Scripture: Matthew 6:6
But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Thought for the Day: Henri Nouwen wrote:
Solitude is where spiritual ministry begins.
That’s where Jesus listened to God.
That’s where we listen to God.
How often do you take time to shut the door and pray? How often do you enter into solitude for the purpose of removing as much of the chaos and distractions as possible? Solitude is not for us to make our many requests known to God. Instead, solitude provides a time to more deeply listen for the divine voice that rarely makes a sound recognized by the ear, yet still communicates in ways that are recognizable to our spirits.
Prayer: There is always time, O Lord, but I don’t always have the will or the discipline to make the time. Guide me, and if need be, push me toward times of solitude. I need to hear from you. Amen.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:5-9
Then you should solemnly state before the LORD your God: “My father was a starving Aramean. He went down to Egypt, living as an immigrant there with few family members, but that is where he became a great nation, mighty and numerous. The Egyptians treated us terribly, oppressing us and forcing hard labor on us. So we cried out for help to the LORD, our ancestors’ God. The LORD heard our call. God saw our misery, our trouble, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, with awesome power, and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land—a land full of milk and honey.
Thought for the Day: The story of Israel is a story of a God who did not ignore the cries of the people, but responded with love and liberation. This is, as Deuteronomy described it, a story about God and what God has done. Of course, we know more of the details which included people like Shiprah, Puah, Moses, Pharaoh’s daughter, Aaron, Mariam and many others. God’s liberating power is made real in human beings, including imperfect and sometimes excuse-ridden folks. Yet let us give thanks that God did not wait for the perfect leader to come along as God would still be waiting. Today, we will be praying for our church leaders (12:15pm & 6:45pm) and the work they have ahead of them. I am among those who are in leadership, and I covet any and all prayers that encourage and undergird the work being done. God is always at work, but this work is most often done through faulty leaders like myself…faulty leaders who need some prayer.
Prayer: As you are always among us, Lord God, let us continue the disciplined work that is necessary to be attentive to your everlasting presence. You call us and invite us to offer our gifts, and for some, those gifts are in the area of leadership. Let each leader recognize how best to lead in every unique moment, and to continually recognize the example of Jesus who lead from the place of a humble servant. Amen.
Let’s Join Together In Prayer
12:15pm & 6:45pm
A PRAYER FOR THE WEEK:
A new week has begun and with it comes opportunities and choices that impact not only me and those closest to me, but your church and the building of your kingdom.
O Giver of Life and Love, I am aware that too often I am not aware. So often your gentle nudge or your quiet invitation is ignored or overlooked. There is a busyness to daily life, and too often the loudest voice in the chaos can catch and consume my attention. Keep me listening and looking, not only with my ears and eyes, but with my spirit. Teach me in acts of prayer and silence, study and meditation, to be more attentive to you, O God who is both patient and persistent. May this week provide at least one more opportunity for me to do the needed work as one who is seeking to follow more closely in the ways of Jesus. It is because of him that I offer this prayer. Amen.
12:15pm & 6:45pm
Praying For Our Church Leadership
Scripture: Genesis 1:27, 31
God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them…God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day.
Thought for the Day: There are a number of passages in scripture where the sinfulness and failures of humanity are lifted up as if those passages tell the whole story. People are quick to emphasize the Apostle Paul who said, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” People take those words out of their context and layer them with other similar passages, but even Paul does not end his comments with that statement. In fact, he goes on to describe what God has done on our behalf, not because we are perfect or have equal standing with God, but because we are valued by God. As I read scripture, there is a marvelous thread that runs through it all – a thread that begins with the declaration that human beings (and all other creatures) are supremely good. Do we still require some help? Absolutely! Do we have moments of failure with dramatic and painful implications? Yes! Yet as we read in 1st John, we are to love one another because God first loved us. This love of God can dwell within us. In fact, it can become perfected within us according to 1st John. We need guidance, forgiveness, modeling and a lot of encouragement, but there is a goodness to who we are that cannot ultimately be eclipsed by sin, failure, or even our complete screw ups. In fact, God wants us to embrace this goodness – for ourselves and for the sake of all creation.
Prayer: Let the message of my goodness, O God who first loved me, spill over me and heal me and empower me. Let me see again the life of Jesus, a life that stands as an example for me to emulate. Though never perfect, I desire embrace all the potential you see within me. This I pray in the name of your wonderful gift of grace, Jesus Christ. Amen.
LET’S JOIN TOGETHER THIS MORNING
Come and learn about:
Coming This Tuesday
12:15pm & 6:45pm
Scripture: Matthew 9:16
“No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes because the patch tears away the cloth and makes a worse tear.
Thought for the Day: Side Note: This is the first verse from the passage I will use tomorrow in worship.
Recently my wife pulled out a pair of socks to throw away. They were clearly worn out – big holes. I jokingly said, “Aren’t you going to darn the socks.” She smiled and continued on her way to the trash. To darn a sock is language we no longer hear very often…at least most of us. In fact, there might be someone reading this who does not know the word I heard my grandmother say a thousand times. We live in a time when most everything is disposable, and we definitely do not think of grabbing some thread and a needle to mend an old sock. Jesus was using the metaphor of an old piece of cloth being attached to a new piece of cloth. And though I believe Jesus would be all over the idea of salvaging the old, in the case of his metaphor, I believe he would discourage the darning of a sock. It was a fresh and amazing gift coming into the world, and it deserved the very best.
Prayer: As you, Gracious God, continue to provide your fresh and life-giving message into my life, my I not cram it into my old self. Let me be born anew for the sake of this gift. Amen.
12:15 & 6:45PM
Scripture: 1st John 4:9
This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him.
