Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sour and Salty

Jeremiah 31:27-34
I've had some fun this morning tracking down the use of the proverb in verse 29: "In those days they shall no longer say: 'The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.'" Ezekiel uses the same proverb in Ezekiel 18, and refutes it just as Jeremiah does. According to the Oxford Annotated Study Bible that I use this may have been the mindset of those who were carried into exile. They could not accept their own guilt, so they blamed the sins of their ancestors, based on their interpretation of Exodus 20:5 which says that God punishes one's sins to the third and fourth generation. Jeremiah's point (and Ezekiel's as well) is that the community as a whole and each individual in it is responsible for its own iniquity and will be judged accordingly, and that the days are coming when the community will recognize this reality. But, adds Jeremiah, the day is also coming when the people will be so attentive to God's presence that they will no longer even have to teach about God, for all of them will know God. Then God will forgive their iniquity "and remember their sin no more." (v. 34)

Romans 11:25-36
My habit is to underline the verse or two in each reading that I find particularly meaningful. In Romans I underlined verse 33 which says, "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" Paul, sounding a bit like the Psalmist, is talking about how God has hardened Israel until such a time as all the Gentiles who are to be saved (and I believe that could be all of them—it’s up to God) have "come in" (v. 25), at which time all of Israel will be saved. (v. 26) Paul, then, marvels at the work of God and how impossible it is for us to understand everything that God is doing.

John 11:28-44
Verse 35 answers the trivia question, "what is the shortest verse in the Bible?" In the Revised Standard Version (and elsewhere) it is translated, "Jesus wept." The New Revised Standard Version, however, has adjusted the tense and rendered it as a relatively wordy, "Jesus began to weep," twice as long as the RSV! But for me this little verse offers profound insight into the nature of Jesus. Jesus was capable of great emotion, even though he trusted God completely and did the will of God obediently. This is because he was as fully human as he was fully God. Several years ago I wrote a poem based on this verse.

Jesus wept
tears for a friend
God's love and compassion
mixed with humanity
tasting of salt

Friday, March 30, 2007

Restoration and Resurrection

I note a thread thoughout the readings this morning that has to do with restoration. In Jeremiah God promises to restore the people from exile, in Romans Paul says that even the olive branches that have been removed from the tree can be grafted back on, and in John Jesus makes one of the central claims of Christianity, that he is the resurrection and the life.

Jeremiah 29:1-14––I focused on verse 11, "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope." I think we all want a "future with hope," for ourselves and for our children. God's providence is such that even when we dwell in exile––a separation from God brought about by our own actions––we may rely on God to work in our midst for our welfare. The psalmist said, "My help is in the name of the Lord…" Such confidence is bolstered by God's words through Jeremiah.

Romans 11:13-24––Here Paul uses that wonderful metaphor of grafting wild branches onto a cultivated olive tree. I was drawn to verses 17 and 18 because of it. "But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you." Later Paul goes on to say that branches once removed from the tree can be grafted back on. Here again, separation from God is overcome by God's work in our midst, and the "root" on which we as branches depend continues to receive God's care and nurture.

John 11:1-27––In verses 25 and 26 Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in my, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." The promise of the resurrection in Jesus Christ is the ultimate "future with hope," and the ultimate restoration. In Jesus, God is working to reconcile the world to God's self, that all the exiles may come home, and that all the branches may be grafted again. That's really good news.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Conflict in the Temple

What struck me in the readings this morning was the similarity in the conflict that Jeremiah and Jesus face because of things they said in or near the temple.

Jeremiah 26:1-24
Jeremiah's "temple sermon" is a message of warning to the people delivered in the court of the Lord's house. In verses 4-6 it says, "Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently––though you have not heeded––then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth." (The shrine at Shiloh was destroyed much earlier, in the days of Samuel.) This message of course puts Jeremiah at odds with the religious establishment who put him on trial for heresy. They believe they have God’s blessing and protection.

John 10:19-42
Jesus, too, is confronted by the religious establishment for his comments. In verse 30 Jesus says, "The Father and I are one." At that point "The Jews took up stones again to stone him." (v. 31) God's word, especially when it runs contrary to long-held assumptions, is not always welcomed by those who hear it. My concern as a preacher is twofold: first, is what I say (and do) true to God's will or just what I think others want to hear? And second, am I willing to accept the consequences of those words when I speak them?

