Scripture: 1st Peter 3:9-11
Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it.”
Thought for the Day: My sister, Beverly, introduced me to these words from the Dalai Lama. He wrote, “In daily practice, reflect on the benefits of love, compassion and kindness, then reflect on the disadvantages of anger. Such continuous contemplation, the growing appreciation of love, has the effect of reducing our inclination towards hatred and increasing our respect for love. By this means even anger can be diminished.” I find it interesting how every major religion places peace and love, blessing and goodness, above everything else. In turn, every religion defends those ideals by using methods that demonstrate a complete lack of trust in those ideals. We think defending them is the most important thing, when in fact living them is foremost. And as we live them, we do more than defend them…we embed them in the very fabric of ourselves, our community and the world.
Prayer: Guide me, O Great and Good God, using what you have taught the world through the many expressions of your incarnate word. Amen.
THIS SUNDAY’S SERMON
Scripture: Proverbs 31:8
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.
Thought for the Day: Yesterday I did something stupid. Please, no commentary! But I was eating my lunch at my office desk, and I picked up the phone to call one of our church members. Immediately after dialing, I grabbed my sandwich and took a big bite. It was a peanut butter sandwich. The call begin to ring – I panicked. There was no way I could make a sound, let alone speak. I was so thankful when it continued to ring, never even going to voicemail. Had someone answered, it would have been nice to have a friend to speak for me.
The Proverb references those who cannot speak, and thinking of it as symbolic language, I believe there are a lot of situations in which people feel as if they have a mouth full of peanut butter. They feel as if their voice will not be heard, or speaking could cost them a job or promotion. It is hard when we feel as if we have something to say, but a mouth-full of peanut butter.
Let us pray that in such moments, God will provide us someone who will speak on our behalf. And let us be so bold as to ask God to guide us to those situations where we can speak for others who feel as if they have no voice.
Prayer: Give me your voice, O Lord of Love, so I may speak your glorious message. And when I have nothing, please provide me a spokesperson who sees my need and speaks on my behalf. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 11:1-2
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…”
Thought for the Day: A week from today, I will begin a study focusing on prayer. In the above passage, we get a little taste of what will become the Lord’s Prayer and the context in which Jesus originally taught these words. One of those words that catches my interest is ‘hallowed.’ It is not a word that makes its way into my daily conversations. I occasionally use it when I’m watching Nebraska football and the camera pulls back to make Memorial Stadium visible. I remember going there as a child, and I thought it was hallowed ground. The word here means to be set apart, and so Jesus is suggesting that when we pray we should place the divine name on a pedestal of sorts. Do we do it because God’s ego needs to be encouraged through our acclamations? I don’t think so. I believe the name of God should be extolled and set apart as a reminder that God is the Holy Other (borrowing from Rudolf Otto). We may claim to have within us the image of God or the divine spark, but we should not confuse ourselves with God. God remains uniquely God and distinctive from humanity. Though humanity has often tried to make God in its image, at the end of the day God remains the Unequaled Other…and this is good for both of us.
Prayer: Holy God, all of creation deserves respect as we are created in your image. At the same time, let us never think of ourselves as equal with you, the One who gave us life. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 40:28-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Thought for the Day: Yesterday was probably not my best driving day. There was no accident or even near accident, but on the way home from the grocery store, I came to a stop at an intersection only to have my wife point out that there wasn’t a Stop sign at the corner. We laughed, drove a little further, and then I stopped again for no apparent reason just to be funny. We laughed again, drove a little further, and once again I came to a stop. This time there was a Stop sign, but as I pulled out in front of an approaching car, my wife pointed out that it was not a Four Way Stop. Oops!
The scripture speaks of the everlasting and incomprehensible nature of God’s concern for humanity. In difficulty, we are to wait for the Lord, and in our waiting, we are to find renewal. The Hebrew word used here is Qavah, and it means to wait or linger or to look eagerly for what is to come. I guess it is always good to be cautious, but we do need to know when to wait and when to go, when to stop and when not to stop. But even when it is time to wait/stop, let us remember that it is for the purpose of renewal. Let us view it as a period of time in which we look eagerly for what is to come. And once rested and reenergized, it is time to move forward with a sense of renewed faith.
Prayer: Stop me, Lord, when it is time to stop. Bring me to a pause for the purpose of revitalization. Let me wait eagerly, receive openly, and move forward faithfully. Amen.
