Friday, April 27, 2007



Luke 5:12-26
I find part of verse 12 and 13 to be interesting. Here a leper approaches Jesus and says, “’Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’” In his ministry Jesus made choices and evaluated situations. It reminds me of the conversation where Abraham convinces God to spar Sodom if there are ten faithful people found there. God, and God in Jesus, is approachable, is willing to enter into our lives in ways that are meaningful to us, based on circumstances. We say that God is unchanging, and that is true of God’s nature and overall plan for creation, but day to day God makes choices and reacts to events and the choices we make. This may seem scary to some, the thought of God reacting, but to me it is a source of great comfort. God can never become outdated or trapped in patterns that lack relevance. God is able to keep up, indeed to keep ahead of us and our actions. Jesus choose to heal the leper, he responded to the needs of that moment with the appropriate action. He was not limited as to what he could do.

Daniel 6:1-15
Daniel had a choice to make as well: should he abide by the interdict that forbade prayer to anyone or anything but the king, or should he continue to pray to God in faithful devotion? He chose to remain faithful to God. It was the right decision, even though it put him in an awkward situation. Sometimes being one of God’s people will put us at odds with the world, or with our friends. Those are the times when we see that faith really matters, that it has significance, that it is not easy or of no importance. Our relationship with God challenges us to do God’s will even when we would rather do something else, or when it sets us apart from the world.

2 John 1-13
The writer of 2 John wanted his readers to make good choices. There were many who would try to deceive them about the faith, but they were called to choose the truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ as it was first delivered to them, and in so doing to love one another.

I wonder what choices we will each be called on to make today, and I wonder how God will respond.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sovereignty V. Evil

Daniel 5:13-30
1 John 5:13-21
Luke 5:1-11
These readings might appear to be at cross-purposes on some key issues. For instance, the story in Daniel demonstrates very clearly the notion that God alone is sovereign over all the earth, including the rulers of nations other than Israel or Judah. But in 1 John the comment is made that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one (verse 19). How do these two ideas work together?

The answer may lie in the words of Simon in Luke, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (verse 8) In Jesus Simon recognizes the amazing reality of the gospel and of God’s presence. But he also recognizes that he is not the person he is intended to be. His fear may be that as a sinner, one who has done wrong (as we all do) it is dangerous or inappropriate to stand in the presence of God. For Simon, the thought of God’s sovereignty (as expressed in Daniel) “mixing” with the human tendency to choose evil or sinfulness (as 1 John suggests) is out of the question. But for Jesus there is no problem. Yes, the world has too often chosen to give power to sin and evil instead of faithfully and obediently serving God, but that does not negate the fact that God is sovereign and can and does act within human history to achieve the divine will. So even a sinful man like Simon can be used to “fish for people” as Luke says, to do what God calls us all to do. Ultimately there is no contradiction. God is sovereign, and though we may too often give our allegiance to the powers at work in the world, God still has something to say about it, and to do about it as well. Thank God.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Holy is God!


Psalm 99
This morning’s Psalm is a great way to start one’s day. It reminds us that God is sovereign. It calls us to put our praise and worship not in things, not in ourselves, but in God alone. It reminds us that God wants justice and equity. But there is another aspect of this Psalm that is fascinating. It appears that it could have been used in worship as an antiphonal reading. The Psalmist praises God and then calls on the people to praise God and their response throughout the Psalm is “Holy is he!” When you realize this and read it this way, it makes a lot of sense. Psalm 99 is a great call to worship. And to read it everyday would be a good reminder to us that God is God and we are God’s people.

Recognizing God


Daniel 5:1-12
This is the source of the expression, “I’ve seen the hand writing on the wall,” meaning I can tell that things are about to change, or the end is near. What struck me in verse 5 is that the king saw “the fingers of a human hand” doing the writing. Obviously this was no ordinary hand, and what is meant is probably to tell us that the hand looked like a human hand. Or maybe it was because the king did not know God that he did not recognize this as the hand of God. After all he and the others at the feast had committed sacrilege by using the vessels that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem to drink to their own gods, which is why the hand appeared. We know God, but do we always recognize the hand of God at work in our lives? Or do we attribute things to other factors, like luck, or our own activities? I think that’s an important question to reflect every day.

