Reflections on Faith and Community
In this blog, you will find weekly reflections on life and faith. My hope is that, in some way, they will prove helpful to you in your daily living. May God bless you on the spiritual journey.
Andrew S. Odom
You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Roman 8:9)
Towards the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, we read the story of Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan. The way Matthew tells it, John the Baptist has been telling people all about the one more powerful than he will come and baptize with fire. “I’m not worthy to tie his shoes,” John tells them. But when Jesus appears, he is expecting John to baptize him. “No,” John says. “You should baptize me.” But Jesus insists in what feels like a really awkward conversation between the two of them.
Matthew is the only gospel to have this awkward back and forth between Jesus and John the Baptist over who should baptize who. So why include it? Well, the suggestion I made is that, by including this very human conversation, Matthew is helping us see a little bit of ourselves in it. Here, in a moment that is otherwise supposed to be holy, we get a very human Jesus in a very human moment. If we can perhaps see a little bit of ourselves in Jesus, then we might begin to see a little bit of Jesus in us. This is Matthew’s hope.
C.S. Lewis has a wonderful image that helps with the notion of seeing Christ in ourselves. “Imagine yourself as a living house,” says Lewis, “and God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what God is doing. God is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on, and you know that those jobs needed doing, so you’re not surprised. But then God
starts knocking the house about in a way that does not seem to make sense, and you start to wonder what on earth God is up to? The explanation is that God is building a different house from one you thought of, putting in a new wing here, adding on an extra floor there. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but God is building you into a palace, one that God intends to come and live in himself.”
This is the work of faith, that we might grow into the palace of our humanity as God in Jesus Christ slowly but surely makes a home in our hearts and in our lives.
Published on 01/13/2020 @ 10:11 PM CDT
…so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:12)
Years ago, the Apostle Paul wanted to give the people in the church in Ephesus a gift. The gift comes in the form of the opening lines of the letter, verse 12 serving as the ribbon tied around it all. When you read the beginning of Ephesians, it might help you to picture a giddy little kid slowly opening a huge gift with wide open eager eyes filled with wonder. That’s how Paul wants you to read it. In fact, what you may not know is that all of the opening to Ephesians is one long sentence. That’s right, in the original Greek, it is one long sentence meant for you to slowly savor each phrase as you open this massive gift.
What is the gift? The gift is the grace God has so benevolently given to us in Christ. Here is a summarized, one sentence, version:
“In Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, for God has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love having been destined for adoption as God’s children, since we have redemption through his blood according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us, and God will gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth, for we have obtained an inheritance, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.”
That is one great big sentence, and one great big gift. Paul’s hope is that you read it with the eagerness of a giddy child opening a present for the first time. My hope is that it reminds of all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ, lavishing grace upon us that we might know the joy that comes with life. It’s one final Christmas gift from me to you.
Published on 01/06/2020 @ 8:13 PM CDT
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Do you believe in fresh starts? I admit that I do. I believe in an endless amount of fresh starts. I believe God gives us an endless amount of fresh starts. Grace to me includes that. I don’t deserve it, but I believe it is there. I rely on it, not in the sense that I think I can just go out and do whatever I want because God will let me start again, but because even in my most earnest efforts to do right and be right, I will mess up. The quality of a God who embraces us even when we mess up is something I can’t hear enough. I have to be reminded of it again and again, and I am always deeply grateful of that reminder.
The New Year is one of those times when I am reminded of fresh starts. There is something about turning from one year to the next that feels like a fresh start, like we have been given the gift of looking out at the world with fresh eyes and a newfound hope. As I look at the year ahead, my prayer is that it brings its own wonders, knowing full and well that there will be difficult times ahead for our world. My prayer is that we find ourselves loving where we didn’t think it was possible and hoping where we didn’t think it was merited. My prayer is that God instill us with a fresh faith and a fresh outlook. My prayer is that the God we have come to know in Jesus Christ be fully part of this year to extend the hand of grace. I believe in fresh starts.
Published on 12/30/2019 @ 8:57 AM CDT
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)
What memories do you have of Christmas? Over the years I have served as a pastor, listening to people speak about life and all that goes on in their life, the more I have seen how different our perspectives really are. We share the same faith, and yet we each bring a different experience to it. We belong to the same church, and yet we each see it a little differently. We celebrate the same seasons, and yet we each have different things to say about them.
All of us grew up with some kind of experience around Christmas. Some of us have fond memories of what might be called the idyllic kind of Christmas, you know, the kind you see in Hallmark movies. Others of us have harder memories. Some of us grew up looking forward to what will happen on Christmas morning. Others of us not so much. We each fall somewhere along the spectrum of what Christmas memories we have. What memories do you have of Christmas?
Here is the good news. The birth of Jesus is not told in order to conjure up the fond or harsh memories we have about our own Christmas experience. The birth of Jesus is told in order to open up our hearts to the life of God. The Jesus of the manger comes to us right where we are in life with no preconceived notions. The Jesus of the manger comes to us no matter where we are or who we are. The Jesus of the manger comes that we might know God in the same way God knows us. Now that is good news for any and all of us. Merry Christmas!
Published on 12/23/2019 @ 8:30 AM CDT
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)
What a weekend of music! On Sunday morning we had two incredible worship experiences. At 9am our worship team led us in an incredible experience of worship with the music of the season. Then at 11:05, our talented choir and orchestra, directed by David Hays, presented Handel's Messiah. It was outstanding. And finally, later that evening we gathered around the tree in the Atrium of the church, drank hot chocolate, ate cookies, and sang Christmas carols. It was great.
To me, there is something quite holy about a church at night. I often feel a sense of peace and calm, more so then than during the day. It is an almost irreplaceable feeling, the one you get at a church at night when people sing together and deeply want to do so. That’s the feeling I had Sunday night, the kind of feeling you have when you sense the presence of God right there with you in the room.
I wonder what people driving by that night thought. As cars drove south on North Star Road and looked over to see the light on in the church windows and the tree and a room full of people around it singing together. What did they think when they saw us there? Who knows? There is part of me that wonders if those passing by looking in on us as we sang gained a small sense of Christmas joy, the kind of joy that can grow into something more. Perhaps they experienced a smidgeon of that almost irreplaceable feeling that God is right there with them. Perhaps that’s what they felt as they passed by the angels in the Atrium Sunday night.
Published on 12/15/2019 @ 8:47 PM CDT