WEDNESDAY AT 6:30PM
Dr. Mark Whitten’s Class
Critical Christian Thinking
About Homosexuality & Gay Rights
Based on: Matthew 20:29-34
Scripture: Zechariah 7:9-10
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.
Thought for the Day: Did you hear about the man who fell into an upholstery machine? He is fully recovered. I came across that joke on Facebook, and a day later, I was visiting my in-laws in Harrison, AR, when my father-in-law tells me about how a man in their community had been drug into a factory machine and killed. I had laughed hard upon reading the joke, but suddenly I felt rather shallow and insensitive. My laughter was never intended to show disrespect as I did not know the other story, but it made me think about how often we may innocently joked to only find out how it hit painfully close to home for another person. We can never know every situation, and there will be times when a joke may not feel like a joke to someone else. A sensitivity to those around us is essential if we claim to be a follower of Jesus, and though we will still say something that will be unintentionally hurtful, we must continually strive toward greater awareness…and when we fail, we must be unafraid to say, “I’m sorry. I never intended to be hurtful.”
Prayer: Provide me an awareness, O Lord, to be able to show compassion and demonstrate kindness. And when I am unaware and cause hurt, provide me the courage and grace to say that I am sorry. Amen.
Scripture: Exodus 12:37-41
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
Thought for the Day: Do you remember your first day back at school? If you were like me, there was both anxiety and excitement. There was always the unknown factor, but if it was a new school, the anxiety usually eclipsed the excitement. I can’t imagine what it was like for the Israelites as they were escaping more than 400 years in Egypt, many of those years were spent as slaves. They were rushed out, unprepared when it came to their provisions. Their bread had not had time to rise, and so it was unleavened. They didn’t know exactly where they were going and they didn’t trust Pharaoh who they hoped would remain behind. Would this be the doorway to their destruction or would there be promise and new possibility in the future?
To be fair, starting a new school year is not the equivalent of the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt. And even though some kids will suggest that school is like slavery in Egypt, it is not. At the same time, the unknown is the source of great uneasiness. Children’s imaginations can run pretty wild, and their late night fears about teachers, locker combinations or school food can produce all kinds of apprehension. If you’re like me, I had some of that return to school apprehension. Let us pray for our children who are returning to school and those who are beginning school for the very first time. Though it is hard for them to see it from where they currently stand, these are important steps toward the promised land of knowledge and growth. As best we can, let us listen to their concerns, comfort their anxiety, and cheer for them along the journey.
Prayer: Quiet the anxiety that is felt, O Lord of Grace. Provide assurance to those who are feeling fear. Let the nightmares of three-headed monster teachers be replaced by the genuine love each teacher seeks to share. Amen.
Teachers and Support Staff and Students
ALL WOMEN ARE INVITE
To a Gathering from 3-5pm
(In the Activity Room)
COMING SEPTEMBER 2
Today’s Devotional Written by: Jessica Galvan
Scripture: Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
KJV: For our battle is not against flesh and blood; but against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Thought for the Day: Paul writes, our battle is fought against things we cannot see!…not against flesh and blood. Do we not fight flesh and blood daily, already? Yet now, we fight another battle – this battle for our mind/spirit. How do we battle, fight, and win a victory over things unseen? Does it have to be seen to be believed?
Feelings make us happy, smile, laugh or cry. Oxygen, hydrogen, pheromones and water vapor are all good things you can’t see flying through the air. A person, a song, a warm fuzzy or an ill will; a sad memory or an odd thought comes “from out of the blue” and you ask – from WHERE did that thought COME? Why am I thinking that? Why did I dream that? Sound familiar?
With those questions asked, how unbelievable can that (things that can’t be seen) remain when one considers that our precious health and well-being; our very bodies, minds and thoughts are subject to things we cannot see. Catching a cold, Ebola, H1N1 or the measles — are all illnesses we cannot see enter our bodies through the air we breathe – and our bodies become infected. We battle for our physical health with vitamins, proper diet & exercise, using caution, not running with scissors, etc.
Before the “digital age”, antenna radio and TV signals were received through the air. Today, our computers and electronic minds (drives) are subject to viruses and other bugs. They can become infected through Wi-Fi connection (through the air). We battle for our computers health with programs or apps and use caution about the websites we visit.
Much like our bodies and computers, our minds/spirit (thoughts) can become infected with disbelief such as Ill-feelings toward others, deception or depression; each full of darkness and defeat. In the same manner we battle for the health of our body and electronics, we should battle for our mind/spiritual health (against spiritual darkness) using the powerful word of God, prayer, and with the whole armor of God; about which Paul continues to write. Could spirits be in the air? Consider please, it is what you cannot see that can be the most impactful and meaningful.