Romans 11:1-12
In Romans Paul shows how God's grace can take unexpected forms. In verse 12 he says, "Now if their (the people of Israel's) stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!" God is working through Israel, says Paul, in order to bring the world to God. Israel, then, continues to be a source of blessing for the world, even in unexpected ways.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

All About Shepherds

The contrast between the shepherds and the lords of the flock in Jeremiah and the good shepherd in John is perhaps the connection that strikes me today.

Jeremiah 25:30-38
This is a brutal description of what God intends to do to the nations. As a result the shepherds and lords of the flocks (meaning kings and rulers of the peoples) will be thrown into confusion. Verse 36 says, "Hark! the cry of the shepherds, and the wail of the lords of the flock! For the Lord is despoiling their pasture…" This is because God "is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the guilty he will put to the sword…" (verse 31) This is not a pretty picture.

John 10:1-18
But John tells of another kind of shepherd. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (verse 11) "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." (verse 18) Ultimately this is God's response to the sinfulness of God's people. And it comes as a blessing, even if it was not understood or well-received by all who heard it.

Romans 10:14-21
I picked verses 14 and 15 to highlight in this passage: "But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" The reading from Jeremiah would not qualify as "good" news, but the reality of God's response as characterized by the good shepherd in John is the very best of good news (gospel). The tension in the Romans reading lies in the fact that God's people have heard the news but not all have accepted it. Still God's grace abounds and the feet of the messenger are indeed beautiful because he or she brings news of salvation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blurring the Boundaries

I think it is fascinating to see how many boundaries get blurred in the readings today, how God reaches across and around our assumptions and our divisions to accomplish the divine will.

Jeremiah 25:8-17
In verses 8 and 9 it says, "Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, I am going to send for all the tribes of the north, says the Lord, even for King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, my servant…" God will use a pagan king of an unrighteous people as an instrument of judgment against God's own people. The entire world, then, is open to God's activity. God is not limited in time or space. (This becomes even more apparent when God appears to Ezekiel by the River Chebar in Babylon, far away from the temple in Jerusalem.)

Romans 10:1-13
In verse 12 Paul speaks of another boundary that has been crossed by God's activity in human history. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him." Obviously this is a more gracious statement than that of Jeremiah, unless you believe you belong to a very exclusive group which has a claim on God's grace that others can not have. Then I suppose this might sound like bad news. But as Paul's original audience included many gentiles the intent of these words would have been good news in Jesus Christ. And it remains that way for us.

John 9:18-41
In verse 39 Jesus says, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." This is almost a literal blurring, as the metaphor has to do with sight. But of course Jesus is referring to those who should believe (the Pharisees who opposed him) and those who actually do believe in what God is doing, who trust and believe in Jesus (like the man born blind).

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Sovereignty of God

Jeremiah 24:1-1
Here, as before in the book of Jeremiah, we have the prophet gaining from common elements of everyday life a glimpse into the actions and intentions of God. Two baskets of figs, one full of very good figs, the other full of very bad ones, would have attracted little attention from anyone else, but for the prophet they become reminders of what God is doing and a source of insight into God's justice and righteousness. As a preacher, I would call the baskets of figs good illustrative material used well by Jeremiah to convey a vivid image. The image is of God acting out of sovereignty and determining who will be held accountable for their actions and how.

Romans 9:19-33
Paul also treats the issue of God's sovereignty and uses an illustration that Jeremiah has used to great effect. Verse 21 says, "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?" If we recognize God as sovereign, and if we believe that God is free to act however God chooses, then we have to also recognize that God will make decisions that we, as creatures, can not fully understand and will not fully agree with. But we must also remember that whatever God chooses to do will be, by definition, good. There is no guarantee that anyone will be condemned. God may save everyone. But God alone has the freedom to make that determination. We who are called must recognize our calling not as a free pass, but as an opportunity to be about the work of God doing whatever we can to share the good news with others.

John 9:1-17
The gospel reading gives another perspective on this whole question and perhaps the key to understanding it. Asked who had sinned that would cause a man to be born blind, "Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.'" (v. 3) In other words, God is at work in our midst. Sometimes God's work becomes apparent through healing, and sometimes it is baskets of figs that allow us to see God's activity. Whatever the case, God's sovereignty is such that God can and does act out of justice and righteousness, mercy and compassion, judgment and grace as God wills. We who stand in relationship to God as God's people are called to live lives of faithful obedience, trusting God.

