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.
February 19, 2020
Scripture: Luke 6:40
Disciples aren’t greater than their teacher, but whoever is fully prepared will be like their teacher.
Thought for the Day: I am rereading Derek Penwell’s book, “Outlandish: An Unlikely Messiah, a Messy Ministry, and the Call to Mobilize.” He has some very thought-provoking lines, and the following caught my attention last night:
Jesus calls us to go on an adventure, not a church picnic. And if we’re going to follow his example, we should be honest about the fact that the cost of discipleship is steep.
Too often we have made following Jesus into a feeling or a heavenly prize at the end of the race. Those might be a part of it, but in reading the Gospels, they make a very small part of this thing called discipleship. In the last couple of years, I have had people say to me, “You’ve taken some real risks in your ministry.” That feels good, but it is also laughable. At no point have any of my choices jeopardized my life or the life of those I love. I might lose a job or a friendship, but that ain’t real risk when we look at the long arch of eternal love working in the lives of humble servants throughout history. I don’t know exactly what risk looks like for a white middle-class male with a pension and medical insurance through the Exchange. Maybe I’m missing an opportunity to be like my teacher who gave up everything.
Prayer: O Jesus my friend, continue to teach and prepare me for a life that might resemble your life. I’m not too sure if I am really ready for it, but wherever you need me to go, I will try. Amen.