The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Govn't still resting on the 7th day: A call to prayer

The Hebrew creation poem states that on the 7th day God rested; and it was good. 

But our government is not working after 7 days of nothing, and for millions of Americans that's bad. If you aren't concerned about that for yourself, you should be for the millions of people who can't eat, sleep, or work because of it.
My wife Ashley works for the WIC Clinic, a government program that gives vouchers to Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to purchase HEALTHY foods in the grocery store. Next trip to the grocery store, keep your eye out for little tabs like this one- they will be where you find bread, fruit, milk, and beans.
The purpose of WIC is to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society (the children) get the nutrition they need. It works like gangbusters for the people who need it. The women, babies, and children get the food they need to function and stay happy and healthy members of society. Whenever I talk to someone about what my wife does, I almost always get push-back from the person I talk to about how government programs get abused.
In speaking with a church member today on the subject (let's call him Jim), he told me a story of when he saw a woman over-flowing her cart with more milk than she can possibly drink. The story struck Jim as odd so he told it to someone else who told him that the WIC Clinic gives out vouchers to buy milk. He and I assumed that she took the milk and sold it for cash. Now we can assume all kinds of things about what she did with the cash, but more often than not she went to great lengths to sell the milk at a discount because she really needed the money to keep the lights on, or pay the rent, or pay for child care so she could work.

Whenever we talk about government aid agencies, it seems like the conversation always turns to abuse of the system. I think this is for two reasons: (1) many of us have few encounters with government assistance, so our limited ones stand out to us. This is the one that Jim fits in- someone else explained to him what he saw. And (2) we stand to benefit from assuming that abuse is pervasive. The more abuse, the more we can justify defunding. The more abuse, the more we can otherize those receiving aid.

 Look- I work at a church- I've been scammed plenty of times. But by pregnant women? Not mostly. By babies and children? I wish.                

I've got a saying that I hope you can remember-

The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data

A story of abuse does not mean most people are abusing, just the opposite. It wouldn't be a good story if it was normative. Social programs being shut down is the story.

Most of us reading this will never know poverty. We will never get our power shut off or our children taken away for negligence. We will never consider using the services of WIC, or food-stamps, or government assistance because we can do better.

These aren't posh services- they are bare-bones care.

And right now, they are not there. Since I started writing until now, I received a phone call from my wife saying that there are only enough vouchers until the end of the day. She told me this to say that she will be home late in order to fill as many orders as they can, and that now her job is in jeopardy. But this isn't about her job- that is a secondary concern. You should be concerned, as they are, because they know what will happen if their mothers can't get food and formula: the children will go hungry. Maybe more moms will try to breastfeed. But, please, for the ones who can't- pray for them. For them, formula is impossibly expensive. For them as of 5pm today, their support in the WIC program is offline...

Two days ago our church participated in a Poverty Simulation. I played the role of a 21 year old who should be thinking about college. But my character had to drop out and beg for a job to keep the family afloat.
 It sounds ridiculous, but even me, a Pastor, finally learned that poverty doesn't end with the homeless and the jobless. The working poor represents millions in our society, and they need our help. 
They work through the Sabbath just to make ends meet. They work the jobs we would never, and they live lives that we can't imagine. Pray for them.
My church is full of prayer warriors. One woman I visit, Martha, despite her own health issues, always asks me to pray for the children in the world. This time I'm taking Martha's advice. Prayer is free. Prayer is powerful.  We are called to pray. Pray for the babies. Pray for moms and moms-to-be. Pray for health and safety of those most oppressed. Pray for compassion. Pray for school children. Pray for leadership. Pray that God looks down on creation and says, "It is good."

 The sad truth is, millions of people are suffering needlessly. I find it ironic, however, that if the government shuts down for more than a month and my wife gets furloughed, even we would qualify for government assistance. Not that there would be anyone there to grant it...

Join me in prayer this day. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Science and Religion: A fair fight?

