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SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH OF LOS ANGELES
Inspirational messages for Sunday May 24 through Saturday May 30.1
Sunday May 24, 2020
Life's Challenging Journey
And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. 57And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 58And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. 61And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:51-62
"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem."
Jesus was clear about his purpose providentially and was focused on fulfilling his destiny.
We live our lives between the promise of our potential and the possibility of our fulfillment. Somewhere in between where we are and where we are headed are challenges, circumstances and choices. Sometimes we seem to be standing still, marking time as it were without any progress. Other times we are side-stepping or backpedaling. Then there are times that we take a few steps forward and get pushed back trying all the time to advance toward our intended goal.
This Thing Called Life / As time goes by and the years unfold / We come to know what we’ve been told / Concerning this thing that we call life / With all of its ups and downs and strife / Because it provides what nothing else can give / Unlimited opportunities, just to live
It is in the living I guess we come to know / Just how much we appreciate life so / This thing called life is a precious gift / Given for you to use as the seasons shift / In each season there is a time / To make the most of your life's rhyme / For you to determine by what you'll be driven / To make the most of what you you've been given / And when the time comes to say so long / You can move on singing a song.
At times we describe life with metaphors using sports. Life revolves like baseball. We stand at home plate, waiting for a pitch to swing and knock the ball out of the park only to strike out, hit a foul, or even managing to get a hit only to realize that you seldom ever score. Life unwinds like basketball. Dribbling opportunities, fouling opponents, passing responsibilities, shooting for our goal, only to have our efforts bounce off, rim out, fall short and roll out of bounds. Life competes life football. Everyone trying as hard as possible to advance forward as fast as they can, blocking those who would advance faster and further and tackling those who would score before they do. Life is like ice hockey. Everyone on a slippery surface hitting at a puck, engaging in pugilistic antagonism that harms, hurts and hinders others from achieving while giving you an opportunity to achieve yourself.
Consider your life's journey as you reflect on the aforementioned descriptions about life.
Monday May 25, 2020
52"And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
In facing the uncertainty of what happens in life, we have a choice of how we perceive and respond to what occurs. Shakespeare in Macbeth / Macbeth act 5. In Act V, scene 5, Macbeth expresses the idea that "life is a tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Macbeth utters these lines after being told of his wife's death. To truly understand them, you must look at them in context, the full thought of which this lines are a part.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.(30) Shakespeare in Macbeth / Macbeth act 5. In Act V, scene 5.
In other words, life is meaningless. It lasts for a brief time and is full of "sound and fury", but in the end, nothing lasts. Life, a "walking shadow", something inconsequential, really doesn't amount to anything. Macbeth is realizing that all his machinations to become king and to keep the throne have come to nothing. He "made a lot of noise" and created quite a story, fought quite a battle, but in the end, nothing is to come of it.
Consider how you perceive and respond to life's uncertainty whether pessimistically or optimistically.
Tuesday May 26, 2020
53And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem."
54"And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
The liturgical calendar year chronicles the seasonal journey of our lives. We began with Advent, birth and beginning. We move to Epiphany, awakening to the awareness of the reality of what we've been given. Then comes Lent, a season of development through denial, discernment and discipline. Then there is Good Friday, Resurrection and Ascension, getting beyond and rising above the destructive forces of life and beginning again with new life. The last season Pentecost is the longest season as it depicts the necessity for perseverance, persistence and power to be propelled on your journey through life to fulfill your purpose.
The journey narrative is a special feature of Luke's gospel. The phrase "set his face" is unique to Luke and suggests Jesus' resolute and single-minded purpose toward his destiny.
The passage indicates that Jesus does not travel alone. He has disciples eager to follow him.
However, those with him responded in an unacceptable manner when met with opposition and rejection. We are not alone on life's journey or without company. However, being clear about our identity which informs our purpose (raison d'etre), requires discernment about those who accompany you and whether you follow their advice or be clear about your own counsel. Jesus reminds us that your purpose informs your actions.
Consider how you manage life's changing scenes and seasons when you feel rejected whether you respond with clarity about who you are or whether you respond to the emotion of the moment at the suggestion of those who are with you.
Wednesday May 27, 2020
55But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." 56For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
Today's gospel (Luke 9:51-62) has much to say about the current events in our world and lives. It shines light on the conflicts we experience and the ways our opinions and loyalties are torn and pulled in different directions. It reveals our brokenness. It names the reality that we, like James and John, are often quick to want to call down fire from heaven to consume those who oppose or reject us. Jesus reminds us that he came to save and not destroy. Jesus is about wholeness, mercy, forgiveness, and the dignity of humanity, reconciliation not revenge, help not hurt, fulfillment not failure.
