How Would You Change the World?
I think it is fair to say that most of us would agree that the world needs changing. As I write this article the United States and the World is still reeling from COVID-19,the United States seem more divided than united and all manner of troubles around the world. Add to that the daily incidents of rudeness, me first-ism, and a lack of respect and kindness for others and I think the point is clear; the world needs changing.
In December in the season of Advent we were talking about preparing for the coming of our Advent King. In talking about this King the point was made repeatedly that He was going to turn the world upside down. This King was going to be a King in ways that most people did not expect. This King would be different than all the other kings that people knew. He would be a world changer.
Each of us has the chance to be a world changer. I know most of you don’t think that is possible. You say that you are not a king, you are not a leader, you have little influence and certainly you don’t have the talent, skills or abilities to change the world. I beg to differ with you. I believe that you do have the ability to be a world changer and have all the skills, abilities and talents you need. And simply all you have to do is follow the example of our Advent King and you can change the world! Think about how Jesus changed the world. He taught people to turn the other cheek, he taught people to love their enemies and he taught us what it means to love sacrificially.
You change the world first and foremost by beginning with you, yourself. See each of us could learn to love better. First we need to learn to love ourselves, I talk to so many people who just don’t seem to love themselves. They think they are not good enough, tall enough, pretty enough, nice enough, you fill in the blank. They just don’t seem to love themselves. God makes us for His purposes, in His Image and we are worth everything in his eyes, so let’s agree to love ourselves, because God does.
Next let’s learn to love one another better. I am a people watcher and when I am out and about I watch people and it is amazing how rude and crude we are to other people. We don’t open doors for others. We barge ahead. We cut in line, both in person and in our cars. We don’t take the time to do for others, to share a kind word, a compliment or see how we could help someone. If we focused on doing one act of kindness or love each day for someone we would be surprised how much of an impact it would have on others. Think about this year, you can be a world changer. “Love one another as I have loved you … by this they will know you are my disciples.” This is pretty good advice from the perfect world changer.
Lord God, we know that you have created the world and continue to be in the world shaping and changing our lives. We have never thought of ourselves as world changers, yet we see how your Son did this while he was on earth. He taught us about love, real love, love that is sacrificial, love that gives and does not take, love that is complete and perfect. It is all too often too easy to look for and see the negative, the bad side of things and people. Lord, help me to look to the good side, the side of love, care and concern. Help me to be a world changer by loving as our Lord Jesus has loved. In his loving name I pray. Amen.
Where do you live?
This is a question that is often asked in polite conversation. Say a new person joins you at breakfast one morning you might ask, where do you live? Meaning on what floor, or what apartment or what wing of the building? It is like that all of our lives. We would often ask people that we would meet on vacation or at business engagement or other social gathering, this basic question, where do you live? It is often a nice way to open up a conversation because we may have lived close to him or her, known someone who did, or know a lot about the place. Even if we didn’t, we could carry on a conversation as we asked the other person to tell us about the place where he or she lives.
As residents of the United States we never thought much about having a national identity, because for many years you could travel to many places outside of the United States without a passport. Somehow living in the United States was special and didn’t require much more than a driver’s license because it was obvious we were from the US. But now as the world has become a smaller place and more homogeneous, we must now have a passport. Even to visit places like Canada and Mexico you now need a passport that identifies where you live.
St. Paul, in chapter three of the letter he wrote to the Philippian Christians, talks about the question of where you live. He talks about people who don’t believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and talks about where they focus their lives. He says their lives are self-centered and focused only on taking care of their physical and earthly needs. He says for these people, “their god is their belly… and their mind is set on earthly things.” (Phil. 3.19) Yet most of us reading that would say, well yes, we are residents of earth.
St. Paul continues in verse 20 and says this to the Christians, “But, our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” I wonder in all the times we have ever been asked, where do you live or where is your home, have we ever thought to answer that our home is in heaven? If you look at your passport, it does not have a notation that your permanent residence is heaven. Yet St. Paul is clearly making that point that our home is not here on earth, but is in heaven. In fact, Paul cautions us not to get too focused on our earthly possessions and goods, because we will be leaving them behind here on earth when we go home to heaven.
That is the great promise of all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, that heaven is in fact their home. Paul encourages us not to get all bothered about the things of this world because this is not our real home, heaven is. We are most fortunate to have lived here on God’s wondrously created earth and enjoyed the pleasures of this world. But our real joy will be when we finally get home to heaven to be with Jesus forever and ever. That’s where we will really live!