Thought for the Day: One of the most common phrases tossed around within Christianity is: “…so that we might have eternal life.” The idea is that we get to go be with Jesus upon our death as if that is all there is to Christianity, but 1st John calls us to think much more deeply. I prefer to translate the end of the above verse: “…so that we can come alive through him.” This is not a life postponed, but offered now. God, through Jesus Christ, wants for us to be alive through him. The gift of God’s love taking on flesh is a source of power – it is like a spiritual defibrillator. I’m guessing you can name individuals who were clearly alive with something much greater than themselves. You may not have been able to quite put your finger on it, but might I suggest it was the spiritual defibrillator giving a jolt of divine love.
Prayer: Shock me into the fullness of life, O Giver of Unconditional Love. Allow me to live the life of joy, not simply after my death, but right now! Amen.
THIS SATURDAY NIGHT
Don’t Miss Sunday Worship
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11
I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.
Thought for the Day: The people of Israel find their current circumstance to be horrible, yet God seems to suggest that they are to accept this new reality. Salvation can be found even in this foreign land. What God suggests in the above verse is a reality that would have been nearly impossible to imagine. As I think about this moment in Israel’s history, I am reminded of words I shared in a sermon years ago: Accept life for what it is without accepting life for what it is. Ok…it’s probably nonsense, yet I think there are moments in life when so much is beyond our control. It is what it is, and nothing will change it. We need to accept it for what it is, but it does not mean we accept it as right or good. It does not mean we throw in the towel and relinquish hope. It does not mean we remove God from the equation. When everything had changed and most of the Israelites taken into Exile would die before the return, God still had plans for peace and hope for the people in their exile. Salvation can still be found in a foreign land.
Prayer: Let me hear your plans for me, Lord God, even when I feel trapped and the future I dreamed has vanished. Let me hear your plans for me, Lord, the plans for peace and hope. Amen.
Continuing Our Growth
Toward Spiritual Maturity
Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:12-14
Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the LORD your God commanded: Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Don’t do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your oxen or donkeys or any of your animals, or the immigrant who is living among you—so that your male and female servants can rest just like you.
Thought for the Day: Sabbath rest was not entirely new in the ancient world, but such regular rest was associated mostly with the wealthy and the elite. There were still meals to be prepared and clothing to be washed and chamber pots to be dumped. Such things didn’t wait until the day of rest was over. Though Israel probably did not fully live into this wonderful new vision of respect for all creatures, the challenge was put forth. Can you imagine how troubling and ridiculous it would have sounded to some in the ancient world, but at the same time, how amazing it would have been for those who had carried out the chamber pot every single day for decades. To believe a God cared equally for all of creation, not just humanity, would have shaken the foundation of ancient culture. Might I suggest that it continues to shake the foundation of today’s culture – a foundation based upon greed, injustice, bigotry and fear – a foundation that could find true transformation in a Jesus whose life of love, forgiveness and justice is an amazing bedrock from which to build the true life.
Prayer: I know my life does not always demonstrate the amazing qualities of the Jesus-life, O Lord of All Creation, yet I believe you still believe in me. Through your Spirit, continue to encourage me as I build my life upon Jesus. Only then can I invite others to do the same. Amen.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:1
Moses called out to all Israel, saying to them: “Israel! Listen to the regulations and the case laws that I’m recounting in your hearing right now. Learn them and carefully do them…”
Thought for the Day: A lot of what Moses presented as “regulations” and “case laws” that “Israel was to learn and carefully do” are items that most people would generally support. At the same time, there are certain items found in scripture that were culturally or historically bound. Some of those, we can determine why it might have made sense centuries before Jesus, but others can even leave scholars scratching their heads. Alvin Toffler, who died not long ago, was a journalist in the area of technology. He wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” I am wonderfully challenged by Toffler’s words, for though unlearning is hard and uncomfortable, it is often necessary for people who yearn to both be faithful and relevant. Let’s be clear – being relevant is not the same as conformity or blind obedience to the culture of the moment. At the same time, to ignore the amazing discoveries of science while following blindly a god stuck in history is not faithfulness. The living Spirit of Christ meets us in every moment – meets us with the one truth that stretches across time and space: Unconditional love and mercy.
Prayer: As I build my faith on the amazing voices of the past, O God of All Generations, allow me to listen and to be obedient to your Spirit who continues to speak. Amen.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 21:18-21
Now if someone has a consistently stubborn and rebellious child, who refuses to listen to their father and mother—even when the parents discipline him, he won’t listen to them—the father and mother will take the son before the elders of that city at its gates. Then they will inform the city’s elders: “This son of ours is consistently stubborn and rebellious, refusing to listen to us. What’s more, he’s wild and a drunkard.” Then all the people of that town will stone him until he dies. Remove such evil from your community! All Israel will hear about this and be afraid.
Thought for the Day: I referenced this passage in worship on Sunday, and it received a few raised eyebrows and a couple of chuckles. I used it for dramatic purposes as most of us would find the stoning of a child, no matter how stubborn or rebellious, to be immoral and indefensible. Yet our central book that helps define who we are and what we believe states that doing so is necessary for the sake of the community. Was this really what God wanted at one time in history? There is absolutely nothing I could imagine that would make me argue that the God of grace and mercy would demand the stoning of a child. This passage, along with others, appears to be a reflection of the culture and not a reflection of God. In a time when the social structure of a community was fragile, the belief that the sacrifice of one child for the sake of the larger community’s stability was probably argued. Yet in the teachings of Jesus, we learn that one sheep is worth leaving behind the other 99. Every single life matters.
Prayer: You have celebrated my life, O God, even when I have been stubborn and rebellious. You have loved me when I have ignored your guidance. So many others have not honored you as they should, yet I too must show them grace and mercy as you have shown such things to me. Amen.