03-31-19

Scripture: Luke 12:13-15
Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me as judge or referee between you and your brother?” Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.”

Thought for the Day: Maybe you learned from the movie entitled Seven – that is, the Seven Deadly Sins. They are: Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. The Seven Deadly Sins are not listed in scripture under that title. In fact, they developed over time within Christian tradition. Many people have argued over which one is the worst. I have heard good arguments for slothfulness (laziness) or envy (yearning for what isn’t mine), but at the end of the day, I tend to think greed is the single most powerful and destructive sin among the seven. Maybe it is because I see the repercussions of greed within our national culture and throughout the world. With greed, people are very good at hiding it within some political or religious ideology. Greed is even presented in the words of Gordon Gekko (a character from the movie, Wall Street) as good. We tend to honor and celebrate people of wealth as if a mountain of money is the highest achievement. Jesus doesn’t seem to believe greed is ever good, for he warns his disciples to “Guard yourself against all kinds of greed,” with the emphasis on all. What inspires you? Defines you? Drives you? Greed is always there wanting our attention. For that reason, Jesus is right when he says, “Watch out!”

Prayer: Let me be driven by a desire to have more of you in my life, O Giver of Light and Love, instead of the desire to have more worldly stuff that has no ultimate meaning for your Kingdom. Amen.

SEE YOU IN WORSHIP

03-30-19

Scripture: Luke 11:37-38
While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to share a meal with him, so Jesus went and took his place at the table. When the Pharisee saw that Jesus didn’t ritually purify his hands by washing before the meal, he was astonished. 

Thought for the Day: Jesus was often at odds with some of the religious establishment, including some of the Pharisees. In this case, the story appears to begin on a positive note – an invitation to share in a meal. The Pharisee notices that Jesus does not wash himself prior to the meal in what was considered proper. The Pharisee’s response was to be astonished. That’s an interesting word to use, and the actual Greek word we translate as astonished is Thaumazo, which comes from the Greek word that means to view attentively. What I hear is someone who is surprised by what he sees. I think we demonize the Pharisees, when in fact, they were doing what they had been taught all their lives. How many of us have done something or believed something, in part, because it was what we were taught to believe all our lives? And the first time we were challenged, our reaction was to be astonished, surprised, shocked. It doesn’t make us bad people. Change usually takes time, and Jesus challenges this Pharisee and others at the gathering pretty harshly. And time is necessary for us as well, along with some discomfort, assuming change actually happens. The process by which we get from point A to point B can be troubling, even producing some anger. If it comes too easy or quickly, it probably isn’t real. If the change is going to stick, then it needs some struggle and strain. 

Prayer: I know there are things within me that need to be challenged. Be gracious with me, O Lord, as you do the necessary pushing for me to grow as a disciple of Jesus. Amen.

TOMORROW

See You In Worship

03-29-19

Scripture: Luke 11:29
When the crowds grew, Jesus said, “This generation is an evil generation. It looks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except Jonah’s sign.”

Thought for the Day: Ok Jesus, we need to work on our speech writing. When the crowd grows, that’s not the time to insult them. Yet it appears that Jesus does not care. He is genuinely concerned about those who are basing everything on signs and wonders. I think many of us view such things as confirmation of Jesus, but the signs and wonders are really parables in action. They reveal the nature and heart of God, and are not intended to prove anything. There were magicians and miracle workers on every corner in the days of Jesus, and so you understand why Jesus discourages the use of his healings and feedings and other events as proof of anything special. Only the sign of Jonah will be worthy of bringing real change and transformation. The sign of Jonah is ‘code’ for the tomb and resurrection. Of course Jonah spent three days in the belly of a big fish, and though he remained a reluctant prophet after being spit-up on the beach, he returned to life. The message of the resurrection is about change and transformation, and with it is the hope for our own lives that need change and transformation. I see many signs and wonders all around me each day, and they provide glimpses of God’s love and beauty. I also believe in the message of resurrection, the revelation of how the Spirt is always at work to bring life out of death, joy from the depths of despair and healing from the rubble of a crushed life.

