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The Greater Life (Sermon November 1, 2015)

Hebrews 9:11–14 (NRSV)

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

This weekend is filled with many events. The royals are playing in New York in the World Series for the second year in a row. This is something that amazes me, I can only say that it is obviously an omen for the good things that are on the brink of happening. But major sporting events aside, this weekend is also a very religious time of year, today is All Saints day. For most of us here we do not quite understand what exactly All Saints day is but it is a day set aside to honor all the known and unknown saints that have made significant contributions to the church and to our lives. Tomorrow is another holy day called All Souls day, which is the Christian equivalent of Memorial Day, a day to remember those people that have passed beyond the vail of life into eternity and to praise God for the opportunity to have known them. Yesterday, a day where most children in the community are actually encouraged to take candy from strangers to supply their parents with the necessary sugar to embrace and survive the days leading up to Christmas, is also a very important day. We commonly know it as Halloween, or All Hallows eve, but it is also a significant day in the church because it is a day that marks the beginning of the reformation. It is not surprising that this weekend is so significant. It is a time that we remember what God has done through individuals, and it is also a time to remember the work that continues.

This time of year has often been a struggle for me personally. There is this constant reminder throughout history that although this is a holy time of year for the church, it also has a dark side. When I was younger this time of year was always associated with evil. So as a child wanting to be a good Christian I struggled with participating in the celebrations, but the idea of free candy was enough for me to go along and ask for forgiveness later. But more recently it has become even harder for me, because this is the anniversary of the death of my little sister. For many years Halloween has been my least favorite holiday.

This whole time of year reminded me of the doubts and questions that I have about faith. It reminds me of the fragileness of life and how thin that vail between life and death really is. I still struggle at times. I struggle with grief, with depression, with a view of hopelessness and that everything we do is pointless. Why do I tell you all this? I tell you because living a life with and for Christ is difficult. At times it seems it would be easier to just throw our hands in the air and give up. But then something began to change. I began to sense that there was something more working just beneath the surface. I had this yearning to seek, to find, and suddenly I began to see pinpoints of light begin to shine in the dark.

These feelings, I imagine, are the same type of feelings the first century followers of Christ might have felt. They had this long history of God working in their nation, and then seemingly everything fell apart. They fell from being the light of nations, to living in exile. They return from exile only to become prisoners in their own land. Every so often some light would shine but it seemed that the darkness would overcome. They gathered up in group that would make attempts at explaining why the world was crashing around them and what they could do to improve the situation, but all the while darkness continued to push in on them. So they would push back.

We look at the various religious groups mentioned in scripture and we often judge them. The Pharisees were just legalistic individuals that were blind to the reality of God’s kingdom, the Sadducees were just liberal individuals wanting to keep the institution going to line their own pockets, we could continue on with the list, but the point is they were people feeling the pressures of a rapidly changing era. We look at them, we look at them through the lenses of history but do we learn?

The writer of Hebrews was a man that was intimate with the inner working of the religious community. He knew the theology. He knew the rituals, and the implications and symbolisms that they possessed. This is why many scholars believe that this letter was not written by Paul but by someone of the priestly class. So when the writer of Hebrews speaks about the priests, it is not from the outside but the inside. The priests, the temple, this lifestyle of religiosity was in many ways the only light that people could see, their only hope. They were not a people that could pull out a cell phone and instantly find answers to their questions because Wikipedia had yet to be invented. I did not have the constant news updates that we have today. All they had was their community, and their tradition. We can look at the people of ancient days and say why didn’t you see the light, but they may not have known any better.

