Scripture: Matthew 22:19
Jesus responded, “You are wrong because you don’t know either the scriptures or God’s power…”
Thought for the Day: Rachel Held Evan, a Christian author, wrote the following:
With Scripture, we’ve been entrusted with some of the most powerful stories ever told. How we harness that power, whether for good or evil, oppression or liberation, changes everything.
I love Evan’s use of the word harness. When speaking of scripture, and harnessing its power, there needs to be plenty of humility, awe and respect. Too often scripture is taken out of context, misused, and employed as leverage for achieving something other than God’s dream for this world. In Matthew 22, there were certain people who were trying to entrap Jesus. They put forth a rather unthinkable scenario hoping he’d say something absurd. Instead, he turned it back on them, and by doing so, showed how they were using scripture for something other than its intended purpose. It’s not a rule book or answers to a trivia competition. Bible stories are, as Rachel Held Evan suggests, powerful stories because they deal with the complex and perplexing nature of life. You could say, “Love is always the answer,” and you would be right. But how that love is shared or expressed or embodied can be a bit more challenging than the one word answer.
Prayer: Let your love for me, O Good and Kind God, provide me the peace I need to tackle life’s tough issues with faith and humility and grace. Amen.
Do You Have Any
For Wedensday’s Class?
Prayer for the Week: What world do I live in? Where are my loyalties? To whom do I bow and give authority over my life? These are the questions I bring before you, O Spirit of Heaven and Earth. I ask these questions with some trepidation, for there is a part of me that does not wish to confront what should be confronted within my life. I like what is comfortable for the simple reason that it is comfortable…even when comfortable is not healthy or does not yield the Fruit of your Spirit. Draw me back to the beginning where the unconditional love of Jesus wraps itself around every aspect of my life. Take me to the waters of baptism and to the meal of grace. Open me anew to your welcome, your mercy, your love, your embrace – gifts by which I can move from a conformity to this world to a life that is being transformed for the sake of your kingdom. I cannot be of this world and be an instrument of your realm. Provide me the courage to be reshaped by your Holy Spirit, and then invite me into new patterns and rituals that will teach and reinforce a life that is willing to put your unconditional love first. I make all of these requests with some nervousness, though doing so in the name of Jesus, my friend and encourager. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 43:18-19
Don’t remember the prior things; don’t ponder ancient history. Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.
Thought for the Day: Now I don’t believe Isaiah was suggesting the people completely forget their past. There were wonderful and powerful stories that rooted Isaiah’s community in the mercy and love of God, including the story of the Exodus. Yet often the new thing God is doing is kept at bay by an overly passionate commitment to the past…an almost idolatrous yielding to what was at the expense of what could be. One of the noteworthy slogans of our denomination (though not original to us) was: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.” It was a radical notion in its time, and it remains an important concept in today’s world. Of course, most disagreements among those who have cherished these words could be linked to the question: What are the essentials and what are the non-essentials? In faith, one person’s essentials are another person’s non-essentials. The Body of Christ can point to this very thing as the primary culprit of many of its divisions. I have my own set of essentials, and I’m pretty passionate about them. You probably have your own set, and there might be places where we are going to be in conflict. First, let us reflect on the last phrase: In all things charity. Out of that charity, or sometimes stated as love, let us ask some important questions before the fight begins. Be curious, and ask a person about his/her essentials, and why those specific ones are essential? Even more so, ask for the story behind those beliefs? What scriptures and experiences have informed the person in claiming those specific essentials? The answers, if we actually listen, might just be insightful. We may not change our minds, but we might appreciate how a person came to that opinion.
Prayer: As I stand strong in my beliefs, O Gracious God, may I listen respectfully to those who may hold a different set of beliefs. No matter how different we may be, I pray for your help as I love those with whom I may disagree. Amen.
TODAY — SUNDAY
Chapel at 10:10am
Forum at 4:00pm
Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 5:17
So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!
Thought for the Day: Too often we think of following Jesus in terms of escapism, or what some might refer to as departure theology. It is all about surviving or enduring this world so that at some point we can go somewhere else and be with Jesus. This kind of theology has always existed within Christianity, but especially in times where great persecution has seen Christians die without any sense that circumstances on this planet will change. It makes sense in that context. But the teachings of scripture are less about escaping and more about engaging and transforming the current reality. In fact, Paul makes a shocking statement when he says, “new things have arrived!” For Paul, Jesus broke into an old, broken, hateful, greedy and sinful world and brought with him a new reality. It does not come with marching armies who simply conquer as was common in Roman thinking. Instead, it is revealed in acts of mercy and sacrificial love, most beautifully witnessed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The question for all of us is whether our lives continue to give witness to a new creation or the old creation?