1 John 5:1-12
The writer of 1 John also talks about recognizing God. In verses 11 and 12 we read, “And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” God, then, who is the source of love, is also the source of eternal life. To recognize God in Jesus Christ is to find eternal life.

Luke 4:38-44
In verse 43 Jesus defines his role as the Son of God. “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” Jesus understands his mission to be helping others to recognize the good news of the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Love, Authority, and Healing

Daniel 4:28-37
I’ve underlined verse 37, which says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride.” Over and over again throughout scripture God is said to oppose those who pride themselves or who take advantage of their own position. The most familiar example of this idea is perhaps the Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) where we read, “…he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones…” Mary’s words could be referring directly to Nebuchadnezzar and his experience as related in Daniel. Clearly, God takes issue with haughtiness and pride. What God seeks is faithful humility. According to Daniel this is the lesson that the king learned from his experience as a social outcast.

1 John 4:7-21
This has been a time of weddings for us, with five in about six weeks. And we’ve begun each of those services by reading 1 John 4:16b, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” Love is a gift of God to humanity. It builds community and allows us to care for one another. Here again there are echoes from elsewhere in scripture, in this case 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul speaks of love as the greatest gift and the one that should motivate our actions.

Luke 4:31-37
In the reading from Luke I focused on verse 32, “They were astounded at (Jesus’) teaching, because he spoke with authority.” Jesus was a great teacher because he knew, not only the scriptures, but also the will of God which he accepted with perfect obedience. It was this faithfulness that allowed Jesus to demonstrate power and authority. King Nebuchadnezzar’s authority was not based on faithfulness to God and so it was fleeting. The writer of 1 John recognized love as a sign of God’s presence in our lives and the source of community, so that those who do not love do not demonstrate God’s presence. It all has to do with accepting God’s will and living God’s love in the world.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I John 3:19-4:6
John’s letter continues to remind us that Jesus gave us a commandment to love one another, and that by this love we are known as Christ’s faithful community. Over and over and over again this message of love is voiced in the Gospel. “Believe in the name of Jesus Christ and love one another.” In some ways this sounds very simple—we already claim to be Christians, so believing in Christ’s name should be second nature, and how hard can it be to love one another. Well, we are human and doubts do plague us; people at times make it difficult to love because of how they act, how they treat us and sometimes just because of who they are. But this is part of the struggle and the joy of abiding in Jesus Christ. We grow and learn and rely on God and others as we learn to live more fully as Christ’s disciples. We don’t earn a badge which declares that we are Christians, but we are given grace and with that grace comes responsibility. Believe and love.

Luke 4:14-30
This story about Jesus always amazes me. It is one of the places that I see God’s Spirit working, challenging, encouraging. Jesus speaks the truth in love and is rejected. Human beings by nature do not like to be criticized, especially when that criticism is directed at those who know us or who perhaps have helped to raise us. Perhaps there is an image they have of who that person is supposed to be and they want him or her to stay in that place. But there is more to this story than just telling your hometown how things are going to be. Jesus declared his ministry and mission there among these people and they couldn’t hear it. How often do we need to open our ears and listen more closely to the message, open the eyes of our hearts so that we might truly see, open wide our arms that we might truly accept Christ and Christ’s mission as it is laid out in this gospel account—bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, give sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free and proclaim the year of God’s favor. We are Christ’s people, Christians, and this is our obligation; our joyful obligation to hear these words and live them.

Inward and Outward

As idividuals we are called to love and to praise God, but it does not end there. We must also look beyond ourselves and love and serve those around us.

Daniel 4:19-27
In the latter part of verse 27, Daniel tells the king to “atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged.” The concern is not only for one’s self (“atone for your sins”), but also for others (“mercy to the oppressed”). In other words, it is not enough to consider your own relationship to God alone, but you must also be aware of how you relate to others and how your actions affect them. Not many of us will ever have the authority of a monarch, but we do not live in a vacuum either. What we do constantly touches others.

1 John 3:19-4:6
The same theme is present in 1 John. In 3:23 the author of the letter writes, “And this is (God’s) commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as he has commanded us.” It is not enough to love God or to believe in Jesus Christ. We have got to let that belief lead us out into the community where we are also called to love one another.

