Scripture: Isaiah 40:31 …but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.
Thought for the Day: You may or may not have read Sunday’s devotional, but I wrote about how the disciples were to stay put until they had been filled with heavenly power. This was the period of preparation prior to the Day of Pentecost. Now were the disciples preparing themselves or was God in preparation mode? I tend to think of it as a combination of both. Here in the Prophet Isaiah, we read of a people who have been in Exile, an experience that was both physically and spiritually devastating. A time for their return was approaching, and the Prophet referenced those whose hope was in the Lord and how they would find renewal and strength. Earlier in the chapter, we find the very words that John the Baptist would echo: mountains being brought low and valleys lifted up as the way of the Lord was prepared. A lot of people picture God snapping the divine fingers and making things happen, but it sure appears as if God is One who respects free will. For that reason, God invites, lures, encourages, nudges, inspires, yet always recognizing the possibility of a NO from those whom God is calling. The Way of God, the way of love and mercy, grace and justice, doesn’t just happen with the snap of the fingers. It requires a lot of divine digging and godly grading for the mountainous obstacles and valley-like hindrances to be removed. It takes time, and our impatience that can lead to distraction is really not what God needs.
Prayer: As you work within this imperfect and often immoral world, Lord, may we be counted among those who are helping to bring your Kingdom and not hinder its arrival. Amen.
Prayer for the Week: “Fear not,” says the Lord, “for I am with you.” This declaration from scripture resonates within our spirits, Merciful God. We hear these words; we desire to embrace them; we seek to believe them and own them for our daily lives. Yet claiming to live a life without fear and actually living a life without fear are not the same. Such a life, as you know O Lord, does not come naturally to us. Fear – not the healthy kind of fear that shows wisdom – but fear that consumes us and limits our capacity to live faithfully with you is the fear we desire to overcome. Irrational fears, misguided fears, invented fears, unfounded fears – so often such fears are rooted in our insecurities. Too often we allow – the good you call us to do, the compassion you need us to share and the love you need us to reveal – we allow these things to be overshadowed by our fear of failure or other fears that emerge as we perceive what might be required of us – vulnerability, sacrifice, loss of friends or status. Doing the right thing – to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with you, God – can be arduous, and will toy with our fears. So we ask for an infusion of your Spirit, a fresh experience of your grace-filled presence. It is only then that we shall do the good we know we are to do. This we pray in the name of our model and encourager, Jesus. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:39 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.
Thought for the Day: This will be the last of the devotionals from Luke, at least for now. This is the bridge to the Book of Acts where, in 40 days, the church will be born with the gift of the Spirit. Pentecost (the day the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit) is remembered as an event 40 days after Easter, but I believe what God the Father has promised is something that happens over and over again within the life of the church. Jesus tells his followers to “stay in the city until…” This appears to be an important time of waiting, and preparation, something an impatient community can often miss. Our yearning for immediate gratification often has us moving ahead before the Spirit has put in place what needs to be put in place. Starting today, I invite you to consider yourself in a time of waiting… a time of prayerful patience as the Spirit prepares us for some heavenly power.
Prayer: Give me the strength necessary to be patient. Holy God and Father of Heaven, furnish me with the ability to pause so that I and the world around me is in a favorable position to receive your Holy Spirit. This I request for it is what I need, what the church needs, and what the world needs. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:41-43 Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish. Taking it, he ate it in front of them.
Thought for the Day: We often, incorrectly, assume there was just “One Christianity” in the years after Jesus. In fact, there were many different strands and stripes of Christ-following in the earliest years, just like there are a multitude in today’s world. Though only beginning to emerge at the time of Luke’s Gospel, there were those who argued that Jesus was only spirit. This was found among those who held to a strong binary, strict dualism, where flesh was unholy and spirit was holy. For that reason, Jesus could not be human. It was thought that he was fully spirit, and for that reason, he did not really die. And because he was fully spirit, he also could not eat. I don’t want to sound dismissive here, but do you feel as if Christianity has too often spent time talking about the frivolous at the expense of the significant and consequential. Of course, what I might call frivolous might be someone’s significant, but at the end of the day I must ask what I believe to be the critical question: Does my life look like the life of Jesus? I think it’s strange (and incorrect) to suggest that Jesus was spirit only, but if someone believes that and is loving God and loving neighbor, I think Jesus might be ok. What concerns me is when we spend all our energy arguing about everything that has nothing to do with love, and along the way we convince ourselves that our passionate arguing is the faithfulness for which Jesus was looking.
