Prayer for the Week Voices, Prophets, Those who inspire the best within; who challenge the unhealthy ways of society; who awaken the better angels of our nature. O Artist of our humanity, you have created a magnificent expression of the possible when you created us. O Sculptor of our souls, you formed us through love, to share love, for the sake of love. Your hope and vision are etched upon us, they are found within us, yet we are too quick to dismiss the essence of our humanity. We yearn for love, the attention of another human being, a touch of compassion. So why is it that we are so quick to ignore, to rebuff, to live our lives in such a way that we undermine the hope and vision you placed within? Why are we so insecure, so fearful — that it is better to tear down another human being than to face the demons within. Why are we so insecure, so fearful — that we cannot imagine our own humanity being valued. A twisted justification, a narrow and hateful rationale, we devalue others, in the belief, that our humanity will be amplified. O Lord God, forgive us – forgive us as we relearn that you formed us through love, to share love, for the sake of love. O Lord God, reintroduce to Dr. King; to the transformative power of love; to the beauty of nonviolent resistance. O Lord God, show us the ways of Jesus; allow his Spirit to empower us; allow him to be for us a mentor and model. It is through your influential and inspiring name that I offer these words. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 4:13 After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.
Thought for the Day: I’ve always been intrigued by these words. Jesus has just finished an onslaught of temptations, misguided and slanderous suggestions that were seeking to redirect his attention from the ways of God. You finish reading it, and you wipe the sweat from your brow and give thanks that it is all over. And then you read those last words, “…until the next opportunity.” Whether it is that darn chocolate cake that is tempting us or the expensive car that we really can’t afford or an opportunity of making some money by taking advantage of someone else or undermining another person in our feeble attempt at building ourselves up, there will always be the next opportunity. Even when we can stand proudly in our triumph over temptation, let us never become too comfortable or prideful. Arrogance can become the unintended doorway for temptation to not only slip in, but claim a victory itself.
Prayer: Let me be mindful of all that is attempting to lure me away from you and your magnificent grace, O Lord. I sincerely invite your help in this ongoing work. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 4:2 There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving.
Thought for the Day: This is a portion of scripture from Sunday’s sermon. This verse suggests that Jesus was tempted by the devil. The Greek word we translate as devil in this case is Diabolos. What’s interesting is how the word is not a noun, but an adjective. It would be a word that is usually used to clarify or expound upon a noun. We might say, “The old person sang a song.” Old is the adjective, but what if we just started saying, “The old sang a song.” First, it sounds a bit strange. Second, it leaves us a bit confused in regard to what is old. Could it be that those telling the story did not want us to think of a person or human-like entity when thinking of the Diabolos. The word Diabolos might best be translated as slanderous,, as in, “The slanderous commercial brought a lawsuit.” It makes me wonder if it is better to think of the Diabolos, not as a single entity, but as a power that is both external and internal – a force beyond a single body that seems to always be present and attempting to shape our thinking about self, life, others and God in a way that is unhealthy and destructive.
Prayer: There is so much that is contrary to you and your grace, O Lord. Each day, I encounter utterances that seek to devalue who I am and who others are. Some of these utterances are spoken by other people, others are seen in the work of groups, and still others come from within me. This is why I need you every hour of every day. This is why I need you around me, ahead of me, behind me and within me. May this day provide opportunities for me to strengthen my relationship with you. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 4:1 Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Thought for the Day: So often we have thought of “the wilderness” as a dangerous and frightening place. It might be both of those things, but so often in scripture, it is also the place where people come to encounter and build a relationship with God. Maybe it’s because the wilderness experience requires us to depend more on God. Maybe it is because we reduce the number of distractions. Or maybe it’s because the God who is screaming love and mercy to us each day can finally be heard without the cacophony of other voices. Jesus didn’t just accidentally find himself in the wilderness. He was led there by the Holy Spirit. The Israelites, when leaving Egypt, were led by God’s messenger, Moses, but also by the beckoning fire of God. God lures us into the wilderness using all kinds of methods, but when it is God who does the luring, we can feel confident that there is something wonderful to be received despite it being the wilderness.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, be my guide to that place where I am better able to perceive the divine presence, receive holy mercy, and to know that I am loved without condition. It might be the wilderness, but it is your wilderness. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 3:38 …son of Enos son of Seth son of Adam son of God.