Prayer: May I enjoy your presence all around me, God of Grace, while also enjoying your capacity to bring light into the darkness of our lives. Amen.

TOMORROW

03-28-19

Scripture: Luke 11:14-15
Jesus was throwing out a demon that causes muteness. When the demon was gone, the man who couldn’t speak began to talk. The crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He throws out demons with the authority of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons.”

Thought for the Day: Have you ever known someone into which you wished Jesus would throw a demon, assuming the demon would cause muteness? Sorry, that’s not very kind…or pastoral. Let me return to the scripture, and the interesting reference to Beelzebul. That might be a name you’ve heard before. It was first referenced in 2nd Kings, and it was understood as a Philistine god. It literally translates as Lord of the Flies (not to be confused with the well known book). Now this is a bit earthy, but what was being described with that ancient name were bugs that feasted on dung, and how Baal (an ancient god) rid the community of these bugs that were associated with illness. It was a celebrated diety. Later, the name for this god who was understood as working to keep the community healthy became known as the ruler of the demons. Really smart people have made numerous guesses on how that dramatic transition occurred, but no one knows for sure. What I find interesting is how an idea that was associated with health for entire community was literally “demonized” in Christian scripture. It makes we wonder if that continues to ever happen – where we demonize something that was really intended to bring health to a community?

Prayer: Holy God, you love us and continue to work among us to draw this world toward wholeness. Thank you for remaining faithful even when we push back against the very things you are doing. Amen.

Join Together
In Honoring
First Responders

03-27-19

Scripture: Luke 11:8
I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.

Thought for the Day: Jesus is presenting a story-like teaching (not a parable) about responding to a person in need. This comes right after the teaching on the Lord’s Prayer, and the title for this section (added by the editors of your unique Bible centuries later) says something like: The Importance of Persistence in Prayer. I think that skews our perspective on this section. For the story-like teaching goes something like this: A man needs bread because of some unexpected late night visitors. He goes to his neighbor, after the neighbor has already gone to bed, and begs for some bread. The neighbor doesn’t even open the door initially, but basically tells the guy to go home because it’s late. Yet Jesus goes on to say how the neighbor responds to the request because this guy is brash, or sometimes translated as persistent or shameless audacity. The word in the original Greek is: anaideian. The literal translation would be: without shame. I know my Greek teachers disagreed with my understanding of the word here, but I hold to my translation of this passage that suggests the neighbor did as he was requested because he wanted the man to be without shame. When someone came to your home and asked for hospitality, it was both the cultural and religious expectation that you provide them food and a bed. To have no food to provide the sojourner would bring shame upon you. This gives a different meaning to the words that follow: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” I don’t believe Jesus was writing us a blank check to get whatever our hearts desire, but when asking for help to serve another human being, God is onboard. At least, that’s the way I read it.

Prayer: Provide me what is necessary, O Father God, to be hospitable, gracious and compassionate to those in need. Let me have an abundance, not for selfish purposes, but for the sake of others. Amen.

Study Today

03-26-19

Scripture: Luke 11:1
Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Thought for the Day: This verse is the entry point into the Lord’s Prayer, and because most folks are interested in the Lord’s Prayer, they do not pay attention to this verse. It is a little like being excited about visiting someone. When you arrive, you’re not thinking about the door, but what lies beyond the door. For that reason, a person might not notice what’s being suggested in this verse. The disciples seem to say that John taught his disciples a prayer. Is this something teachers did? Did they each have their own take on how a prayer should be structured, and what exactly should be the purpose? It might have been helpful for us to see John’s prayer to compare it to what Jesus taught. Were they similar or dramatically different? Without John’s prayer, it is impossible to say. What we can conclude is that the disciples’ request was not unusual. In fact, it might have demonstrated a level of commitment to Jesus as they were wanting to know and potentially embrace the uniqueness of Jesus’ prayer. Discipleship is a process by which we take on more and more of the teacher’s ideas and way of life. The Jesus Prayer (Lord’s Prayer) communicates some core convictions, and if a person prays it often, those core convictions just might take hold. 

