Monday, October 31, 2011

With the Help Of Our God

Nehemiah 6:1-19
According to our reading from Nehemiah this morning there was reason to celebrate in Jerusalem. “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16). By God’s grace the restoration of Jerusalem’s defenses had been accomplished in very little time. This passage brings to mind other verses of significance. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). “The stone which the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner” (Psalm 118:22, 1 Peter 2:7). In each case scripture reminds us that God is at the very heart of our efforts. Whether we build with literal brick and mortar or strive for a spiritual structure we succeed only when we recognize God as the source of our strength.

What might we accomplish today “with the help of our God”? I don’t now about you, but this thought is both terrifying and invigorating to me. It scares me because I know that I have work to do, work that will be challenging and difficult at times. But it stirs my soul to think that with God’s help I can touch lives and offer God’s love to others. If we trust God to build the house, if we rely on the stone that the world has rejected, then we work with hope and confidence, with hearts open to possibilities that we might otherwise have missed.

Today is full of potential. May God bless it to our use and may we experience the success that comes “with the help of our God.”

Prayer: Lord, guide our living that your will be done, today and all days. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

Matthew 13:24-30
When I read the parable from Matthew’s gospel for today I usually worry about where I stand between the weeds and the wheat. But what if I’m really one of the slaves who is in a rush to get rid of bad plants?

We know the story. A farmer sows good seed in his field, but later an enemy comes and sows weeds as well. “The slaves said to (the farmer), ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them” (Matthew 13:28b-29). That’s the part that grabbed my attention today. Pulling up the weeds is not the prerogative of the slaves. That job belongs to someone else. We may feel qualified to make the distinction, to rid the field of undesirable types, but the farmer says, “No.”

I often find myself ready to “pull weeds,” to decide which of the folks around me are unworthy of God’s love. I may feel qualified to make the distinction (I am a minister), but the truth is that it doesn’t matter. That is God’s call, and has been all along. When I judge others I risk harming the community as a whole. And what if I’m wrong? What if God, the Creator of weeds and wheat alike, decides on a transformative act, shaping “good” plants out of “bad” ones? What if I’ve got it all wrong and what I thought were weeds really are the wheat? God says “no” to our judgment. God tells us to care for the field, to prepare for the harvest, and to let God decide who is in and who is out. And since it is God’s field, I guess we’d better listen.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I judge others based on my own ideas and my own prejudices. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Placing Our Confidence In God

Nehemiah 1:1-11
Our Old Testament reading this morning includes a heartfelt prayer of confession, one that resonates with contemporary life. “Both I and my family have sinned,” says Nehemiah. “We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:6b-7). Not only does Nehemiah confess his sins and the sins of his people, but he goes on to remind God of promises made, of assurances given, that if the people should turn and seek God they will be restored. Nehemiah shows contrition and seeks mercy, but does so with confidence in God.

In my tradition we enter into confession with the same confidence in God. Yes, we have sinned and turned away from God’s will. Yes, we deserve God’s judgment. But we also know with certainty that in Jesus Christ death and sin have been defeated and that we are forgiven. The relationship between God and God’s people remains intact. In turning to God we are relieved of the weight of our sins and encouraged to live for God and one another. Though Nehemiah would find many things about our modern world to be unsettling (to say the least), I believe his trust in God would continue to serve him well. Still, even at this distance in history, Nehemiah’s prayer remains an example of faithfulness.

Prayer: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name” (Nehemiah 1:11a).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's What We Do

Psalm 134
Included in the lectionary readings each day are two psalms intended for the evening. Psalm 134 is one of the evening psalms for today. Oddly, the first verses of the psalm remind me of the TV game show Jeopardy. On the show contestants are given answers and are challenged to provide appropriate questions. For example an answer might read “the first book of the Bible,” to which a contestant would ask “What is Genesis?” So imagine Psalm 134 as used as an “answer” on Jeopardy. “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord” (Psalm 134:1-2). So what’s the “question”?

The question might be, “What should God’s people do?” That’s what Psalm 134 is telling us, that we should be about blessing and praising God night and day, that we should worship and serve God, that we should stand ready to respond to God’s call, whatever it may be. I may be inferring some things, but I believe the intent is there. As God’s people we are called to worship our Creator and to serve God’s intentions.

