Monday, February 29, 2016

How we respond



Daily reading: Mark 12:1-12
Monday February 29, 2016

The parable in Mark begins, “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower.”  There is nothing odd about the beginning of the parable.  It is reminiscent of the parable of the vineyard found in Isaiah 5:1-7.  

The original audience would have known well the system of land owners and farming tenants and they would have known well that the land owner owns the property and the tenants do not. 

Yes they work the land and are able to benefit from its produce, but they do not own it.  

Yes they benefit from its produce, but the yield is so abundant the intent was never for them to hoard it and keep it to themselves.  

In other words the land owner does not have them working on his vegetable garden that will feed only his family, but on a vineyard that is the means to providing financial support for the land owner and for the tenants and their families.  

They will need to yield enough grapes to make at the very least ends meet and hopefully to make a profit.

At this point in the parable, we can ask ourselves what do we do with the gifts that God has given us?  Think in terms of both spiritual and physical gifts.  How do you use what you have to embody the fruits of the spirit?  How do you use what you have to provide a space for the presence of God to shape and grow your community?

Prayer:  Holy God, thank you for never giving up on me.  Help me to be a good steward of all that you have given to me.  May my words and my actions be fruitful in my community.  Amen.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gifts



Daily reading: Mark 12:1-12
Sunday February 28, 2016

Focus passage: Jesus spoke to them in parables.  “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower.  Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip.” Mark 12:1

When I was in college my parents bought a car for me.  I worked as a waitress at a golf club outside of the county limits, about a thirty minutes drive west of my home.  My dad on the other hand worked in downtown St. Louis, about a thirty minute drive east of our home.  It took him about two weeks of doing the extra driving me to work and then to his own office when he decided a car for me was the best solution.

I really couldn’t believe I was getting a car.  My older siblings had been given cars, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities, but it was still unbelievable.  

I have to say I took really good care of that car.  I kept it clean, made sure to keep up on oil changes and regular maintenance.  

You know I think about that car and how I really try not to attach strings to the gifts I give to other people.  I try not to place my expectations on them, on how they should value or enjoy the gift because I guess I was taught that at some point in my life that we are to freely give.  But at least with the car, I felt this obligation to be a good steward of that gift my parents had given me.  

We are taught here in the church that God has created us to be in relationship with one another and with God.  We are taught that God has given us the gift of our world where we are called to be good stewards of it, together.

The gifts we have then are to be used to benefit our community and to help it grow.  They aren’t meant to only be consumed but to create opportunities for growth.

Take time today to think about a gift that someone gave you that really cares for you.  How did that gift shape you?  How did it help you to grow?

Prayer:  Holy God, thank you for never giving up on me.  Help me to be a good steward of all that you have given to me.  May my words and my actions be fruitful in my community.  Amen.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The cup of servanthood



Daily reading: Mark 10:32-52
Saturday February 27, 2016

Focus passage: “Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”  Mark 10:44-45

The passage for today begs the question, how is your daily living affected when you choose to drink from the cup of servant hood?
Even when our vision is clouded, even when we take a step or two backward we are still called to be servant’s of Christ.  How might your service to others offer the love of God?

Prayer:  God help me to see more clearly, help me to grow in the servant ministry of Christ today.  Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Seeing



Daily reading: Mark 10:32-52
Friday February 26, 2016

Focus passage: Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” Mark 10:51

There was a kid in my school growing up that had tunnel vision.  He was a bright, nice young boy that would often find it challenging to navigate the busy hallways between classes.  We always knew he might bump into us.  We were all aware of his limitations in the classroom from the perspective of how the teacher presented the material on the board and his ability to fully engage visually in what was happening in the classroom.

We all have some sort of tunnel vision in our own life.  When it comes to the life of a congregation it can be harmful and in some cases deadly.  It happens when we only see one way forward, or only believe that there is one way to do any given activity and we find ourselves bumping into different points of view.

Bartimaeus says to Jesus “Teacher, I want to see.”  Seeing for Bartimaeus means healing and an ability to participate in society in ways that currently are not an option.  

Can you identify the areas in your life where you have tunnel vision?  How can God help you to see?

Prayer:  God help me to see more clearly, help me to grow in the servant ministry of Christ today.  Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The prize of discipleship



Daily reading: Mark 10:32-52
Thursday February 25, 2016

Focus passage: James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They said, “Allow one of us to sit on your right and the other on your left when you enter your glory.”  Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking!  Can you drink the cup I drink or receive the baptism I receive?” Mark 10:35-38

James and John right after hearing the third passion prediction, after hearing that Jesus is the suffering Messiah and is on the literal road that will ultimately take him to a place of deep suffering and death, are focused not on that road but on what reward they will get for following Jesus.  
“We want a prize Jesus”, they say, exemplifying the reality that they still have not embraced the participatory nature of the kingdom.  They have not heard that they too have to pick up their cross and follow Jesus.  This is not just about sitting by and watching Jesus go down the road to Jerusalem, we all have our own cross that we will bear.  Discipleship in other words isn’t a spectator sport.  It is not something that we passively receive.  Discipleship is active, engaged and necessitates a faithful collaborative community.

Prayer:  God help me to see more clearly, help me to grow in the servant ministry of Christ today.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Seeing Clearly



Daily reading: Mark 10:32-52
Wednesday February 24, 2016

Focus passage: “Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”  Mark 10:44-45

On the road to Jerusalem, James and John have clouded vision when they request to be seated at the right and left hand of Jesus.   Jesus responds by once again offering to them a model of servant leadership and in a way offers up his own mission statement, “he has come to serve not to be served and to give his life to liberate many people.”

Their actions and words remind us that our journey of faith is so often one of two steps forward and one step back.  We have these moments of clarity only to be followed by darkness and stumbling.

We find that the new state of clarity brings with it new questions and insights that tug and pull us into deeper change that we resist as we try to remake or distort Jesus in the image we see fit that does not challenge or push, so hard against, our own preconceived notions and desire for comfort and stagnation.   Two steps forward and one step back.

Prayer:  God help me to see more clearly, help me to grow in the servant ministry of Christ today.  Amen.

Temptation

Matthew 4:1-17 Back in the early years of my ministry, I led a group of senior high youth through a 30 hour fast. It was a trend a...