We may not be able to “see” spirits or infections; however, we can see evidence, the result of each, in our actions. It is likewise, with our faith. Yet one day our faith will be SIGHT! Until then, the good news is, the victory we seek is ours through a relationship with Jesus Christ!
Prayer: Praise you, Almighty God, Ruler of all! In your Son’s name I seek the refuge of Your protection against the dark spirits of this world that I cannot see AND the flesh and blood I can see. Who can be against me when You are before me? Father, prepare me for battle. Please continue to be with me (and this dear reader). Strengthen The Holy Spirit within me and help me to adorn the full armor of God so that the wickedness does not infect my spirit. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, Amen!
JOIN US IN WORSHIP
8:15, 9:30 & 11:00
A Special Service for:
Teachers, Administrators, Bus Drivers,
Librarians, Cooks, Office Staff, Nurses,
Volunteers, Custodians, etc.
Also, we are Blessing Backpacks at 9:30 & 11:00.
Sunday from 3-5pm
Theme: “Fear Not — Trust in the Lord!”
All women are invited!
Scripture: Colossians 2:6-7 (the Message)
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
Thought for the Day: The other day, I was speaking with a couple folks from the church and I mentioned how I had written a paper 15 years earlier on the topic about which we were conversing. I said a few other things, and then had to confess that it wasn’t 15 years earlier, but more than 25 years. It is one thing to miss by a couple of years, but by more than a decade is a lot. I was referring to a paper I wrote in Seminary, and it made we realize how I use a lot of what I learned in school. Now don’t get me wrong, there was some stuff in Seminary that I have yet to apply, but in one way or another, the experiences of my schooling prepared me pretty well for the life I am living. There are many people for whom I am grateful, yet some of their names I no longer remember. Almost 25 years ago, I believe God whispered in my ear, “School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!” Though let me add, I believe God desires for me to do continuing education — for there is still so much to learn about life, the world around me, people, and of course, God.
Prayer: For all the blessings others have shared through their skills, I offer my gratitude to you, O Lord, for you have inspired their work. Let me use what I’ve learned, yet never allowing arrogance to keep me from seeing where I still need to grow. Amen.
A SPECIAL SUNDAY
This Coming Sunday
Blessing Teachers and Support Staff
…along with a blessing of the Backpacks
Scripture: Mark 1:14-15
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Thought for the Day: What do you think would be the response if you walked down a main street and yelled, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Along with folks thinking you’re a little kooky, many of them wouldn’t really understand what you were saying. In the opening chapter of his book, “Speaking Christian,” Marcus Borg tells of moving from his teaching position in Minnesota, where Christianity was known well, to Oregon, the least churched state in the country. On the first day of his Introduction to the New Testament class, he talked about how early Christianity was rooted in Judaism. A student raised his hand and asked, “What’s Judaism?” That’s not an easy question to answer in just a few minutes, but in his attempt, Borg referenced Moses and immediately another hand went up and the student wanted to know who Moses was. Borg’s story reminds us of how easily we toss around Christian language as if everyone spoke Christian, but for many people it is a foreign language. Borg also points out that many Christians speak the language, but do not understand it. When we read the words proclaim and preach, I think we must understand them as a call to find a common point of connection between people and the love of God. We do not complain or bemoan the fact, but love them where they are. This takes a lot more work than simply rattling off a bunch of lines from the Bible, but in the end, it will be much more effective..
Prayer: May the language I use to speak of you, O God, bring understanding and peace, not confusion and distress. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 5:7
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
Thought for the Day: The unknown has always been a catalyst for me to seek answers. I think most of us would tend to agree, and when it comes to our understanding of God, it is no different. As we encounter a challenging thought or are exposed to a new experience of the divine, we yearn to understand and put a framework of explanation around it. I would never discourage anyone from exploring the nature of God by seeking answers to tough questions, but I think too many of us feel uncomfortable when reasoned explanations are not found. We do not rest easy in the cloud of mystery. I understand that restlessness, but the author of the Psalm reminds us to go ahead and be in awe of that which cannot be fully described in language or ritual. To truly be in awe is to stumble into a knee-weakening reverence. A God encounter is always beyond the human capacity to explain, and in those moments its okay to be uncomfortably euphoric before the One who has and always will be the Holy Other.
Prayer: Grant me courage, O Holy One, to simply be in your presence – a presence that cannot fully fit in the narrow frameworks we attempt to use. Amen