I’ve got to tell you, that's a lot of stuff to deal with on a Monday!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Finding Safety, Changing Plans

Psalm 84
My random thoughts today on the psalm (it is a little intimidating since Jim wrote an entire play on Psalm 84):
Sanctuary is a place of welcome and respite, where all God’s creatures may find a place:
“Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself.”
Sanctuary is where work is welcomed; it is a gift and is given as praise to God:
“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God.”
The rains and floods will come in our lives, the difficulties and struggles, but God’s presence and grace surrounds us, upholds us, and sustains the people of God.
“They go from strength to strength…”
God does this in many ways, through word and sacrament, through the community and family, through service.

Wow, Jesus’ words to Peter seem so harsh. Today, when I was reading these words I substituted my own name for Peter’s name. Where do I want to Jesus to change his plans to fit mine, instead of me fitting my plans to Jesus’ way, to fit Jesus’ plan, to fit God’s purposes? We are coming into the homestretch of Holy Week and as we do it is important that each of us begins to look at how we as individuals ask Jesus to change to fit into our plans, but more importantly how we as a community of faith ask God to change to fit our plans.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

God's Work

Psalm 43
Once again the Psalmist seems despondent but knows that God is the source of strength and hope even if the words of praise are difficult right now. In the end the Psalmist says with confidence,
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
for I shall again praise God,
my help and my God.”
At one time or another we have all felt downcast, sad, hurt. The Psalmist, in essence saves himself a conversation with someone and has it with himself (herself) “It’s going to be okay, trust God, the words aren’t coming right now, but that’s okay . . . God is good.” The Psalmist can have this kind of conversation with himself (herself) because of the relationship the Psalmist had with God.

Today’s passage describes in no uncertain terms that it is God’s work, God’s action, and God’s grace that saves humanity. It is no action of our own. The difficulty comes when Paul uses the words “God has mercy on whomsoever God chooses… God hardens the heart of whomsoever…” I think if we are honest we will admit that we don’t like this language because it makes God sound whimsical. But we must move it out of human thought and struggle with this in the bounds of justice and righteousness. God has mercy on whomsoever God chooses and God hardens the heart of whomsoever God chooses. Rarely in scripture is this referring to an individual but rather a community. And it has to do with issues of obedience, justice, mercy, peace, love… this statement is not a statement of capriciousness, but a statement that Paul makes about a God who loves this world with an amazing love.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Good News Abounds

Psalm 22
We are perhaps most familiar with Psalm 22 as Jesus' words from the cross, and only then the first verse. But Psalm 22 has a rich gift to give the church, as it moves us beautifully into the ever familiar Psalm 23 or Shepherd Psalm. Psalm 22 is one of my favorite Psalms because it begins with despair and shifts into praise and confidence in God’s care and love while at the same time addressing the frustration of life. The Psalmist used the same language of despair that you and I might use. But what Psalm 22 allows for us to do is to remember that God is present in our despair as well as our joy. The Psalmist weaved this sense of loss together with the sense of trust and concluded the Psalm with a beautiful song of praise in which he will tell others of God’s presence. The despair that began Psalm 22 segues into, “The Lord is my Shepherd . . . though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . You are with me” In confidence of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection this is good news. And in the midst of our days of despair, this is good news.

Romans 8:28-39
If I had to pick one section of scripture to sum up the essentials of my faith, the source of my hope in God, it would be Romans 8:28-39. Here, in unequivocal language, Paul makes it clear that God's grace and love transcend any and all obstacles. We, as God's people, live in the sure and certain hope of salvation. "If God is for us, who is against us?" Paul asks in verse 31. And the answer is that it really doesn't matter because "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (v. 37) Nothing, then, "can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (v. 39) Wow! What a source of courage! What a sense of peace! Everything is going to be okay because ultimately there is nothing that can stand between us and God's love.

Jeremiah 23:1-8
The reading from Jeremiah offers us an example of what God's love means. The shepherds who have destroyed and scattered God's flock represent the rulers of Judah who have not protected the people nor done what is right in God's eyes. But neither their iniquity nor the sins of the people can keep God from raising up a righteous Branch for David (v. 5) who will care for and guide the people into a new relationship with God. And God will now be called "The Lord is our Righteousness." (v. 6) In other words, what can separate us from the love of God? Nothing, because ultimately God will gather together the scattered flock and care for them. Certainly God is active in righteous judgment, but God is also at work restoring and building up all that human sinfulness has torn down.

