From the Well - 1/17/2019

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Ephesians 1:11-14 (NRSV) 
11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

A Catholic Priest, who had become very hard of hearing, requested that those who wished to confess their sins write them on a slip of paper instead of speaking them in the confession booth. Everything worked out fairly well until one day when a fellow entered the confessional, fumbled in his pocket for a few moments, and eventually passed a crumpled piece of paper through the curtain into the priest's hand.

The confession read:

  • Two cans of beans

  • Quarter pound of ham

  • Coke

  • Four fish filets

  • Bread

  • Coffee

  • Soap

  • Butter

The priest studied the note for a moment and then silently passed it back to the gentleman. In an exasperated voice, the man declared, "Mother of God, I've left my sins at the grocery store!"

Paul is telling us that God has left our sins behind--at the grocery store so to speak. All we have to do is accept that "It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free-signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13, The Message). Paul says that the promise of salvation is not so much that we will be snatched away from a rotten botched creation as it is that we join up in God's cosmic restoration. It is a reworking of our lives in Jesus Christ.

In other words, God loves us from the beginning of time. All we have to do is step into the light of grace and say yes. So, leave your list of sins at the grocery store and know that you are forgiven and loved. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 1/10/2019

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Ephesians 1:4-10 (NRSV) 
4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

If you happen to walk past St. Paul’s House located on 335 W51 Street, New York, NY, you’ll see a relic from the past, a neon sign in the form of a cross. On one side it reads, “Sin will find you out,” and on the other side, “Get right with God.” I’ll admit that most of us have a lot of work to do when it comes to living the kind of life we should be living as a follower of Jesus Christ. In all of our striving, self-correcting, and constant reminder of our failures we forget that God has already made things right through His Son, Jesus.

We get so caught up in our disappointments, striving, and self-centeredness that we forget that it is not about what we do or accomplish, it’s about God and God’s presence in our lives reflected in our words and actions. The Apostle Paul tells us that God has already given us all we need to live and love in the world.

Yes, we live in a world that tends to make us feel afraid, powerless, and overwhelmed, but Ephesians tells us that we have been given all that we need to be a blessing. I don’t think Rosa Parks was thinking about changing the world when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. What she learned through her praise of God and her knowledge that she was an adopted child of God was that she had the same right as anyone else to sit in her seat. She knew that the God she praised was a God of justice and the God of all people. She understood what God had already done for her. She knew that her God was a present God and a God who loved all of his children. She chose to represent that in her life and actions. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 1/3/2019

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Ephesians 1:1-3 (NRSV) 
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

This Sunday we begin our year long journey with Paul. We will use his prison correspondence (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) as a road map into his life, preaching, teaching, and theology. We will begin with Ephesians where Paul speaks movingly and confessionally about God. In the first chapter God is center stage and the verses are crammed with all that God has done for us. God has a plan for us rooted in John Wesley's concept of prevenient grace, the grace that comes before our response.

It is a never ending grace that most of us have only started to know. Maybe some of you have read Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain. If so, maybe you remember the scene where Ruby, a woman who has spent all of her life learning the secrets of the land and its gifts, tests Ada, a woman from the city to see if she is starting to learn about the farm and the land:

. . . You say you want to get to know the running of this land, Ruby said.

. . . Yes, Ada said.

Ruby rose and knelt behind Ada and cupped her hands over Ada's eyes.

. . . Listen, Ruby said. Her hands were warm and rough over Ada's face. They smelled of hay, tobacco leaves, flour, and something deeper, a clean animal smell. Ada felt their then bones against her fluttering eyes.

. . . What do you hear? Ruby said.

Ada heard the sound of wind in the trees, the dry rattle of their late leaves. She said as much.

. . . Trees, Ruby said contemptuously, as if she had expected just such a foolish answer. Just general trees is all? You've got a long way to go.

She removed her hands and took her seat and said nothing more on the topic, leaving Ada to conclude that what she meant was that this is a particular world. Until Ada could listen, and at the bare minimum tell the sound of the poplar from the oak at this time of year when it was easiest to do, she had not even started to know the place.[1]

I would suggest that most of us have only started to know about God and His Son Jesus Christ. So, I invite you to jump in with me and explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be a recipient of God's all-encompassing gift of grace and love.

Matthew

[1]Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997), 227-228.


From the Well - 12/20/2018

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Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV) 
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

Mark Lowry wrote a beautiful Christmas song a number of years ago that has quickly become a favorite in our culture. In the song, Mary Did you Know, he asks a number of questions:

Mary did you know that your baby boy

Would someday walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy

Would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy

Has come to make you new?

Mary did you know that your baby boy

Would give sight to a blind man?

Mary did you know that your baby boy

Would calm a storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy

Has walked where angels trod?

Mary didn’t known on that first Christmas morning what her Son would do. And, yet, out of faith Mary responded to God with a “yes.” Mary took a risk. She had faith that God would somehow work His purpose and power through her. By offering herself, Mary gave up control, gave up keeping things ordered and rational, and gave up staying uninvolved. Mary allowed God to touch our lives through her.

There is great risk in letting God work through us as Mary did. There is risk in being God’s agent and disciple. We do not know what God might ask us to do. We do not know for sure where or to whom we may be sent. We have no way of knowing what it might cost in terms of time, effort, sacrifice, or suffering. Being able to cope with all that God has called us to do means we are willing to risk knowing God will be there. This is the risk that Mary took. God is hoping that we, in faith, will take a risk when He calls. Think about it.

Matthew