As our lives unfold and as we are faced with ever changing circumstances we may feel confused or overwhelmed. But according to Psalm 134 it is always appropriate to offer our worship to God. That is a good way to begin and end each day, a good way to center ourselves and to keep ourselves focused on what is really important. And frankly as God’s people it’s what we do.

Prayer: Creator of all, help us to serve you with heart, mind, soul, and strength all the days of our lives, and may we bless your holy name in all we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Eternal Reign

Revelation 4:1-11
Our reading from Revelation today continues with John’s experiences. “After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne!” (Revelation 4:1-2). John had been granted a glimpse of heaven where he witnessed the one who reigns there.

In many ways this vision is like that of the prophet Isaiah who centuries before had also been allowed to witness the heavenly court and to overhear the proceedings there (Isaiah 6). Taken together these visions offer a profound sense of comfort to me for they remind me that come what may, there is always one who reigns. Earthly kingdoms come and go. Societies collapse and are replaced. Institutions run their course. Entire cultures rise and fall. These are the ways of humanity within the flow of history. But in the court of heaven there is eternal certainty and everlasting stability.

The Greeks and Romans imagined wars of succession being fought among the gods they worshiped, deities constantly engaged in intrigue. Not so with the people of God. We worship one whose dominion is unquestioned and unwavering. The uncertainty we may feel in this life is countered by the absolute assurance that God is Sovereign and that in God’s time all life will become what God wills it to be.

Prayer: God of eternity, help us to live these days in the knowledge that you alone reign over time and space and that in you all life finds its fulfillment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Worse Than at First

Matthew 12:43-50 The gospel reading for today shares some troubling words from Jesus. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45). My first thought when reading this passage was of something that comic Rodney Dangerfield used to say: “You think I look bad now, you should have seen me yesterday!” But Jesus’ words are far more serious than a standup gag.

The truth is that evil is an ongoing problem for humanity. Whatever it’s cause, sin is something that we can’t outgrow or outrun. If we believe that we have cleanses ourselves of evil, or have “learned not to sin,” we are probably even more vulnerable than we were before, open to all the inclinations that serve to lead us astray. Jesus’ concern is for those who will ignore his words or who will fall into bad habits once they believe themselves to be “healed.” In this regard Jesus’ words are similar to the parable of the sower which Matthew relates in a later chapter. There the seeds that fall on rocky soil or among thorns experience short-lived growth before they are consumed by their surroundings (13:5-7).

Jesus’ invitation to us is to hear the good news and by God’s grace to abide in it so that we may experience the hope and the joy that come from discipleship. There is no inoculation against sinfulness, but there is a recognition of the challenges we face and our constant need for God’s forgiveness. There is also the grace which carries us forward toward the coming reign of God. Jesus’ words are good news because they remind us to be alert and to trust, not in ourselves, but in the love of God.

Prayer: Lord help us to trust in you and not in ourselves or in the world, for from you alone come the grace and forgiveness that we need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Matthew 12:22-32 According to Matthew Jesus had just healed a blind and mute demoniac by casting out the demon that plagued the man. While the crowds wondered if Jesus could be the Son of David the Pharisees accused him of being of the devil. They reasoned that there was no other way for Jesus to command evil spirits unless he was in league with them. Jesus’ reply to this accusation is direct. He ends by warning the Pharisees that “people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).

The Pharisees had witnessed the work of God and yet willfully discounted it attributing it instead to Beelzebub. It is this hardness of heart, this stubborn denial of the truth, that separates one from God. If we deny the Holy Spirit’s work we have essentially hung a “do not disturb” sign on our lives telling God to leave us alone. According to Jesus, God is inclined to do just that, to leave us to our own sinful destruction. If, however, we acknowledge God’s work in the world, we will find opportunity for grace and forgiveness even when we fall short of God’s intentions. A willing and obedient faith opens us to God’s grace. A refusal to accept what God is doing leaves us closed off and withdrawn from that same grace.

Prayer: Lord, we do not always acknowledge you as we should. Help us be open to your grace and live as you intend. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Big, Big Picture

Ezra 1:1-11
“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia…” (Ezra 1:1). We’ve seen this sort of thing before. On several occasions, according to the book of Exodus, God affected the heart of Pharaoh in his interaction with Moses and Aaron. Now God has stirred the spirit of the king of Persia in order that God’s will might be accomplished. God also appeared to the prophet Ezekiel by the River Chabar, far from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1:1ff).