John 6:52-59
In the passage from John we get about as close to a eucharistic meal as the forth gospel goes (since John does not include the Last Supper, but instead tells about the washing of feet). Verses 55 and 56 present a powerful sacramental theology: "…for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Seeking God

In the Psalm today, the Psalmists sought God. The promptings for seeking God come from the Psalmist’s heart. “Come,” my heart says, “seek God’s face!” It is from the stirrings deep within us that cause us to seek God. I think it is St. Augustine who said, “Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you.” The Psalmist waited for the Lord and their found strength through God’s word and God’s teaching.

Hope That is Not Seen

Romans 8:12-27
I think the one passage in all of the readings that touched me most this morning comes from Romans 8:24-25: "For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." I don't know how universally true that statement is, considering that we often say "out of sight means out of mind," and so forth. But I know that Paul is returning to a question of trust. Do we trust God to carry out our salvation even when we don't necessarily see the process unfolding? Later in chapter 8 Paul will make the case for God's steadfast love in Jesus Christ, but here he seems to be saying that our trust (or hope) in God is not misplaced and that patience will serve us well.

Jeremiah 22:13-23
Jeremiah was speaking to a King of Judah who needed more patience, and certainly needed more trust or expectation or hope in God. King Jehoiakim had chosen to build a lavish palace instead of concentrating on the care that his people needed and deserved. In verse 15 Jeremiah asks, "Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him." Jehoiakim has essentially rejected the practices of his father, has turned away from God, and will suffer the consequences. He has not trusted God to be active in the affairs of state. It would appear that Jehoiakim is not willing to let go of what he sees (the trappings of power and wealth) to embrace what he does not see (God's desire for justice).

John 6:41-51
In John 6 Jesus is inviting his listeners to trust in him as God's Son. In verses 49 and 50 Jesus says, "Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die." The Jews to whom Jesus is speaking are not willing to let go of what they see (the law) in order to embrace the hope they do not see (Jesus as God's Son).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Of Potters, Bread, and the Spirit

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and John 6:27-40
The passages from Jeremiah 18 and John 8 each offer wonderful images that help us to understand God’s love—and justice––in our world and in our lives. Jeremiah identifies God as the potter and us as the clay. If we choose evil it is within God’s power to start over again and to reshape and reform us as elements of God’s creation. In John 6:35 Jesus identifies himself as the bread of life. Those who come to Jesus will neither hunger nor thirst. They will be filled.

Romans 8:1-11
In Romans 8:6, Paul sums things up for us this way, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” In other words, if we set our minds on the images of potter/clay and bread of life, and if we live with those images ever before us, those or any of the hundreds of other images, or metaphors, or examples that scripture offers us of God loving and caring for God's people, we are more closely attuned to what God is doing in our lives and in our world, we are drawing closer to the life and peace that God offers so freely. But to allow the images that the world provides, the pictures and ideas that are pumped at us every day, is to set our minds on flesh and to align ourselves with death.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Word is Relevant

I've really enjoyed the connection I found in the readings this morning!

Jeremiah 17:19-27
Here I focused on verses 19 and 20, "Thus said the Lord to me: Go and stand in the People's Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, and say to them: hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates." Jeremiah goes on to condemn the practice of working on the sabbath day as one of the problems in the relationship between God and the people. But the fact that it was in the gates of the city that God's word was to be proclaimed shows the relevance of that word for the public square. God's word matters to people in their daily living, in their daily activities.

Romans 7:13-25
This passage helped me to understand where the relevance comes from. Paul is bemoaning the fact that he does not do what he wants, but the very thing that he hates (v 15). Then in verse 25 he sums up the struggle this way, "So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin." The reason why the word of God is relevant in the gates of the city is because all of us are struggling with the powers of sin and death and because in Jesus Christ God offers us all grace and salvation from the struggle.

