Proper 17: Let us Help those made in the Image of God

READINGS FOR THE THIS SUNDAY

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Song of Solomon 2:8-13
    • Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
  • Second reading
    • James 1:17-27
  • Gospel
    • Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Like Spring, Jesus’ teachings were a rebirth.  Ridding of man’s traditions, Jesus wanted to get to the root of the Jewish religion: following God’s original commands.  Jesus, among other things, wanted to go back to love, honor, appreciate, respect, and serve God with all your might, mind, and strength, and to extend that cherished love, respect, and honor to everyone, since all are made in the image of our Creator.  To Jesus, he extended rain to the righteous and the unrighteous.  To Jesus, there wasn’t favoritism, since all are alike unto God.

In the Song of Solomon, we find a spring-like love between lovers.  This love has been said to be similar to the love between God and His Creation.  God cherishes his creation, so he created commandments that Jesus reminds us in the Gospels via the Ten Commandments: Don’t steal, don’t give false witness, don’t cheat on your spouse, for example.  Then, James reminds us that true religion is caring for the orphans and the widows and to not be corrupted by the world’s tradition of slandering your neighbor and frankly, being a jerk.

In order to expel hate and push goodness forward, we must tell it like it is when there is hatred.  Jesus, for example, told the truth many times as he called the Pharisees hypocrites and stormed through the Temple to restore it to its natural purpose.  In the news, we hear of our president telling us to hate certain groups of people – that they are the cause of our problems, whether it be poverty or terrorist attacks in our country.  To care for the orphans or widows means confronting the horrible economic/classist/racist/bigoted systems in place that make children orphans or take away husbands and wives.

In this time of reuniting families that were separated at the US/Mexican Border, we have to fight the oppressive system that separated the system in the first place.  We must fight for trans/non-binary rights.  We must fight for every human right.

I pray we realize that all are made in the image of our God, and that His Son died for all of us.  All, as the Disciples of Christ tradition states, are welcomed.  All deserve fair treatment.  So, we must fight for every human right so that all may feel welcomed, just as we feel welcomed at the table of Christ.  Let us get back to the original teachings of God, where we take care of the orphans, the poor, the widows and widowers, and many more.  Let us struggle together, mourn together, and laugh together.  Let us be as Christ was to us in the beginning of our faith journey.

As I learned in church today, all our good works have been ordained by God.  Meaning, God knows and has ordained that we must do good works to everyone, everywhere.  God knows what our sorrows will be, and he has placed each person in front of us at a specific time to help us, or that we might help them.  Let us help everyone, everywhere by telling the truth.  Let this time of the year be a spring-like time, where we bounce back from our sorrows with good works, just as Jeremiah and Ephesians 2:10 says.

In Jesus’ name, I pray we will act.

Alleluia and Amen.

Testimony: This State of Grace

Hi everyone,

Today’s post, just shy of tomorrow’s lectionary sermon, is about salvation.  I’ll be talking about my faith, even though it doesn’t match the majority of the Protestant Church’s beliefs.  I’m okay with just my beliefs as a Unitarian Christian, and I hope you extend the same mercy and grace as I extend to you.

I write this as I’m on the cusp of graduate school.  I start Seminary on Monday, and classes on Tuesday.  I’m very nervous, but I’ve started some of the school work and all I can say is that I’m excited!  This is my testimony of grace, works, and salvation.

I believe that we are saved by grace, but that we must remain in a state of grace to obtain salvation at death.  As the Bible points down, whoever endures to the end will be saved.  To remain in grace, I believe we must demonstrate and continue our faith via our works (or attitudes and behaviors).  Hebrews points out that we are judged by the intent of our hearts.  I don’t believe all sins will damn us, as 1 Corinthians says that not all sins are mortal sins and hence cause spiritual death.  Like my Arminian cousins (the Catholics) point out, there are venial sins and mortal sins.  What could be considered in a mortal sin is up to debate in these times, but I know that Jesus pointed out the social gospel (how God cares how we treat others) is a big factor (Matthew 25).  I’m a very social justice oriented person, and I think God considers today’s sexual ethics, such as rape, molestation, and going against non-consent as well as the social justice aspect of Jesus’ teachings as mortally important.