Luke 4:14-30
In identifying himself as God’s anointed one (verses 18-19) Jesus used a passage from Isaiah that reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus knew that his anointing had everything to do with his relationship with the community, with those around him, with the oppressed, the blind, the poor, the captives. It wasn’t enough to claim a right relationship with God, but that relationship had to have an impact on others as well.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Proclaiming the Good News

Proclaiming the Good News


Psalm 96

It is interesting that I quoted this psalm on Wednesday evening during our Wednesday evening worship. We say this psalm and we hear the words of this psalm, but like so many things in our society today, do we live it? After we attempted a “new” hymn on Wednesday you could hear people muttering under their breath or even to the person next to them. It wasn’t an easy hymn. But the words and the tune fit well together and it was a hymn about Christ’s resurrection. We were singing “a new song” to the Lord for God’s grace and God’s love in entering time in Jesus, for his life, death, and resurrection. When we sing it again, which we will do, it will be as unfamiliar, but perhaps it will still be a new song as we get accustomed to the tune and we hear afresh the words. “Sing a new song to the Lord, O families of the people.” This is the very least we can do for what God has done and is doing for us.

Daniel 12:1-4; 13

This text is tough. But when I read this text, I heard a couple of things. Once again a prophet speaks of warning and deliverance. And the call to deliverance comes to the people. There is participation and responsibility associated with this text. “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” As the people of God we are called to share the good news with one another, but also with others. We do this with our words and our actions, with our lips and our lives.

Acts 4:1-12

Peter, who had lost his confidence and his voice before the death and resurrection of his Lord, found his faith and his voice, his courage and his strength. And all of it comes through God. With boldness Peter and John stand before this group of people that holds power over them and instead of “lying” to save themselves, instead of cowering, instead of skirting around the issues: they speak with boldness about Jesus. You and I are called to this same boldness in our faith, to share the goodness and grace of God with those around us. It is a gift, a privilege and our responsibility.

John 16:1-15

The promise of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate in the lives of the disciples, must have been a little odd. Jesus even tells them he isn’t going to say everything to them, because they “can’t bear to hear it all now.” And yet what a comfort now, in our present situations, that the Holy Spirit is a presence and a force in our lives. The Spirit will guide us.” The disciples may not have been ready to hear it then, but when the Holy Spirit came like a mighty wind into their lives, they spoke, proclaimed, and lived lives so that the gospel came alive. This is our challenge today, to live the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit, in our community and in the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Image of God and bearing fruit


Today’s lectionary passages have a theme of God’s image running through them.

Psalm 99:1-9

I didn’t get much past the first few words of the psalm today. This psalm begins with the words, “The Lord is king”. Sometimes I think it is difficult to comprehend what exactly that means. We don’t live in a monarchy, so we don’t really understand what all that would entail. But more than that, do we let anyone or anything really have total power, control, or say over our lives, all of our lives? I hear people say, “you can’t tell me to do that, you’re not my boss”, or “if they think they are going to get that from me, they have another thing coming.” But we sing hymns and recite prayers, and affirm our faith and say, “The Lord is king” so how can we live this more fully in our daily lives?

Micah 7:7-15

In Micah we get another image of God, that of Shepherd. We are familiar with the shepherd image, “The Lord is my shepherd . . .” leading us through green pastures and beside still waters. And this passage has similar overtones the flock that lives in a forest in the midst of a garden . . . The interesting connection between the biblical king and shepherd is that both a king and a shepherd would be willing to risk their own life for that of those in their care. Especially when we are talking about the good shepherd. So, in the Psalm and in the prophet we are given a glimpse into the character of God: A king, holy and forgiving; a shepherd who will bring salvation.

Acts 3:1-10

In this passage it may appear that there isn’t a clear image of God given. However, I think it is there in the story of healing. It is not Peter who heals the man who is lame, but rather God through Peter who heals the man who is lame. The man, who remains nameless, is given an identity as one who is healed. He becomes the one who can walk and who praises God. God is the Healer. Peter didn’t have anything to give the man except his faith that God could do something for him. Sometimes it is as simple as that. God’s power comes to us through our trust and faith that God can make those who struggle for steps, walk; those who cannot or will not see, open their eyes; those who are dead alive again, for, “There is a Balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole.” The Lord is king, the Lord is my Shepherd, and God is the one who heals and makes things possible.