The writer of Hebrews, is speaking to the people that were not swayed by the newest things. He is speaking to the people that are grounded in their faith, and have full trust in the institutions that have provided them hope. Today we read in the ninth chapter of Hebrews. In the first ten verses the writer speaks about the place of worship, the significance of that space, and the rituals that happen there. He then says, “But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come.” This is odd wordage. When reading this we are not getting the full effect of what is being said. I do not envy the people that translate the scripture, because how do you translate the idea of emerging hope? That is what the writer is trying to explain. This idea of something different a new era in life with God. This is also why he uses the illustration of the Tent of Meeting used during the exodus instead of the image of the temple, because that symbolism is such that God is not dwelling in a building far away but is camped out right in the middle of the community. Before God was only accessible through the priest in a temple, but now God is with us.

This is the good things that have come, the era of God with us. Similar to the tent that traveled where the people traveled but far greater because there is no separation. The tent, the temple, the very idea of holiness is changing form into something far better and more perfect. God is all around us and in us.

Wait am I just reading into this passage something that is not there? Let us go back a step. The author says, “[Greater] and perfect tent.” I want to look at the word greater for a moment. This term in English we can see as simply better. I just used that term actually, but greater is far greater than what our language can convey. The idea being implied is of greater status, or might. It is a term that speaks of position. When John the Baptist spoke of Jesus he said that the one to come was greater than him, of which he, John, was not worthy to even untie the laces of his sandals. This is the greater that the writer of Hebrews is speaking. Everything that came before is not even worthy of performing the lowest of tasks before the majesty of the one to come. Let us then consider the greatness that John spoke about. John cried out in the wilderness calling all to repent and be baptized. Saying, “I baptize with water but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

This idea of baptism for repentance is much deeper than ritual cleansing. It was the idea that as you are immersed in the waters that the water would carry away all the impurities and that those that repent would be saturated with purity. The ritual of baptism is just a shadow of the greater things of which the writer of Hebrews speaks. The Greater things is God with and in us, we being saturated with the very spirit of God.

God with us that is what the author is telling us. The rituals carry great symbolism but they are empty without Christ, and with Christ they are insignificant. They may help direct us but they are not even worthy of the lowest status. Consider that for a moment, because that is where so many of us get trapped.

We get trapped looking at the shell instead of what is filling the shell. We get trapped fulfilling our interpretations of the law, or what is required to be holy and we miss the reality of what God really wants. We become like the Pharisees and Sadducees of old making vain attempts of trying to change the darkness by pushing back. We settle for the husk instead of the fruit. Jesus does not call us to institutes but he calls us to follow him. He calls us to walk with him, pray with him, and serve with him. He desires to be with us.

I mentioned that often this time of year can be one of the most depressing times for me personally, but that has begun to change. I say this because I do enjoy history so I get excited about considering the lives of the saints. I have looked into the circumstances that various people lived through that lead them to become what we consider great people of faith. I have looked into the lives of people like Saint Francis and Saint Ignatius. I look into their lives because they were strong people of faith that encouraged those that would listen to them to live their faith out in the community. I have studied about the life and ministry of our own traditions founder, George Fox, and I see something very similar. Each of these people that I consider saints show us something profound. They lived through trying times where everything seemed to be going the opposite direction, the world around them seemed to be moving away from God instead of toward Him. Each of these individuals suffered trials of various kinds, and each through the power of the Spirit were bearers of light in the darkness. These saints and many more like them faced the trials, reformed the church, and left a legacy whose ripples continue throughout history.

As I have walked this path of faith, seeking and attempting to find what is happening just beneath the surface I have also had to consider the events of my own life. I have spoken of many instances in my life that have been instrumental in my formation. Those events are not always pleasant. The death of my sister, Candice, sent my life in a spiral. Not many would have been able to see what was going on inside because I got very good at hiding behind the façade I constructed. For a while I rejected all things of God. He could not be real since terrible things happened to such an innocent girl. I realized looking back that as I ran and made choices each of those events, each step I took seemingly away from God was actually leading me back into His arms.

I look back on the lives of the saints, on the lives of the souls, at the reformers, and those that just lived lives of faith, and I see hope. Because there is a greater more perfect tent through which our High Priest is bringing about the good things to come. I look out at the events surrounding us and I see hope. Do I want to live through these trying times? Absolutely not. But this is where we are, this is the time and place that Christ is calling us to follow Him through. This is the era in which God formed and is forming us to serve. Will we rise to the race set before us?

