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“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second commandment is like it’ Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37, 39-40

“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending by sending His own Son in the likeness of the sinful flesh to be a sin offering. Romans 8:3

There are two phrases which seem to capture so much of our thoughts and discourse lately. The first is the aspect that “There should be a law…..”. The second is the statement: “Everything I did was legal”. In and with these two concepts; there seems to lie an idea that the law and legalism can fix and judge most if not everything. Sadly perhaps, that rarely, if ever is the case. Why?

The reason laws, in and of themselves, rarely “fix” the society which instigated them, is that laws are really not designed to do that. Laws are meant to be a reflection of the society which passed them versus a mandated control on that society.

Let’s take discrimination on the aspect of race/ethnicity for example. For most of the history of the United States, the bulk of society felt the separation of races was an appropriate and correct characteristic of society. In fact there were a plethora of laws and court rulings which supported the legal separation of the races. Now contrary to what might be popular belief, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not the beginning of the change of that belief in the United States. No, although all too slow and painful, the heart of society changed when it came to how different races were to be treated. The heart of the nation saw that separate was not equal. However, societies are not, or least the nation of the United States is not, a unanimous moving entity. Society realized (and realizes) that there will be some who do not agree with the “heart” of society and want to go against its wishes. Therefore, to insure that society can enforce the desires of its heart, it codifies those desires into a or many laws so that those who agree with society as well as those who don’t, understand and can be held accountable to the behavior which is deemed appropriate based on the society’s desires.

Thus what we need to understand is that the passing of a law is neither the beginning, or should not be the end, of bringing about the behavior/culture that the society is seeking. For a law to be effective, there should be a will, a “heart of the matter” which is the foundation for that law, that society has agreed to. Additionally, just because a law is passed, does not mean that society’s efforts are finished. For a law to be successful it needs to be only a part of a larger cultural explanation and education process with brings about the most accurate alignment possible with the largest sections of the society with the foundation of why the law was passed. The larger the majority that believes in the law, the more effective the law will be plus the easier it will be to administer. There’s an additional consideration and that is to those who come new into the society. Here I’m talking about children primarily but can also apply to immigrants. It is more important that children learn the moral aspect, for example, that is it is not appropriate behavior to take something from someone else just because you desire it versus there is a law against stealing and the law is why you don’t do it. We need to teach what is at the heart of the law and not just the legal terms used to define it.

The reason that ideas and issues such as gun control, abortion and climate change, just for a few examples, are so difficult to draft laws around, is that our society has yet to come to an understanding of where society’s “heart” is concerning these matters. Oh yes, it is easy to site a statistical poll that most in the society support this or are against that. However, in most contentious issues, when you get past a percentage number, you find that there is a wide variance of opinion on just what that poll number accurately reflects.

Now let’s briefly take a look at a second part, the legalism part. So, we’ve been able to actually pass a law about something. By its very nature, it will have a statute which specifically defines the nature of the law and what constitutes a failure to uphold the law, as well as penalties. However, no law crafted has ever been so wise and carefully worded to be able to foresee all circumstances which might come into play concerning the law. Thus, a person might bring about great harm to another individual or group; however, the circumstances of the particular incident were not taken into account by some seemingly applicable statute. Therefore, the person states, with accuracy, that they did everything according to the law and therefore what they did was just fine. Going back to the previous paragraph, remember a law is meant to capture the spirit, will and/or desire of a society towards appropriate or inappropriate behavior. That the law can ‘t capture every foreseeable act doesn’t mean that the spirit, will or desire of society has not been breeched. Which means that stating some behavior was “completely legal”, does not additionally mean that behavior was not indeed offensive to society and went against what society had desired for appropriate behavior. It only mean that the writers of the law were not clairvoyant enough to predict every behavior one might attempt to circumvent the heart/will of society.

Why bring this up now dear Sisters and Brothers? Because, we seem more and more to look to human derived fixes, like laws to try and solve our societal ills. There is not evil in society; no, there is only a lack of an appropriate law with which to guide society to a more blissful existence. Paul was very clear as he spoke of the laws of commandments given by God. It’s not a particular law, or lack of a particular law that is the issue, it is in our heart and our desire to follow the law which is the issue.