The Judeo-Christian heritage principles are saturated through the warp and woof of the fabric of American society. The country has been founded on the premise as stated in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We need to be reminded of who we are as a people and our practices should conform to our principles. Jesus was clear about his identity and described his purpose to reconcile, redeem and restore people to well being and wholeness.
Consider how you can fulfill your purpose in Christ to help and not hurt, fulfill a positive purpose and not promote failure, save people rather destroy them.
Thursday May 28, 2020
57And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 58And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Jesus did not want and does not want those who follow him to be deluded about what it means to be a disciple of his. Jesus wants you to know that you will have to realign your allegiances, reassess your commitments, and reorder your priorities. You will have to give up something. If you are coming to me then you will have to realize that there may be a time and probably will come a time when I will not be welcomed nor will I be received graciously or even comforted, protected and sheltered. Every choice has built into it commitment. Jesus is transparent with those who come after him indicating that when you say yes to one thing you automatically say no to something else. If you come with me you will follow where I lead. If you commit to me you will accept what I expect of you. Jesus is aware that we are on a learning curve and that we start somewhere and need time to get to where he is taking us.
The prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi captures the curve we experience as a follower of Jesus.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; / Where there is hatred, let me sow love; / Where there is injury, pardon; / Where there is error, the truth; / Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope; / Where there is darkness, light; / And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, / Grant that I may not so much seek / To be consoled, as to console; /To be understood, as to understand; / To be loved as to love. / For it is in giving that we receive; / It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; / And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Consider where you are on the learning curve as a disciple of Jesus whether you are fulfilling the Lord's expectations of you or are you waiting the Lord to fulfill the expectations you have.
Friday May 29, 2020
59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. 61And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
Loyalty to Jesus is so often eclipsed by seemingly legitimate excuses. Jesus' own words make an important point about discipleship. Jesus' response to legitimate requests to postpone the journey reminds Christians in every generation that there are always justifiable excuses to defer the journey or put off the claims of discipleship. Other important matters compete for our attention. Some must make heart-wrenching choices, but there is urgency about Jesus' mission to bring forth God's reign. Our allegiance, commitment and loyalty to Jesus should preclude the competing interests that vie for our attention.
Each one of those conversations is about letting go or giving up something of ourselves and our lives. Setting our face like Jesus means that we put ourselves on a path of transformation of letting go of attachments that prevent us from realigning our allegiances, reassessing our commitments and reordering our priorities to fulfill the purpose of God for our lives in the world.
Today's gospel does not allow for excuses, justifications, running away or hiding. You either are or you are not, you will or you won't, you do or you don't, is an old expression. To struggle with the questions raised by today's gospel is the beginning of setting our face to go to fulfill our destiny in Christ.
Consider some of the seemingly legitimate and justifiable excuses people make for not following Jesus.
Saturday May 30, 2020
62And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:51-62
We can't go forward looking back. Looking in the direction to where you want to go keeps you focused on where you are heading. There are always those who want to go back to what was instead of moving forward through what is to what can be.
Setting our face to fulfill our destiny means letting go of the past, the dead places, and parts of our lives, the things that can no longer give or sustain life and growth. Jesus is emphasizing that destiny is about heading in the direction of fulfillment without making excuses as we can always find what we consider a legitimate rationale for delaying making a decision about fulfilling our destiny in him.
We live in a time when leaders are creating a false reality with alternative facts that are not real. Unfortunately, there are those who will support whatever they are told whether it is factual and truthful or not. Remember the caution of Voltaire, a prolific enlightenment French writer who advocated for civil freedoms, criticizing major institutions with the following words of wisdom. "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Imagine the atrocities that are being perpetuated by absurdities creating such adversity, antagonism and avarice.
Jesus challenges us to consider whether we are distant disciples, marginal members or peripheral participants in the body of Christ or are we committed unequivocally to achieving the expectations the Lord has of us to fulfill the destiny the Lord has for us.
The question is who are we going to follow, the prevailing practices that divide, denigrate and destroy or deliver from the oppressive forces that put persons in captivity in structures that are stifling the development of their potential.
Can we say with the words of the composer who wrote, I've decided to make Jesus my choice.
I have decided to trust the patterns, practices and principles advocated by Jesus more than any other.
Consider what Jesus expects you should be doing to be a committed follower of his in the climate and environment we are experiencing today.