Archive for March, 2013

The Salvation of the Lord

Isaiah 52:7-15

On Earth. Now. Today

Our Lenten pilgrimage has brought us at last to Good Friday – to Golgotha, to the cross, to Christ’s agony and death. For Christians, this day is marked by profound sorrow, by prayer, fasting, and repentance. You and I know that death does not have the final word. We know that on Easter Day today’s tears will be transformed into signs of exquisite joy and gladness as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and his triumph over death. But if, for this twenty-four hour period of time, we can immerse ourselves fully in the events and emotions of Good Friday, in the sorrow, the suffering, and the self-sacrifice of Christ, perhaps then we will be better able to identify with human longing for good news in the midst of suffering.

On Good Friday, Jesus, fully divine and fully human, suffered an excruciating and painful death. From the cross he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” On Good Friday, those who had loved and followed Jesus suffered. No longer could they believe that this Jesus, in whom they had placed their hope for freedom from oppression, was the long-awaited Messiah. We can well imagine that they longed, as did the Israelites in Isaiah’s day, for good news.

To Israelites suffering in captivity in Babylon the great prophet Isaiah spoke words of encouragement and hope as he painted a picture of Jerusalem redeemed and restored; a time when “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Today, many Missourians are suffering, longing for economic dignity, for adequate housing, for sufficient food, for access to affordable health care. Jesus, who stood on the side of the most vulnerable members of society, showed us through his words and actions, that we are to care preferentially for the lost, the last and the least. He taught us to pray, “thy kingdom come, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

On earth. Now. Today.

Jesus’ death and resurrection is not only about eternal life after death but about resurrected life in all its fullness.

On earth. Now. Today.

But God’s kingdom is far from realized in Missouri despite the fact that our state’s motto is “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.”

We are at a defining moment in time when our legislators can take decisive action and support Medicaid Expansion. We are at a defining moment in time when our legislators can be the messengers of good news. May we offer unceasing prayer that in this, as in all things, God’s holy and life-giving will may be done.

On earth. Now. Today.

Reverend Susan G. McCann,
Rector, Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty and Board Member, Communities Creating Opportunities


The Salvation of the Lord

Isaiah 51:1-8

Permanent or Provisional?

You can tell a great deal about a state’s or a nation’s actual morality by the way it treats its weakest and most vulnerable. The prophet Isaiah reminded us that God’s people are to live in such a way that God’s justice will light the way for others (Isaiah 51:4). Conversely, when we practice injustice, we shut off the lights of civilization and cause people to stumble.

The prophet Isaiah had a clear sense of the difference between the provisional and the permanent. The provisional is emphasized when we put things (possessions or money) above people or when we favor one group of people at the expense of another more vulnerable group. The permanent is the focus when we look for God’s way of justice and mercy for ALL. In fact, says Isaiah, those who oppress others are like moth-eaten garments; attractive for a short time, but in the end, just pieces of thread with holes everywhere (vv. 7-8). When we build our personal lives or public policy on that which is fleeting, the fabric of social order is torn. But, says the prophet, when we trust in God’s way, his deliverance is forever: that is, permanent (v. 8).

It is very telling that in this passage of scripture, the word “salvation” is used interchangeably with the words ” justice, righteousness,” and “deliverance” (vv.4-8). In other words, God’s vision for Missouri is much broader than simply inviting us to be in heaven with Him some day. God’s passion is for all in our state to be cared for and to live in safety, peace and fulfillment (see Isaiah 65:17-25).

During this Holy Week, we ponder the great sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the Cross. We wonder at the mystery of the resurrection. The Easter message is much more than just the assurance of life after death. It is the announcement that God’s way wins – the permanent over the provisional. Which world are you betting on: the provisional or the permanent? Which world is more real to you? Which world matters more? Each day, we cast our votes for one or the other. Choose God’s way!

Rev Dr. Doyle Sager, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church in Jefferson City

The Salvation of the Lord

Isaiah 42:1-9

Justice is Served

The world is full of troubling things. Daily, tens of thousands of children die from poverty. Many scientist believe that the rate of extinction today is the highest it’s been since the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million year ago. Violence is happening around the globe and even in our own cities. No matter how troubling these things are, it’s easy to feel helpless and think there is little that can be done to slow them let alone stop them from continuing.

During Isaiah’s time, things were not as the people of Israel wanted them to be. They too encountered numerous injustices and suffering after being conquered and taken as exiles far from the place they called home. They too felt helpless and longed for someone to come and “save the day.”