Prayer: Provide me the ability to see opportunities to serve you this day, O Lord of a new creation. I seek your spiritual strength so that my life may give witness to things that are not always deemed of value in this current world. It is in the name of your vision-caster, Jesus Christ, that I offer these words of prayer. Amen.
Tomorrow — Sunday
10:10am in the Chapel
4:00pm in the Activity Room
Scripture: Galatians 6:15
Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation.
Thought for the Day: A new creation? Are we sitting around looking for God to make the world around us different or is something new to happen within us? I believe Paul was suggesting the new creation is not about an outward change (like circumcision), but an inward transformation that will lead to social and cultural transformation. He used the word NEW, not MODIFIED or SLIGHTLY IMPROVED. A person can do all the dress-up he or she wishes to do, but a new outward look doesn’t necessarily mean anything has changed on the inside. At the end of the day, most people are looking for something dramatic, not window dressing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ needs the new creation birthed into people’s inner-most lives, not something superficial that will ultimately be misleading.
Prayer: Come, O Lord God, and make me new…from the inside out. Bring real and lasting transformation to my life for the sake of your Gospel that needs authenticity as a vehicle of its power. Amen.
Bruce Is Preaching On Leviticus
Scripture: Jeremiah 17:14
Heal me, LORD, and I’ll be healed. Save me and I’ll be saved, for you are my heart’s desire.
Thought for the Day: N. K. Jemisin is, among other things, a SciFi author. She writes:
Reconciliation is part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted.
The Prophet is rather ruthless in this chapter, ruthless toward those who trust in human power and those who are corrupt and gain wealth in ways that injure others. In those situations, is healing possible? It’s one thing to want the healing or say you want the healing, and something very different to get to that place where healing is possible. Too often those in power shrug their shoulders unaware of why there cannot be healing and reconciliation. They remain oblivious to how their foot remains on the neck of the one with whom they desire a healed relationship. Almost all of us have some sort of blinder where we are unaware of how we have (or continue to) injure others. To remove those blinders takes a great deal of self-reflection and a willingness to listen to others without feeling defensive. To do so requires a lot of spiritual strength.
Prayer: Forgive me, Merciful One, wherever I have brought pain or injury to another. Make me fully aware of any underlying motivation that may cause me to repeat this unhealthy behavior. Provide me both a self-awareness and the humility to confess when that self-awareness reveals sinfulness. It is never easy, but it is the only way toward reconciliation and healing. Amen.
Scripture: Hebrews 13:18
Pray for us. We’re sure that we have a good conscience, and we want to do the right thing in every way.
Thought for the Day: I know that some people may disagree with me on this, but I believe (or want to believe) that most people do what they do because they believe it is the right thing. Now believing it is the right thing and it being the right thing are often two very different things. We may not be taking notice of our insecurities or fears, and so we make a choice that appears admirable on the surface, but it is not…at all. In fact, it is harmful to many others. Blind passion for our an ideology can have us missing the shortcomings or even damaging aspects of the ideology (and no ideology is perfect). Or maybe your catalyst for doing what you’re doing is because it’s always worked before. This can be true, but things can change, and there are times when long held traditions no longer produce the outcome they once did. For the author of Hebrews, the 13th chapter has a long list of expectations – Love each other like family, don’t commit adultery, don’t worship money, and imitate the faith of the leaders. These are all important, but how the church has defined love throughout its life has changed dramatically. Not just the how, but the who we are to love. How we understand what is right is always changing, not because rightness changes, but because the context or perspective changes. Not to over use the example, but there was a time when you’d be hard pressed to find a Christian who was opposed to slavery. It was a good Christian value. Today, most all Christians worldwide would be appalled at the thought of a human being was enslaved. I believe we are all still growing in what it means to follow Jesus, and doing the right thing is both a personal and communal responsibility…and even then, we must be open to the Spirit who provides us a good conscience – the Greek word here describes the soul’s capacity to distinguish the moral good.
Prayer: O Spirit of the Living God, provide me with a faithful heart along with faithful partners who will help me to discern and ask the difficult questions. Where necessary, give me the courage to change for the sake of doing the right thing. Amen.