John 15:1-11

So what about John? He talks about the Vine and the Vine-grower, but here, I want to focus on the work that the disciples of Jesus are called to do. It is simply put: bear much fruit; keep the commandments that Jesus gave (mostly to love one another); and these words were said so that we might have joy and our joy may be complete. Perhaps the verse that grabs me the most in this passage is “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” How often do we attempt to go at life on our own? How often do we attempt to run the church on our own? How often do we attempt to do service on our own? Abide in me, Jesus tells us, so “that your joy may be complete.” We are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture, the ones whom God has redeemed and is redeeming and as such we are called to live thankful lives bearing much fruit, loving one another, sharing the good news, reaching out to those who struggle, and praising our God. This is great news.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

God's Way


Today’s passages seem to have a theme of praising God and following God’s way running throughout them.

Psalm 98 1-9

This psalm calls on people and creation alike to praise God. It reminds us of the marvelous things God has done. In this Easter season it is good to wake each day and be reminded of God’s grace in Christ’s resurrection. For each night we go to sleep and each day we rise anew: “O sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvelous things!” One of the great things about this psalm is that humanity is not left to praise God alone, but is joined in the chorus with all of creation: the sea roars, the floods clap, the hills sing . . . and why? Why does creation join in the chorus, because, God is coming. I read this psalm and am reminded that each day is another opportunity to live in praise and service to God.

Isaiah 30:18-26

When we are children we don’t always like the tough lessons our parents teach us; we really don’t like those difficult lessons with which teachers instruct us, where we learn discipline. But when we become adults we realize the lessons we were taught were and are invaluable. We may use different methods and different ways but we still try to teach our children or the children put in our care discipline. And we do this because we love our children and the children who are put in our care. The interesting thing is we often have a difficult time hearing this same sort of thing about God. God loves a people. God shepherds that people. God is their parent, their guardian, and wants the very best. But those children sometimes run out in the street, get a hold of dangerous things and wander away from home. But the prophet says, “God will surely be gracious to you, you shall weep no more . . . but your eyes shall see the Teacher” and wherever they turned they would hear, wherever we turn we will hear, “This is the way, walk in it.” It is a message of grace if we will hear it.

Acts 2:36-41(42-47)

After Peter finishes preaching the crowd is converted and baptized. And following their baptism comes a beautiful description of the church: they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers . . . and they gave to those who had need and they did it all with glad and generous hearts. Here at the end of Peter’s fiery Pentecostal sermon there is a marvelous description of who we are supposed to be as the church. We center ourselves in God’s word, we are nurtured by fellowship, upheld by the sacraments and prayer and we give ourselves to others.

John 14:15-31

I have already mentioned that sometimes I struggle with John. The easiest thing for me to do this morning would be to just skip this scripture and post the other three. But I am challenged by the words, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me;” These words follow Jesus’ new commandment “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples., if you have love for one another.” These are beautiful words, but I think they are words with which both the church and the world struggle. There are people outside the church who look at us and see that we can’t “love” one another. And we, in the church, struggle because we have a mission to share the good news. But part of that good news, a big part, a commandment from Jesus is that we love one another. There are six weeks in Easter, I wonder if the church were to take those six weeks and challenge her members to pray for and love one another each day how our life and ministry would grow? It might be something worth trying. After all it’s not really a suggestion, but a commandment from our Lord and Savior.

Monday, April 9, 2007



Jonah 2:1-10

Jonah is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. He struggles with what God wants him to do. He runs away from what God wants him to do. He whines about what God wants him to do. Here in this passage, “Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish . . .” Even in the midst of despair and hopelessness Jonah knows that God is God and God is his God. But more than that even in this desperate situation Jonah is going to lift up his voice in thanksgiving and honor his pledge to God. He knows that God is the one who can save him. His trust and faith is in the Lord. I know I struggle with what God wants me to do at times. I know in my life I have tried to run away from what God has wanted me to do. I know from time to time my prayers have been more whining and complaining than praising and glorifying. I know that I have been in desperate situations, but I am not always ready to lift up my voice in thanksgiving, my first reaction is not always one of trust.

Acts 2:14, 22-32

Peter, standing with the eleven, with Pentecostal fervor found his faith and his voice. No longer is the women’s story an idle tale, but a gift of grace in his life. Peter, who denied knowing Jesus stands boldly in the midst of the people and explains exactly what they have done and who Jesus is in relation to King David. But the most profound statement that Peter makes is that they are all witnesses to God raising Jesus up. It is no longer an idle tale. It is a witness for the church. The disciples witnessed the resurrection and now they are to proclaim it. They must go and tell others about Jesus, his life, death and resurrection and help them to believe, so they, too can find their faith and their voice and tell others.

