Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do The Right Thing

Romans 12:1-21
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:14-18). I wonder what would happen if we took Paul’s exhortations as seriously as we do some other biblical texts. I wonder what would happen if we challenged ourselves to no longer repay evil for evil with as much vigor as some people of faith use in speaking out against what they consider to be among the more egregious sins. Or if we took Paul’s directions to “live in harmony with one another” to be as essential to a godly life as we hear certain other activities to be contrary to God’s will.

I’ve noticed a tendency on my part to do some picking and choosing when it comes to standards of conduct as a Christian. I’ve also noticed that I’m not the only one. It is terribly easy to make up our own catalogue of dos and don’ts and to add what we feel is appropriate to the list while leaving off some items we aren’t as fond of. The fact is that over and over again in the words of Paul—just as in the words of Jesus before him––the focal point remains love for God and love for one another. With this love comes a willingness to suffer with and to care for those around us. Jesus said that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), a sentiment echoed by 1 John which says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God” (1 John 4:16); Paul himself says clearly that “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It all comes down to love and the harmony, and the shared burdens, and the peaceable living, and the willingness to associate with folks from all classes that comes with it. It all comes down to opening our hearts to God in such a way that we also love our neighbors as ourselves.

As we ponder the word of God and God’s will for all people, we must embrace the entire scope of scripture. Yes, God does offer judgment, does seek to correct our sinfulness, does lead us to a more profound sense of righteousness. But first and foremost God calls us to build a community in love and forbearance where no one is haughty and everyone seeks to live in peace with everyone else. I just wonder what that would look like.

Prayer: Almighty God, may our lives be filled with love for you and for each other, and may we be guided in all we do to build a world full of your grace and peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Getting Our Work Done

Colossians 3:18-4:18
Many of us are familiar with the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This may be no truer than in the life of the Christian community, especially at the time of baptism. Then it is common for promises to be made, pledges to assist in guiding the newly baptized—whether adult or child––as he or she grows and develops in the faith. One verse from our epistle reading for today, while not referring to a child, does affirm the role the “village” of faith plays in encouraging each of its members to live up to her or his calling. “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord’” (Colossians 4:17).

These words of instruction for Archippus would have been read aloud, meaning that he would likely have heard this admonition first hand. But of equal importance is that the wider community know that it has been called on to hold Archippus accountable. What was the task he had been given? We really have no way of knowing, but that really isn’t important at this point. Nearly 2,000 years after the fact, we may assume that the work––whether it was done or not––has long since passed from importance. What has not lost importance is the job given to the wider community. By grace, we are surrounded by women and men who have been charged by God in a variety of ways. Our job is to help them get that work done.

This past Sunday, three young women were recognized by the congregation I serve as they graduate from high school and head toward college in the fall. Part of our duty as a congregation will always be to remind young people to “complete the task that [they] have received in the Lord.” For some, this task will be to serve the church as a minister or other form of leader. For some it will be to respond to the needs of the world in faithful obedience to God. For some it will be as parents. For some, as teachers or as the sort of business people who function with integrity and honor. Whatever the case, the community of faith will always be integral to the growth and development of its members, if only by reminding them to be all that God has created them to be.

Prayer: Lord God, help us to complete the task set before us, that our faithful service may bring honor and glory to your name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Woe?

Luke 6:12-26
There are times when Jesus, in the words of the old expression, quits preaching and goes to meddling and a portion of our gospel reading for today seems to take us in that direction. “But woe to you who are rich,” says Jesus, “for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:24-26). In one fell swoop, Jesus manages to condemn the wealthy, the well-fed, the joyful, and those folks who have good reputations. Was that really necessary? Did he really need to risk alienating those who seem guilty of nothing more than being blessed?

Apparently so. But condemnation is probably the wrong term to use here. Jesus is really offering words of warning to people who may have become lost in their own circumstances. Wealth is not the point to life, Jesus is saying, nor is a full belly. In and of itself, joy is not a bad thing, but if it blinds us to the larger issues in life it can cause real harm. And anyone “who believes their own press clippings,” or who becomes infatuated with their own public image risks turning away from God’s will in an attempt to remain at the center of attention.

Let the rich recognize how blessed they are and embrace the opportunity to share from their own abundance. Let those with plenty to eat avoid gorging themselves and remember to provide for the hungry and neglected. Let those who are able to laugh share that joy with others. Let those who are highly regarded use their standing in the community to demonstrate a life of humble service and self-sacrifice. In these ways the blessings of God are multiplied many times over and become a source of wealth, sustenance, joy, and esteem for all.

