Pentecost, Tuesday, Year C

Inspired by Ezekiel 11:14-25

“I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them.  Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”  Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NRSV)

Have you ever done something that benefited yourself and hurt another person in the process?  Have you ever been cruel or heartless, acting out of your own pain and not caring who else might be injured by your words or actions?  Have you ever thought about what you’ve done and felt shame, wondering how God could ever love a person as undeserving as you?

All of us have done things to hurt other people, either intentionally or thoughtlessly.  And most of us have felt some shame over our actions, and felt unworthy of all the love and sacrifice God has given for us.  Perhaps we tried to put some distance between us and God, believing that we had to somehow ‘improve’ ourselves before we could present ourselves to him and ask for his love.

Such distance is not necessary.  God knows our struggles, knows what we are capable of, and knows our limitations.  We don’t have to become perfect in order to deserve his love; we are incapable of such perfection.  He loves us because he chooses to, and that’s before we do anything, good or bad, loving or cruel.

Seek him out in prayer; look for his acts of love in the world.  You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love; he already loves you.  Let him replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh.  He will enable you to discern and obey his will.  He is your God, and you are his beloved child.

Let us pray.  Merciful Lord, you are grieved by the sins we commit against each other and against you.  Give us new hearts, that we may recognize each other as your beloved children, and act with the love and grace that you have shown to us.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Pentecost, Monday, Year C

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 2:1-11

“And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (NRSV)

There seems to be an entire genre of book devoted to arguments intended to disprove the Christian faith.  Their authors point out historical inconsistencies and contradictions in the biblical witness, remind us of the failures of church leaders past and present, and highlight all the pain and suffering in the world as proof that the loving God in which Christians believe cannot possibly exist.

Such books are no threat to Christianity, and are even opportunities for Christians to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Christian faith engages our reason and intellect, but it is not based on a logical argument.  It is based on the experience of the incarnate Christ in our world and in our lives.  Logic says that when a person is on a destructive and immoral path, the best thing you can do is stay away from them, let them self-destruct, and take measures to ensure your own safety.  But we have seen many examples of Christians showing love where hate or apathy would have been more logical, and thus helping a destructive and immoral person to embrace a healthier approach, experience redemption, and become transformed by faith.  And anyone who has experienced the irrational behavior of another person forgiving them their failures and giving them a second chance they do not deserve knows that God exists, God is love, and God is powerful.

Practicing forgiveness, showing love, and having hope in this fallen and imperfect world are completely illogical.  But they are also transformative, life-giving, and undeniable evidence of the power of God.

Let us pray.  God of hope, you knew our desperate plight, and sent us your Son to redeem us.  Help us to recognize your deeds of power in the world, that we may be encouraged by them even when everything else seems to be falling apart.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Day of Pentecost, Year C

Inspired by Acts 2:1-21

“All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’  But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’  But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them.  ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.’”  Acts 2:12-15 (NRSV)

A common stereotype of Christian believers is that they are very proper, very reserved, and would never do anything shocking, controversial, or deviant from the normal expectations of society.

A true Christian believer could never adhere to this stereotype.

God himself controversially broke into human history as the incarnate Christ, deviating from all the religious and societal expectations of how a proper deity should act.  Christ was shockingly crucified as a common criminal, and died, and then rose again.  Those who follow him are following someone who isn’t enslaved to rigid codes of conduct or behavior, but rather to proclaiming the radical gospel of God’s grace to all the sinners of the world.

On the Day of Pentecost the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Those around them mistook the gift of the Spirit for intoxication, and dismissed the apostles as drunkards.  But the apostles weren’t concerned with human approval; they had been called and gifted by the Spirit, and responded to that call.

How might God be calling you to spread his good news?

Let us pray.  Radical God, you are not bound by human ideas of convention and respectability.  Open our hearts to your call, that we may boldly proclaim your gospel in whatever ways you deem appropriate.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.