February 29, 2020
Scripture: Proverbs 16:9
People plan their path, but the LORD secures their steps.
Thought for the Day: Well today is leap day or leap year day. It’s kind of a strange happening if you think about it. Every few years we need to make a correction since the actual time it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun is 365.242 days. As I sit here just a few days into Lent, I am taken by the fact that the Earth needs a correction. Actually, the Earth doesn’t need a correction, but the humans on the Earth require a correction in how we have chosen to observe time. What other things in my life need a correction? Day to day, even after a few years, I might not notice any problem to my alignment. But over longer periods of time, an unaligned life can become a bigger and bigger issue. If we didn’t make the calendar correction with a Leap Day, eventually summer would be come winter and winter would become summer, or to say it in a different way, we’d be totally out of whack. Allow for this Season of Lent to be for you a time of correction, a time to make necessary adjustments that will keep you from being totally out of whack.
Prayer: I don’t feel out of whack, but I might be. Guide me, correct me if so needed. O Holy One, as I plan my path I will pray that they align with the steps you would have me make. Amen.
February 28, 2020
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 1:18
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Thought for the Day: If you really think about it, Paul is absolutely correct. I’m surprised anyone joined the Christian movement as Paul preached from one town to another. The cross is a pathetic marketing tool, as it is foolishness not only to ‘those who are perishing’, but to anyone who takes time to contemplate its meaning. Paul was writing to a bickering church (nothing unusual for the Pauline communities), but it’s puzzling how the meaning of the cross has become one of the great battle grounds of disagreement throughout Christian history. People have been willing to murder others in the name of that symbol’s significance. I appreciate Richard Rohr’s thinking on this matter in his book, Falling Upward. In the 5th chapter he writes about those who have attempted to give order to the cross by explaining away the whole notion of suffering as some sort of well organized substitutionary plan. He goes on to say, “The cross solved our problem by first revealing our real problem – our universal pattern of scapegoating and sacrificing others. The cross exposes forever the ‘scene of our crime.’” The cross is exactly what God does not want for the world, and the resurrection is God’s declaration for us to stop it!
Prayer: God, I see nothing of you and everything of you on the cross. It is nonsensical and absurd, and I can only guess that it is your grace making a point with something so pointless. Amen.
February 27, 2020
A Prayer To Begin Lent:
A journey begins and the life of Jesus leads us.
Merciful and Holy Guide,
the walk to Easter requires us
to see and experience
-the rejection by the very people
who called Jesus friend;
-the pain inflicted by an Empire
that sought to make his suffering an example;
-the loneliness brought about
by the denial of his closest followers;
-the darkness of the tomb where life was lost.
as we receive ashes
and commence upon forty days
of deep reflection and honest confession,
we seek to know the life of Jesus
with new clarity,
gaining an appreciation
that confronts and confounds
a value system that continues
to place profit and power over people.
Leave nothing out of this journey,
as our destination of resurrection
will fall short if time is not spent
along the road
where Jesus was reviled and abandoned.
Be gracious to us, Lord,
as we follow and learn –
and allow ourselves to be transformed
in this journey to the cross.
February 26, 2020
Scripture: Psalm 28:9
O save your people, and bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever.
Thought for the Day: The 18th century French writer, Stendhal, penned these words,
The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep
that their interests and his own are the same.
In the well known 23rd Psalm, the shepherd moves the sheep to green pastures and still waters. This sounds very comforting, but trying to explain or convince the sheep how the long trip is necessary is always difficult. If the sheep see even a little patch of greenish/brownish grass and a small puddle of water, they’ll be content. I wonder how often in my own life I have ignored God’s nudging because I was okay with what was right in front of me? During this Lenten Season (beginning today with Ash Wednesday), our focus will be on Why? of Mark’s Gospel, and how the why begins the necessary work for us to become healthy and useful followers of Jesus.
Prayer: O God, may I not ignore your leading and nudging and calling because of a general sense of contentment with a mediocre spiritual life. Be persistent, as I grow to better understand your vision for my life in the ongoing work of Kingdom building. Amen.
February 25, 2020
Scripture: Proverbs 12:22
The LORD detests false lips; he favors those who do what is true.
Thought for the Day: On Sunday, I talked about how “this following Jesus-thing” is hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when it is easy, might I say simple. But there are many other days when the challenge feels a bit beyond what we might think is doable. This lying lips reference in the Proverbs makes me wonder about the little white falsehoods. You know what I’m talking about – those comments that are offered to soften the pain, to make someone feel good or to distract from a more significant issue. Have you ever stretched the truth where it no longer looked like the truth, but you had an excellent reason… one that was not selfish. I don’t know exactly what to do with this. Oh sure, we can all agree on the blatant and manipulative fabrications that are intended to injure or deceive for personal gain. Are there some that are not damaging, even protective? Or are we justifying what we should not justify? These questions may not appear all that significant, but in a world where truth-telling is becoming old fashion and outright lying is ignored, where do we draw the line? I don’t have an answer here because I will probably, on occasion, tell a little white lie to save someone’s feelings. But does my rationalization become part of the problem?
Prayer: Keep me on the path of truth-telling, O Lord God. Allow for my words to speak to the things that please your heart – love, mercy, compassion and kindness. Amen.