The prophet Isaiah was a voice of hope. He declared that God would send a servant who would not only make things right but do so in a caring and gentle manner. I’m sure the Hebrew people felt God’s message was fulfilled when they returned to their homeland with the support of the Persian leader Cyrus. Unfortunately, it probably didn’t take long for them to realize that the words of Isaiah were not completely fulfilled. There were still those who felt they were captives; who were imprisoned by the problems of their time. People still longed for that servant of God who would bring justice.

As we begin Holy Week, our focus on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ allows us to see how his ministry fulfilled the words of Isaiah. However, like those who returned from exile, we too still see that countless injustices remain in the world today. The good news is that we are the body of Christ and can continue to fulfill Jesus’ message. Each person who hears Isaiah’s words should understand that we are Christ’s hands and feet and are called to bring about positive change in the world. Each day our small acts of serving others as well as our intentional efforts to deal with the systemic problems that plague our city and our world today will do a great deal to ensure that justice is served and that God’s kingdom is fulfilled on earth.

Reverend Chad J. Cooper, Director, Missions and Community Outreach, Platte Woods United Methodist Church in Kansas City

Look for the Lord – What are the Signs from God?

Psalm 102

Looking for the The Lowly Man

This “lowly man” in Psalm 102 laments loss and destruction of hope. This “lowly man,” in a weakened and desperate state, despairs if God can even hear his plea: “My body is stricken, withered like grass, too wasted even to eat food.” (v 4) This “lowly man” is reduced to eating ashes as bread, while those in power revile him and curse his name. This “lowly man” of this ancient time pleads for God’s sovereign justice and mercy to restore what is lost and repair hope. Still the shadow of despair and injustice shrouds the horizon for this “lowly man.”

Today, walk past this “lowly man” on the street. He cries out for access to health care for himself and his family. He visits a food pantry or a soup kitchen for just a little food to feed himself and his family because his low wage job does not allow him to provide enough. He struggles to pay the bills and risks predatory loan rates hoping against hope something will change. He pleads for God’s sovereign justice and mercy to offer some glimmer of hope for him and for his family. Still the shadow of despair and injustice shrouds the horizon for this “lowly man.”

Jesus, in the wonderful story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) asks a compelling question. He didn’t ask the lawyer if the person needing help was a neighbor (the question the lawyer asked); he asked who proved himself to be a good neighbor. The lawyer had to reply, “The one who showed mercy.”

“Go, and do the same,” Jesus replied. Neighborliness is not a measure of others; it is a measure of who we are and how we act toward those in despair and hopelessness. It is a measure of how we understand the Gospel of God offered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Today, citizen and legislator face the same challenge: do we serve the powerful and strong, or do we serve the “lowly man.” The prophet Micah challenges us, “What is it God wants of you? Only this, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). When we ask of God, “But when did we serve you, when did we care for you, when did we feed you, when did we offer you justice, when did we offer mercy…?” I hope we will hear God’s answer, “You were a good neighbor when you served justice and mercy to the ‘lowly man,’ in that moment, you were a good neighbor to me.”

God is watching and wondering when we will offer justice and mercy to the “lowly man.” God is watching and wondering.

The Reverend Dr. R. Stan Runnels, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City

Look for the Lord – What are the Signs from God?

Psalm 69:1-18

A Cry for Help

Psalm 69 begins with these words, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud.” There are so many people who live in the community surrounding Linwood United Church who feel that the waters of hopelessness come up to their necks ready to overwhelm them; and feel that they are sinking forever deeper into the mud of affliction. The writer of Psalm 69 goes on to say, “I am worn out from calling for help.”

Volunteers from my congregation and outside my congregation staff a one-morning-per-week food pantry and a one-day-per-week free lunch. These volunteers meet people regularly who do not want to be hopeless or homeless, do not want to feel afflicted or burdened by adversity. They need someone to show them patience and encouragement, someone to answer their call for help.

Our church building is home to an Alcoholics Anonymous group and a Cocaine Anonymous group. These people who are working so hard to stay sober need someone to help them keep from sinking deeper into the mud and help their families keep from drowning. They get worn out from asking for help.

Each member of the Missouri Legislature is elected by a constituency, but you are elected to be a part of the legislature for the entire state of Missouri. Jefferson City is not that far from Kansas City or from Webb City or from Forest City or from Queen City or from Montgomery City or Kimberling City or King City.

