Scripture: Luke 7:49 The other table guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this person that even forgives sins?”
Thought for the Day: I have been feeling this passage deep within me for the last 72 hours. What I mean is that I wonder about those who sit at the table and grumble about someone who has been given a seat or someone who has been shown hospitality or someone who has been offered grace. “My goodness – those people ruin the party.” I wonder how many of those who grumble and complain have never known what it is like to look longingly at an empty space at the table, only to hear: You are not welcome!
Many of our Methodist friends are hurting this day, and I pray for that wonderful historic tradition in this time of uncertainty. I know many LGBTQ clergy, church members and parents/grandparents of gay and lesbian children within the Methodist church who are struggling with the question of whether they can stay in their tradition. That’s excruciatingly painful. I know how much I love my tradition, and I cannot imagine walking away. So many of them thought they could see a place of welcome, only to feel as if the chair has been removed. As much as I want to say to anyone who is feeling lost, “Come and join us at Cypress Creek Christian Church,” I actually hope my United Methodist friends will stay and continue the difficult struggle. At the same time, there is only so much that a person can take. At some point, the feelings of rejection can build to the point where one loses all hope. For those folks, I pray that they find a new home or at least some respite where they no longer hear grumbling about their presence. Let’s be very clear – God does not grumble or complain about anyone who desires a seat at the table. God has made a place for all. It is the church that continues to turn people away.
Prayer: I pray this day for all who have been made to feel unwelcome in the body of love you created, O God of Mercy. The church is an amazing institution, but because it is an institution, it remains imperfect when it comes to modeling and revealing your love. Engage us once again with the life of Jesus that demonstrated the relentless and unconditional nature of your love. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 7:31-32 “To what will I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace calling out to each other, ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t cry.’”
Thought for the Day: People had judged John based upon what they thought a prophet should look like, and by their standards, John was a disappointment. John and some of his followers seemed to judge Jesus based upon their preconceived notions of what the Christ should look like. And they too were disappointed. How often have our expectations – right or wrong – left us disappointed? Have you ever thought someone should have acted differently or lived differently? Their choices were nothing but a disappointment? Expectations are strange things as they are often based upon a selfish wishlist, a wishlist that is a bit unrealistic. I hear Jesus saying to the folks, “What do you want? I give you one thing, and you don’t like it. I give you the opposite, and you don’t like it. You’re leaving me with few options.”
Prayer: Forgive me, O Lord, when my expectations are skewed by some presumption that has more to do with me and less to do with you. You set high expectations, yet even then, my low expectations can appear the better choice because they are my expectations. Continue to work with me, Gracious One, as I have much to learn. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 7:18-22 John’s disciples informed him about all these things. John called two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord. They were to ask him, “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?” When they reached Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you. He asks, ‘Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?'” Right then, Jesus healed many of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he gave sight to a number of blind people. Then he replied to John’s disciples, “Go, report to John what you have seen and heard. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled now walk. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. And good news is preached to the poor…
Thought for the Day: As hard as I try not to be a hypocrite, there are still days when my faith falls short and I do the opposite of what I proclaim. I imagine we all can relate on some level. In Jesus’ interaction with a couple of John’s disciples, he answered their question without answering their question. They probably were looking for a Yes or No, but Jesus invited them to find their answer in a close observation of what he did. Jesus could have preached until he was blue in the face, and because it was Jesus, it would have been good preaching. But there appears to be a recognition that you will teach, inspire and invite others into the movement with your actions. The proof is in the pudding. Our mission as Cypress Creek Christian Church is written on practically everything, but if it is not etched in us as a people, then it ain’t going to teach, inspire or invite others to join in the movement.