Explanation of Hiatus
I have been on hiatus for a number of reasons. We bought a house, moved, and discovered that Ashley is pregnant for the third (and final) time! In addition the boys are home for the summer. This means that I am expected to be more entertaining than usual. 

But I've been studying and reading a lot this summer- and I have several blog posts in the writing stage. Most of my work has been trying to understand the world of science. Specifically I'm exploring the fields of particle physics and dabbling a bit in Neurobiology and human consciousness. While I'm nothing of an expert in these fields, in talking to experts I find a great deal of wealth that they have in the conversation.

You know what I love about science? With every theory or discovery- the big bang, evolution, the God particle- what we now know is always outweighed by our new questions. 

One year ago the so called "God particle" was discovered in Switzerland. Since then, we haven't heard much about it. Why? Two reasons- one, the Large Hardon Collider is offline for repairs; and two, this one proof of the Higgs Boson particle proves the existence of the Higgs Field, which will change the way we look at physics. And thus; we have more questions than answers.

Something I didn't know was that lots of Scientists hate that anyone has called it the "God Particle" because while the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle is really cool, the bigger find is the Higgs field, the (until now) theory that everything in the universe moves through and is effected by this field. The particle known as the "God particle" is a basic building block of the universe that has properties unlike anything else known to humanity. If you speak particle physics you'd say that it is boson with no spinelectric charge, or color charge. It is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately.  

So, rather than being limitless and universal, the 'God particle' is obscure and freakishly weak. Hmmmm. I'm not sure I'd name it after God. 

The scientist who is credited with calling the Higgs-Boson particle the 'God particle' is Leon M. Lederman who had this to say about it:
This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one...
—p. 22[5]
That other book is the one that I know something about. We all love to talk about what the book of Genesis talks about and what it doesn't. I feel compelled to point out that Genesis deals with the foundations of our world- but not the universe. The passing attention Genesis gives to the "lights in the sky" was so that humans could chart seasons and cardinal directions. Genesis chapter one is a poem, a prayer honoring Yahweh, who is the God of all that we know. All the Hebrews know was that God created the world. They had no idea that the earth was round, and that the moon was not a star, and that stars were distant suns. They only knew about their world, the small patch of dessert between Egypt and the Far East. 
What they didn't know could fill a warehouse. 
They didn't know that there were different types of blood, that rain forests held cures, that diseases come from bacteria and genetic chromosomes.  
They couldn't tell you how to harness energy or predict the weather (although I'm still not convinced we can do that!). 

But they weren't afraid to write poetry. They weren't afraid to give order and meaning to their lives. They weren't afraid to believe.

So often we lose our place in history. We champion our own time over the past without humbling ourselves before the future. 

Lederman (the 'God-particle' guy) points to the Higgs Boson as crucial to the future of physics. Think of it this way; radio waves were once considered "only interesting in the lab" with no practical function. Now they run everything from satellites, to wireless internet, to cell phones, and let's not forget, NPR. This Higgs Boson could change everything we know about physics over the next 100 years. 

But we still won't know it all. We will still look like unevolved monkeys to future people. Our knowledge will seem so trivial, our science so basic, and our discoveries so unsatisfying. 

Theology will rage on. We will be no closer to appreciating what exists and why it exists, no further in our quest for human perfection, and no longer able to deny that grace alone is practically the only good answer to life's mysteries. 

If there is one thing I don't like about science it is the perception among many that religion is an out-dated waste of time. Many within science portray their best minds against religions dumbest. 

A newspaper headline could read, "Local pastor thinks baby born with third nipple is possessed by Satan; Local doctor disagrees."

This is not a fair fight, and certainly not one that would pass a scientific test. 

Another common misconception is that all Christians- or even most- believe the bible in the inerrant word of God, true to the last drop, and wholly against science/evolution/big bang/higgs boson. 

We ain't all that way. 

We have evolved in our theology, just as others have in science. 