Prayer: As human beings, we can argue, debate and disagree on a range of topics, Merciful God, but may we never lose sight of your calling to love one another as you have loved us. If we focus on love and attempt to live this love, then a lot of the other stuff will fall away. This we request in the name of Jesus who showed us the power of love. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Thought for the Day: The Greek word we translates a peace is: Eirene. When this Greek word appears in the New Testament, and it does almost 100 times, it is usually translated as peace. But on occasion, it has been translated as tranquility, harmony, rest or one. Is it describing something internal, or is it a description of the relationship we should know with one another. Today, I would like to suggest it is both. You’ve heard me speak so often about those who want to create an either/or world, where it is us vs. them. Jesus was a both/and kind of guy, and in this case, I believe his dream is to see us live in peace/oneness. To get to that peace/oneness, we must know a sense of peace/tranquility within ourselves. To be a peacemaker, one must first be a peace-knower.
Prayer: I seek to know you, O Giver of Shalom, for the purpose of knowing your peace and imparting your peace. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:33-35 They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
Thought for the Day: Two men wandering along the road to Emmaus encountered the resurrected Jesus, though at first they did not recognize him. It was from this encounter that the two men sought the Apostles and others who had followed Jesus. These men wanted to share their amazing experience along the road. This appears to have triggered a storytelling frenzy. In the life of the church, people appear a bit cautious in sharing their stories. Maybe it’s because their stories are not quite as dramatic as the encounter on the Road to Emmaus, but storytelling is central to the Christian faith. Even when your story doesn’t seem to have much pizzazz, or maybe it lacks a wow factor, don’t be afraid to share it. It might just be the catalyst for someone else to share a story and that might open the door for someone else. The stories we hear are the stories that shape our lives.
Prayer: Good and Gracious God, amidst all the negative stories that surround me, I beseech your help so that I might hear stories of life, hope and joy. I do not wish to dismiss those who are suffering, but if I am going to be a source of Good News to them, I must first be filled with stories of good news. This I pray in the name of the great storyteller, Jesus. Amen.
Pray For Your Church As We Move Into The Season Of Eastertide
Scripture: Luke 24:12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened.
Thought for the Day: After the women gave witness to the resurrected Christ, Peter hightailed it to the tomb where he found an empty burial cloth. I chuckle every time I read what occurred next: Peter returned home while wondering what happened. Now if it had been Bruce instead of Peter, there is a good chance the writers would have noted the same response or something like, “…and he wandered off scratching his head” or “…he clearly didn’t have a clue.” I chuckle because I want to believe that my response would have been noble, memorable – a poetic expression that generations to come would have been required to commit to memory because of its sheer beauty. Instead, it probably would have sounded like, “Aaaa… that’s weird.” There is a tendency among Christians to read the stories of those who underperformed when it came to faithfulness, people who failed or simply looked foolish, and to think, “I sure wouldn’t have done that.” But if I am truly honest with myself, there is a good chance that I would have been equally unimpressive. These are the moments when God’s grace is impressive and appreciated.
Prayer: Today I give thanks for the faithfulness and the witness of the women who came to the tomb. Merciful God, I am especially thankful for your faithfulness and gracious witness when my life does not resemble the lives of those women who went to the tomb at first light. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:13-16 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Thought for the Day: A lot of folks are ready to pack-up Easter the day after, a lot like Christmas. I understand the desire to look toward May Day, but the Christian Calendar has us in the Season of Eastertide until Pentecost (June 9). There are plenty of stories, both scriptural and within tradition, describing encounters people had with the resurrected Jesus. May this Season provide you more than a single day of, “Hosannas and Hallelujahs!” Seek the living presence of Christ in your life and in the world every day.
Prayer: Make yourself known, Lord Jesus! Open my heart to your presence this day, a presence that embraces me with love and calls me to live that love in the world. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:1-3 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.
Thought for the Day: Who is this “they” referenced in the passage? It is, of course, the women – specifically named in vs. 10 as: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women… And where are the guys? It appears as if they are hunkering down, hiding and hoping the danger will soon pass. On this Easter Sunday, I encourage you to spend some time with others as the story is retold. Don’t hide! Don’t be afraid! Step into the day and embrace the glorious news of a tomb that is open and empty. Be like the women, though initially shocked, who found the joyous courage to share the news with others.
Prayer: Give me the courage, God of New Life, to be like the women who were unafraid to visit the tomb, and even more courageous in their willingness to share the news of what they found (didn’t find) at the tomb. Amen.