The Pharisees and Sadducees lived in the turmoil of an emerging era and history often sees them as villains unable to see the light. The author of Hebrews challenges us to purify our consciences of dead works and worship the living God. Often I am like those religious leaders devout to the traditions of old, but missing the life that God wants me live. Often I can get caught up in the legalistic based righteousness, and try to push back on those that oppose my ideals. But God has shown this to the dead works of imperfection. God used the pain, He used the sin, and He used the trials to lead me to His grace. It was and is often a painful journey, but I want to be a Friend of God. I want to be a disciple that follows Jesus. He is calling us to a different, and far greater life. A life that is saturated with His very spirit. And that life is a lifestyle that revolves around prayer, worship, and service. It is becoming people that are loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others.

As we enter this time of Open worship, Holy Expectancy, and communion in silence I encourage us all to contemplate the lives of those that have gone before us. Look into those trials that they face and the trials that God has allowed us to face and ask the Spirit to fill the gaps between our understandings and to show us a way forward through the darkness and pain.

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There is Only One Priest (Sermon October 25, 2015)

Hebrews 7:23–28 (NRSV) christ-the-high-priest-icon

23 Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

 

There are very few things in life that are more stressful to people involved in any large organization than the change of leadership. In a corporation when there is a change of the CEO, most employees do not really notice, but if you are higher up within the company these changes are more stressful. I have been a part of two companies while there was a change in the Chief Executive. By in large it did not affect the day to day operations but there were subtle changes that emerged from the change of leadership. These subtle changes, the changes that occurred do to different leadership styles and vision of the future of the company greatly affected the overall perception of the company. When leadership changes there is a period of time where the future is unknown. This is the stressful part of change, this unknown aspect. Will they cut jobs? Will they institute changes that will affect my position? Will they improve the company or run it into the ground? It does not matter if the change in leadership is for a business, a nation, a school, or a church when there are changes at the top of the organization those vested in that organization wonder.

Most of us have worked under some sort of leader or manager at some point in our lives. When these changes have occurred the job we are required to do has not changed but there are subtleties that we recognize. They focus on different aspect of the job and at times it is an aspect that we were never concerned with before. When the focus changes, we either adjust or seek other options. But what happens when the change in leadership affects something beyond our personal income? What do we do when the change of leadership is at the top of the organization whose purpose and priority is connecting individuals to the divine? The writer of Hebrews is directing our attention to this very serious aspect of life.

Last week we began the discussion of Priests and how there really are not any contemporary officers that reflect this office. But there are offices within various religious organizations that do come close. The reason behind this is because the religious structure of the contemporary era does not reflect the various aspects of religion in the ancient days. The various priest of Israel served as conduits between God and mankind. The people would come to the priest bringing the various offerings and the priest would take those offerings, perform the various rites, and then the priest would offer the person the assurance that God would consider their petitions. But there was only one priest among the many priest that could go directly before the mercy seat of God. This one priest would carry the offering of the entire nation, would answer for the entire nation, and would carry the response of God to the people.

The lower priests would be in service for around twenty-five years, beginning their service at the age of twenty-five and then retiring at the age of fifty. But the high priest would serve beyond the age of fifty till he died. The office of the high priest was a hereditary office, but there were some restrictions. The heir to this office had to be pious, intelligent, kosher, wealthy, and for lack of better words good looking. They were to be the representatives of the people to God and God to the people so they had to be perfect. The problem is they were human and perfection is hard to come by, and at times the heir to this office did not quite fit the bill. It was the job of the Sanhedrin or the seventy-one most respected priest, to determine if the heir was acceptable and if they were not choose the next in line. And after Israel demanded a king the office of the High priest became a political office where the king as well as the Sanhedrin would have to approve the next successor.

