Monthly Archives: June 2020

Holy and Dearly Loved

Near Frenchglen, Oregon, on a motorcycle ride

Last summer during their wedding ceremony, I asked Matt and Xeng to tell us who they are. I was using Colossians 3:12, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” I asked the same question during our worship yesterday and they remembered the answer, “holy and dearly loved”.

Here’s another question. Why? Why does God love you?

We read several scripture passages last week which can help us answer this question.

In Psalm 100, we read “It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” We come to him and enter his presence with confidence “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever.”

In Romans 5, we read “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

In Matthew 9, we read, “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

So, we see that we are his. He made us, he owns us, he watches over us. He loves us. And his love for us is not because we are lovable, winsome and cute. In fact, we are loved by God at our worst.

Why does he love us? Because that’s the way he is. God loves us because of who he is. In fact, love only has meaning as it is demonstrated and given definition by God.

This is such good news! You and I are embraced by the love of God. He finds us harassed and helpless (have you been feeling that lately?) and brings us into his loving presence like a good shepherd does with the sheep.

Now notice another theme that Paul brings up in Romans 5. “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Paul wants us to see that our suffering exists in the context of God’s love.

When we suffer, we ask, “why?”. Did I do something wrong? Am I missing something that I am supposed to know? Does God want me to learn something? Why am I suffering?

Remember that we are holy and dearly loved by God. Paul tells us that good things do happen during our suffering. We are changed, we persevere, our character builds, and we find new hope, all in the midst of suffering. But this is not the answer to our “why?”. This is the good that God brings through our suffering.

God may not answer my questions about suffering, but he continually affirms his love, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

God wants us to see that we suffer, persevere, grow in character, and find hope, all within the loving embrace of God.

Pandemic, Privilege and Pentecost

Two of these things go together in the news right now and in our anxious hearts. We all know about the Pandemic and we are seeing the anger spill into the streets of our cities because of the disparity between blacks and whites and the Privilege that some of us own.
But what does Pentecost have to do with Pandemic and Privilege?
Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit. The story starts with setting the stage, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1) Where was this “one place”? I think is has to be the upper room. When Jesus was preparing to eat his last Passover meal, he sent two disciples to find an upper room in Jerusalem. (Mark 14:12-15) This is likely the same room where the disciples hid in fear after the crucifixion. “On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,” (John 20:19)
This is the room, the place of hiding, the place where they locked themselves in because they were afraid. This is the room that the Holy Spirit invades.
So how have I locked myself in during this Pandemic?
I have isolated myself and I feel proud of that. I am doing the right thing. After all, I have been told that it is my duty to isolate. It is a good thing that we are all doing these days. But with my isolation comes a peculiar feeling of disconnection with those who suffer. I see them on my screens but I don’t have to talk to them or watch them struggle. I can turn the channel.
How have I locked myself in because of my Privilege?
I cash the check. Like many of you we received a stimulus check a while back. It was appreciated but I can’t say that it was crucial to our needs like it was to many others. I look at my privilege like that stimulus check. I have received the benefit of being white, of being male, of having been raised in a loving two-parent home, of not ever having to go hungry. I did nothing to earn these benefits, I simply cash my privilege check. My privilege locks my brain in a room with others like me. In this room we tell each other the lie that we deserve these benefits and that others don’t have them because they are not as worthy.
Remember what the disciples said when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54) I’m thinking that some of their privileged feeling was still present in the upper room, with the doors again locked, while they prayed and waited for the Holy Spirit. Lord, those people, who rejected and killed you, don’t deserve what we have. Bring us your Holy Spirit so that we can be all the more blessed.
But the Holy Spirit comes with God’s agenda, not ours.
Look back to that locked room. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (John 20:19-23)
When the Spirit of Jesus enters our locked Pandemic / Privilege rooms he does three things. He brings peace. He sends us out. He equips us with the message of forgiveness.
Come Holy Spirit.