Christ, the Light of the World

May you experience the presence of Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere, in everyone, so that hope will abound in your life and the world you live in. There is no corner of the planet where Christ is not. And may you share the light of Christ that is within you with everyone you meet, wherever you are, everyday.

Wilfredo Juan Baez

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In God I Trust: God is Faithful to the Faithful

In God I Trust:
Faithful to the Faithful
1 Kings 3:5-14
Rev. Wilfredo J. Baez  PH.D.

God is faithful to the faithful.   What does that mean; God is faithful to the faithful?  God rewards those who align their will with God’s and walk in the ways of God.  This is an immutable law; alignment with God’s desire, making one’s own will God’s will, leads to God’s will being fulfilled in you.  It takes trust in God to be faithful to God.  If you trust in God or have at least been willing to try will you say after me, “In God I trust.”  Faith is trust in God which is ultimately trust in Life and trust in your deepest, highest and truest self.

That’s what this Old Testament reading is about.  Solomon had been elevated as a young man to the throne of his father David; big shoes to fill, no doubt.  But what does Solomon do?  Solomon trusts God.  He prayed to God, “And now, O Lord my God, you have made me your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.”

What Solomon could have done!  He could have led by his own devices.  He could have led by his own counsel or the counsel of those around him.  But rather than rely solely on his own worldly knowledge and experience and that of his advisors he put his trust in God.  And although he had a great intellect, he knew intuitively to trust not in those around him, but to trust the source of life which resided deep within him, the deepest stratus of identity.  What was his motto?  In God I trust.  Will you make “in God I trust” your motto this week?  Post it where you can see it.  Repeat it to yourself.  Let’s try it right now:  “In God I trust!”

It was already so that Solomon had a relationship with God as God appeared to him in a dream and told Solomon to “ask what I should give you.”  You can ask it this way too, “What do I want from God?”  If God was to ask you that question what would you answer?   Let’s see what Solomon answered.  

Solomon had witnessed his father David’s relationship with God; a good example of a father for a son.  And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.”  

What a gift David left Solomon!  What an example, even though David wasn’t a perfect man.  He was arrogant at times and ruthless.  He made some poor choices and major mistakes.  And he paid a price for his actions.  But God wasn’t expecting perfection out of David.  God was expecting faithfulness, righteous and uprightedness in heart.  He was seeking right intention and devotion.   He was seeking David’s attunement with his own righteousness; that being a vibrancy of being of the same frequency of God.  You can use the word godliness in place of righteousness.  And that’s what he was hoping for from Solomon.  

And it’s what God is hoping for from you and me; faithfulness, righteousness and uprightedness, not perfection.  The Buddha put it this way; right desire, right action and right livelihood.  Jesus put it; “my Father’s will; God’ will; the way, the truth and the life that leads to unity with the will of God; not what I want God, what you want; your will is my will.”  Joseph and Mary provided the example of this in their own lives for Jesus.  Can you imagine leaving that legacy for your own children, grand children and great grand children; trust in God!  What legacy would you like to leave your progeny?   “In God I trust.”

So what did Solomon ask God for?   Solomon answered, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern your great people?”

Think of all the things that Solomon could have asked for; power over people, riches, wives, military prowess and he asked for wisdom by which to lead and to discern right from wrong.  Imagine a world where our political and business leaders sought this, we as parents and grandparents sought this as heads of households and families and we as lay and clergy leaders sought this for leading our churches, faith communities and secular communities; where our leaders and every human lived by what motto?  “In God I trust!”

Solomon’s request pleased God and not because God needed anything from Solomon.  God doesn’t need anything from us.  God’s desire is for our well-being.  God wants the best of us and from us for us.  There’s no selfishness in God.  That in itself is a great example for us; to be selfless and let God manifest in us, through us and around us.  Solomon did something that Jesus did later on.  He put God first; God’s vision, God’s Kingdom and rule.  He put love first.   Some call this Deep Love or Big Love.  And God rewarded him.  This is true trust; trust in God, his own calling; his own highest, truest and best self going forward.

