Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A ministry of food

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4
Wednesday August 31, 2016

Focus passage: Give us the bread we need for today. Luke 11:3
Our community prayers have led our congregation through a paradigm shift.  To look back on it is beautiful, to see how God spoke through various families in our community and how their answer to God’s call began an organic movement. 
It has been part of the DNA of this congregation for some time.  I am sure that some of you can share earlier stories than what I will share, but I will take you back to our Dinner with our Neighbors when we ,along with our Hispanic nesting congregation, invited families from Lamar Elementary to our church on Sunday evenings to share a meal together. 
It grew into a family in our congregation tilling their land and growing 1,000s of tons of fresh food for the Kelly Memorial Food pantry.  Jardin de Milagros has blossomed into a community center where people from all over come to help with the labor of the farm so that those living in a food desert can have fresh good food to eat.
It grew into an invitation to three women in our community that had a shared dream to provide a community cafĂ© in this neighborhood where everyone can eat regardless of their ability to pay.  They have created a community centered on the love of Christ that seeks to meet not only the spiritual hunger we all have but also the physical hunger we all have.
At the same time we began working with our neighbors to create a raised bed community garden on our front lawn.  Community happens in shared conversation about watering and growth cycles of vegetables.
Prayer: God, thank you for providing all that we need for a healthy life.  I pray for the wisdom to choose what is good and to recognize the abundance that you provide so that I can share with others.  Amen..

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hunger

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4
Tuesday August 30, 2016

Focus passage: Give us the bread we need for today. Luke 11:3

We are a congregation centered upon both the sacred and physical nature of food.  We have intentionally and prayerfully sought out ways to address the real hunger that exists in our neighborhood that is labeled as a food desert. 
A food desert is a place where the residents cannot walk a reasonable distance to a market that sells fresh healthy food at a fair price.
We know that there are people in this neighborhood that are hungry:  Hungry for community, hungry for good fresh food, and hungry for spiritual nourishment.  We know because we all experience that same hunger.  It is what it means to be human.  We crave meaningful relationships, we crave good fresh food, and we crave a relationship with our holy sacred God.
Prayer: God thank you for providing all that we need for a healthy life.  I pray for the wisdom to choose what is good and to recognize the abundance that you provide so that I can share with others.  Amen..

Monday, August 29, 2016

Table sharing

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4
Monday August 29, 2016

Focus passage: Give us the bread we need for today. Luke 11:3
Table sharing is central to our faith.
In Jefferson City, Missouri, I will never forget the ladies that came to my spirituality class.  One evening, Nancy brought the refreshments.   She was a parent teacher educator and a local potter, after we spent time in prayer with the waning sun casting long shadows through the stained glass windows in our small chapel, she unpacked a basket of a variety of teas and homemade scones.  They were delicious and she shared that she had just whipped them up.  Seriously, who just whips up scones? 
In Nicaragua on mission, we shared meals at the home of one of the residents in the community we were staying in.  A healthy dinner of black beans and rice along with freshly made corn tortillas were the main staples of the night.  To this day I cannot eat black beans and rice without thinking of that small community and their abundant hospitality.
Food is a means to bring about community.  We share not only in eating a meal, but we can also share in the stories of our day at the table, recognizing the presence of God in the moment and reflecting upon God’s presence throughout our day.
Prayer: God, thank you for providing all that we need for a healthy life.  I pray for the wisdom to choose what is good and to recognize the abundance that you provide so that I can share with others.  Amen..