My doctor doesn't use the same medical practices from 1517, and neither do I use all the same theological ones. It saddens me that many intellectuals still compare modern science to ancient theology- but not because they underestimate me or others like me: It saddens me because they underestimate the value of modern theology in the conversation with modern science. 

The next book I'm reading comes from a Theologian and Physics teacher named Phillip Clayton, who is the Dean at Claremont School of Theology in Southern CA. I have met Clayton several times and each time I've been entranced with his work. He is continually searching for a conversation among intellectual equals in both science and religion. 
The truth is that it is easy to look down one's nose at others. It's much harder to ask them what they know/think/believe.

Like the ancient Hebrews, I'm looking for God in the unknown, not because I don't believe in science, but because there will always be mystery, and that's just the way I like it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hungry for God's creation

Ashley and I wanted to do something for Lent this year to both test our resolve and help the environment. As former hippies in Berkeley, we've heard a lot about concerns for God's creation can be acted out in one's daily lives.

We compost our food scraps and we recycle; and we try to use products that don't create a lot of trash. We have become more aware of the gas we use and drive more sparingly. Once, after reading how much diapers go into landfills, Ashley researched cloth diapers and we've used them ever since. From reusable zip-lock bags, grocery bags, sandwich bags, produce bags, and even smoothie pouches, we've made a dent into our carbon footprint.

But like many Americans, we were less aware of how exactly our diet impacted the environment: specifically our meat consumption. Saying nothing of the treatment of the animals we consume, we negatively effect the environment every time we eat meat. In an excellent article in The Guardian, John Vidal writes that the "combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18% of the global total – more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together."

I read that "a Vegan driving a Hummer does more for the environment than a meat-eater driving a Prius."

I find that to be shockingly profound. I think it would shock a lot of people to realize that the meat they eat is as bad- or worse- than the gas the use.

Perhaps equally shocking is that the world consumes twice as much meat as it did 30 years ago. Twice!

Not only does this effect green house gas emissions, but it also takes more of the Earth's resources. Let me explain. Corn is good. It grows in lots of places and has nutritional value. It's also part of a balanced diet for cows, who eat 8-14 lbs of "cow food" each day. They are killed when they reach three years old, and for argument's sake weigh 1000lbs, 400lbs of which is turned into edible meat. 10lbs a day for three years  is 10,950lbs of food for 400lbs of meat in the grocery store.

 Vidal writes, "other academics have calculated that if the grain fed to animals in western countries were consumed directly by people instead of animals, we could feed at least twice as many people – and possibly far more – as we do now."

And that's just food consumption- not water or land.Land is perhaps the biggest problem that we face. Again, Vidal,

"A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less, while the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of meat a year, needs 20 times that."

20 acres of land to support my eating habits. I feel ashamed. It was then I realized this simple logic: the bigger the animal, the more land they need, food they eat, water they drink, and methane gas the release.

That's why Ashley and I gave up beef and pork. I haven't lost any weight, gained more energy, or lowered my blood pressure. It wasn't about myself. It's about God and our charge to care for God's creation.

Too often we operate out of a "what's in it for me" mentality. Our hotels boast a greener initiative to save money on laundry. Cleaning products boast greener solutions in order to sell more soap. This half-hearted view of saving God's creation will get us no further than a marginally deserved pat on the back.

But if each of us does something as simple as reduce our intake of beef and pork with the conscious intention of helping to save the planet, then we can begin to call ourselves stewards of God's creation.

This is the first step toward a sustainable future. And it's as simple as making more side dishes or ordering a smaller sandwich. Only you can prevent Climate change.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Life's Not Fair

A Sermon inspired by the story of the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15

To listen to this sermon, click here.

I’m Lost.
Maybe you can help me. 