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February 24, 2020
Prayer for the Week: Holy Spirit – friend of humanity and source of power for the church – we speak of you often, including in our songs and prayers. But how often do we relinquish our self unto you? How often do we allow your flame to burn away what is not of you but has become a part of us? How often do we allow you to take us where common sense has no interest in going? Holy and Loving Spirit, you hear our sighs that are too deeply subjective for words, and in our grappling for language, you reveal your presence that is a language unto its self. Affirm us, not for a quiet and content life. Affirm us with the relentless and reckless love of Jesus, and with the confidence of that love, lead us wherever you need us to be – to the lonely, the lost, the forgotten, the stranger, the injured, the stressed. So many people in this world have stories we will not understand, yet it is not our task to judge. You have called us, Holy Spirit, to love as Jesus loved. Even when those around us are disparaging with their words and hateful with their actions, provide us the strength to offer an alternative vision – a vision that represents everything we have seen in Jesus. We make these prayerful requests with the belief that a deeper connection with you allows for the improbable to be possible. Amen.
February 23, 2020
Scripture: James 2:1-4
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Thought for the Day: In my sermon this morning, I am making a reference to those moment when the Bible smacks you upside the head – you know, with a passage of scripture you’ve read dozens of times before. Suddenly, there is something new. Of course, the something new is probably a new openness within ourselves. This passage from James was a recent experience of that very thing. I know these words well as I love the Book of James, but in a recent reading it was as if someone had scribbled a few extra verses since my last reading. Actually, it probably arose from some honest confession in the last few weeks. For me, it is not discrimination in regard to clothing or bling, but other things that have been under my skin for a while now. In what ways might I have acted with some Passive-Aggression, a roll of my eyes or a patronizing word? All the time, I am unconsciously (I think) raising myself above the person. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like this happens? I’m asking for a friend.
Prayer: Let me see people as you see people, O Lord of Unconditional Love. Provide me an awareness of how my language can be dismissive and devaluing. Call me to the side of Jesus so that he can show me what I may not currently see. It is in his name that I pray. Amen.
February 22, 2020
Scripture: Genesis 1:12
The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.
Thought for the Day: Rabbi Bradley Artson, the Dean at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, wrote an online article entitled: The Bible is a Book of Inclusion and Love. He opens the article with these words:
The Bible starts with two profound stories: The first story we are given is of a God who cannot bear to be alone. A God who is driven by love to create a world of flowering and cascading diversity in which nothing is precisely like what came before it; in which each new creature is delightfully fresh and novel; in which God, thrilled by each new creation, says: This is good. And then God creates a creature with the capacity, also, to look at diversity, and to look at novelty, and to say: This is good! And we are told in this story that we are made in that God’s image.
Click Here For The Full Article
I’ll confess that I got rather emotional in reading those words. There is amazing beauty found in the Book of Genesis, including what I describe as the Creation Poem. But the way Bradley Artson redirected my thinking on those words was a true awakening, an awakening into joy. As I write these words, I have opened my office blinds just to look outside. The diversity of plants (and weeds) outside my window is just a hint of what is so often overlooked in life. The Poet of Genesis 1 has the reader spinning around so as to take in the rapid explosion of new beauty that is unlike the beauty of the previous verse. With every moment of dumbfounded wonderment it is as if God is saying, “But I can top that!”
Prayer: For the beauty of the earth, O Creative Spirit, my heart is full. Don’t allow me to become complacent and miss the never before seen new that is standing before me. Amen.
February 21, 2020
Scripture: Leviticus 19:34
Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.
Thought for the Day: This was some pretty radical stuff. Imagine that you are relatively new to this “People” thing. You are out of Egypt, but still trying to determine what non-enslaved means corporately, while also trying to listen for the voice of God. This Blessed Nation (those in Covenant with God) are incredibly vulnerable, ripe for ruin if the community does not pay attention. At the same time, there is a very clear ethic put forth about an openness to the immigrant/foreigner. Shouldn’t the community be protecting itself from outside influences? I read this as an amazing declaration that the Community’s Values and Purpose are even more important than its existence. That is so counter intuitive… some might say outright crazy! Yet how many communities or organizations have jeopardized everything they understood as essential only to maintain their own existence? What is existence without one’s values and purpose?
Prayer: Provide me a reminder of your values, Creator of All, starting with the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Allow for these expressions of your will to take root within me and within the church. And may I never risk at handful of the fruit simply to save myself or an institution. Amen.
February 20, 2020
Scripture: Romans 12:10-16
Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.
Thought for the Day: Could Paul pack any more information into a handful of sentences? I doubt it! I’d invite you to do what I have done — read the above scripture silently, then read it out loud, and then focus on one or two specific statements that challenge you. Personally, I have been reading over and over again the words, “Bless people who harass you — bless and don’t curse them.” The word Bless in the original Greek is: Eulogeo. It is where we get our English word, Eulogy – to say a good word. Maybe it is an invitation for me to search for something good about the person who is harassing me, for though folks might be negative or mean, I imagine God can still find a nugget of goodness within them. And if God can, maybe I should try.
Prayer: You want us to be more like Jesus, Merciful God, and if I am to be more like Jesus, then I must not mimic the way of those who seek to cause me pain. Allow your Spirit to raise me up, and in doing so, increase my capacity to see something good even when it is a challenge. Amen.