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sharing bread

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 and Luke 9:10-17
Sunday August 28, 2016

Focus passage: Everyone ate until they were full, and the disciples filled twelve baskets with leftovers. Luke 9:17
Go to any church in town and I would bet that they all say this of themselves: “ We know how to feed people.”  As I travel to different houses of worship for the Downtown Church Connection meetings, it is inevitable that while we are sharing a meal, the host will boast about their congregation’s hospitality when it comes to church pot lucks. 
It is part of the fabric of what we do.  Christians like to eat together.  We welcome one another into our homes, we break bread, and we share the stories of our day.  It is what we do.  It is not surprising that the only miracle story that all four gospel writers tell, and some more than once, is about the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.  Talk about a pot luck dinner, talk about abundance, talk about both physical and spiritual nourishment!
Prayer: God, thank you for providing all that we need for a healthy life.  I pray for the wisdom to choose what is good and to recognize the abundance that you provide so that I can share with others.  Amen..

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A kingdom that welcomes all

Daily reading: Luke 18:15-17
Saturday August 27, 2016

Focus passage: I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it. Luke 18:17

I believe the quintessential illustration, or parable if you will, of this kingdom comes at time when Jesus is schooling his disciples. 

Parents are bringing their babies to Jesus; their squirmy, noisy, messy babies to him so he could bless them. 

Now, I know we throw the word ‘blessing’ around a lot and we often confuse it with being lucky.  A theological grounded definition of blessing is acknowledgment of God’s presence in your life No Matter What.  Jesus blesses the poor and the outcast in word and deed and now it is time for those young parents and their babies and what do the disciples do?

They scold the parents and tell them that what we are about is adult business, we don’t have time to hear your babies, or see your babies, or deal with the messy squirminess of your babies, because, frankly, I can’t hear Jesus over the cries of your babies.  Send them away, put them out of sight and out of mind until they can learn to act and be like us.

And Jesus says “All the children to come to me.  Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.”

Jesus brings the children in so that the disciples could experience the kingdom of God.  The children are not a distraction; they are in essence a reminder of the unsettling, countercultural nature of God’s kingdom that is already and not yet.

In actively blessing the children, Jesus continues the process of initiating the disciples into the kingdom.
It is kindness, compassion and patience.
It is love, generosity, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

It is a place and a state of mind where ultimately we are challenged to recognize the things that we have to let go of in order to more fully claim our citizenship.

It is an invitation to enter into the divine dance that both comforts and challenges us to experience the presence of our sacred holy God in this already and not yet place of faithfulness.


Prayer: God help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The generous kingdom

Daily reading: Luke 16:19-31 and Matthew 20:1-16
Friday August 26, 2016

Focus passage: Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me?  Or are you resentful because I am generous? Matthew 20:15

Parables are rich in meaning, they often leave us with more questions than answers and Jesus rarely explains them, leaving us room to grow into the stories he teaches.

The kingdom of God pushes against our tendency to say some people are in and we can justify others being out, because in the kingdom absolutely everyone is worthy.  It is experienced when we are able to see the dignity and realize the shared humanity of ourselves along with the outcasts of our society.

The kingdom is a place where God’s generosity causes us to question our world view of what is fair.

It is a place where God is always seeking us out.

It is the lesson learned that grace is a gift and it absolutely cannot be earned.

The kingdom of God is already and not yet.


Prayer: God, help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kingdom Invitation

Daily reading: Luke 10:25-37, 15: 11-32, 18:1-8
Thursday August 25, 2016

Focus passages: Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37
But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive.  He was lost and is found.  Luke 15:32

Parables are rich in meaning. They often leave us with more questions than answers and Jesus rarely explains them, leaving us room to grow into the stories he teaches.

The kingdom of God is like a pestering widow pleading for justice, reminding us that, in God’s kingdom, all voices are needed.

The kingdom of God happens when a father welcomes back a wayward son and is wasteful in the amount of forgiveness he offers.

The kingdom of God happens when we, like the Good Samaritan, allow God’s compassion and mercy to flow through our actions so even our enemies can experience the presence of God.

It is experienced when we love God and neighbor when it is near impossible to love God and neighbor.