I always thought that God was fair- the kind of ruler whose Judgment is spot on- never to harsh or to lenient- but perfect. God’s decision making skills, God’s leadership, and God’s authority are all never wrong.
But this story- the one from Luke- this “parable” - is about a dad who is a wimp- and about two kids who grew up with a wimp for a dad.
People have been trying to say what this story is about for forever.
Each time someone “figures out” what the story is about, they change the title.
For example, we call this the story of the prodigal son. But some bibles title the prodigal son and his brother, some, this as the forgiving father- and still others, the father and his two sons.
What does this tell me? That we don’t exactly know what this story means.
That’s why I’m lost. Maybe you can help me. 

When Ashley and I were in premarital counseling, we took the Myers Briggs personality test. The same one that I had to take before going to seminary, and the one that Pastor Rinn and I talk about almost daily when we are talking about how to pastor to all of you. 

In that test, Ashley and I came out as exact opposites. Like many clergy before me, I am an ENFP. Like many science-minded people before her, Ashley came out ISTJ.
The pastor who did our counseling encouraged us to go home and- question by question- analyze our differences. 

There is one question that still to this day that we still talk about.

You ready? 

Would you rather have a boss who is fair or kind? Think about it-
At its core, this is a fundamental difference in thinking. On the one hand, a boss who is fair, keeps stability in the office by treating everyone equally all the time. On the other, a boss who is kind, treats every situation and difference as a case unto its own.
Ultimately, the answer about the boss question is really about you- not your boss. Are you fair or kind? Hopefully you lean toward one of those.
If we dig deeper on this self-understanding- we find another truth-

Do you generally treat all people the same, or all differently? 

Are you the scientist, grouping people and ideas into categories to insure order and stability, or are you the artist who refuses to be defined by limits, rules, or laws?

Are you the goody-two-shoes or the prodical?

Are you an older brother or the younger?

And, once you’ve answered that one: think about this- which one is God?
Ultimately, God can’t be both. 

This is the core problem in the story of the prodigal son- of the forgiving father, or the father and his two sons- however you define the parable.
There are two sons. The youngest- the one who is entitled to less- takes his share of the inheritance and leaves. He loses it all. The older son, stays, works hard, and assumes that he will be his father’s favorite because he assumes that his father is like him- fair- not kind.
The younger son- who lives- and indeed- thrives- on the kindness of others- finds himself penniless. So he finds someone in a faraway land to give him a fair job- go feed the pigs. The younger son says- I will go ask for forgiveness, and perhaps I can be a hired hand- not a son, not a slave- but dad’s kindness for me will get me somewhere in the middle.
He goes home. His father runs to him. The father- who gave his son the inheritance BEFORE he died, now welcomes the deadbeat back home, BEFORE the son ever apologizes. The father is a chump.
If I were putting titles on this chapter- I’d be inclined to call it, “The enabling father” or “Two generations of chumps.” As a father myself, I am appalled by this guy’s laissez- faire parenting style. 

That older brother- that one who worked the fields- he wanted his father to be fair to both brothers, regardless of the circumstances. And that’s not what he got. He got –for lack of a better word- screwed. 

NOT ONLY did his brother leave him in charge of the house, the fields, the animals, and their aging father, but NOW his brother comes home, his father welcomes him back. 

So that’s why I’m Lost.
Maybe you can help. 

If I really think about it- if I let my anger at the unfairness fester- I realize that everything that is left on the farm now, contractually, belongs to the Older son- so when the father tells the servants to kill the fatted calf, he’s going into the Older brothers life savings!
It’s one thing to enable the dope, but throw him a party? The greek word for party is euphraimo- like euphoric. Over a dead beat son who came home without an apology? I agree with Craddock when he says
Of course, let the younger son return home. Judaism and Christianity have clear rules to allow sons to return home, but where does it say that the return should include a banquet with music and dancing? Yes, let the prodigal return, but to bread and water, not fatted calf; in sackcloth, not a new robe; wearing ashes, not a new ring; in tears, not in merriment; kneeling, not dancing. Has the party canceled the seriousness of sin and repentance?

