Monday, May 31, 2010

RENEWsletter for June 6, 2010 - Body & Blood

Dear friends of renewal--
Next Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. There are several references to this guy named Melchizadek in the Bible. Who was Melchizadek? What was significant about him? Why do both the Old and New Testaments refer to him? Well, we'll see if we can discover the answers to these questions.

The readings for this most holy Sunday are found on the web at: and in your Bible at:

Genesis 14.18-20
Psalm 110.1, 2, 3, 4
1 Corinthians 11.23-26
Luke 9.11b-17

The First Reading is the earliest mention of a priest-king called Melchizadek. He was the spiritual and political leader of a city called Salem (Gen. 14.18). This town is generally identified with Jerusalem. Abram had just defeated the king and allies of Elam, and Melchizadek made of big deal of this. "Blessed be Abram by God Most High... who delivered your foes into your hand," he said (vs. 19-20). The noteworthy thing about Melchizadek was that he was both priest and king. He had political power over his subjects' physical and social well-being, and he had power to lead their spirits and souls to well-being too, yet not through the line of Aaron. His priesthood came directly from God. He served bread and wine to Abram and his people (v. 18 again). Bread and wine. That sounds familiar. Abram responded by giving him 10% of everything he had. Abram knew the value of being blessed by God which is far beyond the value of a meal of bread and wine.

The Responsorial Psalm is one of the most important messianic Psalms. It is uniformly regarded as a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ. "The LORD [God] said to my Lord [Jesus]..." (Ps. 110.1). Jesus will wield political power: "Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool" (v. 1 again), plus he has his priesthood directly from God: "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizadek" (v. 4).

The Second Reading recounts the Last Supper. Jesus took bread and wine, and said plainly that the bread was his body, and that the cup of wine was his blood (1 Cor. 11.23, 25). Bread and wine. Body and blood. King and Priest? Does that follow? Yes, it does! The bread part is straight forward. Bread nourishes the body. The one who controls the bread, controls the physical well-being of the body. But what about the other part, the wine/blood? Let's look for a moment at Leviticus 17.11: "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." One can imagine that in those ancient times before people had all the scientific knowledge of the structure and function of blood, that they thought of it as some mystical force that kept the body alive. Drain the blood out of a lamb, and the lamb died. Blood had a spiritual quality. When it left a body, so did the life. The body remained behind, but quite dead.

Carrying this thought forward into the Gospel Reading, we find that Christ controlled the bread, and thereby controlled the physical well-being of the crowds that had followed him into the desert (Luke 9.16). Christ the King of bread, created bread for 5000+ hungry mouths and took care of them. And why did these folks follow this itinerant preacher out into the desert without bringing enough food along to take care of their own hunger? Because Christ the Priest controlled the "blood," the thing they found necessary for their spirits (v. 11). As much as their bodies needed bread, their spirits needed the spiritual blood of Christ.

There are several passages in Hebrews, chapters 5 to 7, that refer to Jesus's priesthood being of the "order of Melchizedek" as opposed to Levitical in nature. There were many Levitical priests "because they were prevented by death from remaining in office" (Heb. 7.23). But Christ is a Priest of the order of Melchizedek, not the Levitical order, and "because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away" (Heb. 7.24).

When we partake of the Eucharist, we partake of Christ himself, our King who protects us physically, and our Priest who protects us spiritually. Let's remind ourselves this week when enemies arise, and fears threaten our peace, that we have a Priest-King who reigns and serves forever, after the order of Melchizadek!

Randy Jones
"Those who know not the Priest-King say life is scary and death is scarier!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

RENEWsletter for May 30, 2010 - Holy Trinity

Dear Renewed folks--
Have you ever put something together that delighted you when you saw the result? When you've spent energy and diligence to produce something -- as mundane as a clean kitchen, or as esoteric as a beautiful painting -- have you stepped back and smiled at your own handiwork? Well, that's they way God felt when he got done creating the earth and its inhabitants, as we'll see in Sunday's readings.