But as I’d like to think of it, if we have messed up in the past, it is not the end of the world.  There is always time for repentance.  For confession of sins.  God is always there to sincerely forgive anyone is sincere about their mess-up or mistake.

But a big deal for me is that we cannot save ourselves.  It is by Jesus’ doing on the cross that we are saved at all.  So why we must remain in this state of grace, we cannot boast of our own work (Ephesians).  Because Christ died on that cross for me, I’m lucky to get a chance to repent at all!  Christ died so that I could get baptized for remission of sins and applying the atonement again and again.  It’s all because of Christ that we get to go to Heaven and obtain Eternal Life at the Resurrection.

Thanks be to God, and Christ.  Christ is awesome.

Alleluia and Amen.

Thanks, Leigh Todd

Proper 16: Covenant between God and Us, Meaning Being the Church

BetheChurch-Logo2Hi everyone,

Today marks another Sunday of me not going to church.  While I miss communion, I don’t miss singing songs on how Jesus is God or listening to a alarmingly conservative sermon.  I’ve been enjoying sleeping in during my Home Church Sundays, so this Sunday is no different.

In John 6:56-69, Jesus concludes his synagogue speech about how he is the bread of life, and all that feed on him will obtain Eternal Life.  But people are confused and many of his disciples leave him!  Then Jesus looks to the twelve disciples, and asks “Do you also wish to go away?” I imagine in this part that Jesus is heart-broken, yet Peter answers in earnest: ‘”Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God,”‘ (John 6:66-69).

There are times when we are asked to believe and walk in the light of God.  Jesus, in this speech of his body as the bread of life, asks us to have faith and to continue that faith.  And from what we can learn from our other readings, Jesus’ body and blood are the symbols of God’s new Covenant with Israel (and later Gentiles).  In 1 King 8, Solomon dedicates the Temple for God and reaffirms the covenant between Israel and Him.  Solomon says, “‘Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand,'” (1 Kings 8:23).  God is a covenant keeper, and we are asked to be keepers of that covenant as well.  Even in Ephesians 6:10-20, we are asked to put on the Armor of God, to keep steadfast to God and Jesus.  

But what does it mean to hold fast to the Covenant we entered into at baptism?  Even on a Sunday where I have neglected the church building, I have not neglected Christ’s body, the covenant people.  I have not neglected Church as a whole.  In fact, I’d like to believe I am standing steadfast to God’s people, whether I interact with them via twitter, this blog, or Instagram.  Social media is a powerful tool to still BE the Church with others.

Being the Church means worshiping, even virtually, with other Christians.  It means serving the least of these because they are the greatest in the Kingdom.  It means reading the scriptures and listening to Worship/Gospel music.  It means checking up on people and praying with them.  Anything and everything is about being the Church.  The church is not a building – it is a people dedicated to Jesus and his teachings.

Right now, I’m planning on having prayers sessions with my Mom (a fellow Unitarian Christian) and doing some hard-core Bible study.  It means making sure my husband and my sister (and future-sister in law)’s needs are being met.  It means praying for those in need.  If I had any money, I’d donate to certain charities to help those afflicted with trouble.  We can all serve Christ, even in little ways, as we Be the church this Sunday.  It doesn’t have to be some grand way to be the Church; it could just mean private prayer and worship with ourselves or others, if we don’t have anyone of our faith near us.

I pray that you will Be the Church this Sunday, and hold fast to the Covenant with God.  Even if you can’t attend church this Sunday, find just little ways to hold steadfast to Christ and his Father.

Alleluia and Amen.

Thanks,
Leigh Todd

Life Update: Enjoying the Sun

IMG_20180812_160521294Hi everyone,

Today marks another Sunday of me skipping church.  I was really tired this morning, so I slept in.  Other than Home Church, I’ll be going to my Mom’s and chilling with family.  I’m also hoping to enjoy a home-made frappe in the sun as I do Bible study.  Currently, I’m studying the topic of Prison and Paradise in the New Testament, and how Jesus preached the Gospel to those in Prison (Gehenna; not Abraham’s Bosom).