John 14:1-14

Sometimes I find it difficult to follow the logic of John. I can usually find something comforting in what he says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled . . .” But then Jesus keeps talking or the disciples ask him a question and it all seems to get muddled. The question or really the statement that troubles me in this passage for today is Philip’s statement that if Jesus shows them the Father they will be satisfied. I read this passage over several times and just kept going back to that phrase, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” What does it mean to be satisfied? Does it mean to be happy? Does it mean to be filled? Does it mean that we are convinced that something is right or true? Does it mean to be able to take a deep sigh at the end of the day and know that God is in control? What does it mean to be satisfied? Jesus told Philip, the disciples and consequently disciples through the centuries that we have seen God, the Father through the life of Jesus. But are we satisfied? Do we believe? Jesus told the disciples that at some point they were simply going to have to believe. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe . . . Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes will do greater works than these . . .” not on one’s own, but because of trusting in the power of Christ to work in and through them. Perhaps at the end of the day to be satisfied is to trust in God’s love and grace, or put simply to believe

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Day of Resurrection

Exodus 12:1-14
When children are young they often enjoy hearing a story over and over again. This is good and we should tell them stories, all sorts of stories, but especially family stories. As we get older we begin to hear a story and if we think we have heard the story we tend to tune it out, or we might even say to the person, “Oh, I have heard this story before.” or “You already told me this story.” But when we do this we might miss something, a piece of the story, interaction with others, and the opportunity to share community. I have heard many people say, “I wish I had sat down with my grandmother and listened to her stories of when she was a child one more time and recorded them.” This story from Exodus is one of our family stories. God told the people to relive each year so that it would be held in their memories and in their hearts. The ritual of worship is a gift from God to each of us rich with meaning so that we might not only remember but also live. But more than that today, Easter, the day of resurrection, we can hear this text anew as the day to celebrate God’s ultimate “passover”.

The Day of Resurrection, Earth tell it out abroad,
The Passover of gladness, The Passover of God
From death to life eternal, From this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over, With hymns of victory.

Luke 24:13-35
There are a couple of remarkable things about this passage from Luke. It is the Emmaus Road story, so it is another resurrection appearance. In this passage Luke expands our concept of discipleship from 12 to others because here are two more disciples one of whom is named Cleopas, who was not named as one of the 12. They are not simply bewildered because of the news that the women told them but they are sad. And this is where Christ enters breaking down walls and barriers, opening doors and minds. In their conversation with this supposed stranger on the road he reminds them of their faith and foundation, the Word of God, scripture. Jesus opened the scripture to them from Moses through the prophets. They in turn offer him hospitality and because this stranger broke bread with them they saw the risen Christ. Middle Eastern hospitality of the day would have allowed for the act of hospitality, but I wondered how often I have turned away a stranger or even an acquaintance and missed the opportunity to see the risen Lord. I pray this Easter season I may be open to the see Christ in the people I meet each day, on the road, in the market, in the church, wherever Christ encounters me.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Hope Against Hope

What an interesting group of passages these are. But I see hope as the unifying theme today, beginning with Psalm 43.

Psalm 4
Verse 5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” This is our challenge as witnesses to the events of Friday, to hope against hope that God is able and willing to surprise us with joy; that the old things have passed away and, behold, everything is made new again; that death has been swallowed up in victory; that God is bringing light out of the darkness; that the great stones of our lives will be rolled away revealing the possibility and potential in each of us. Do not be cast down or disquieted! Hope in God, for you will again praise the Creator of all!

Job 19:21-27a
Here verse 25 is one that has always meant something to me, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.” Job was looking ahead, to a time when he would be vindicated (a better translation for the word Redeemer perhaps is Vindicator, according to the Oxford Study Bible) on high and justice would be recognized. Job was hoping against hope, in other words, and looking ahead to a day of restoration.

Hebrews 4:1-16
Verses 14-16 say, “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Because of all that Jesus went through, living as we live, facing the temptations that we face, dying the death that we all must die, and yet being raised in glory, he is in a position as no other high priest ever was to respond to us and to our prayers. The writer of Hebrews calls us to hope in God through Jesus (“hold fast to our confession”) and to turn to him in our times of need.