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to live as faithful disciples of your will in all that we do, for it is in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Colossians 1:1-14
As a child living in Memphis, Tennessee, I never had the need to ride public transportation. But my mother thought getting around town by various means was an important skill to develop, so on at least one occasion we took a city bus from near our home in midtown to the downtown area. It was only a six-mile ride, but it afforded me an opportunity to see how the transit system worked and that even as a child, it was nothing for me to be afraid of. Our reading from Colossians today creates an impression for me of a trip of far greater significance, one that should be taken very seriously because of its far-reaching consequences.

Imagine yourself riding on a great cosmic bus, one that is taking you and everyone you know—perhaps all of creation—toward a dark and evil place. Whether you know it or not, this is not the direction you should be going. You, and everyone else, need to get off of this bus so you can board another one that will take you in the right direction. What you need is a transfer, a ticket that allows you to change from one bus to another so that you may reach the correct destination. The author of Colossians knew nothing about busses, of course, but he did know about the need for God’s people to travel in the right direction; he also knew that God had done what was necessary to achieve that very goal. “He has rescued us from the power of darkness,” we read, “and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has provided us with a means to change directions, to arrive at the proper location, safe from the “power of darkness,” ensconced in the coming kingdom. Before we had even realized how dangerous our trip was God had already taken steps to save us from it.

This in no way implies that the struggles of life are behind us or that we will not face difficult decisions. Musician Tom Cochrane makes that clear with is song “Life Is a Highway.”

Life's like a road that you travel on
When there's one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend and sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your head to the wind

As God’s people we still must learn to “endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father…” (vv. 11-12). The good news is that we are engaged in a winning effort, not because of who we are, but because of who God is and what God is doing for us. The cosmic journey continues toward God’s coming kingdom.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in our journey of life, that we may live in faithful obedience to you and in service to one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

So Much Greater Than Fish

Luke 5:1-11
An odd thing happens in our gospel account for today that may challenge our understanding of what God desires for God’s people. Jesus encourages a group of fishermen to cast there nets into the Sea of Galilee. Even though they had caught nothing all night, the men do as Jesus says. “When they had done this,” Luke says, “they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:6-11).

On the one hand, Jesus’ instructions lead Simon and the others to an enormous catch of fish, one that would have provided significant financial reward to them and their families. So we might be tempted to assume that God wishes such financial health for all people, and that when we believe in Jesus we will find ourselves blessed in the same way. But Luke’s account goes on to tell us that just as Simon and the others began to react to the bounteous catch, Jesus invited them to come with him to “catch people” and, according to Luke, “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” So much for financial security. Luke doesn’t say that Simon, James, and John negotiated a sale of their fish before leaving, or that once they had sold their boats they departed, or that as soon as they had found someone to operate the business they were ready to go. Luke says that these men “left everything” to follow Jesus.

The truth is that sometimes following where Jesus is going to feel a lot like leaving behind everything we have, everything we know, everything we hold dear or that brings us comfort. Sometime following Jesus requires learning a whole new set of life skills and adapting to a completely new set of assumptions. And whatever reward we are to receive may not come in this lifetime. But that is the lesson we learn from Simon, James and John: when we decide to follow Jesus, the action should be a radical act of faith based on the trust we have in God and not a risk-free outing or an overnight trip out of town. To follow Jesus sometimes means to leaving behind what we think we value most in order to find out there is something so much greater waiting for us.

Prayer: Gracious God, help us to answer your call to discipleship with confidence and faith, leaving behind the lives we know in order to embrace that which only you can offer us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Exactly Is the Good News?

Luke 4:38-44
The nature of God’s reign is inherently good. That’s one message we find in today’s gospel reading: “But [Jesus] said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’ So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea” (Luke 4:43-44). But what constitutes “good news”? The definition we choose will go a long way in determining how we understand God’s work within human history and beyond. Actually, this term is used a number of times in Luke, from the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Zechariah announcing the “good news” of the birth of John (1:19), to the angel’s sharing “good news of great joy” with shepherds guarding their flocks near Bethlehem (2:10). Jesus himself quotes the prophet Isaiah in claiming that his ministry includes bringing “good news to the poor” (4:18), a theme he returns to in his conversation with the disciples of John (7:22). This “good news” then is bound up in the work of Jesus Christ and those, like John, who point toward him.