This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The readings deal with all three persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and they can be accessed on the web at:, or in your Bible in:

Proverbs 8.22-31
Psalm 8.4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (with v. 2a)
Romans 5.1-5
John 16.12-15

Our First Reading examines the origin and nature of God's wisdom. It appears that God had wisdom long before any of his creation existed (Prov. 8.22-26). Here's where the phrase "old as the hills" has some meaning. In fact, wisdom is older than the hills! In wisdom, the heavens were established (v. 27). In wisdom, the foundations of the earth were stabilized (v. 28). In wisdom the extent of the seas was mapped out (v. 29). Then God created people in wisdom, and he stepped back and beheld what he had put together... and found delight in us! (v. 31). This is God, our Father.

When we contemplate these truths, we can sing this Sunday's Responsorial Psalm. "When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place..." (Psalm 8.4). These days, in the heart of urban areas where most of us live, it's hard to behold the heavens. But a man named John Dobson invented a simple, inexpensive telescope mount and became known around San Francisco as "The Sidewalk Astronomer". He pointed his telescope at the Moon and other bright objects visible between the streetlights and the neon signs on the buildings and invited people to look. They were amazed. And we are amazed when we think that God is mindful of us and cares for us (v. 5)! Not only that but he has "crowned us with glory and honor" (v. 6), and given his creation to us to rule and care for (v. 7)! "How wonderful is your name in all the earth!" (v. 2).

The Second Reading shows how comprehensive the work of Jesus Christ was and is. By faith we have peace through him (Rom. 5.1). Through his grace, we have hope (v. 2). And all this happens because the love of God has been poured into our hearts (v. 5). Even in affliction we have joy because of a chain of results, naturally following one another: affliction produces endurance; endurance produces character; character results in hope; and hope never disappoints. (vs. 3-5). This is God the Son, our Brother.

The Gospel Reading reveals how all this comes about. Slowly, the Holy Spirit feeds us truth, a little at a time, at a pace we can handle (John 16.12). We grow, we learn, and eventually we possess the Truth (v. 13)! As we learn the Truth it becomes clear what glory and praise and honor is due the Lord. And now we're back full circle to Wisdom. This is what we receive from the Holy Spirit. This is God, the Holy Spirit, our Guide and Comforter.

The fingerprints of God are everywhere. On the trees that grow from the ground. On the clouds that form and float in the sky. On the waves that roll across the ocean. And on us. Those fingerprints show the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit for us, the work of his fingers.

Randy Jones
"Those who reject the Trinity have to do everything themselves!"

Monday, May 17, 2010

RENEWsletter for May 23, 2010 - Pentecost

Good morning folks--
This coming Sunday is an important one in the church liturgical year: Pentecost. Literally, its meaning leaves much to be added, since "fiftieth day" is a little vague. But what happened during those 50 days after the Lord's resurrection, fills history and our lives today with meaning beyond words. It's the time God made a gift of his Holy Spirit to those original disciples. But he didn't stop there, and as a matter of fact, he didn't even begin there. God has been gifting his people with his Spirit throughout history, and he continues to do so today, and will in the future.

The readings for this Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, are found on the web at: and in your Bible in:

Acts 2.1-11
Psalm 104.1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Corinthians 12.3b-7, 12-13 (or Romans 8.8-17)
John 20.19-23 (or John 14.15-6, 23b-26)

The First Reading is Luke's description of the actual event. The disciples, including the Blessed Mother, were gathered in their usual place, the "upper room" where Jesus appeared twice after his resurrection (Acts 2.1). They may have been half expecting, hoping, Jesus would appear again. I imagine there was the usual low din of conversation. These folks knew each other well and there were exciting things to discuss. The main topic was probably the recent Ascension which they witnessed, and the angels that visited them reminding them of Jesus's promise to send a "Comforter" (see John 14.16, 26). When would this happen? Were they impatient? Wondering? Anticipating? Well, they didn't have much longer to wait because on that day, suddenly, the room was filled with the sound of a strong driving wind and tongues of fire coursed into the chamber and touched, enveloped each one of them (v. 3). Then it all became clear. This was what they had been waiting for. They were filled with a passion to let people know about the Love of God and how fulfilling and thrilling and wonderful it was. They went out and began celebrating and inviting whomever they found to join in the ecstasy of knowing the love of the risen Lord (v. 4).

No doubt this Sunday's Responsorial Psalm was on their lips, bubbling forth in joy and gladness. "Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!" (Ps. 104.1). The Lord had sent out his Spirit to renew the face of the earth (v. 30).