God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word.  Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you.  If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

Jesus put it this way:  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be given to you.”   Seek Wisdom and Truth from Within and Beyond. Align you will with God’s Will and Heaven’s storehouses of riches will be open to you.  You’ll have everything you need and more.  Your life will be lengthened in days and your impact on others increased.  

What happens for us when we put God first and then the people God has put before us to serve; our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our communities?  God is faithful to the faithful.  God is faithful to us when we align ourselves with God’s will, which is not separate at all from our own highest or best will.  When our hearts and minds are aligned with this higher will of ours, good pours forth from us and for us, others being part of us, for we are all one in this Spirit and this life together; God’s love, God’s presence, God’s being is manifest in us and our world.  Let’s declare it as a commitment:  In God I trust!”

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Doing Good as God is Good

Doing Good as God is Good
Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2
Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

We’re more than a year from the Presidential elections and already we’re hearing the criticisms of Presidential hopefuls, Democratic and Republican.  Do you know, if my children were to speak about each other the way some potential candidates are speaking about each other, I’d ground them for the rest of the summer.  So much for us being a Christian country!  Christian is what Christian does and sometimes I don’t see a lot of Christian in politicians and commentators who proclaim themselves to be Christian.

Put away falsehood.  Speak the truth to one another and about each other!  We may be Republican, Democratic, Liberal, Conservative, Green or Independent, but we are first of all Americans.  We may be Black, White, Hispanic, Native American or you name the place of origin, but we are first human beings.  We may be Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian or Reformed (the list goes on) but we are first of all Christians.  And whatever religion we belong to, as Christians, we realize that all people, male and female are children of God, made in God’s image.  We are all are members of one another.  And that being the case, we should treat one another with love and respect.

Be angry if you’re offended or even if you disagree, but let the anger go.  Don’t act on your anger in a way that causes harm to another.  The Christian enterprise is a peacemaking mission. “Blessed are the peacemakers” says Jesus.  “Turn your arms into plowshares” says Isaiah.  “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” says the hymnist.   How quick we are to retaliate or go to war without diplomatic efforts, even without evidence of wrong doing!  If we are truly members of one another, then we’re angry and at war with ourselves! 

Don’t steal, but work and share what you’ve earned with the needy.  Christians are called not to take from others but to give to others, particularly the needy.  All this corporate greed!  As members of one another, when we steal, we are stealing from ourselves.  When we give to others we are investing in ourselves.  Giving to the needs is not squandering but investing.  It’s a good personal and business practice and excellent public policy.  I’m all for people making a good living but not at the expense of others.

Speak well of and to yourselves and others rather than evil.  You know the saying, “Hold your tongue.”  Or like some of our parents taught us, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.”  Say only what is useful to build up the other.  Bless rather than curse.  And let grace flow through your words into the heart of those who listen to you.  It may change them and it definitely will change you for the good. 

This applies to your internal self talk about or to yourself.  What we say and how we say it matters in the outcome.  That’s why it is so important to feed ourselves on the Word of God in whatever form that takes for you.   What we take in from media, books, movies, the news and conversations with others directly influences what we think, feel and do.

When we speak or act on the basis of evil we are doing harm.  We are outside of the flow of the Holy Spirit.  This grieves the Holy Spirit.  Harm ends up being done to the other, but harm is done to ourselves in the process.  This is so because we are members of one another. 

In John’s gospel we read that in the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh.   Remember what Word we are talking about; the Word of God.  Jesus manifests it  so fully that he was it.  Bitterness, wrath, anger, arguing, slander and malice or bad faith, do not originate in God who is all good.  They begin in a word of falsehood where we forget our true nature as children of God and deny our connection or membership in one another. 
What originates in God, as God’s Word, is kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness.   This Word intends creation and bolstering or building up of self and others towards true, inclusive and positive community. 

The Church is intended to be a witness or a model of beloved-community where prejudices are suspended to allow true acceptance and inclusion of all the different people we encounter.  It’s good to be aware of our judgments and prejudices so we are not run by them.  We have to recognize that they are just habitual and conditioned thoughts.