I’m lost, maybe you can help me. 

I don’t understand this story. Honestly- I want to give up. This is the most ridiculous parable I’ve ever heard. 

Actually- there’s another parable that bugs me. You know the one about the lost sheep- and the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one. What is that about? Is it FAIR to risk the safety and security of 99 to find one? Of course not! Isn’t one sheep within the margin of error? 

The idea of this parable- I think- is that the shepherd is driven by his emotions. In an effort to be kind to the 1, he is irrational and unfair to the 99. 

Obviously, these parables are supposed to help us reflect on God, and how God treats us. But I find myself thinking that God does not usually reward the ones who do all the hard work. In this story, God- the father- rewards the opposite- bad behavior- the same thing with the 99 sheep- he rewards stupidity.

This is the problem that Paul writes about to the early church. The people hear that grace is free, so they keep on sinning. God’s a sucker. Everyone gets grace who wants it. We can take our inheritance, squander it- and recant on our death bed.
It seems to me- that we should all be under the same rules- or laws. And that anyone found guilty before God should have to pay their consequences. Period. End of Sentence.
But that’s just what I think

It’s not what I know.
What I know is that if God were fair, and treated us all the same, we would be condemned, because the law always condemns.
What I know is that if I got what I deserve, I might as well enjoy the fatted calf now because it will be the last happy moment of my existence.
What I know is that I am the sheep that wandered away. Lost and confused, I got what I deserved. Going after me is to seemingly reward stupidity.
What I know is the terrible truth about all of humanity. We all want to believe we’re the righteous brother. But we’re all wrong.
We are all prodigal.

What I know- wretched man that I am- is that I need someone to deliver me, to welcome me, even when I don’t deserve it, and even when I’m not fully repentant.  

What I know is that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him. 
What I know is that I’m not, no will I ever be, worthy of Christ’s sacrifice for my sake.  
What I know is that I’m lost.
Only God can help me.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Dissapearing God

I hate sounding old.

                                        I mean, I REALLY hate it,
                                                                                  but some things just need to be said.

I am becoming more convinced that we are a nation of followers, and not in a good way. 10 years ago, there were movies, songs, and TV shows that featured God prominently. Now there are next to none. God is not dead, just extinct in pop culture.

It all started for me a  couple of months ago, when a friend of mine (another pastor) called me laughing hysterically. In between laughing, he tells me that a women from his church had gone into his office professing CREED to be her new favorite band. She made him listen to three songs from the late 90s band, despite his insistence that he remembered the band clearly. For those of you who don't remember the late 90s, Creed was this intense, loud, guttural band that unabashedly sang songs about God. And they were popular. 

This song, "Higher" was a top 40 hit:
So let's go there
Let's make our escape
Come on, let's go there
Let's ask can we stay?

Can you take me Higher?
To a place where blind men see
Can you take me Higher?
To a place with golden streets

Here's the thing- music young people listen to today is mostly terrible. Music we listened to 10 years ago was mostly terrible too, but at least it had a message. Creed was mediocre at best, but at least the world was talking about God.
And they weren't the only ones. Six Pence, Lifehouse, POD, Reliant K, Switchfoot- all of these were big bands with big hits, and all started out in "christian rock."

Those songs are relegated to the "Mix" radio station,  aka the station for people who liked the music 10 years ago.

On a top 40 station, you're likely to hear this:
Today I don't feel like doing anything 
I just wanna lay in my bed  
Don't feel like picking up my phone, so leave a message at the tone 
'Cause today I swear I'm not doing anything
Not exactly inspirational. It's no wonder why churches aren't packed when there are social messages floating around in people's brains like that one. 