So it is there we must always start; the heart. How is our heart aligned with the Heart of God which brought about the two greatest commandments? The two greatest commandments on which all other necessary, appropriate laws and teachings are based, are commandments of love; love for the Father and each other. That dear Sisters and Brothers is where our hearts must reside. Are we looking to “laws” that are laws based on the commandments of love? Are we looking for some type of legalese which can relieve ourselves from the process of reflecting on our own behavior and intentions based on appropriate love; allowing us to say “Well I wouldn’t have but the law said to do it,”.

Laws aren’t inherently good or bad but can become so depending upon to what extent we’re willing to reflect on the intent of the law and how connected the individual law is to the Greater Commandments of Love upon which all appropriate laws are based. It is by having the appropriate heart, sharing and teaching that heart to others, that we stand the best chances of having just laws and a society that brings praise to our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we confess that on our own we do not know how to behave. We are thankful, Most Merciful Father, that you have given us commandments by which we can learn what is acceptable behavior. We further confess that even with Your commandments we fall short of Your desires and are thankful that You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the commandments, allowing our salvation which we could not do ourselves. Guide us Father when we seek to pass our own laws that they would conform and align with Your commandments of love. Keep us from the temptation Father to create laws in conflict with Your commandments and more in line with worldly desires. That in creating our laws our hearts would be centered on Your Love for us allowing us to live just lives that bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen

What do we do? How should I respond? Why can’t we or they stop this? Here’s a start. Today, find someone. Actively seek someone who needs an act of kindness AND ACT. That’s what we all can do. We can start to build or strengthen a culture where caring about vs. fighting with becomes the norm. Yes there may be a place for more legislation or more physical protection for locations. BUT DON’T WAIT OR COUNT ON THAT TO HAPPEN. Your and mine act of kindness just may be the connection a disturbed, distraught person needs. Our act of kindness may be the reason a trigger doesn’t get pulled, that a person may see some light in their present world of darkness. Strive to start with one act and build from there. And God will be with you in your attempt. Pray for Uvalde. Pray for Buffalo.

Heavy, trembling sigh. Look around, let your gaze wander. Places, like Ukraine, letter designations next to names like R or D, or a sequence starting with L, ethnicities, genders, rich, poor, gun rights or gun legislation, pro choice or pro life, law enforcement and law breakers and of course I could go on but you get the point. These are all points of difference, differences that can lead to divisions that lead us to what? Please, please understand, when we look to the differences and how we want to respond, feel driven to respond; HATE IS POISON! There is no righteous hate. There is no commandment, this person or that idea, thou must hate. HATE IS A POISON. Hate, like all poisons, destroys. Sometimes, hate is ingested in such levels that it destroys almost immediately. Sometimes, hate is ingested just a little at a time and its destruction takes a significant length of time to do its damage. HATE IS POISON. Hate is a poison that not only destroys the one who ingests it but also so often hugely damaging to those around that person as well. Did Jesus hate the person who betrayed Him? No He washed his feet. Jesus surely hated the Romans who killed Him. No, He healed one of their servants. Jesus must have hated those who falsely accused and had Him condemned. No, Jesus forgave them from the cross as He died. Look around, the tragedies of war and mass shootings may scream for you to be filled. You will undoubtedly hear words of hate as reaction. And if HATE IS POISON what is the antidote? LOVE. LOVE IS THE NOURISHMENT OF THE SOUL. Jesus Christ nailed it. LOVE! LOVE THE FATHER, LOVE EACH OTHER, LOVE EVEN OUR ENEMIES. Where do we get such love and the ability to share it? All we have to do is ask. Please, Please ask this very moment for the LOVE of Christ to come; to come to you and through you to the world beyond. Pray for Uvalde. Pray for Buffalo. Pray for Ukraine. Pray for Love

