Saturday, February 28, 2015

Praying for our Enemies



Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48
February 28, 2015

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you.” Matthew 5:44

This is one passage of scripture that we might prefer to cut out.  Love your enemies?  Are you serious Jesus?  Well as we read through the gospels we will see that Jesus was more than serious, he actually lived it.
He did not allow even those who worked against him to take him off his course of radically loving God and God’s people. 

We pray for our enemies not so that God will change them, but so that God will change our hearts and how we see them.

Prayer: God I pray for my enemies today and trust that you will in this moment of silence do the work that is necessary in my heart so that I can find healing and a way to move forward.  May my actions and words come from a place of genuine healing and not from hate.  Amen.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Reconciliation



Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26
February 27, 2015

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go.  First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back to offer your gift.  Matthew 5:23-24

As a child part of this passage must have been read at some point during our communion liturgy.  I can remember it set chills down my back because I had been in a heated argument with my brother on the way to church.

In fact I can’t remember a Sunday morning when we weren’t annoying each other.  So as I sat in church wanting desperately to receive communion, I wondered if I could.

Now I realize that this memory is somewhat distorted because the passage isn’t about communion but about giving an offering (and most likely wasn’t read before communion was served), but what it did to my young mind is plant the seed that this religion thing that we were part of every Sunday was not just about me and God.  It was about me and God and everyone else present and beyond the walls of the church. 

Reconciliation is part of our call.  And that is hard work, to be vulnerable and open and honest about the ways we have harmed one another and to be willing to move forward in a new way.

Prayer:  God help me to be an agent of your reconciling love in our world.  Amen.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Goodness of God



Scripture: Matthew 7:7-12
February 26, 2015

I find myself pushing hard against this passage of scripture.  I can remember singing its words in choir when I was a child and I seem to have left it there.  Maybe it is because as a pastor I have had the privilege of sitting with people as they have faced enormous challenges in life, where they have sat in the darkness and found deep chasms of void.  I have sat with people who earnestly prayed to find a way forward and all they could see were obstacles blocking a way out.

They have knocked, they have prayed and they have waited.

I push against the passage because I believe that there are things in life that we experience that are beyond explanation.  And that ultimately God isn’t a mystery to be solved or the answer to a question.  So much of our faith happens in our head and when it resides there it becomes very limited. 
What I do cling to in the passage is an understanding that God is good.  Infinitely more good than any of us can imagine.  We are all but a mere reflection of that goodness on our best days. 

Prayer:  God I believe, help me in my unbelief.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Second Chances



Scripture: Jonah 3:1-10
February 25, 2015

God saw what they were doing – that they had ceased their evil behavior.  So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it.  Jonah 3:10

I simply love Jonah!  He reminds me of myself and of most people that I know.  He is called to go and be a prophet to Israel’s worst enemy and instead of obeying his call; he gets up and travels in the opposite direction. 

It doesn’t end well for Jonah, he gets aboard a ship that is tossed by the sea all night long and when he is woken from his sleep, he tells the sailors that it is all his fault, throw him over board and so they do.  In God’s infinite mercy he is swallowed by a large fish and resides in its belly for three days (an interesting form of time out).  Jonah is then vomited up onto dry land and receives a call for a second time. 

This time, a wiser Jonah agrees and is off to Nineveh.  The city is massive, a three days walk across.  Jonah goes just a day’s journey and in what I have to imagine a weak sort of voice says “repent or God will destroy you.”
Jonah then retreats and makes his way up a hill so he can watch God destroy the city.  And to his amazement it doesn’t happen.  The whole city repents, even down to the animals. 

Instead of rejoicing at how effective he was at being a prophet for God, Jonah sulks. 

It’s hard to hear that God loves those whom we despise.  God gives second chances to those we would never offer one to.

Prayer:  God help me to offer your grace and love to everyone I encounter, even those that I have written off.  May your grace and love guide my actions and words.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Forgiveness



Scripture: Matthew 6:7-14
February 24, 2015

Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.  Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness can be hard to practice.

How often do I find myself wanting to remind the person that wronged me that they hurt me?  Maybe it comes in subtle or not so subtle ways where they are reminded for the umpteenth time that they did in fact hurt me.

I learned early on in my marriage that granting forgiveness means that I won’t bring it up again.

We don’t truly forgive someone else if we keep a tally sheet of all of the wrongs they have committed against us so that the next time they do something they aren’t supposed to we can remind them of how many times they have failed us in the past.

True forgiveness means letting go. 

Because if we don’t we allow the past pain and hurt to harden our hearts.  In effect we allow what they did to us to have power over us.

Forgiveness can be offered even when restoration of a relationship shouldn’t be offered.  They are separate and often times we treat them the same way. 

A forgiving heart is a key component of our Christian call.  It frees us to receive the forgiveness that God offers to us and for us not to live under the burden of past wrongs.

Prayer:  God help me to forgive others so I can freely receive the forgiveness you are offering me.  Amen.

Waiting

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