Prayer: Build your message within me, O Lord. Allow it to be so much a part of me that others will not only see, but experience your relentless and unconditional love. I ask this as one who has received this amazing gift through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer for the Week: It has always been the simple and humble people of this world who have brought about change to the very fabric of this world. Creator and Sustainer, we ask for you to raise up another flock of such folks. And if you are already raising up such a group around us or among us, we ask for eyes to see them and hearts that will honor them. Too often we have been drawn to the wrong kinds of people who use the wrong methods of change. It is those, with unmistakable moral character and ethical values, who will bring lasting change to the world. It is those, that represent you in their actions and interactions, who shall become the leaders of a movement that will transform hearts and minds. Lord God, we desire to be part of a movement that is shaking the foundations of hate, reshaping what it means to act kindly, and liberating those who are in the grip of fear and hopelessness. We do not do this alone. In fact, you are the First Actor. You are the One who demonstrated what spirit-filled renewal and transformation can look like. It was Jesus, the humble servant, who taught his followers and who continues to teach us how to bring change to individuals, communities and the world. We make these requests with humility and hope. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 7:13 When he saw her, the Lord had compassion for her and said, “Don’t cry.”
Thought for the Day: I think Jesus gets a pass on this one, but I am always cautious about telling someone, “Don’t cry.” Crying can often be one of the healthiest and cathartic actions we can do. Jesus could say to her, “don’t cry,” because he knew that change was on the horizon. Most of us cannot speak with such confidence. Oh sure, we might believe that God and God’s grace are going to win in the end, but when, where and how are not quite so certain. I always want to be a source of hope for someone in grief and crisis, yet too often people present something that is naively happy and dismisses the real pain. Maybe our emphasis needs to be on the other key word in the passage — compassion. And maybe compassion can be demonstrated without actually speaking a single word to the person who is hurting.
Prayer: Give me words to say, O Lord, when words might be helpful. And give me the skill to remain silent the other 98% of the time when quiet presence could be the best gift. Amen.
Scripture: Luke. 7:11-12 A little later Jesus went to a city called Nain. His disciples and a great crowd traveled with him. As he approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her.
Thought for the Day: I find two separate ways of hearing this story from Luke’s Gospel (there are probably many more). First, it is clear that the story echo’s the story of Elijah who raised from the dead the son of a widow in 1 King 17. There were those who, during the ministry of Jesus, thought Jesus was the return of Elijah. This speaks to how Jesus was viewed by those in the first century, not only as a prophet, but as one who was bold in the face of those who would oppose the way of God. I also recognize how the story could be read from the vantage point of human loss, especially the pain associated with the death of a child. For those who have experienced such a death, this passage could raise some serious questions — if Jesus is bold, and if he raised the woman’s son, then why did Jesus not act boldly in my situation? These kinds of questions are some of the most agonizing and theologically troubling for people of faith. A simple pithy answer at that point is not helpful, and in fact, could even intensify the pain. These are two very different readings of the same passage, yet both of them are legitimate and have their place. One creates a sense of passion for the faith, while the other creates only more confused inquiry. You can understand why someone might be very energized by a passage of scripture, and someone else could be angered by the very same words. The Bible is a challenging collection of books and stories and other forms of literature.
Prayer: Gracious God, as you are always understanding, help me to be respectful of someone else’s life story that might read a passage of scripture very differently than I do. Let me listen first, and not jump to a – I’m right and they’re wrong – mentality. Amen.
Bring Some Dollars Tomorrow To Vote For Your Favorite Chili
Scripture: Luke. 7:9-10 When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, “I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this.” When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.
Thought for the Day: Probably not quite as shocking as the notion of a Good Samaritan, but the words – even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this – would have been a bit shocking to some in the audience. Roman centurions were not viewed as people of faith, and they definitely did not embody the ways of God. But here, Jesus presents this religious outsider as a shining example of belief. Have you ever had your preconceived ideas challenged to the core? Have you ever felt religious certitude on some subject, only to find that unshakeable conviction to not only shake, but crumble? As Christians, I think it’s ok to feel certainty in regard to the unconditional love of God. At the same time, the implications of that love are often shaking up our comfortable and long-held beliefs. Initially, it can be pretty disconcerting. Give it time, and usually there is a feeling of humble awe as the divine love goes another step beyond what we had previously imagined to be its limit.
Prayer: May your amazing and relentless love be enough for me, O Giver of the Christ, for I yearn to grow even when that growth brings discomfort and anxiousness. Amen.