I was walking our dog yesterday. There was something she saw or smelled across the street and off she started to go. There was nothing wrong or misbehaving in her actions. The only issue was the large Jeep bearing down on where she was starting to walk. I always walk her on a leash so it was no problem to stop her. Here’s the thing, it’s not that she didn’t see the Jeep, she was just incapable of perceiving the danger. To her, her actions seemed appropriate and the goal was worth the action. It took someone else with greater capacity to see the danger and intervene. So? It got me thinking how often do I/we want something, something that seems completely appropriate, something good and off I/we go. We may act. We may pray and act. We may pray and wait, hoping to act. Then we are stopped. We’re not dogs. We’re not God’s pets. We are His thinking creation. If we’re not careful, in our arrogance we may feel we have the perfect perspective. If we are stopped in our tracks, thwarted from our goal, we may conclude God is wrong, that God doesn’t understand, that God has missed something. Instead let us understand that God’s perspective is perfect. We imperfectly know now and can’t see next. God is the God of now as well as next. God loves us and in that love will keep us from walking into the disaster of our own misperception. So should we be allowed to reach our goal, thank God for the blessing. Should we be stopped, thank God in faith for saving us from that disaster we could not perceive. You are loved by a God who always, perfectly knows best.

I! I? Oh the message of the world today. I can do anything! I can be anything! I can have it all! It would seem that “I” is the h “I” ghest concept of all. Enter Jesus Christ and the cross. Consider that the closest letter in the alphabet to the cross, in shape, is the letter “t”. Add the letter t to the phrase I can and you get I can’t. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is crystal clear when He states “apart from Me, you CAN DO NOTHING“. I can sure try but I’ll never thrive. I can sure strive but I will never be successful…..until I become a part of the blessed We. Please, please understand, Jesus Christ is not telling you that You are inconsequential. No, Jesus goes on to promise us; abide in Me and you will do things that are great, even greater things. You see we were never created to be “I” apart from or outside of Jesus Christ. It is in the blessed We, that we we are created to live abundantly. How much does it cost, what is the entrance fee to become part of the blessed We? All you have to do is accept the invitation. All you have to do is knock, seek or ask and Jesus Christ will come and join you. Oh and please understand this, there is a price required to be a part of that relationship. The truth is that Jesus Christ completely paid that price in full with His life. Thus let us leave behind the isolation of the worldly “I” existence and live into the blessed We of Jesus Christ and me.

Good Friday is absolutely the correct title. Yes, the horrific treatment Jesus was going through was terrible and led to a barbaric death. However, at the same time and, in fact the reason for His death was He was becoming sin. He became or took upon Himself our sin. So now when Our Heavenly Father considers and sees us, He sees us as innocent because of what Jesus accomplished. So it is good, very good for us, the sacrifice Jesus made for us today. Only good and not great? The Greater thing comes three days hence with His resurrection. Let us live into that sacrifice and see the greatness of His Good act.

So this Sunday, we’re going to gather together and shout loudly: “He is Risen!”, which is a quite proper thing to do. However, if we shout that simply as a celebration in and a pronouncement of a several thousand year old event, then we tragically miss the greater meaning. You see “He is Risen” is a proclamation of a current blessed reality. Jesus Christ is a very much risen, all powerful, living Savior this very moment! That the world refuses to acknowledge this and instead turns to worldly solutions and actions like war, greed, hate, envy and so many more useless pursuits does not diminish Christ’s power or purpose in the slightest. Christ is living at the Right Hand of God and His Love, Grace, Forgiveness and Mercy are as sustaining now as they ever have been. So while Easter Sunday is the traditional day of celebration, every day is the appropriate day of proclamation of He is Risen with the faithfully living into all the blessings and love that are connected to that truth. May you have a Blessed Easter.

Yes…but. Will the worldly clouds obscure the silver lining of God’s blessings? Today, if you’re open to it, you will be blessed by God. I say open to it because, like any gift, if you never accept it, open it or use it, then there’s little or no value to it. The world and the prince of this world wants to distract you from seeing any blessings or at the very least minimize the blessings to the greatest extent possible. How?, with messages like yes I might have received a blessings but there is suffering over here or there, or yes but the blessing won’t last, tomorrow will be bad, or yes but the blessing could have been bigger/better. It’s not like God doesn’t want you to be empathetic or sympathetic; indeed, He wants you to experience the blessings so that you might share the blessings with others in need so they might know of God’s love. God is a God of infinite resources and power. It’s not like the fact that He blessed you today means He’s running out of blessings to be able to give tomorrow. God knows exactly the correct amount of blessing to give. As too much sugar can ruin a cake, a blessing that is the wrong size too large can bring about more damage then good. Jesus Christ is clear when He said: “In the world you will have tribulation”. Christ was also clear that we can still be of good cheer and expect blessings because Christ has overcome the world by the plan of Our Father. So don’t allow the clouds of the world to obscure the power of the blessing. Instead, do two things today. First, live into the love and blessings from God with thanksgiving. Then, share God’s blessings so that the world may feel some healing and know God’s love. Happy, blessed Monday and week.