The psalmist closes by saying, “May all those who are beaten down by failure and despair see anew God’s love and experience God’s deliverance and be restored once more to joy and purposefulness.” God needs hands and feet and hearts in the real world to restore joy and purposefulness to those who are sinking into despair. As legislators, you can be those hands and feet and hearts.

Tex Sample, a retired seminary professor, wrote a prayer, which is appropriate for this devotion: “O God, fill us with a passion for the common good and for justice founded upon it. Call us again to a covenant of life together. Let us dream of a world where children are born to hope, where work serves vocation, and where righteousness and justice cover the earth. In the meanwhile let us embody these dreams in our lives . . . Amen.”

Reverend Tamara Goettel Miller, Pastor, Linwood United Church, PCUSA and member of MORE2, in Kansas City

Look for the Lord – What are the Signs from God?

John 6:1-15

The Real Miracle in the Parable of the Loaves and Fishes

Miraculous feeding is what I see on a daily basis. St. James Lutheran hosts the Metropolitan Lutheran Ministries (MLM) Northland site on its campus. We also host a food program for backsnacks to local elementary schools and now an expansion of that program that we fund ourselves for a Headstart snacksacks program. In all, St. James sees about 3000 lbs of food pass through its doors every week.

MLM sees much more, and I watch it go out daily as people maneuver shopping carts across a rickety Eagle Scout wooden bridge that must be used to connect to our parking lot because the neighborhood would not allow “those” people to clog up “their” cul-de-sac to get their food, commodities, and assistance.

Miraculous feeding, that’s what I see. What I would rather see; however, is our food pantries out of business for lack of need. I do not have the power to do that. That would require people make a living wage so that people are no longer enslaved by predatory lending practices and there is economic justice for all. Such justice requires laws that make sure essential needs are met and that people have the kind of level playing field which allows them to make a life for themselves.

I can hand out food and make sure the pantry does the best it can to make sure kids have the kind of nutrition that allows them to study, learn and grow. You alone have the power to make laws that level the playing field of opportunity for all. So, I ask you to reflect upon the passage above, and note the real miracle of the story.

The real miracle does not involve loaves, fishes, eating to one’s fill or gathering up the leftovers. Oh, we are drawn by those things, but they are not the main miracle. The real miracle is found in the fact that Jesus was able to make all the people sit down together.

In these contentious days of partisan politics, that is my request of you. Make the miracle happen by sitting down together, breaking bread and working toward a common goal. You may even discover there truly is plenty for all and baskets left to be collected.

Reverend Merle Brockhoff, Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church in Kansas City

The Work of the Lord – Kindness, Justice and Righteousness

Jeremiah 5:20-31

A Government that Works for All the People

Both Israel and Judah had rejected Jehovah-Jireh (which means the Lord will provide), the same God that provided the former and the latter rains. The former rain or the early rains were from October to December and were necessary to soften the ground for planting after the long, hot summer. The latter rains came in March and April just before the harvest season. God fulfilled the covenant but the people did not.

In Israel and Judah the people were serving foreign gods. They disregarded God and showed mocking contempt for the prophets of God and their warnings. The false prophets led the people away from God into a life given totally to deceit, oppression, and wickedness. This caused the people to be content with a completely corrupt government, a government that catered to the needs of the “Haves” while ignoring the needs of the “Have Nots.” Sound familiar?

As has been mentioned before in this blog, our state motto is the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law. So how is it that our state government that was put in place “by the people” and consists “of the people” is not working for the welfare of all the people? It seems we are violating the state’s supreme law.

When the powerful men and women who control our government would rather cut funding for education so that the wealthiest one or two percent of the people in this country will not have to pay their fair share of taxes, it’s an example that our government is not working for all the people.

When those same powerful men and women oppose Medicaid Expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare for those who cannot afford to buy health insurance, it’s an example of our government not working for all the people.

When those same powerful men and women oppose putting a cap on payday loans and raising the minimum wage so that working men and women in this country earn a livable wage, it’s just another example of our government not working for all the people.

When social security is called “entitlement” and retirees who have paid into social security while working hard on their jobs every day are called takers, because they receive social security checks each month by those same powerful men and women, we see an example of our government not working for all the people.

And just as the corrupt government in Jeremiah’s day had to face the bitter reality of God’s judgment, so too will those powerful men and women in our government, who take from the poor and give to the rich. Again, we are calling for a government that works for all the people.

Reverend Artist Taylor, Pastor, True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City


March 2013
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