God is Still Speaking
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir to all things….” Hebrews 1:1-2
Each Sunday, we hear God speaking through the words of the prophets and others from the Old Testament, and the words of Jesus, the disciples and early Christians in readings from the New Testament.
We receive additional insights into God’s messages in Continuing Testaments — selected readings from recent writings as other sources of revelation. Some of these are included here.
Continuing Testaments are usually taken from articles, books, and other written sources, by well-known and by lesser known persons, who have an important message to tell. We are sure these will be of interest to you.
These Continuing Testament readings are from recent Worship Services:
from Gratitude Is More Than Saying Thanks – by John Thomas [edited]
Why do you suppose the Samaritan came back to thank Jesus? After all, Jesus hadn’t made a formal “thank you” part of the bargain. He simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The Samaritan’s nine partners, obviously, felt no need to return. Why the Samaritan? Perhaps he had a mother who drummed into him the obligation to write thank-you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts! More likely, the answer may be found in the identity of the man himself. He is a leper like the other nine. But alone among the 10, he is a Samaritan. As such, he is twice scorned, twice rejected, twice removed from the community. Perhaps this Samaritan leper suffered more, and thus his healing evokes a more profound gratitude.
Maybe Mom was onto something more important than just proper etiquette, in reminding us to say “thank you”. It’s important to remember that we live in a profoundly interdependent world, and that the strength of our communities and the health of our souls comes not as entitlement, but as gift. Saying a prayer before meals acknowledges that my life depends on God’s bounty – and on a host of people who grew, processed, distributed, prepared, and served the food. Saying a prayer by a hospital bed admits that my health rests in God’s love – as well as in the skills of scientists, physicians, nurses, and a host of people who maintain these places of care.
Giving thanks is an expression of our awareness that the best gifts – and many of the joys of life – are not things we can give ourselves, but come from beyond us.
Each “thank you” becomes a way to practice gratitude, so that more and more our lives are weaned away from the myth of entitlement, arrogance, isolation, and independence. Each “thank you” becomes a way to practice gratitude, so that more and more our lives are shaped by the truth of our belonging to others – and to God!
From “Clearing the Slate” – by Alan Brehm [edited]
Many of us today are uncomfortable admitting that we have sinned, and even more so that we are sinners. In the evangelical world, people tend to think “I’m saved. I asked Jesus into my heart and confessed my sin on such-and-such a date.” So while they may feel the need to periodically confess really bad actions, they tend to think they’ve already confessed to being a sinner – they’ve got that part covered. In our mainstream branch of Christianity, we tend to think “I’m a good person, I go to church, I try to help people and be kind to them, I volunteer my time.” We may feel like the demand to confess that we are sinners is offensive, given all our efforts at living the Christian life.
And yet, acknowledging our sin is something that remains an important part of an ongoing relationship with God. When we refuse to acknowledge our sin, it tends to fester inside us and comes out in all kinds of ways that aren’t so pleasant. Pride, anger, bitterness, and other behaviors that are attributed to a “psychological” origin, may relate to repressed guilt. I think we can all relate to the sense of foreboding we have when we know we’ve messed up, and there are going to be consequences to pay, but it hasn’t happened yet. That’s one more clue that we need the relief and release that comes when we confess our sin.
The confession of sin is an important part of learning to trust in God. As long as we hold back and refuse to acknowledge who we really are and what we’ve done, there must be some doubt in our minds about whether God really accepts us. But when we let go the burden, we find God’s love embracing us, and God’s grace and mercy healing us. When we make ourselves vulnerable by approaching God with the confession, “I am a sinner,” and experience not condemnation, but acceptance, forgiveness and love, we walk away from that experience with a stronger sense of trust in the One who has embraced us.
From “How to Heal Like Jesus” – by Lia Scholl [edited]
I really, really want the Bible to be a good guide for how to do ministry, and how to help change people’s lives. So let’s look at the story of Jesus healing the widow of Nain’s son, and see how if it’s a DIY [Do It Yourself] guide to healing people.
Step #1: Pay Attention. We have to be paying attention! Jesus is walking along, sees a funeral procession and notices the mother of the deceased boy or man. He notices her. Do we, as the Church, notice when people are in pain? On Sunday morning do we look into the faces of those we love, and register when we see sadness? Do we notice unhappiness in their face? Do we even notice if people are present or absent? We have to pay attention, if we’re going to minister.
Step #2: Give a Crap.. How easy it would have been for Jesus to just walk on by. No one expected him to heal every sick or dead person who crossed his path. Nevertheless, Jesus gave a crap! [How’s that for High Liturgical Language!] Do we honestly care, or are we so tied up in “proper” Church language, rules, order and politics that we don’t have time to really make a difference in people’s lives?
Step #3: Be Willing to Feel. We have to be willing to feel! This passage says that Jesus’ “ heart went out to her.” We have to be willing to extend our hearts and to share the hurt. That’s what compassion is – a willingness to feel and share someone’s pain.
Step #4: Trust that Healing Can Happen. We can’t just walk up to someone who is sick [or dead] and command that they get better! It doesn’t really work that way. Yet genuine healing can still happen if the first 3 Steps are in place. It may not be a supernatural, immediate healing. But healing can happen, through our paying attention to people’s needs, walking alongside them for the long-haul, being with them on a day-in and day-out basis, listening, caring, holding, and loving. Do those things, and healing happens!
From “A dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect” – by Pope Francis [an address given on his visit to Turkey in November, 2014]
Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them. There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.
To this end, it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.
For more Continuing Testaments, please see our Sunday Bulletins, which include all readings each week.
The concept that “God is Still Speaking” is a belief of the wider United Church of Christ, that we have embraced here at Brecksville UCC. To read more, please click here.