Jesus Christ knows it’s not easy…..for us. Especially during this season of Lent, let us stop and truly contemplate that Jesus Christ left perfection and came down to us, for us. Christ came to be salvation because every last one of us needs a Savior. Christ not only died for us but He also taught us what it means to truly live. Now sometimes His teaching could be a bit nuanced but at other times it was completely crystal clear. Sooo? We are seeing our fallen nature on full display at this time. There is a war on. One country has invaded another with no justifiable reason and is reeking havoc and destruction on the innocent. Jesus would agree that praying for the Ukrainians is a right and powerful thing to do. However, if we stop there, if the prayer ended with the Ukrainians, Jesus could and probably would warn us, we weren’t listening. For Jesus knew we would have enemies. Understand, Jesus did not preach that we SHOULD have enemies, He didn’t supply us with a righteous enemies list. No, He knew in our fallen state, that enemies would come. And Jesus taught about what we should do when our enemies attack, how we should treat them (Oh this is so hard). Christ was clear; we should love our enemies, we should do good to those who hate us. Christ not only taught it, He lived it. Remember as He hung dying on the cross; Jesus did not just declare His forgiveness to those who were crucifying Him, He prayed to God: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”. Pray for the Russians? Watching their barbarism, find some sort of love for the Russians? Jesus you ask too much! Maybe I can mumble some meaningless stuff with a Russia thrown in, but can I mean it? Christ knows it’s hard. In fact He knows, on our own, it’s probably impossible. He doesn’t want us to try. Jesus implores us to abide in Him. It is by being in Him and calling upon His name that His strength will allow us to overcome our desire for revenge and hatred. To find the love of Christ we must first look to Christ. With Christ within us we can find the place where we can add the Russians to our prayers of hope, reconciliation, peace and yes even love. In the Blessed Name of Jesus Christ pray for Ukraine and yes, in the Blessed Name of Jesus Christ, pray for Russia.

So there might be many that are saying to God, asking God, pleading with God, demanding of God, even blaming God: “God, why don’t you stop this war!?” “Why aren’t you saving us?” It is an understandable request. But to all I would suggest that we take a step back, take a deep breath, look in the mirror and contemplate this. We are asking God to SAVE US FROM OURSELVES! We are quite accurately describing just who we are. We need to acknowledge that. What’s happening in Ukraine is not some asteroid crashing out of the sky or volcano belching destruction from the depths below. No, through hatred, anger, fear, covetousness, self-glory seeking, despotic tendencies and the list goes on, this is man-made as all wars are. “Oh that’s not me” you respond, that’s only him or her. Jesus Christ would ask us; have we never felt hatred in our hearts towards another? We may not have great armies at our disposal but have not ever lashed out in anger? Have we never blindly and unfairly judged another or sought out our own glory at the expense of another? The worldly motivations are the same. Here’s the thing, God listens and He will save. But we can’t miss this, our salvation starts with a humble request from our brokenness and not our demanding from some false sense of righteousness. It starts with confession, not command. In our humble confession and plea, Jesus Christ will come. And as Jesus lifted Peter up from the storm tossed sea when he was sinking, Jesus will lift us as well. We are sinking in the world tossed storm of lusts, envy, fear anger and hatred. Jesus will lift us, through His power, to a place where His grace reigns and our worldly tendencies are replaced by His overpowering love as long as we reach out to and focus on Him. The end of man’s inhumanity to man will not come from the works of man. The end of that begins with the humble, confessional ask to God.

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