The political aspect of the high priesthood became even more charged as time went on to the point that after the people of Israel returned from exile the political leaders would often choose the priest and the Sanhedrin would place them in office. The only thing that remained was that they had to be kosher, or follow the laws of God ceremonially.

This office, regardless of who filled the position, remained the only representative the people had before God, and was the representative of God to the people. As you can imagine this single person held great power, if they were corrupt the entire nation was corrupt and if they were pious the entire nation followed as well, because they alone stood before God. Yet this office was constantly vacated because people die. Every generation the person sitting in the office would change at least once, and as politics gained greater control over the religious aspects of life these changes could happen even more often.

This change in leadership is what the writer of Hebrews wants to direct our attention to. With each change the people could draw closer to God or fall further away. At times the office would be so corrupt that God would call a prophet from the midst of the people to rise up and speak out against the religious establishment to redirect the attention to what was really important. Which would change things for a while but the cycle would continue.

But Jesus the priest in the order of Melchizedek was different. He holds the office permanently, forever, even to the end of ages. Let that sink in for a moment. Just sit for a moment and consider why it is important for the writer of Hebrews to write the words, “but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Our priest does not change. What does that actually mean to our spiritual lives?

Recently our yearly meeting had a significant leadership change, the highest position in our organization was vacated by one and we filled it with another. This could have great significance in the direction of the organization, but ultimately nothing has changed. There is only one priest and that priest has not changed. There is only one that stands between God the Father and us, Jesus.

This priest is holy, blameless, undefiled, separated and exulted. He is perfect in every way. He is the greatest representative of God to mankind because he came down from the throne of heaven to live among us. He is also the greatest representative of man to God because he was born and lived a full human life. He is God and Man able to speak for both at the same time.

But what does that mean to our spiritual lives?

Our priest does not change, even though our leaders do. This means that we should focus our attention on Jesus, study him and his ways. We should consider his teachings and listen to his words. If he is our priest we should appeal to him, and if he is our teacher we should follow his ways.

So often times we are distracted from this. We begin to look at the leaders of a church, the leaders of a denomination, or leaders of a nation even, and we want to rely on them to be the conduit for us. But we as leaders are not the priests. I cannot as a pastor take on the responsibility of your soul because I am not given that authority. I cannot through the mysteries of worship guarantee your salvation, because I do not have that authority. I am not the priest. The Superintendent of the Yearly Meeting is not the priest. The bishop of Canterbury, Rome, the metropolitan of Moscow, or the chairman of the Baptist convention are not the priest. If we are putting our faith in these people, expecting these men and women to provide for us the means of salvation we have misplaced our faith.

All I can do is encourage you to look to Christ. All I can do is walk with you as you discover more of Christ. All I can do is pray with you as you petition Christ. All I can do is pray that you will know Christ more fully and that you will allow the Spirit of God to flow through you. Here is the kicker though, that is all you can do as well.

We can strive to make our worship services more entertaining, but if we do not point people to the true priest we have done nothing. We can make doctrinal changes, appoint people to positions and educate people in the ways of our church, but if we do not point them to the true priest, Jesus, we are just an empty organization. We could sing songs of praise, have the greatest musicians in the world, but if they do not point us to Christ we are nothing.

All we do should be focused on Jesus because He is our salvation, He is our representative, He is our priest, and our God. Now how does that affect our spiritual lives?

Paul encourages us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. James encourages us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger because we are members of one another. John tells us that we know love by this that He laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. All of these teaching have one thing in common, they are reflections of the life and ministry of Jesus.

But how does that affect your spiritual life? Who are we putting our faith in? What are we putting out faith in? Who are we following? And who is following?

Jesus was born of Mary, live in the community, worked with Joseph, and became a man. He made it his custom to worship, He withdrew often to isolated places to pray, and he loved the people around him. He taught, fed, healed, and encouraged people to embrace a better life. He became human. And through his sacrifice we can become who we were meant to be.