O most wonderful creator God, you are amazing. You created an earth that is full of wonders and examples of great beauty, might and power. And we have been truly blessed to spend many years here. But we are looking forward to the day when we will be allowed to join your Son, Jesus Christ, in the real home you have prepared for us, heaven. May our focus and joy be the Good News of your work to save us and to bring us home to be with you. We give thanks and praise to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Where are you headed, Jesus? Ever notice how often we ask some form of the preceding question? We see someone coming out of their apartment with a coat on and we ask, where are you headed George? Or we see someone standing in the lobby looking out of the windows, obviously looking for someone and we ask, where are you headed Betty? And their answers may be relatively simple. Maybe George was going for a walk outside or getting ready to get on the bus and go to the Jewel or a doctor’s appointment. Betty might have been waiting for her daughter to pick her up and take her to lunch or maybe for a bit of shopping.
We are always curious about where people are going. You hear that someone is going to be going on vacation and your first question is usually, where are you going? We like to see if it is somewhere that we have been, or would like to go; or if it is somewhere very special or off the beaten track. We are always interested in where people are going. Think about when your grandson or granddaughter says they are going to college in the fall and you ask where. Same thing happens when they get a job, you ask where is that job?
Last week we ended the season of Epiphany with Jesus going up on the mountain and being transfigured, glorified in his person as God. Then in the middle of the week we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, and the question we might want to ask is where are you headed, Jesus? Because of the confession of the disciples that Jesus is Christ the Son of the living God and Jesus’ transfiguration, things are different now. No longer are the disciples going to be moving around the region of Galilee. Now it is different and Jesus has told them where they are headed, Jerusalem.
This is not the first time that Jesus and the disciples have headed to Jerusalem; they have been there before. What is different this time is that for Jesus this is the last time he will head to Jerusalem. Jesus answered the disciples’ question of where they were headed and he told them Jerusalem. But he added to the answer, that he was going to Jerusalem to be arrested and tried by the Religious Leaders and turned over to the Roman rulers who would kill him. But he also told his disciples that on the third day he would rise again. Unfortunately, they didn’t listen and understand all that Jesus told them.
But Jesus heading to Jerusalem to die is good news for us. He is headed there to die, not because he did anything deserving death, but rather because we did. Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to die on a cross to pay the price for the sins that we have committed. It is with his shed blood that our sins are wiped away and we are put in a new and right relationship with God. Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to save us. That is the good news of Lent and that is why we focus on sorrow for our sins, knowing where Jesus is headed and why he is going there.
Lord God, we often want to know where you want us to go with our lives. Yet your answer is clear to us. You want us to follow Jesus. You want us to go with Him to Jerusalem and to the cross on Calvary and see where He suffers and dies so that we receive the forgiveness of our sins. During this time of Lent strengthen us to walk with Jesus knowing that it is for us that He suffers and dies. Amen.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly", says the Apostle. But the temptation to gloss over Scripture, to let it go in one ear and out the other, to fail to truly meditate upon and ponder the depths of God's riches, to prevent the Wisdom of God from taking root in your heart comes all too easily. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly digest.
If it weren't for faithful translators of Holy Scripture like Jerome, this would not be possible for us. Jerome, like the rest of us, struggled with the sinful flesh, which would prevent us from letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly. But he nevertheless knew well the importance of reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting Holy Scripture. It was for this reason that he devoted himself to not only learning the Biblical languages, but also to translating Scripture into Latin, the language of his day.
Careful study of God's Word is never an end in itself. We don't learn God's Word so that we can keep it to ourselves. No, the Word of God comforts us in all our affliction so that we may likewise comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4). In our striving for holiness, Satan would have us become absorbed in the selfish care of our own souls and prevent us from living by faith in God and love toward our neighbor.
Jerome saw to it that the Gospel was available to the people of his day in language they could understand. In our day the task of translating the Gospel into plain language may not be as urgent as it was in the fourth century, but there nevertheless remains a vast multitude who are ignorant of the Gospel. How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard (Romans 10:14)? God has given you lips that they might declare His praise (Psalm 51:15). You are his priest, called to declare His glory among the nations (1 Peter 2:9, Psalm 96:3).
But you must first glory in the Word before you can declare the Word's glory. Listening is the first step in faithful proclamation. The one who teaches must first be taught (Isaiah 50:4). The treasure of the Gospel can only be shared by the one who has first treasured it up in his heart. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly digest.
That God speaks to His fallen creation at all is more than we deserve, and He comes not with a message of wrathful fury, but of loving kindness. For the full measure of His wrath was poured out on the One whose Word we've failed to ponder. His righteous judgment fell to Him who spoke the Gospel faithfully until His dying breath. In Christ, you have a gracious God, One who invites you to let His life-giving Word dwell in you richly, who would use even you to bring this life-giving Word to others.
So we thank God this day for giving His Church the example of Jerome, who, by careful study let the Word of Christ dwell in him richly, and by his translation sought to aid others in doing likewise. But even more we give thanks to God for that Word which dwelt in Jerome, for that Word which testifies to the Word made flesh, for the wisdom, life, and salvation that His Word bestows. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, indeed.
Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.