos – is full of that joy. Especially at this time of year we hear about it. “There is the great proclamation of joy about the incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ in Luke – ‘Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people’ (Luke 2:10).” [3]

Even though people go through challenging times, or difficulties, or the valley of the shadow, or joy on the mountaintop, there is still joy. That good news of great joy is truly a delight. I can reach out and accept that gift of great joy. I can delight in that precious treasure. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for this matchless gift of the incarnation of the Word of God. Thank You.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 119.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 120.

In Which I Define Terms

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, November 16, 2016

fish-ichthus

In Which I Define Terms

I am uncomfortable with the term “Evangelical.”

There. I have said it. There it is, in black and white. (At least, in black and white on the computer screen.)

Looking at my past, I do have some Evangelical street cred. Yes, I was active in a bible study group in high school and into college, which led me to a non-denominational bible church on the northwest side of Chicago. I learned Pietistic practices, which were oddly and wonderfully balanced by the liturgical learning and careful Lutheran catechism of the church where I was baptized and confirmed.

And, to crown all this bible learning, I received a bachelor’s degree from a non-denominational bible college in downtown Chicago, in the mid-1980’s. (In church music. I wasn’t allowed to take biblical Greek or study to become a pastor at the time, since I was a woman. Women weren’t permitted/allowed to serve freely or utilize their God-given gifts. At least, under that particular stream of Evangelicalism. But, I digress.)

Yes. I used to identify as an Evangelical. Over the years, how twisted that term has become. So much rule-keeping, modern-day Pharisaism/legalism, and—most frightening to me, bigotry and xenophobia. Arrogant, condescending, cultural baggage is also hung on that moniker, causing me to shrink from using the term for myself.

What particularly opened my eyes to the smallness and meanness of modern-day Evangelicalism was (in no particular order), seminary training, counseling training and on-the-job work as an addictions counselor, chaplain training, and on-the-job work as a chaplain in an urban setting.

I sometimes take refuge in the historical definition of Evangelical, as in one who freely and gladly shares the Good News of the Gospel. Period. I am more likely to align myself with that simple definition, which is sadly antiquated, nowadays.

And now, post-presidential election, I have absolutely NO idea what an Evangelical is, or isn’t, or stands for or against or anything else. I find myself running to the embrace of a God who is so much bigger than anything this world has for me. My Refuge and Strength, and a very present Help in times of trouble and need.

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers for our country, for our representatives, for the leadership. Lift up all of the diverse voices, and downtrodden and silenced groups across this land. Draw us together as the unified people we strive to be, and show us all the way to walk together with openness, genuineness, tolerance, and—yes—love. (Even towards Evangelicals. 😉 ) Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

PEACE: A Personal Relationship with God

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, August 14, 2016

 

rest in God, dove

PEACE: A Personal Relationship with God

A friend and I traveled to the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago again on Wednesday. We participated—again—in the nightly dinner outreach hosted by the Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK). This was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the good people in the Englewood neighborhood and show them that friends outside of their community care, and are concerned. Friends want to help them strengthen relationships, and bring peace into their streets. Their neighborhood. Their community.

My friend Laura had her face-painting kit, again, and the children loved it. They lined up to have all different kinds of face art painted on their faces. I made myself useful helping out by the serving table, making sure the bottled water was ready to be served, taking care of trash and checking to see that the area around the street corner was neat and tidy.

Yet, I remembered back two weeks, when Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church stopped by that same corner after dinner was cleaned up. The church folks set up a traveling outdoor worship service, just as they do each Wednesday night during the summer. As I finished my good-byes to Mama Knight and several other friends, I had the opportunity to talk with the Senior Pastor of that church, Rev. Walter Matthews.

A personable, earnest man, he was more than ready to share his view of peace. Pastor Matthews’ personal definition: “PEACE is having a personal relationship with God.”  

Just as the Mothers Against Senseless Killing wishes to strengthen relationships between friends in their Englewood neighborhood—on a horizontal plane, so Pastor Matthews wishes to strengthen relationships on a vertical plane—the personal relationship with God, our Redeemer and Friend. As I asked him to elaborate on his personal definition, he said, “I want everyone to have peace with God, so that we are able to have the peace of God.”

Amen! Pastor Matthews, thank you for those good words. May you and your church community have a nurturing, continuing relationship with your neighborhood. Dear God, please help Pleasant Green M.B. Church to continue to be faithful, spreading the Good News of a personal relationship with You. Amen!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er