Before you all go quoting Mumford and Sons in the comments section, music isn't the only genre I find lacking. TV and Film are easily as agnostic. 
Here's a list of shows I watch today:  
How I Met Your Mother
Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
The New Girl
The Office
The Walking Dead
Mad Men

Not a one of these shows has a main character who actively believes in God, Christ, church, or prayer. And yet nearly all of these shows try to portray American youth culture.  

Emphasis on the word try. 

 According to the pew research poll, "Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion." 

When asked the question, "Do you believe in God," nearly 96% of all Americans answered "yes". Atheists and Agnostics make up only 4% of the US Population.

Why isn't God talked about anymore? Call me an old-timer, but I remember TV shows amd Movies that regularly developed plots on faith and religious culture. Remember The Simpsons, Joan of Arcadia, Touched by an Angel and *7th Heaven? Are there any prime-time shows like this anymore? How many crime scene shows have replaced them? Cold Case, Bones, The Following, Breaking Bad, and Dexter- these are not social upgrades!

Remember films like Dogma, Keeping the Faith, Bruce Almighty, Angels in the Outfield, All Dogs go to Heaven, and Raising Helen (I remember that one because Kate Hudson falls in love with Pastor Dan)? A main-stream movie like this hasn't been made in 10 years- since The Passion of Christ. 

It's like Mel Gibson scared everyone away from the genre.

Pop culture has lied to you by telling you that religion is not important to people. By the most conservative estimates, 20% of the US population attends worship every week. But look for one in five characters on television who fit that description, and you'll be up all night. We like to say that we water down religion in pop culture to not offend people and not be controversial, but by doing so we have made our characters less interesting, less dynamic, and less relate-able to the billions of people who believe in God. TV characters are more likely to be two dimensional, blown over by whatever whim or impulse their quarter-life-crisis interrupted their trip to the mall.
What's worse- in order to make up the gap in interesting people, 
we turn our dials to Serial Killers 
because they have depth
because they believe in something.

If the goal was to not offend people's religions beliefs, consider it a failure.  I'm offended.

I never thought I would miss Creed, and I still don't, but I miss feeling like there is a place for me in popular culture. 

If you agree, slap on your WWJD bracelet and let's get people talking about God some more.       

-Rev. Daniel Pugh


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

1 Corinthians 13, Valentines Day, and Boy-bands

              What is real Love? 

Poets, philosophers, screen-writers, psychics, preachers, tabloids, and every boy-band of all time  have all be searching for language to accurately describe and define real love.
And in the next eleven days, millions of men will pay Hallmark to help them find the words. Save your money, guys, and listen up.
1st Corinthians 13.  How many of us have heard this at weddings?
Love is patient and love is kind. These are sweet words from Paul. Aren’t they???

They remind me of a wedding of a young woman named Sophie.
She and her boyfriend started dating in high school youth group. They  dated through college and he proposed their senior year.  The wedding was beautiful, the pictures beautiful, the bride was beautiful. The words of 1st Corinthians 13 were read, and they were read beautifully.  

A few short years later, however, Sophie fell out of love. She sat her husband down and asked for a divorce. Sophie severed communication with many people in her life. She said that she didn't feel like she was being "true to herself" anymore.    

Her husband was distraught. He sat in a lonely apartment and started boxing up his things.  He took the wedding photos off the walls, and as he did, he thought about those sweet words of 1st Corinthians. What happened? Wasn't love enough? Where were those sweet words of 1st Corinthians when times got rough?
He went back and looked at those words. He studied them and prayed. He asked for discernment, and read what others say about love. Here's the answer that he got.

When you put these words back into the source of the letter, you realize that Paul has a much different tone than we are used to.The people in Corinth were struggling to love each other.

It’s important when reading a newspaper to realize what section you’re reading. You wouldn’t read the front page, the cartoon, and the editorials all the same way.
The same can be said about scripture. Paul is not writing a psalm. He is writing a letter. This is advice. 

It’s not cutesy love. It’s tough love.
It should read to us as tough advice. 

Love is patient. Love is Kind. Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...

There is no easy answer for why some relationships endure and others do not.