None of this should surprise us. This is the same God who brought the entire world into being and who gave life to all people. Just because God had covenanted with one particular nation did not mean that God had ceased to operate on a global-or universal-stage. Nor is God somehow barred from working though those who may or may not believe in such a God. If it is God’s will to harden the heart of an Egyptian ruler, God can do so. If God wishes to stir the spirit of the king of Persia, God can do so. There is no boundary on God, no invisible fence that God must acknowledge. God is free to act according to God’s will.

That’s good news, of course. Though we may not fully grasp what God is doing in our world today we know that God is at work touching lives, stirring spirits, maybe even hardening hearts if that is God’s will. In Jesus Christ God made a universal claim to all people calling each and every one of us into a restored relationship. The universe remains God’s theater of operations, and God is capable of transcending our expectations, of moving beyond any limits even we might try to impose.

Prayer: Lord, your concern for us knows no boundaries, no limitations, no end. Help us to live as your people and to accept your presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Something Greater

Matthew 12:1-14
According to our gospel reading for today Jesus said to the Pharisees, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6). He was talking about himself and about God’s presence in the midst of the people. God’s work in Jesus was far more profound than the religious institutions of that day. In fact a part of Jesus’ ministry was to set the hearts of the people on God and not on religion per se. But few of the Pharisees seem to have understood what was going on. The institution-law and temple-was what they knew, and Jesus was flaunting it.

In fairness we shouldn’t be too hard on the Pharisees. One of the challenges that we must address today is how to serve God in and through the church without letting the church become the focus of our devotion. When we gather to worship we must remember that something greater than the church is there. When we talk about the future, about stewardship, about ministry and evangelism, about what it means to be faithful disciples, we must remember that something greater than the church is there. When we argue about doctrine and about who is more faithful to the scriptures, we must remember that something greater than the church is there. Otherwise we become the Pharisees of our day.

Something greater than the church is here! It is the Spirit of God at work, leading, teaching, building up, challenging, making restless, confounding, inspiring, and doing so much more. If we rely solely on brick and mortar, if we cling to the fellowship that we find so comforting, if we hold tight to “our kind of music” or “our kind of worship” then we will miss the opportunity to join in the magnificent things that God is doing. Truly, something greater than the church is here.

Prayer: Open our eyes, O Lord, and let us see what you are doing and how we might join you in that work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lost Identity

Lamentations 1:1-12
I wonder which is more tragic, those who are compelled to give up their identity, the essence of who they are, or those who give it up with no thought or concern. One answer comes from the book of Lamentations. “Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude;” we read, “she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress” (Lamentations 1:3). As a result of their sins the people of God have been dispersed into exile. They no longer have a place to call their own. They have been stripped of their identity in many ways.

I’m afraid that too often we are willing to lay down our identity as believers in order to blend in with the world and what it offers us. It’s a fools bargain, a bad deal for us, but we do it anyway. I’m not encouraging sectarianism or isolation or fanaticism on our part. What I am suggesting is that we honor our beliefs, that we participate fully in our religious institutions, that we teach our children to value the tradition in which they are being raised, that we study and pray and discuss and listen and contribute so that the community of faith may offer things to the culture that are worth having: peace and hope and justice and righteousness and truth.

We worry a great deal about identity theft these days. We fear that someone will use our name or our credit cards without our permission. Wouldn’t it be something if our identity as Christians so appealed to others that they were willing to use it as their own? Isn’t that what evangelism is all about? What will it take to get us to that point, where we live the joy of our faith to the fullest?

Prayer: Lord, help us to live our faith in obedience to you so that others may know the love that you alone offer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Make Up Your Mind Already!

Matthew 11:16-24
Jesus’ frustration is obvious on a number of occasions in scripture. Our reading from the gospel today is one example. Jesus said, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:18-19). How slow we are to accept that which does not fit our own view of things! As I look at the church today, including my own denomination, I see conflict and confrontation on all sides. It is not enough to acknowledge “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:5-6). Even a cool form of civility would be better than the disdain we have for one another.

“What do you want?” Jesus wonders. “What more can God do to earn your faithful obedience? You said that John the Baptist was crazy, but then you say that I am promiscuous. Make up your minds! Which way is it going to be?”