But as joyous and profound as this “good news” is, it can not be isolated from the reality of the world as we know it. After all, much of Jesus’ time was dedicated to healing illnesses and casting out demons, to calming fears and announcing God’s judgment, to feeding the hungry and restoring the lost. These conditions and needs existed within the created order, plaguing many and making life more difficult. But the hunger and illness and fear in no way preclude the goodness of what God is doing in and through Jesus Christ. To all such cases Jesus brings good news in the form of the coming reign of God. Like a beam of light that ejects all darkness before it, the validity of God’s new creation opens a passage forward. Now lives lived in turmoil have a chance at redemption. Now hurt and anger can be set aside and reconciliation claimed. Angry voices can now be tuned to praise and sharp words to the work of building community.

Jesus shared good news wherever he went. That same good news remains a potent, indeed, all-consuming force for goodness and mercy. When we accept what God is doing now and what God has promised in the future, we prepare ourselves to do our part in changing the world.

Prayer: Almighty God, may we live as messengers of good news and as agents of your gospel until your kingdom arrives in it fullness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love and Hate

1 John 4:7-21
Like many of you, I’ve been reading news reports about the bombing in Boston on April 15, 2013. While the news is tragic and heartbreaking, I have been disappointed as well by comments left on various websites concerning the role of religion or politics in the event, even though no suspect or motive have been identified. As people of faith, we must take seriously the charges being leveled against us: that we are led to violence by our God; that our faith is one of hate and vengeance which––as one writer claimed––has overseen far more deaths than were caused by Hitler and Stalin combined; that were there no religions the world would be a better place. We need to hear these words not as truth, but as assumptions too often based on the acts of those who claim they believe in the God of Jesus Christ.

And when we have heard these words, we need to read from our epistle lesson for today: “We love because [God] first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (1 John 4:19-21). Granted, to some these are just words on a page which is why we must learn to share God’s love unambiguously and without qualification. We must let the world know, to the best of our abilities, that God is love and that it is because of God that we are capable of showing love for one another even in the face of greatest evil.

One glimmer of hope to appear in the midst of yesterday’s turmoil is the renewed use of a quote from Fred Rogers, a man of faith who dedicated his life to enriching the lives of children. His mother’s advice to “look for the helpers” in scary times has resonated with many. You can find the original video of this quote at:


Rogers is not claiming that all helpers are people of faith, simply that there are always those who will show compassion in times of distress. Our job, as Christians, is to make sure that we are among the helpers, those who renounce acts of violence to embrace ministries of hope and reconciliation. This may not lead others to share our faith, but it will serve the will of a loving God and will help to push back the darkness of evil with the light of life.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for all those who are victims of violence and ask your peace to be upon all people this day, in Boston and around the world, so that all may enjoy your gift of abundant life, now and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Passing Along

Luke 4:14-31
As we read scripture, we are apt to think of Jesus in a lot of ways: as a teacher, a preacher, and a healer; as the Son of God and the word of God incarnate; as the Messiah and the chosen one. All of these titles, and so many more, lead us to think of Jesus as interacting with the people of his day, meeting needs and sharing God’s love. Even when he was filled with righteous anger, it was for the purpose of leading people to God’s will. But do we say when Jesus simply walks away from a situation? Our gospel reading for today offers an example of Jesus doing just that. “They got up,” Luke tells us of the crowd in the synagogue, “drove [Jesus] out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (Luke 4:29-30). Faced with the prospect of being killed, Jesus merely excused himself and took his leave.

On the one hand, this part of the story points to the God-given charisma that Jesus possessed. When he decided that things had gone far enough, Jesus was able to stare down the mob that threatened him and to “pass through the midst” of them. He could never have done that were he not filled with holy authority. But more importantly, we should recognize that this account points ahead to Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. He might have been killed by the crowd in Nazareth that day except that it wasn’t his time to die. Then again, he clearly could have avoided death in Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans had it not been God’s will for him to die. Jesus was never merely a victim of the events going on around him, nor was he ever swept up in what was happening. He had a role to play in the work that God was doing, and he accepted that role, and he lived it to perfection.

The crowds at the synagogue in Nazareth that day were unaware of the events that would later unfold for Jesus. But if, in hindsight, they associated what they had witnessed with the crucifixion of Jesus, then they may have wondered how the same man who had walked away from his encounter with them could have been put to death later. The answer lies in the love of God who sent a Son to die, not in a capricious way, but according to the divine will and at the right time. This is why we can also refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and know that when Jesus suffered it was not by accident.

Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners and in whose name we offer our prayers of gratitude. Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Heavenly Mandate

Luke 3:1-14
According to Luke’s account, John the Baptist gives clear guidance on what one does in order to live a righteous life. “And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Luke 3:10-14). The underlying theme is community, caring for one another and living in right relationship. Those with plenty should care for those in need. Those in authority should be careful not to abuse their power. In fact, all that is required to live a godly life seems to be summed up in John’s admonition to the soldiers, “and be satisfied with your wages.” Those who seek more than they need—be it in terms of wealth or power––are at risk of God’s judgment. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” quipped the old-time preacher. Here, the faithful obedience for which God calls is straight-forward and clear-cut. If you have enough, be satisfied with it as you seek to care for those who are without.

What also strikes me about these words is the complete absence of any human mandate. All the generosity, hospitality, responsibility, restraint, and respect, that John’s words imply are to be established according to the will of God and not because of a governmental decree or social policy. Regardless of what legislatures or agencies may (or may not) decide, the role of the believer is obvious: care for one another in obedience to God. As Paul says of the fruit of the Spirit, “There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5:23b).

How might John’s words inform our living today? For one thing, the people of God must demonstrate the human capacity for generosity and compassion instead of waiting for or demanding it of others. Governments serve a vital purpose and can do many good and essential things. But caring for others and sharing with those in need is too important to be relegated to elected officials. Likewise, while there are many points of disagreement between people of faith, there should be something close to unanimity when it comes to caring for the lost, the lonely, the poor, and the outcast. There are many ways to address the needs of the world, but only one Spirit necessary to motivate our actions.

John lays down an indelible pathway toward the coming kingdom with his challenge to “be satisfied” with what we are given as we work to mend the brokenness of our neighbors. As the old-time preacher reminds us, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Prayer: Gracious God, help us to live with love and compassion for those around us, meeting needs and mending wounds, and so to live as an example to the world of what it means to follow you

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Step Right This Way

Psalm 66
Walk among the sideshows at the circus or at the fair and you may find yourself enticed by the cries of the carnival barker. A barker, of course, is the person whose job it is to drum up a crowd, to build interest, and to generate as much business for the sideshow as possible. “Hurry, hurry, step right this way. Don’t you dare miss the awesome wonder that is the four-headed cow,” he might say. Or the bearded lady, or the frozen mermaid, or the man-eating geranium. And if we are willing to let ourselves believe the unbelievable, we will pay our money and take a look at what we know cannot be true. For a carnival barker to be effective, he or she must display enough enthusiasm to overcome our natural skepticism, to make us do something that we would not normally do.

Psalm 66:5 has the ring of a carnival barker to it. “Come and see what God has done,” it calls to us. “(H)e is awesome in his deeds among mortals.” There is a great deal of enthusiasm here for what God is doing in the midst of God’s people. “Look here! Step right up! Don’t you dare miss the awesome deeds of God!” What deeds are these? Well for one thing, says the psalmist, God “turned the sea into dry land; (God’s people) passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations…” (vv. 6-7). And again––later in the psalm––we are told to “come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried aloud to him… (T)ruly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer” (vv. 16, 19).

Call this evangelism Israelite style. It is a charismatic cry to the people to put aside any doubts they might have harbored and to listen to what God has done, both on a grand scale, and on a personal level. It is the sort of invitation offered by Paul throughout the Roman empire as he called men and women to hear and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. It is the sort of invitation offered by countless saints throughout the generations as they shared their own stories and called others to believe as well. It is the sort of invitation that we, too, are called on to offer to the world, baptizing and making disciples, working to overcome the skepticism the confronts our message.

The invitation of the psalmist, and of Paul, and of the church in all generations is an invitation to praise the living God. “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth,” we read, “sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds” (vv. 1-3a). When we can respond to God with praise, when we can marvel at God’s awesome works in our midst, then for us the skepticism is less acute. When our hearts are full of praise and worship, then they are also ready to work and minister in God’s name, to feed the hungry, to revive the dispirited, to comfort the distressed, to house the homeless, then we are ready to enthusiastically invite others to come and see what God has done.

The carnival barkers do not remain in one place long. They follow the circus, or head to the next fair, and they take with them the four-headed cow, and the frozen mermaid. The God of all creation remains in our midst and invites us to remain at work with enthusiasm calling others to join in.

Prayer: Lord, guide us by your word and your will to serve you faithfully in all that we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 8, 2013

No Darkness At All

1 John 1:1-10
I have to admit, when it comes time to sleep nothing beats a dark room. It is also easier to watch a movie if the screen is the only source of light in the theater. Astronomers work best when they are well removed from the ambient glow of population centers. For those who still remember pre-digital photography, a darkroom is necessary for developing pictures. These are all reasons why we should approach one of the metaphors used in 1 John 5 with care. “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Does this mean that in the presence of God there is no shade to be found? Is there no relief from the constant, penetrating glare of light? Or does this verse really point to something else?