John 6:16-27
The gospel reading adds to this theme with verse 27, "(Jesus said) Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." In other words, the grace of God that is offered to us all, that meets us in our struggle with sin and death, is the "food that endures" and the food toward which we should be working in our lives.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dawn of the Living

Jeremiah 16:1-21
When I was in college I saw the film "Dawn of the Dead," a horribly violent story about zombies walking the earth killing people. The result was carnage and gore everywhere. Well that's what I thought about in the early verses of the reading from Jeremiah this morning: carnage and gore. What a horrible image! Bodies lying everywhere, and no one to mourn the dead. But then, right when it seems bleakest we get the words of verses 14-15: "Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, 'As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,' but 'As the Lord loves who brought the people up out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.' For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their ancestors." This is very similar to last Friday's readings, by the way, where the seared landscape would produce new growth. In this case the devastation will be restored when the people are brought home again.

Romans 7:1-12
In Romans, Paul offers what I would call an expanded image of pretty much the same phenomenon. In verse 4 he says, "In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God." Paul sees the carnage caused by sin as replaced by the grace of Jesus Christ and his death on our behalf.

John 6:1-15
In John I focused on verses 8-9 because they say something about what it means to bring people to Jesus. "One of the disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to (Jesus), 'There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?'" In his book, "Good News Travels Faster" Joe Donaho describes Andrew as someone who helps people come to Jesus. It was Andrew who brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus. It was Andrew who brought the Greeks to Philip so they could meet Jesus, and it is Andrew who brings the boy with his loaves and fish. Donaho offers Andrew as one way we can live lives of discipleship, by pointing others in the direction of Jesus. I like that image.

Friday, March 16, 2007

New Growth

I see a theme or connection, especially between the Jeremiah and the Romans texts, but the John passage fits in as well. Jeremiah 11:16 says, "The Lord once called you, 'A green olive tree, fair with goodly fruit;' but with the roar of a great tempest he will set fine to it, and its branches will be consumed." In Romans 6:11 Paul says, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." The olive tree, which represents Israel (the people of God), consumed in sin like a mighty fire, has been nurtured and brought back to life in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It reminds me of what happens in the seasons after fire purges a forest area. Slowly new growth returns and, in time, the forest is restored. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, in which we share, God is bringing new growth for the community of faith. John 8:34-35 says, "Jesus answered them, 'Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household…'" Sin leaves us prone to death and estranged from God. But through Jesus Christ we find that we are nurtured, cared for, and allowed to grow into what we were meant to be: a pleasant planting of God.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 15, 2007

I became more intentional in my daily readings when my good friend and fellow Prayer Knot member Jo Fontaine mentioned that she made a point of picking one or two verses from each reading to concentrate on. As a result we began sharing with each other the verses we had picked each day, which is why I began to blog in the first place. So here the verses I picked for today and a couple of thoughts about them:

Jeremiah 10:11-24 Verse 24 is what struck me this morning: “Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.” God’s anger was justified, of course, and the rest of the passage points to some of the reasons, including idolatry. But the prayer in the last few verses is for God’s response to be measured. If it was not, said Jeremiah, there would be nothing to save the people. Jeremiah, then is reliant on God’s grace for salvation despite the sinfulness of God’s people.

Romans 5:12-21 Verse 15 says, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.” The “first man” is Adam though whom, says Paul, sin came into the world. But God has dealt with us in “just measure, not in…anger “ as Jeremiah had hoped and prayed (see above), and in Jesus Christ, the new Adam, God’s people find their salvation.

John 8:21-32 Verse 32 is very familiar: “And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” In John, the truth is Jesus as the Messiah.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Here are some thoughts I have based on the readings for today from the Daily Lectionary. We are currently in Year 1, the 3rd week of Lent. Quotatations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Jeremiah 8:4-7, 18-9:6-- Verses 8:22-9:1 say "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!" God's poor people--Judah-- have within their grasp the power to be restored. It is God's word which is just as close and personal to them as the resin of the Styrax tree, a healing ointment. Incidentally, this morning my wife said she was very happy to be reminded that there is a balm in Gilead. I guess that would be her verse for the day from Jeremiah as well.

Romans 5:1-11--I've underlined vs. 3-5: "And not only that, but we also boast in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts thought the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." This whole chapter is powerful, but this portion on finding hope in the struggles we face is especially moving to me.

I'm not crazy about John 8:12-20. (I notice we skipped the woman caught in adultery.) But vs. 12 is helpful: "Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.'" Sometimes I find myself in some pretty dim places. It is good to know that Jesus is the light that can lead me home!