The Second Reading expands on the richness this gift of the Holy Spirit imparts. Paul explains how each member of the body of Christ receives a slightly different gift than his brother or sister in Christ (1 Cor. 12.4-6). Yet all these varied gifts fit together in God's divine plan to cover all the bases (v. 7). Some may wonder if there is a difference between a gift of the Spirit and natural talent or ability. The way I look at it, the Holy Spirit "activates" any natural gifts we may have been born with. I recall the time I applied for a new credit card. When the card came it was still useless, because it hadn't been "activated". I called the 800 number, identified myself and voila! the card was suddenly valid. In spiritual terms that volitional act of calling to activate our credit card is represented by our being filled with the Holy Spirit which results in our loving each other and our neighbor. The Holy Spirit continually bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (see Romans 8.16).

How can we truly, selflessly love people? Even an activated, valid credit card is dormant until we use it. Maybe it's not so hard to love those who love us, but loving our enemies is a little trickier. The Gospel Reading gives a clue to the answer. When we receive the Holy Spirit, peace settles in and resides in us. Peace is the absence of fear, and without fear, we can love our enemies, present ourselves defenseless before them, reach out to them and embrace them. This may seem foolish in the eyes of the world, but we are told that the wisdom of God often appears foolish to those who lack that "peace that passes all understanding" (see 1 Corinthians 1.23, Philippians 4.7). And it is Christ himself who breathes that peace into our souls (John 20.19). Not only that -- again let me utilize the credit card analogy -- while a credit card has an expiration date, and requires renewal periodically, look at John 14.26. Jesus says, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you."

So it is the Spirit who bestows gifts, activates them, and renews them continually for us as we in love present ourselves as available resources to radiate the love of God to all around us. Activate or renew your gift today and put it to work this week.

Randy Jones
"Those who do not use their gifts may discover they've expired!"

Monday, May 10, 2010

RENEWsletter for May 16, 2010 - Ascension of the Lord (7th Easter)

Dear Renewed friends in Christ--
This Sunday, here in the western US, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. Elsewhere it's the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Since I am writing from California, we'll go with the flow and do the Ascension.

The thing that is significant about Christ's ascension is that by it, and the eyewitness accounts of it, we know that Jesus is alive and at work at God's right hand. Now, while Luke wasn't an eyewitness himself, in researching his two books, The Gospel of Luke and its sequel The Acts of the Apostles, he interviewed eyewitnesses. That's why these two books are included in the Canon. Their content was authentic and verifiable.

The readings for Ascension Sunday are the same every year. You can find them on the web at, and in your Bible in:

Acts 1.1-11
Psalm 47.2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Ephesians 1.17-23 or Hebrews 9.24-28 & 10.19-23
Luke 24.46-53

In case you're interested, the Seventh Sunday of Easter Readings are at, i.e. Acts 7.55-60; Psalm 97.1-2, 6-7, 9; Revelation 22.12-14, 16-17, 20; John 17.20-26.

The First Reading from Acts is a summary of the actions of Jesus after his resurrection and his promise that the Holy Spirit would be coming soon (Acts 1.1-5). Then follows an account of the Ascension itself (v. 9). Have you ever seen a shuttle launch (or a Mercury, or Gemini, or Apollo launch) in real life? Do you remember watching the launch vehicle get smaller and smaller (and quieter and quieter) as it rose into the clear blue sky and out of sight? How long did it take you gazing at the vast blue expanse to realize you couldn't see anything anymore? Well that's what happened to the Apostles when Jesus's "launch" took place. They watched him rise until they couldn't see him anymore (v. 10). Then those two guys in white robes drug them back to earth and the business at hand. "How come you guys are craning your necks at the sky? He's on his way to the right hand of the Father, but he'll be coming back the same way he left" (v. 11).

The Responsorial Psalm is a song about this "right hand of the Father" stuff. "God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy and a blare of trumpets!" (Ps. 47.6). From that command position God rules. "God is king of all the earth. God reigns over the nations" (vs. 8, 9). We rejoice with the psalmist that God is in control!

The two Second Readings not only reiterate the announcement of the two angels at the Ascension... that Jesus will be coming back to bring salvation to all who eagerly await him (Heb. 9.28)... but also that he is at work in the interim ruling over all the principalities, authorities, powers, and dominions of this world (Eph. 1.21). We therefore have the hope and assurance, not only that we will join him, but also that we will be washed clean. Clean. Sin gone. Doubts gone. Tears gone. As the Jefferson Airplane put it in a song titled "Starship": "A million pounds gone from your heavy mass, all the years gone from your age." I'm looking forward to that!