Really every person, including you is sacred.  God is in you, in one another and in all our neighbors, Christian and other.   We can deny it all we want, but God is even in our enemies and in the person we mistrust or mistreats us. 

It’s a wonderful thing we have in this Church and in this community (Wilmington, Jay, Ausable Forks, Upper Jay, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake) this effort and opportunity  to do good by each other, our neighbors and our community.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Grow Up

Grow Up
Ephesians 4:1-16
Wilfredo J. Baez

Sometimes I get bitter and I complain about my life. Have any of you ever done that? It’s easy to do, is it not? Life does not always go the way we want it to go. But you know what? I don’t like it when I get bitter and complain? Does anyone here really like to be bitter and complain? I don’t think so. I would much rather be better than bitter. How about you?

Well, Paul is telling us to grow up, and instead of being bitter and complaining, to be better and do our part in making our church, our community, our nation, our world and our lives better. I am tired of all the criticism and all the mean spiritedness and fighting that exists in our churches, our nation and world. You’ve seen it, and even if you’ve participated in it, it makes you sick.

Listen to Paul: “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Who do you think Paul is talking to? He is talking to the Church in Ephesus. Why would he be saying this? The church is not working as one. It is conflicted and at odds with each other. They aren’t acting like Christ would act. They aren’t valuing each other. Everyone isn’t doing their part. Not everyone is being appreciated for the gifts they bring.

It reminds of Cartman in South Park. I can hear him say when a game isn’t going his way. “It’s my ball, I’m taking it and going home” or It’s my ball. You can’t play.” Well, with all respect to poor Cartman, when it comes to the church, the ball doesn’t belong to anyone but Christ!
Listen again to what Paul is saying: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Paul is calling the Church of Ephesus and is calling us to unity. He is saying, “Stop finding excuses to stop working together for the common goal Christ has called you to. Value one another and each other’s gifts; gifts that are meant to be used to help each other realize our common goal. Realize that God is in you and in one another, in your neighbor and even in your foe.”

Jesus asks: “Who is my mother, my brother my sister?” He answers “They who do the will of the Father, who do the will of God; they are my mother, my brother and my sister; they whose God’s will is manifest in.” Paul doesn’t want anyone to be excluded from the body, from the church, by themselves or by others. Everyone matters.

Are you, are we doing the will of God? Or are we doing what we feel like doing? That’s an important question of us to have, as individuals and as a Church. Who is our master? Who is directing our life?
I have a few gifts that I have been given to use on your behalf. My gifts are of that of apostle (Elder), pastor and teacher; “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” Wow - to believe in and know Jesus, to realize perfection in love - to realize ourselves as fully grown children of God – our identity with Christ! Anyone here want that? I mean, if you believe it is possible, do you want that?

Who are the saints that Paul is talking about? Paul is talking about the members of the Church of Ephesus and he is talking about you and me; members of every church. Paul could not do the Church of Ephesus’s work for them; nor can I do your work for you. And your ministry, whatever it is, is essential to the body. You and I, every one of us have equally important parts of fulfilling God’s plan in this place. The question is what is that plan and how shall we fulfill it when we fulfill it?

Grow up! Paul says, “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” We’re not called to win theological or doctrinal arguments and come up with the correct biblical interpretation. We’re not here to win on an issue in our next general conference. That’ll only divide and destroy us. We are deceived if we think that there can be a winner, if we do not find a way for all parties to win. Grow up! Be mature! Put love above all other things! If you seek solutions you’ll find them! If you seek problems you’ll find them!

What a perfect or mature faith Paul is telling the Church of Ephesus, and us, Christ is calling us to: “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”

We are called to unity; to speak not ideas, opinions and interpretations, but truth in love, truth being a spiritual reality and state of being. And rather than “win a debate”, we are called to grow in Christ, our head, our leader and example; to become like him together, working together as the body of Christ, supporting one another – this faith community, this Church, the Methodist Church, the Christian Church and all people – bridging gaps of conflict - promoting growth from the inside out, as we build ourselves and each other up in love.”

Christ is calling us, you and me, the church and the whole people of God to stop being bitter and complaining to be better and cooperating.