It’s a frustrating study, as Catholics teach that Jesus preached to those with Abraham (even though 1 Peter 3-4 says he preached to those who had been disobedient to God at the Flood).  And then there’s the Mormons, who don’t believe believers go to Heaven after they die.  I’m very conflicted on different churches’ teachings.  The only thing I can do is stick my studying and beliefs, as I believe Jesus preached to both the disobedient and those with Abraham, and brought paradise to Heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10).  The only thing to remember is that when we die, we go to be with Jesus and God.  When Jesus preached to those in the Underworld, he allowed Old Testament characters to hear the Gospel and be redeemed as well.  While they will be judged in physical form at the Resurrection, they live in Spirit with God (1 Peter 4).

Nowadays, it’s up to us to spread the Gospel everywhere so that every soul will be saved.  And to add my own personal note, I believe Hell is only temporary – it’s like a refining fire for those who rejected the Gospel or didn’t hear about it beforehand.  I believe in a God of justice, but also in a God of mercy!

(As you can tell, I go against practically every other church’s teachings and forge my own way!  I encourage you to do the same!)

As for a life update, I’m waiting to hear back on a job, to see if I got it or not.  I’m praying and hoping I do!  I’ve also decided to attend First Christian Church in York again, this time with my Mom.  I won’t always be able to attend FCC in Lincoln, because 1) the distance, 2) the cost of gas, and 3) the weather.  Any winter storm will be keeping me home this Christmas season.  So, I’m hoping against hope that I’ll be welcomed in York’s church.  With my Mom coming, I’m hoping she’ll add some encouragement and strength my way.

That’s all!

Thanks,
Leigh Todd

Proper 13: Feeding on Christ

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Jesus is the Bread of Life.  Picture from lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/

Hi everyone,

It’s another week of Home Church, where I got to sleep in and read the Bible.  In my regular Bible reading, I’m in Matthew 25 (my favorite chapter ever!).  With this weeks’ lectionary, though, we are in the Gospel of John, chapter 6, verses 24-35.  Here, Jesus compares himself to the manna that God gave while the Israelites were wandering through the desert for forty years.  The disciples ask Jesus to give this bread of life always, and Jesus explains how he IS the bread of life:

24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which[a] comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

In essence, we must feed off Jesus.

Without that sounding cannibalistic, we must understand what this means.  In Mormonism, feeding off of Jesus means eating up his words in the Bible.  In Lutheranism, it means eating the literal body and blood (bread and wine) of Christ at communion.  In Methodism, it means accepting and feeding off the means of grace through the symbolic blood and body of Christ at communion.

But what does it mean to feed off the manna of Christ in the Disciples of Christ tradition?  It essence, two of these examples.  Communion is a time to remember Christ for his sacrifice, our pledge to follow God’s Son at Baptism, and to celebrate his glorious return.  It’s a reminder that, even though the bread and wine are symbolic, they represent so much.  They represent, for one, that we are forgiven, that Christ did the ultimate deed and made us white as snow at baptism.  So when we feed off of the symbolic bread and wine, we feed on the Good News – that we are forgiven.

We also feed off Christ’s words in the Gospels.  What Christ taught, we should emulate (such as Matthew 25 – to care for the least of these) and teach our children, such as loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Lastly, especially in our tradition, we should feed on the presence of Christ.  Christ is the giver of Eternal Life, and all who come to Him he will never deny.  Whoever comes to Christ will never be spiritually hungry or thirsty.  Christ is our best friend, and we should always come to Him.  And if we ever lose faith in Christ, we are always welcomed back with open arms, even if we had sacrificed our salvation for only a little while (or 20 years)!

So feed on Christ.  Feed on his words, his symbolic supper and all that it entails, and his presence in our lives as our friend and giver of Eternal Life.  He is truly the Manna given by the Father for all who seek God and Christ!

Alleluia and Amen.

Love, Leigh Todd.