Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Extraordinary Love

There is a Love which drives us beyond ourselves and what is expected to give more than we think we can …or should, more than any think reasonable.

This Love has a name, the name of the Crucified One, who is the face of The Loving Mystery no time has ever understood.

Who can understand Love that does not quail in the face of brutal suffering, a Love that never ceases to offer its enemies what they most need? And who needs this Love more than those who resist and reject its embrace?

The Christian faith does not call for reasonable action and attitudes. It always calls us to More, to know and be the More, to live the More that Christ is … and is in us.

That we should love our friends, our families and those who treat us well—this is expected. Reasonable.

Our hearts do not recoil from this. This is only just. But Christ calls us beyond what is just and right, beyond normal, beyond what every right-thinking person knows is good.

We are called by an unreasonable Love to live this Love—this Extraordinary Love—not in heroic moments but as our normal posture and orientation toward all we encounter.

Our failures to love are our friend as we journey into the Love Christ is. They daily remind us that our egos must die to our insistence that life must always make sense, that people must be fair. We must surrender the rage that boils at criticism and disrespect, however unfair they may be.

This is all beyond us, of course. No one can do it. Maybe the martyrs or those of remarkable spirit and piety. Unless: Unless we know this Extraordinary Love and live in its embrace every moment of our breathing.

Only then … in knowing … are we free from ego’s insistent demands. And Christ breathes the air of his Extraordinary Love through our lives. Even there.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Love’s surrender

The world is not fair nor is God. The sun warms the just and unjust alike. God makes no distinction.

Christians and those of faith are not spared disease or misfortune because they believe in Christ. God makes no such promise. They are as likely to have bad things happen to them as the rankest atheist.

This undermines the faith of too many who wonder why bad things happen to good people. They have misunderstood the nature of the Loving Mystery God is.

God is love. Love is not something God does, but who God is. It is God’s nature to love, to give the goodness of life and grace to all and everything, to everyone and in every moment.

God is a fountain of outpouring love, embracing the shoulders of everyone with the warmth of the sun and giving life-giving rain to the fields of those who acknowledge divine presence and those who think God a fiction.

If I understand anything of God, joy accompanies this outpouring. God delights to give the goodness of life and love. God eagerly gives. God may be compared to a person of joyful heart who meets each day with a smile, with open hand ready to share every blessing he or she has.

We know God in such moments of open-hearted giving. We enter the stream of mercy and joy that flows constantly from the divine heart. God is better understood as a verb than a noun, for God is movement, a stream of unending love constantly flowing through time and space.

Jesus’ command to love is not a command at all, but an invitation to enter the surrender your heart to this flow that seeks you anew every morning. Let yourself go. Let the warmth of this Love wash over you, melt your sadness and dissolve your resentments.

Just be and know this Love. Allow the Loving Mystery to awaken the joyful desire to smile on every face you see and bless every moment with your presence. This, of course, is not your presence at all, but the Presence of a Love beyond every imagination.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 30, 2017

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
To be what we are

For nearly 20 years I was privileged to write for and edit a magazine that covered the church and its work around the world. My proudest and most fulfilling memories of those days involved reporting from places of acute human struggle and suffering.

I told stories of people our readers had no other way of knowing or caring about. And how they cared! Their generosity moved me again and again. I say with no sense of pride that there are people who lived, who received food and shelter from war, terror and starvation, because my colleagues and I told their stories and captured their struggles in photos that shook people from apathy into action.

The faces I met in those days have been appearing more often in my mind’s eye, as I fear our nation … and our churches … could become much less empathetic, generous and welcoming.

I see them: refugee mothers nursing children on cold mountainsides in Macedonia, war-orphaned children in make-shift orphanages in Africa, parents bearing everything they can carry on their backs fleeing those bent on killing and maiming them in the name of some deplorable political, racial or religious ideology.

And I see shallow graves where people hastily buried their beloved along the road … then hurried on to avoid the same fate.

The faces speak to me as did the photos I once took for magazine pages.

I also hear Jesus words: Be what you are. Be the soul I have made you to be. You are salt and light, so shine and season this world with the light of the love I have lit within you.

In this time when it is easy to let anxiety or anger rule our hearts, we can turn from the world, immersing ourselves in private concerns and personal comforts. Or we can be who we are. Salt and light.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann has often prodded the church to an alternative way marked by practices such as hospitality to those unlike us, generosity to those in need and forgiveness to break cycles of resentment and vengeance. Our world, our nation and our communities have seldom needed them more.

The choice is always ours. Today, the faces of the suffering, the hungry and the refugee … like Jesus … are calling us to be ourselves … and to know the joy of Christ’s love pouring through us.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

John 1:32-34

And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

The joy of oneness

The experience of the Holy Spirit is that of oneness with God. There is an internal sense of unity with the great and overpowering Love God is, evaporating sadness and flooding the soul with peace and joy that may even be accompanied by laughter.

John refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John says Jesus baptizes us, immerses us, with the Holy Spirit.

We are given the same Spirit that fills Jesus, and when we experience the Spirit we are graced to know the unity with the Loving Mystery in which he constantly lived.

Our experience of this exquisite blessing is not constant. It may last moments, minutes, hours or even days for some on rare occasions.

In these moments, we truly know Christ and are empowered to love as he loved, feeling the freedom of being completely one with the Love God is. We need nothing, for in this Love we have all we need, all we have ever wanted.

Sin, guilt, shame, fear are gone, replaced by joy. The Spirit, the Love God is, floods our spirit. 
Although we are distinct, there is no distance between God and out soul. In this awareness, guilt or shame over our wrongs and failures, small or great, disappear.

They are gone, and we are free to live, knowing the truth of the Love who is.

Moments of intense oneness fade amid the necessary routines of living. When they fade or distress comes remember the experience of the Spirit. It tells you who God is, who you who truly are and the joy God intends.

Pr. David L. Miller

Monday, January 02, 2017

Monday, January 2, 2017

 Luke 2:16-20

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Hearing and seeing

It sounds simple. They hear, they see, they ponder and they praise.

The result of their hearing and seeing is joy. So each day, I ... we … should seek to hear and see the Love God is being flesh, incarnate and touchable in our lives and world.

This is the way of joy, the way of knowing, pondering, too, what we hear and see, and sharing it with hearts who can receive it that our joy might be complete. Sharing multiplies our joy.

Separation and isolation are enemies of the joy we would have as God wills it for us. So, too, is a steady diet of the critical commentary, negativity and violence that streams through much of our media.

Turn away from the culture of complaint and the need to criticize or blame others. They carry burdens, too, and are likely doing the best they can.

Slow down. Be. You cannot do everything you think you should, so do what is best and deepest in your heart. This is the gift you are given to share. How ever small it seems, it is more important than you know.

Take time to see and celebrate beauty, to share it and give thanks for the small graces of the day and the moments that speak of the Love who always is.

Listen for the goodness in the words of others. Don't take yourself so seriously, and laugh as much as possible, especially at yourself.

Remember the goodness you have known, the kindness you have received and the love which has touched and filled your heart. And say ‘thank you’ a lot.

It is all a gift of the Love who is and plays and becomes incarnate in every act of goodness, every beauty and the curve of every genuine, loving smile.

Hear and see and the goodness of the Lord.

Pr. David L. Miller

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

 John 1:16-18

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. 

Always new

Comedians have gotten much mileage telling jokes about how bad 2016 has been. For many the year cannot end too soon. We want something new so we can put the pain, struggle and ugliness of the year past year behind us.

But can we ever start again? Don’t we always carry the burdens of the past into the future?  Is the past even ‘the past’ since it always is with us?

It is, but so is the Love who can make us new every morning. Receiving and knowing the Love we are given makes us new even when the weight of the past clings.

Receiving is the way of freedom. As we receive grace upon grace, love from the Love who is, we move into a new year with hope and expectation.

No matter what the year brings the Love who is will be there, present to fill our hearts with the Joy and Love he is, even when we despair of what is happening in the world around us.

Life is a gift … received. So is living.

Each day we must receive and celebrate the Love who is, the Love who comes to us, the Love who lives in us.

And when the heart is empty or lost we must search for the places we are most open and able to receive the Love who is. Fullness of heart rests in knowing and receiving grace upon grace.

Maybe 2017 will drain our lives and drag us down as badly as the year now ending. Certainly, there will be days that seem too much for us.

But our hearts can be made new, even then, filled with joy and beauty, if only we receive the Love given to us by the Love who is ... always here.

Pr. David L. Miller                      

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Luke 2:27-32

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word; 
for my eyes have seen your salvation, 
   which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.’

Always in hope

It is easy to see Simeon standing in the temple courts holding this child, his heart filled with the joy of gratitude.

For many years he has waited to see the face of salvation, the beauty of God. Now, the One longed for lies in his arms.

He cradles him, like an old man looking into the face of the last great grandchild he will see before departing this life.

He has lived enough. He has seen too much of earth’s sorrows and struggle, but now he sees the one thing he needs to be at peace. He sees the face of the Love who is.

He can rest. He can let go of this life, no longer clinging for a few more months or days. When his time comes he will release himself to be carried away gently as a leaf floating on a peaceful current.

For he knows he is carried in the arms of the Faithful Love who lies in his trembling hands. He has waited, always in hope. Now he holds the Love who holds him and all time.

All his life he has been watching, hoping to see even the smallest signs of the One Love who brings healing to earth’s sorrows.

As are we, hoping to see and know enough of the Love who is that we, too, might live always in hope. And our waiting is rewarded. For the Love for whom we wait is faithful.

Pr. David L. Miller