We have one priest. Only one priest. Our priest is man and God perfectly and completely joined together for eternity, and our priest is calling each of us to follow him. And as we follow him we are to take on his life and lifestyle so that others might see him though us. Worship, Prayer and service; lives fully focused on him and his ways. We have only one priest.

As we enter this time of holy expectancy and communion with God as Friends consider more fully what Jesus our priest means.

 

Purifing the waters (Sermon September 20, 2015)

James 3:13–4:8 (NRSV) mountain stream

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Friendship with the World

4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

“God opposes the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

The problem with biblical interpretation and understanding what scripture is saying is that often we do not understand the historical perspective. I say this because these words were written nearly 2000 years ago, and a few things have changed since then. To be a student of scripture we also need to be a student of history. This is even more important when we read the letters that the various apostle have written, because often the letters are referring to historical issues. If we do not read the scriptures though a historical context we can find ourselves misunderstanding what is written.

This historical context if often what causes the controversy surrounding the letter James wrote to the church. As we have contemplated the writings of James over the past few weeks I have highlighted some of the points that often are seen as being contradictory to writings of Paul, because of this James’ letter is not very popular among most in the western church, especially among the protestant variety. I also pointed out that James unlike Paul was primarily writing his letter to people of a more eastern mindset than that of Paul. The eastern cultures placed a higher value on the community over the individual, this community focus is seen in the writings of Paul but he was primarily writing to people who approached spirituality from an individualistic philosophy. The historical context is important because the church emerged from an oriental culture. Oriental because the Hebrew culture from which the first century Jewish community emerged from was remnant that returned to Israel from exile in Persia, and the Persian Empire was an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to India.

The next historical issue we must consider is that Israel or Palestine as the Romans referred to the area, was an area that was disputed, It was at the cross roads of empires, Though Persia was pushed back by the Greeks centuries prior, as the Greek influence waned after the death of Alexander the Great, the Persian influence pushed back to the west. The Magi that we celebrate around Christmas were most likely priest from the Zoroastrian religion which was the dominate faith of Persia. Since Israel was a disputed borderland between the empires war was constantly on their minds. War within and war from without. The Gospels constantly point this out if we look at the historical context. The very fact that Magi from the east came to celebrate the birth of a king, which caused Herod to send troops to Bethlehem to slaughter the innocents shows us this, sure it was that he wanted to protect his kingdom, but his kingdom was under the lordship of Rome and if there was a king under the lordship of Persia living within the borders of Israel it would cause Rome to take a more aggressive stance.

A third historical perspective we must consider is the Jewish nationalism. They desired to be independent from their overlords, they wanted to live again under the theocracy of the priestly kingship of David. This was the source of much of their religious fervor, this nationalistic ideology dominated their spirituality to the point that it overshadowed the true message of the covenant religion that was established by Moses. Their politics controlled their theology, and their theology was based on their politics, leaving little room for the ideas that Jesus presented, and even less for what the apostles continued to preach after the ascension of Christ. This nationalistic theology of the first century Jewish people was not something that the empires of the world enjoyed, it was a threat to the power of the Emperors to the east and the west. And since Rome held control of the land it was a direct threat to them.

When James speaks of wisdom, he is speaking of religious zealotry. He is challenging the political based theology of the religious leaders that were popular around Jerusalem. He challenged them just as Jesus challenged them. As Jesus taught on the hillsides of Judea he would call out the teachings of the Pharisees, saying that they load the people down with laws that they do not hold themselves accountable to. These laws that they were trying to enforce would be laws that most religious leaders would support, because they were dedicated to making the nation a more righteous place. The problem with this sort of legislation is that if the law is not written on the hearts of the people it is an empty law one that does not produce spiritual health but only an illusion of piety.

