Scripture: Judges 13:6
Then the woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and he looked like God’s messenger—very scary! I didn’t ask him where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name…”
Thought for the Day: The story of Samson’s birth is a fascinating story, and it includes a heavenly visitor who spoke to Samson’s mother (an important, yet one of many unnamed female characters in scripture). Some translations have the woman describing the messenger as awesome or awe-inspiring, but the Common English Translation translates the word as scary. I’m not much into thinking that God seeks to scare us. The God I meet in Jesus does not use fear as it is the antithesis of who God is. Yet the arrival of a divine messenger should be a bit frightening in the sense that it usually means something is going to change. And though the change is always for the good, the change itself and the pathway to the good can often be rough and demanding. Might it be compared to getting a call from your child’s school principal. Rarely are those calls bringing good news, though the hope is that the call produces something good in the end. On this Halloween, let’s ponder the scary in faith that is in fact something pretty amazing.
Prayer: When your message makes a dramatic appearance, O Word of Life, give me enough courage to follow its lead even when the direction causes me some discomfort. Amen.
A NEW WORSHIP SERIES
Thoughts: I preached on Sunday, though I felt numb and a bit detached from the worship experience. In the events of this past week, events that seemed to be in competition with one another to see who could be most disruptive and damaging, I found myself doing a Google search for old Far Side Cartoons. At first, the connection was not made. The words “Far Side Cartoons” were quickly typed, and within moments, I was giggling and turning to the next cartoon and giggling some more. It was only later where the poor attempt at escapism was made apparent. I didn’t want to deal any longer with absurd comments by those who suggested that the mail bombs were some great political conspiracy by billionaires to turn the tide of the election. No, it was hate! It was hate embodied in an individual, but hate that was fanned by a brokenness in our culture. I laughed my way through cartoons as I didn’t want to deal any longer with absurd excuses for why it was that eleven human beings were dead inside a sacred space, and two others were dead in a grocery store. There are no excuses, and the most basic explanation is hate!
Today I’m embarrassed to admit my laughter, a shallow attempt at escaping three acts of violence that were rooted in unadulterated hate. In the end, escapism is never a healthy response, nor is it going to bring about the needed change. Today, I return to the conversation with renewed strength to call out the idiotic and delusional explanations that, for whatever reason, seek to excuse or even encourage the voices of hate. I seek forgiveness for my few minutes away from these tragedies – tragedies from which others could not remove themselves. I also return to the moment with a longing to represent an alternative to the hate, to be a love-filled option for those who are consumed with hate. Lord have mercy!
NO Adult or Children’s Programming
Youth WILL Be Meeting
Prayer for the Week: There are signs and wonders and miracles all around us! Faith invites us to connect such happenings to you, O God whose love is powerful and transformative. Yet what keeps us from naming such signs and wonders and miracles is a skewed perception that requires someone standing from a wheelchair or dancing away from crutches. For this reason, we unknowingly disregard the simple, but beautiful signs and wonders and miracles that emerge from daily life. The single parent who is doing an amazing job of raising children, working and modeling goodness and grace along the way; the teacher who is underpaid in a district that doesn’t provide the needed resources, yet is able to inspire a zest for learning; the ever so quiet church goer who, with no fanfare, is working with homeless veterans; the family who ached for the needs of a young woman and invited her into their home. These are the signs and wonders and miracles that are rooted in your powerful and transformative love that kindles the behind the scenes work that is shaping the world toward your vision. Thank you, O Gracious God, for continuing to inspire us when our eyes and ears and hearts are open. Amen.
THIS COMING SATURDAY
Scripture: Acts 12:9
Following the angel, Peter left the prison. However, he didn’t realize the angel had actually done all this. He thought he was seeing a vision.