When I read Jesus’ words I am convicted: I am more a part of the problem than the solution. I carry grudges, assign blame, make excuses, and find ways to avoid God’s call for unity. May God both forgive me and lead me to change. In the mean time I feel a strong sense of call in my ministry to hold myself and others accountable for the blessings we have received, for the responsibilities that we share, and for the unity that God—what’s a good word here?—demands. If you feel that there is far too much finger pointing and too little responsibility-taking, if you feel that it has become too popular to break covenant with one another instead of praying with and learning from each other, if you feel that Jesus’ lament has been too long ignored, then you and I, whoever you are, must acknowledge that we have something in common. Then we must listen seriously to Jesus’ words again and again and again until it all sinks in.

Faith really isn’t about what we want! It is about what God wants!

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I fail you by failing your people. Help me learn to obey your will. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Of Lasting Importance

1 Corinthians 15:1-11
As Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth draws near its close Paul underscores the source of his faith and the heart of the gospel: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1Corinthians 15:3-8).

There is, of course, more than a few sermon’s worth of material contained in these verses. But I find it helpful to note that Paul marks this statement as “of first importance.” Paul is saying, in effect, “it begins here; this is what it is all about.” It is not enough to know the Christ died; we must also be aware that Christ died for our sins. It is not enough to know that Christ died for our sins; we must also know that he was raised from the dead. It is not enough to know that he was raised from the dead; we must also know that he appeared to his followers at various times. It is not enough to know any of this unless we also know that it happened “in accordance with the scriptures.”

For Paul the gospel is not an isolated event or a single statement of fact. It is a tapestry of threads drawn together in God’s grace and creating a new reality. Yes, Christ died, but that death which is the source of our redemption was also a prelude to the resurrection and the creation of the church. To single out any one aspect of God’s work in Christ is to overlook the fact that it all fits together. This is the message that Paul is sharing, the words “of first importance” for his readers-including you and me-to recall and claim as their own.

Prayer: Lord may we live each day mindful of the grace we have been given through Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Come Together

1 Corinthians 14:26-40
In today’s epistle reading Paul offers an example of what the worship of God should be about. “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). When we gather before God we each bring our own offering, our willingness to participate in the praise of our Creator. We may sing, we may preach, we may pray, we may listen attentively, we may contribute money. But whatever our offering may be, however it presents itself in our lives, we must first be sure we are building up the body of Christ, not tearing it down or causing it to fall to pieces.

Furthermore we must hear Paul’s words and take them seriously. Who is it who brings an offering for the worship of God? “Each one,” says Paul, by which he means each member of the community. Worship is not some sort of performance art, not a form of lecture, not a recital. Worship is an act of the body of Christ directed toward God. And as such we must strive to build each other up in our worship and in our living. This, of course, understands the essential nature of our gathering and of our worship. It is not optional, it is a part of what we do! Paul does not suggest that “if we should happen to gather…,” but states flatly, “whey you come together….”

So we must gather, must come together to worship God, each with our own gifts and offerings, and each focused not only on God, but on building up one another. Through such activity we find peace and joy in the presence of God.

Prayer: Lord, help to worship you with honesty and with enthusiasm, joined with our fellow-believers, and guided by your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pass It On

Matthew 10:24-33
The call to discipleship is an invitation to a variety of activities, and sharing the good news of the gospel is perhaps one of the most important. Jesus wanted his followers to know that even passing along his words would likely put them at odds with others. No matter. "What I say to you in the dark," he told them, "tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops" (Matthew 10:27).

I admit I am amused at the thought of Christians all over town clinging to the roofs of their houses and shouting out favorite Bible verses or entire parables as non-Christian neighbors look on with bewilderment. But the image is apt. It is not enough to believe the gospel, there is an urgency in sharing it, and the act of sharing requires more than a few muttered words or a shy acknowledgement that Jesus means something to us. Maybe the rooftop is the best place for the people of God, and maybe we should be yelling at the top of our lungs, or doing whatever it takes to put the emphasis on God's word and on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord, give us the confidence to share the good news with the world, not in a subtle way, but with confidence and certainty. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Now Where?