Romans 8:1-11
This passage is intended for this evening. Notice also that there is not a gospel reading for today. Here, though I focused on verse 11 which also invites us to hope: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” The God who raised Jesus from death to eternal life is at work in our lives as well, and holds out a promise in which we may hope.

Friday, April 6, 2007

It Shall Be Provided

Good Friday is a time to reflect on the love that God has poured out for us. We really can not appreciate the joy of Palm Sunday and Easter unless we walk that lonesome valley with Jesus through Holy Week.

Psalm 22
This psalm is always a profound reminder of what Jesus went though. Verse one, of course, is one of the things that he said from the cross. It is a cry of anguish from one who feels completely cut off from God. But notice how the psalm ends: "Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it." (verses 30-31) So though the psalm begins in despair, it ends in confidence, ascribing to God praise and honor for all the great things God has done. Jesus, then, was not giving up on the cross, and he certainly was not cursing God. He was witnessing to the purpose of God and his willingness to be a part of that purpose.

Genesis 22:1-14
This is one of the toughest stories in all of scripture and impossible to deal with easily. I have found the most meaning in verse 14: "So Abraham called that place 'The Lord will provide'; as it is said to this day, 'On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.'" Ultimately God did provide for Abraham and intervened to save Isaac. But later, when God's own Son was being sacrificed for the world, there would be no intervention. God was providing for the world though the death of Jesus.

1 Peter 1:10-20
Here I focused on verse 13: "Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all you hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring when he is revealed." The author is pointing ahead to the second coming and encouraging us all to be ready, in mind and body and soul, for that wondrous day. Meanwhile, our relationship with God has been secured through the blood of Christ ("on the mount of the Lord it shall be provided").

John 13:36-38
I think we all wince when we think of Peter's denial because in so many ways we have all done it ourselves. But the very next verse of John's gospel says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Jesus was speaking to all of the disciples at that point, which includes Peter, of course, but which also includes us. So even in the face of human sinfulness God's grace abounds. God has provided for us once more.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Unifying and Compelling Word of God

Jeremiah 20:7-18
Verse 9 really spoke to me this morning: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” I don’t know if it is because I have been called to the ministry, but I find a real sense of purpose in the act of preaching and teaching the Word of God. And I don’t know if it would burn like a fire “shut up in my bones,” but I do know that my life would be empty if I did not have the opportunity to share the gospel. Of course, ministers are not the only ones who should proclaim the word of God. All Christians should be willing to share the faith as a matter of discipleship. Jeremiah had a particular relationship with God that few people ever understand. It was an acute case of prophetic witness, if you will. But we all, in our own way, are challenged to speak of God to the world.

1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32
Verse 10:17 was where I found the most meaning today, especially in its call to Christian unity. “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” This is reminiscent of Paul’s other statements on unity, like Ephesians 4 and elsewhere. Here of course it is couched in the language of the sacraments, or at least the Lord’s Supper. This is interesting because while there is indeed “one bread” the nature of the sacrament involves breaking that bread for it to be shared. But the essence of the bread remains, just as the essence of the faith remains even when we are divided into congregations or denominations.

John 17:1-26
Those who know me know that I am not overly fond of the gospel of John. Personally I find more meaning in Luke and Mark. But in today’s reading (the high priestly prayer of Jesus) I focused on verse 6: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” Jesus is pointing to the faithfulness of his followers and to their identity as the people of God. They were not perfect, of course, but they had been drawn together for a particular purpose to which Jesus testifies. As Christians, those who follow Jesus Christ, we remain the people of God and are called to follow God’s word and, I believe, to share that word with the world in much the same way that Jeremiah felt compelled to share the word. We also find our unity in our role as God’s people, just as Paul did in the common bread. No matter how we are divided, we remain united in our purpose.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Relying On God Together

The theme I found at work in the passages today, and one which means a lot to me, is that of relying on God, but doing so as part of the community of faith, not as an individual.

Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14-18
This reading contains the third personal lament by the prophet (vv. 14-18). But I focused on verses 7-8: "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the years of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit." One sign of a right relationship with God is the willingness to trust God and to rely on God's providence. I'll confess that, as someone prone to fretting, I don't find this level of trust to be easy (Just yesterday Debbie reminded me how much I worry about things!). But I aspire to trust God because I know that God has been a presence in my life all along. Often I have drunk deep from the cool waters of God's grace (very like the living waters that Jesus promised the woman by the well in Samaria) and I have felt God's hand in my life. It's just that sometimes I can't let go of my own concerns or my own ideas of how things ought to be done. Of course this passage is addressed to a community, and in our nation and in our congregations there are a lot of definitions of what it means to trust God, some of which are completely opposed to each other. In my mind, the key is to embrace the challenge, to acknowledge the struggle, and to seek community with those around us who are doing the same thing. Together, and by the grace of God, we may put down roots deeper than any one of us can alone, and together we are more aware of what God is calling us to do, and therefore more apt to trust God.

Philippians 4:1-13
In light of the struggle I mentioned above, Philippians 4:13 offers a great deal of hope. "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Again, it is important to remember that Paul is addressing his letter to a community of faith, not to a number of individuals. Together, as the people of God, we can do all things though God. This too is a call to rely on God and not on our own abilities since our strength comes from God, not from within ourselves.

John 12:27-36
Here I concentrated on verses 35-36. "Jesus said to them, 'The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.'" Here, too, the call is to rely on God, the source of light, and not on our own abilities. And here again, Jesus is speaking to a community of followers, not to a group of individuals. Together we are able to walk in the light, to trust in God, and to become "children (plural) of light." Whatever we do as Christians, we really should do it together and to the glory of God.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Finding Our Identity in God

Jeremiah 15:10-21
I wrestled with this passage for quite a while this morning before I settled on verse 16. "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts." As the Oxford Study Bible points out, this passage is a "personal lament" by Jeremiah for the ostracism he faces because of his role as prophet. Yet he has centered his life so completely around the word of God as to have consumed it and now it delights his heart. God's word, then, is at the center of all Jeremiah does, and the prophet's very identity is now tied up in that of God.

Philippians 3:15-21
Here centering one's life around God is expressed in different language, but the idea is essentially the same. In verse 20 it says, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Jeremiah was called by God's name. The Christian's citizenship, another source of identity, is in heaven. The word "citizenship" can also be translated "commonwealth" which points more clearly, I think, to the corporate nature of our identity in God. We are known by whom we serve and in whom we place our trust.

John 12:20-26
Here I choose verse 25: "Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life IN THIS WORLD will keep it for eternal life." Again, our identity is found in our relationship with God and not in this world.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Monday of Holy Week

I didn’t find a lot to connect the readings today, which is somewhat ironic since they have been picked for Holy Week, but there are several points that I found to be interesting.

Jeremiah 11:18-20; 12:1-17
I found 12:1 to be very interesting, especially the way it starts out: “You will be in the right, O Lord, when I lay my charges against you; but let me put my case to you. Why does the way of the guilty prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” Those are good questions, of course. and ones that honest people have struggled with throughout human history. But what I really admire is the fact that the prophet, who is most often engaged in hearing and sharing God’s word with the people, is also free to question God with the words of the people. And God responds to Jeremiah’s complaint with the words of verse 5, but it is an open and honest conversation, and a good model for us to use in our approach to God. The Psalms often lift complaints or concerns to God, as do other prophets, so there is a precedent to our honest conversation with God.

Philippians 3:1-14
As an eighth-generation Presbyterian, and one of 11 Presbyterian ministers among my family and my in-laws (and with a cousin in seminary), I can relate to Paul’s words in verse 4b and following, “If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more…” Being a “genetic” Presbyterian is not exactly “close to godliness,” and yet sometimes I can lose focus on what is really important and begin to trust my lineage more than I should. Faithful obedience is what God wants, and all the ministers in the world as family members won’t change that. Paul himself was willing to give his accomplishments and heritage away as “rubbish, in order that I may be gain Christ and be found in him….” May we all continue to focus on what is really important in our relationship with God.

John 12:9-19
Here I found some interest in verse 19, “The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’” These were prophetic words, but not really accurate. Jesus was (and is) the Savior of the world, but the world did not (and has not) “gone after him” the way the Pharisees seemed to think it had. Of course, when the religious authorities took steps to eliminate Jesus and to turn the world away from him, he was raised by God and assumed his true glory. Here, as in the Philippians passage, human accomplishment or authority or power is “rubbish” in the face of God’s will.