Thought for the Day: This morning, I will be preaching from Acts 12. We will be talking about miracles, and God’s invitation for us to participate. What I like about this verse is the confusion Peter is experiencing. Peter had been asleep, and though the angel woke him up, I imagine he was in that state of grogginess where your eyes and brain have not yet focused. As I will suggest in the sermon, I don’t know if Peter’s escape from prison is the real miracle. The miracle appears to be his willingness to live the life of love wherever he goes, even in the face of imprisonment or death. How many of us miss this invitation from God because we are in a state of spiritual grogginess? How many of us are waiting for God to do the miracle, when in fact, God is inviting us to be the miracle?
Prayer: Awaken my spirit, O Living Christ! Awaken me to the opportunities you set before me. Awaken me so that I can participate in the miracle of love. Amen.
SEE YOU IN WORSHIP
Scripture: Acts 12:1-4
About that time King Herod began to harass some who belonged to the church. He had James, John’s brother, killed with a sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter as well. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. He put Peter in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers, sixteen in all, who guarded him. He planned to charge him publicly after the Passover.
Thought for the Day: Christianity has known persecution; followers of Jesus have known great suffering at the hands of those who opposed them; preachers of the Gospel have lost their lives for simply proclaiming love. As a side note, we need to remember that a great deal of persecution and killing was done internally as one Christian group didn’t get along with another group. This seems so strange as we were a movement born out of suffering, yet we tend to have a short memory. The earliest followers of Jesus experienced periods of excessive persecution, and Apostles and other leaders were arrested and many were executed. Not to glamorize it or wish for it, but persecution was most often a sign of the church being faithful to the Gospel. Those of us in the United States do not have a clue what religious persecution looks like. I hear an occasional complaint where a Christian felt as if his/her foot was stepped on, but to use the word persecution is insulting to the amazing witnesses of the past. There is, of course, religious persecution around the globe, and we must always stand for true freedom for every faith group and tradition. Let us also remember our history, be mindful of the faithfulness of those who refused to give in to threats, and let us never forget how the Gospel is rooted in love that was made real in sacrifice.
Prayer: May everyone have the freedom to choose their faith or to choose a path without faith. Whatever the case, may I not judge, but love as you taught me to love, O Lord. It is only when people are given freedom to say, “No” to the faith that a relationship with Jesus is possible. It is in his name that I pray. Amen.
Scripture: 1 John 3:16
This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
Thought for the Day: There are a handful of passages that, in my opinion, summarize the whole of Christianity…what it means to follow Jesus. This passage is one of them. Humanity has a tendency to redefine love in its own selfish and self-serving ways. It becomes a “What do I get out of it” love that is in fact not love at all. Jesus – from birth to ministry to death to resurrection – put on display a clear vision of God’s understanding of love. Not only do we gain a clear picture of love, but we also gain a model for how we are to love. What would our world look like if Christians stopped quoting obscure passages of scripture, or taking them entirely out of context, for the purpose of justifying a greedy and egocentric life? What if they begin to model their lives after the life of Jesus, and in doing so, emphasized the central characteristic of sacrificial love…the heart of the Gospel?
Prayer: You have loved the world and every creature within it, O Lord. I am among those you love, and I give thanks for your revelation of love in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I would be attempting to express something that falls so very short of the love you intended us to know and to live. Amen.
ALL THE LITTLE THINGS
THAT HELP US LIVE
The Love First Life
Scripture: John 4:54
This was the second miraculous sign Jesus did while going from Judea to Galilee.
Thought for the Day: In John’s Gospel, miracles are referred to as signs. This is important, for the Gospel writer is suggesting that Jesus has no interest in being a crowd pleasing magician. It is not about the spectacular stuff he does, but what these signs reveal. Each of the signs (miracles) are parables that become a window through which the reader can discover something amazing about the nature of God. Sunday, I will be preaching on miracles, but specifically how we can be participants in the miracles God is revealing in the world. When we participate in miracles, it’s not so an audience can applaud and be awed. It is to make real the Good News of God whose love has come to the world for the purpose of teaching the world that love is the only way to live the life God intended us to live. And when human beings choose to live in that love, that’s the miracle.
Prayer: I wish to share in a miracle, O God whose signs change lives. I wish to share in such a miracle, not for some personal gain or recognition, but for the purpose of revealing your hope for humanity. Amen.