But we can say this: Love is tough.
Ultimately, we have one choice to make. Either we allow God to fill us with the Holy Spirit, so that our soul can be aligned with God, or else we will always have a spot that is empty, that is searching. And when your soul is empty, you're going to want to fill  it with passing emotions. Love comes in many forms. Eros, or romantic love, is fleeting. Agape, which is God's version of love, is eternal.
Let's make a distinction between authenticity and integrity. Authenticity is being true to yourself. Integrity is being in tuned to God. 

When I was a youth director I would take my guitar with us to Mexico. And during the trip, what started out as a perfectly tuned guitar would get a little out of tune. Without a tuner, all I could do was tune the guitar to itself. The chords sounded OK. Every day I'd tune the guitar to itself again, and we got through worship and praise just fine. But by the time I got home, the guitar sounded ok, but flat. After I tuned it, I struck a chord again. This time the sound was pure. It was perfect. It was in tune with it's destiny. The sound was heavenly. 

Getting a guitar in tune is like being filled with the Holy Spirit. It's having integrity that doesn't come from itself, but aligning itself with a higher power.

1st Corinthians 13, is talking about aligning itself with God's Agape.

Patience, kindness, non-resentfulness, truthfulness, endurance: each of these by itself would be a tall order to fill. Each would take training and stamina, like that of an athlete or a champion. As far as I know, there has only been one who  has been able to champion these words, and He is champion of the world. 

In Luke 4, Jesus Christ enters his home congregation after being tempted by the devil. He is now filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Which brings us to our Greek word of the day.  

You Greek word is pleroo, it is translated fulfilled/filled.
Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit.
When I talk to young people, I make a distinction between authenticity and integrity.

Jesus has been preaching and gathering a buzz. He goes to his hometown and delivers a whopper of a sermon. He sits down, and says, “today, this has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

After worship, Jesus is going to leave, and the people wonder why. Jesus tells them that he is called to be with all people.

Have you seen that movie (there are several) where  some person discovers something that is powerful, and instead of sharing it with the world, they keep it to themselves? 

That’s what the Nazarenes want Jesus to do. They want to keep him for themselves.  It is as if they are saying, "If you just stay here Jesus, you can be our preacher. You can get those people who don't come to worship very often, and maybe they will believe and come every week" -(This is not a new problem, by the way).

There are problems in Nazareth and Jesus could be a good parish rabbi. But that is not what he is called to. And when he explains that, they are filled with rage. Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit, and they are filled with rage. 

When Jesus refuses to stay, the Nazarenes decide that they are going to throw him off a cliff because if they can't have him, then they nobody can. 

This is what I call  "a toddler’s version" of love. A toddler might say that if you “really” loved me, you’d let me have another piece of cake. Or if you "really" loved me, you wouldn't go to work today.  
The is operating from the empty place. It's the sort of thing that Paul is a talking about when he says,
"If I speak with the tongue of angels, and have not love, I am just a noisy gong or a clanging symbol."  or- if I may add- an out-of-tune guitar.
 And, similar to a toddler, when they don’t get what they want, the Nazarenes are full of rage.
The kind of love Paul writes to the Corinthians 13 about being patient and kind are about the farthest thing from their mind.

When we think about love in its purest form, we think about God.
C.S. Lewis writes, “God creates the universe, already seeing the flies buzzing around the cross, and He does it anyway. God is love. God creates out of love.”
Our prayers, our ministries, and indeed our lives are in response to God's love for us. God loved us first. 

Once you are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given the stability that it takes to be vulnerable to love others. 

So whether you are getting married, about to purchase a valentines card, or thinking of starting a boy-band, consider these words again from Lewis, “One of the miracles of love is the power to see through love’s enchantments without becoming disenchanted.” 

Tuning your heart to Agape love will help you to walk like Jesus. And His are big shoes to fill.    

-Pastor Daniel Pugh