James challenges these leaders, these leaders were inside and outside of the church. They had this idea that they were going to legislate a righteous nation, but the problem with this is that the people were not righteous. There were conflicting ideas of what was right and what was not causing great instability among the people which lead to the Jewish revolts that eventually lead to the total destruction of Jerusalem. With the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of God being leveled just as Jesus predicted, all the work of the religious leaders that were working so hard to make a righteous nation was abruptly stopped. Who is wise?

James did not see the day that Jerusalem fell because the religious leaders that he challenged plotted for his destruction as they did Jesus’. This historical fact just highlights the very things that James taught. The religious leaders were not focused on the heart of their faith but were focused on something else entirely. They were focused on wealth, power, and influence over others. James wrote this letter before is demise saying to them, “who is wise among you?”

The wisdom of which James challenges us to seek is the wisdom of God. To be more specific it is the Spirit of God, or Holy Wisdom. The wise that James challenges us to bring forth are those people that live directed by the Spirit of God in all that they do. And James says that those that live by this wisdom will be revealed to us by their actions, just as the wisdom of the world is revealed.

James says, “If you have bitter envy or selfish ambition in your hearts…this is not wisdom from above but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.” I want us to stop right there for a bit, and remember who he is challenging. This bitter envy that he speaks if much deeper than we think. We can quickly move over this word and not really understand fully what he is talking about. The word that he uses is zeal. This is most often in reference to religious zeal, and this is why James makes so many well-meaning religious leaders mad. Bitter zeal…Selfish ambition…he is speaking about the intent of our religious activity, or more accurately the focus. Bitter zeal is imposing legalities upon others to manipulate control, and selfish ambition is to engage in religious activities for selfish gain. What can God do for me! This type of wisdom is not directed from God because the focus is on ourselves and our desires for control over others. God does not work that way.

James says, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” Jesus taught that He is the living water, and those that drink of from him will never thirst again. This is the same idea that James is teaching wisdom from above is first pure like a spring of water bubbling up from the depths of the earth. Fresh, pure, cool and refreshing living water. This concept of living water is one that speaks of grace and blessing. Living water or flowing water a good sign of pure water in ancient times. As long as the water is moving the impurities are washed away. This is why John the Baptist, baptized in the Jordan, because the living water, the flowing water was carrying away your sins washing you and carrying your sins downstream. When the water stops flowing and becomes stagnant problems arise. Moss begins to grow and a stench is released into the air, when we damn the grace of God the same happens to our lives. The water is no longer sweet but bitter, no longer refreshing but putrid.

When we live our lives based on the wisdom of the world instead of seeking the wisdom of God, we damn up the flow of grace. We become bitter and our religious zeal leave those we meet seeking for something else. When we allow the wisdom of the Spirit of God to flow through us something else happens. Our attention is turned away from ourselves and it begins to flow downstream. And as the grace again flows it saturates into the dryness around us filling it with the living water of Christ, and when that is saturated fully it continues to flow.

The letter James wrote so long ago can teach us so much today. We live in a time where there is so much bitterness and selfish ambition all around that it is hard to discern what is right. We look out at the world around us and we have a perception that all is lost, but it is not. People are thirsting for the grace that Jesus has to offer, they yearn for it. But the waters are often tainted so they turn away. James urges us to go back to the very core of the gospel, the kingdom of God is here. It is all around us, just ready to spring forth. But are we letting it flow? This is why Jesus came to live among mankind. To provide the way for redemption and reconciliation, and to show us how to keep the grace flowing. Jesus showed us how to live a life directed by holy wisdom by making it his custom to worship, withdrawing often to pray in the isolated places, and then ministering to the needs of those around him in the community. Worship, prayer and ministry is the prescription to heal the brokenness in our world. Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and living the Love of Christ with other is the only way to allow the grace to flow again and to remove the bitterness so many see in religion. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

As we draw near to God in this time of open worship, let us consider with the assistance of God where our focus truly is. Are we a people that believe that the grace of God can overcome the world or are we being led by bitter zeal? Let us all cleanse our hands and purify our hearts so that the grace of God will flow from us and saturate the world around us.

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