The Gospel Reading, from Volume I of Dr. Luke's 2-volume work, also describes the Ascension, but in less detail. The emphasis here is on what Jesus said to his disciples before he departed. "You will be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24.49). He promised them (and us) that the Holy Spirit was coming. The Holy Spirit clothes us with power. While Jesus was on Earth, leading and teaching (and healing) his followers, he was definitely in the driver's seat. They were more or less passengers in that powerful movement.

But now he was leaving the reins of the new church in their (and our) hands. Sometimes the going takes us through the fog or the darkness, but with the Holy Spirit guiding, we'll be okay. The Navigator knows the way and if we don't try to wander off on our own, the trip will be exhilarating. And the destination beyond our wildest dreams.

There's a painting by Warner Sallman called "Christ the Pilot" showing a young man at the helm of a ship. Storm clouds roil in the sky above him. And behind him, with a hand his shoulder, stands Christ, pointing the way. Let the Pilot guide you this week and see where he takes you!

Randy Jones
"Those who do not ask for directions may get lost!"

Monday, May 3, 2010

RENEWsletter for May 9, 2010 - 6th Easter

Greetings Renewers!
A little over a year ago we elected a President who promised Change. And then there's Mother Earth. Her surface undergoes change through earthquakes and volcanoes. And the volcanoes and other factors change her atmosphere. And people... people change too. Well, speaking of change...

Our readings for this Sunday talk of change. Nothing is so sure as change! as many a wise person has noted. Time passes. The earth shifts, mountains are built and then worn down. Stars blaze and eventually burn out. People are born and die. Some things change faster than others. Religious practices also change, sometimes very slowly, but sometimes more quickly, as we can see in the readings for Sunday.

Those readings, for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, can be found on the web at:, and in your Bible in:

Acts 15.1-2, 22-29
Psalm 67.2-3, 5, 6, 8 (with v. 4 as the response)
Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23
John 14.23-29

The First Reading tells of the results of a council that might be called "Jerusalem I" (recorded in the skipped part, Acts 15.3-21). The issue at stake was circumcision. Gentiles had begun to embrace faith in Jesus and some of the higher-ups at Jerusalem and Antioch were anxious to have the men circumcised according to the Law of Moses. But after "Jerusalem I", that practice was deemed unnecessary because God had already filled uncircumcised Gentiles with his Holy Spirit. Thus the requirements were pared down to just: "abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage" (v. 29). The Gentiles were, of course, delighted to hear this (v. 31... outside the bounds of the reading).

The Responsorial Psalm could easily have been heard being sung by these happy Gentile Christians on reading the letter from the elders at Jerusalem. "O God, let all the nations praise you!" (Ps. 67.4) For some in the growing 1st Century Church, change was happening rapidly... but when they heard this psalm, they would realize that God has been God of the Gentiles for a long, long time (v. 8).

Change in a big way is what John is describing in the Second Reading. The New Jerusalem gleams with the splendor of God himself... the entire city shown like a precious stone (Rev. 21.11). And, guess what! No temple (v. 22)! Jerusalem without a temple?? No need for one anymore as God himself was there, in person. No need anymore for a sun or a moon either (v. 23). The glory of God lit it. That will be a change that will take some adjusting to.

The Gospel Reading describes another change, one that has already taken place for us. But the disciples who were following Jesus hadn't experienced it yet. Their beloved Teacher, Jesus, was talking about leaving them. But he promised an "Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send..." (John 14.26). He told them this "before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe" (v. 29). They believed, but didn't really understand what kind of change this would be.

We often view approaching change with trepidation. But change must occur if we are to avoid stagnation. (And even in stagnation, change comes about... putrefaction and death.) Now some change is pleasant, some is not, but change creates new outlooks, new experiences, new knowledge, new wisdom. And each minute that ticks by brings us closer to that New Jerusalem where we will bask in the love and glory of God with us. This is the peace that Jesus left with us (John 14.27).

And after that? Hmmm. You're free to speculate on what other changes may take place.

Randy Jones
"Those who hang onto the status quo will be disappointed!"