Matthew 10:16-23
A verse from Matthew’s gospel is giving me particular trouble today. I thought I’d share it. “When they persecute you in one town,” Jesus said, “flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23). What did Jesus mean? Was he saying that his return would be prompt? If so, was he actually wrong? Or is there another meaning to what he was saying? How far should we go in trying to understand it?

I’d rather not get caught up in concerns of that nature. What I take from this passage is the reality of movement, of motion, both of believers and of our Lord. Events unfold, lives change, circumstances are altered. We know this, and Jesus does not deny it. But through it all the hope and the promise remain because Jesus, too, is in motion and in due time he will return and all will be set right according to God’s will. This is certain. Lives that are inherently active are watched over by a Savior who is active as well.

Perhaps Jesus was speaking in metaphors in Matthew, or perhaps his words contain some far more significant message. Whatever the case, the kingdom of God is moving inexorably toward us. Meanwhile, as active as we are we cannot outrun God or God’s will.

Prayer: Lord, all the world is in motion. Help us to see that you are in motion as well, moving in and through and above us and blessing our efforts to your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Proactive God

2 Kings 23:36-24:17
In our Old Testament reading this morning the writer of 2 Kings offers an editorial comment that speaks volumes. Of the difficulties facing Jerusalem and the surrounding country the author says, "Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed..." (2 Kings 24:3-4a). The implications of this statement are clear. Nothing could happen to Jerusalem without God's permission. Actually, according to this passage the hardships that befell Judah were at the behest of God. God was not simply watching events unfold, allowing them to happen, God was the primary force behind them.

God's intentions for the people had been clear all along. Turn away from other gods, walk in the way of the Lord with conviction, follow God's commands, and reap the blessings. When the people failed to respond as God desired, God not only removed the devine protection from them but set in motion the events that would lead to their destruction. In a manner of speaking, God was proactive in the matter.

Fast forward in human history. When the time was right God sent Jesus Christ into the world to redeem us from our sins and save us from the power of death. God was proactive. I doubt this would have been a surprise to the author of 2 Kings. It certainly should be no surprise to us. This is what God does. God takes part, plays a role as God wills within creation. Our hope in God is not misplaced.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in our living and help us to see your grace which surrounds us at all times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

E Pluribus Unum

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Paul makes a significant point in discussing the diversity and the unity of the church. “Now there are varieties of gifts,” he says, “but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Yes there are differences within the community of faith. We are not all alike, we do not think or act the same, and we do not have the same abilities. But for every difference we find within the church God provides a unifying element.

Notice the symmetry that Paul uses. Gifts, services, and activities are matched with Spirit, Lord, and God respectively. Paul reminds us that just as the Triune God is really One, the church, despite it many parts, is really a single entity. So perhaps our greatest hope for unity within the faith is that the church is created in the image of God the same way that each of us is.

I take heart in these words. There are many divisions at work in our world, even within the people of God. There are schisms and church fights and angry words being hurled back and forth. None of this should happen. But if we will only slow down and pay attention we will see that, just as Paul assures us, our differences are really a blessing giving us each an opportunity to serve God in his or her own way. My hope is that by God’s grace we will each begin to share our gifts, our abilities, to God’s glory and for the betterment of those around us.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see that in you we are made one, and that in one another we find new and different expressions of faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Which Day Was That Again?

1 Corinthians 11:23-34
Paul makes a poignant reference in our epistle reading for today. He could have chosen any number of ways to identify what we call Maundy Thursday: the night Jesus was arrested, the night Jesus celebrated the Passover, the night Jesus instituted the sacred meal. But Paul chose to call it the night of Jesus’ betrayal. “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it…” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24a). By placing the meal into this particular context Paul heightens the tension between the grace of God and the sinfulness of humanity.

Judas would indeed betray Jesus to the authorities, but by the time the night was over Jesus would be disserted by his followers and denied by Peter. And the crowds who cheered Jesus on Palm Sunday would be screaming for his blood by Friday. Into this climate Jesus introduces a profound sign of God’s love, a meal through which believers find nourishment for the journey of faith and are reminded of the sacrifice made.

The truth is that we all betray Jesus every time we fall short of God’s will. But the sacrament of communion remains for us a sign that Jesus’ sacrifice was not in vain. As Paul reminds us, God’s love abounds.

Prayer: Lord, we thank you for your continued love and mercy. Bless us in our efforts to serve you and forgive us when we fail. In Jesus’ name. Amen.