The dichotomy between light and dark is one of the most common in scripture rising, in large part, from the Bible’s pre-industrial setting. Darkness––especially nighttime––caused fear because it was so all-pervasive. Candles or lanterns or torches were of some help in pushing back the gloom, but there was finally nothing to be done but to wait for the sunrise to illuminate the world. So darkness was perceived as evil while light was considered good. To this extent, the metaphor is apt. “God is goodness and in God there is no evil at all,” we might say. But there is a flaw in this reasoning as well. According to Genesis 1 God did create light on the first day, overcoming the darkness of chaos. But God also created evening and morning and called them both good. Night was understood as a necessary contrast to day, allowing for rest and for rejuvenation throughout creation. To this extent, the metaphor is problematic because darkness is a natural part of the created order.

But what if we take 1 John 1:5 more or less literally? What if we assume that God really is light as opposed to darkness? What does that tell us? It tells us that just as light is the source of growth, and daytime is the setting for so much of human accomplishment, God, too, is a source of growth and home to what humanity can and does achieve. And in God there is no ambiguity, natural or otherwise, no grey areas, no blurred edges, no overlapping. God is what God is: light as opposed to the absence of light; energy as opposed to a lack of energy; as central to our existence as the sun is to our being.

God is light the way that God is love, or that God is three-in-one. When we try to approximate God with words, there will always be limitations. But then we step into the glow of inspiration, the illumination of knowledge, and we begin to better understand who God really is: light without any darkness at all.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be illumined by your word and by your will, that we may dwell in the light by which we bless all people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Ins and Outs of the Gospel

Acts 2:36-47
By grace, God has formed a new community of faith in Jesus Christ. This reality is central to Peter’s message on Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts. Indeed, it is because of this divine initiative that Peter can point to an ever widening circle of fellowship beginning in Jerusalem. “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him’” (Acts 2:38-39).

There’s a song by musician Peter Gabriel that speaks to the natural human tendency to seek out distinctions between people and to shape society along those sometimes artificial barriers. He says:

There's safety in numbers
When you learn to divide.
How can we be in
If there is no outside?

Speaking in terms of the gospel, the apostle Peter refuses to make any such distinctions, recognizing instead that all authority rests with God and God alone. He and the others who had followed Jesus from the beginning sought shelter in the days immediately following the ascension, but now the Holy Spirit had sent them out into the streets to share the good news to all people. There had been relative safety for them in the isolation of the upper room, in the ability to control those who came and went from their midst. But that safety would now be lost to the hubbub of the marketplaces and the roadsides. There no longer would be an “inside” established by the community of faith because whatever “outside” there might be would exist only at God’s will.

The contemporary church serves God best when it embraces this reality, that God’s promise is for whoever God determines. There is safety to be found in small rooms and in closed communities, but as the crucifixion makes so vibrantly clear, the gospel has never been about safety. It is a message infused with risk which sometimes leads to discomfort and even death, but which also leads to the gift of eternal life. By God’s grace the question becomes: can anyone be “out” if there is no “inside?”

Prayer: Almighty God, help us to open our hearts to your message of grace and peace and our lives to the work you would have us do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Now the Real Work Starts

Acts 2:14, 22-32
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). Peter’s words to the crowds in Jerusalem on Pentecost are appropriate for the day after Easter because they remind us of the good news of the resurrection, but also of the responsibility that we now bear for sharing that good news with the world. The truth is, if we think that Easter has somehow brought us to the end of something, we are wrong; Easter is, in so many ways, only the beginning.

Think of the empty tomb as a pebble dropped into a pond. From the point of impact, ripples move outward across the water until the entire pond has been stirred. As people of faith, we play an important role in transporting the gospel, conveying the message of Jesus’ resurrection further and further through time and space. It may be by you or me that others are stirred from their placid apathy into lives of discipleship. It may be our actions or our attitudes that help others recognize Christ at work in their lives, that awaken them to the possibilities that God is offering in grace.

Because of the cultural aspect of this holy day–the egg hunts, the new clothes, the candy-filled baskets–Easter may seem somehow to be a culmination or a fulfillment; what it represents, though, is a starting point. We may have put the decorations into storage until next year, but if we are paying attention we will recognize that the real work is just beginning. Oh, but what joyous, life-affirming work it is.

Prayer: Lord, may the season of Eastertide bring us new opportunities for service and growth as we seek to follow our risen savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.