Prayer: God, may the words I share and prayers I offer connect me more completely to the ways of Jesus, your gift to the world. Amen.

Come On Out!

03-25-19

Prayer for the Week:
Loving God,
We pray that we can all love each other the way you have taught us to love. Lord, I hope we can learn how to sacrifice ourselves and put one another first. I pray that we can learn how to put love first in all things through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father, I pray that someday we will be servants to each other, care and respect each other. We love and pray to you O God for everything in our lives. Amen.

From Youth Sunday
Written by Simone Nelson, 7th grader at CCCC

03-24-19

Scripture: Luke 10:38-40
While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.” 

Thought for the Day: So what is the proper way of living? Are we to spend our lives at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words? Or are we to be about the work of preparing a meal of welcome? There are few debates within Christianity (within most religions) that have received more energy. In this case, it sounds as if Jesus almost scolds Martha for not leaving the work behind. I’m going to make a suggestion that I cannot fully defend, but I imagine that Jesus is not suggesting that somehow we are all to spend our lives sitting quietly and listen for the voice of Jesus. I believe everything is context, and Martha seems to be complaining to Jesus that Mary is not helping. Does Jesus invite Martha to leave behind the preparation in this moment because it is the right moment to leave behind the work? I think so. And I have a feeling that there will be other moments when folks will be quietly sitting and listening for the voice of Jesus, and they will begin complaining that there is too much noise from those doing work. In that moment, Jesus might just tell those seated to get off their backsides and get to work. Like so much in life, it is all about balance. We might be wired in a way that draws us one way or the other, but we also must find what is the correct balance for us if we are going to remain healthy and faithful.

Prayer: Make me aware of what I need and what I should do. Make me aware, O Spirit of the Living Christ, do know when I need to be doing what I should be doing. Amen.

See You In Worship

You Won’t Want To Miss It

03-23-19

Scripture: Luke 10:36-37
What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Thought for the Day: Though not original to me, you’ve probably heard me say it a dozen times: The legal expert, who was probably offended by the parable of the Good Samaritan, is asked the question: So, who demonstrated mercy (or it could be translated, who showed compassion)? It sounds like a simple question with a simple answer, and though the legal expert answered the question correctly, he can’t quite bring himself to say, “the Samaritan,” as it sounds like nonsense inside his head. I had a seminary professor say to the class, “If the Jesus message sounds too normal, too mundane, too obvious and commonplace, then it’s probably not the Jesus message.” There are times when I am preparing my sermon, and I think to myself, “That statement is simply too absurd. They won’t buy it at all.” Maybe I’m right. Maybe it is absurd, and for that reason, it might just be the Gospel! And unlike the legal expert, it needs to be said out loud.

Prayer: O Giver of the Gospel, confront me anew with the power, beauty and absurd nature of your message. Amen. 

A Week From Today

Interfaith Event
To Honor First Responders

03-22-19

Scripture: Luke 10:25-26
A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” 

Thought for the Day: This is the conversation that will eventually lead to the telling of the parable we call, The Good Samaritan. Jesus was asked a question, and Jesus answered the question with a question. It is a marvelous technique for teaching, and though many of us may admire the technique, we do not use it. We are quick to tell people exactly what they must do to gain eternal life, how they are to do this, when they are to do this, and what color socks they need to be wearing as they follow the 36 step plan that we set before them. Jesus, on the other hand, did none of that. Even when pushed by the legal expert, he told a story – a parable that was more than some dry single meaning allegory. The tendency to impose our beliefs often comes from insecurities around our beliefs. If we can get someone else to agree, then we feel a confirmation. Jesus took an entirely different approach.  He modeled, told stories, planted seeds, listened and gave space for people to discover God for themselves. What a novel concept! 

Prayer: In the same way that you loved me – both in my moments of understanding and moments of complete foolishness – I pray that such love be mine to share. Your Gospel was not only embodied it what you said, but in the space you gave me to explore for myself. Amen.

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