Thought for the Day: Continuing from yesterday, I share the final line from Luke’s Genealogy. Matthew takes it back to Abraham, the Father of Israel. Luke takes it all the way back to God. For Luke, the genealogy offers us a story of new beginnings. It sounds a little like what Paul was suggesting in 1 Corinthians where he describes Jesus as the new Adam who offers new life through the Spirit. The first Adam received the Breath (Spirit) of God, while the new Adam (Jesus) promises the Spirit to the disciples, the Spirit that came on Pentecost. The Genealogy communicates more than just that idea, but for Luke, the idea of new beginnings is a key concept that is reinforced in so many ways. And of course, this new beginning (new life) is not limited to one group or one community, but to everyone – Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old.
Prayer: Breathe upon me and into me your Spirit, O Lord. Allow it to be the inspiration that allows me to participate in the new thing you are always doing among us. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 3:23b-26 People supposed that he was the son of Joseph son of Heli son of Matthat son of Levi son of Melchi son of Jannai son of Joseph son of Mattathias son of Amos son of Nahum son of Esli son of Naggai son of Maath son of Mattathias son of Semein son of Josech son of Joda…
Thought for the Day: This is only a portion of the genealogy of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Luke. A lot of ink has been spilled in trying to harmonize this genealogy with the one found in Matthew’s Gospel. Can I just say that attempting to harmonize is like trying to harmonize the TV shows Brady Bunch and Modern Family. Yes, they were/are both comedies, and they were/are both about families. The historic context to which they were written is the same, in that they are both written for people living in the United States. But one was written for the 1970’s, and the other has been running for the last 10 years or so. Both were about blended families, but Modern Family has a same sex couple with a daughter, and another couple that is racially diverse. The Brady Bunch was not quite ready to go there. Yet both shows were/are challenging what society considered the norm. The Brady Bunch showed mom and dad sleeping in the same bed, and though not the first TV show to do so, it was pushing the envelope. And of course, it was a second marriage for both of them. Mike (dad) was a widower, but Carol’s (mom) reason for singleness was never disclosed. She was originally written as a divorced woman, but the network didn’t believe America was quite ready. So they left it to the imagination of America.
So what does this have to do with Jesus? Luke and Matthew did not want us spending time trying to harmonize their genealogies. Instead, we need to be asking why and for what reason do they attempt to tell the unique story they are telling. The two Gospel writers looked at the peculiar aspects of their communities and wrote to those peculiarities. In both cases, the Jesus they are writing about will be understood by the community as someone who is very much connected to them and their unique circumstances. Isn’t that the work of every Christian?
Prayer: O Creative God, continue to encourage the work of shaping the proclamation of Jesus in such a way that everyone who hears it can hear of your love that is big enough and broad enough to both reach and embrace every person. Too often we have announced Jesus in such a way that he appears only interested in the unique problems of the one doing the announcing. Open us to your Spirit that has and continues to inspire generations of disciples who can articulate the Good News in ways that bring hope and joy to more and more people. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 3:23a Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry…
Thought for the Day: How many of you had something important happen in your life between the ages of 12 – 30? There are some stories of Jesus as a young person in the apocryphal Gospels, including the Infancy Gospel of Thomas written in the second century after Jesus, but material is scant when it comes to our Bibles. For Luke, these informative years were either unimportant or unknown to him. There is a lot of Jesus’ story that remains a mystery to us. Christian Tradition has tried to fill in the gap with all kinds of stories, but we can assume that most of them came from the imaginations of people who did not like the unknown. And many of those stories make Jesus sound more like a superhero or magician. I think had I been living during those years when some of those stories emerged, I would have imagined Jesus a little more teenager-like. Maybe Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son, in part, because he had been a bit of a prodigal son to his parents. Maybe there were a few bad choices along the way. Maybe your late teens and early 20’s were different than mine, but I had a few less than stellar moments. I only say this to suggest that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. And if Jesus was fully human, I don’t know if the divine part could have pushed out the usual teenage mischievous behavior. In fact, I kind of like a Jesus who understands how teenagers are struggling with temptation, hormones, curiosity, a zest for life and a prefrontal cortex that has yet to fully develop. I like a Jesus who knows that aspect of life, not as some distant observer, but one who was in the mix himself.
Prayer: God of all people and all ages, you provided us a savior, model and guide in Jesus. The fullness of his life, including the parts of which we know very little, made him the person that changed the world. May I learn to accept all of who I am, including some past moments of failure and outright stupidity, for it all has shaped who I am today. This I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.