Prayer: God, help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The unexpected kingdom

Daily reading: Luke 13:18-21
Wednesday August 24, 2016

Focus passage: Jesus asked, “What is God’s kingdom like?  To what can I compare it?” Luke 13:18

Parables are rich in meaning, they often leave us with more questions than answers and Jesus rarely explains them, leaving us room to grow into the stories he teaches.

While the kingdom is at hand, there is a real sense in which it is hidden and in the dark like yeast in dough that has yet to rise.
The kingdom, we are told, is like a mustard seed, an invasive weed of the Ancient Near East that no farmer with any good sense would plant because it is uncontrollable.


Prayer: God, help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The kingdom revealed

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4
Tuesday August 23, 2016

Focus passage: Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.  Bring in your kingdom.” Luke 11:2

Jesus lives fully in the kingdom and he actively invites others to join him in living into this kingdom.
Every action, every sermon, every healing touch is an invitation to be part of God’s kingdom, to realign our thinking and our practices.

While the kingdom is revealed in Jesus, it is something that we don’t always grasp or see.  It happens in those moments when we know we are doing God’s will by loving our neighbors.

Prayer: God, help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The unsettling kingdom

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 and Luke 1:46-55
Monday August 22, 2016

Focus passage: Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.  Bring in your kingdom.” Luke 11:2

When the Kingdom is spoken about in Luke’s gospel, there is this unsettling reality of the kingdom being already and not yet. 
This already and not yet, is revealed not only in proclamations but also in parable and word and deed.  The kingdom, however it is revealed, always provides an invitation for us to participate. 
This already and not yet kingdom is revealed in Mary’s song at the beginning of Luke’s gospel, at the infancy of her pregnancy before the child has even been born she sings in the past tense about all that God has already done, but we know that it is not yet done.  She sings of a different reality than her current worldly one where the powerful have been pulled down from their thrones, where the hungry have been filled with good things and the rich have been sent away empty-handed.
She sings of a world that is up-side-down, or depending on your perspective, is right-side-up.


Prayer: God, help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Kingdom

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4
Sunday August 21, 2016

Focus passage: Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.  Bring in your kingdom.” Luke 11:2

As followers of Christ, we enter into the Kingdom of God knowing that it will craft us and mold us and make us new.

When I teach our baptism class to the youth of our congregation, we begin by making the comparison of our faith journey to that of learning a new language.

I teach them about the language of faith that we learn and speak and live as followers of Christ.  It is the language of love, of mercy, of compassion, of grace, of sin and forgiveness, it is the language sanctification.  Now for all of these terms, the kids look up definitions and we talk about the practical nature of living into this language. 

What does it look like to live and speak love?  What does it feel like to live and speak forgiveness? 
Why is it that we so often do the things we don’t want to do and know we shouldn’t do, and how amazing it is to know that we get second and third and forth and really uncountable chances to try and get it right again? 

What does it mean to be invited into a relationship with a holy, sacred God that is okay with you failing?


Prayer: God, help me to experience your kingdom today, in my words and my actions guide me.  Amen.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A part of the whole

Daily reading Job 42:1-6
Saturday August 13, 2016

Focus passage:  Therefore, I relent and find comfort on dust and ashes. Job 42:6

God’s explanation takes Job from a place of “why me” to a place where he sees that he is part of a much greater whole than he had ever imagined.  Job isn’t the center of creation and neither is humanity.  But it is part of God’s creation that God cares for and takes delight in. 

Our suffering doesn’t end only when the pain is gone, but it ultimately ends when we accept our new current reality, when we begin to look forward and not pine for the past.  Acceptance helps us to move to a place of peace and joy despite the chaos that might be blowing around us.


We all probably have joined with Job one time or another in saying “but this isn’t the way it is supposed to be.”  I have heard it countless times in my ministry and it breaks my heart, because in those moments of suffering we are so helpless.

Faithfulness requires that we accept our current reality and seek the presence of God right now.  In all situations we are called to not only be aware that we are not alone, that God is with us, but as followers of Christ we are called to seek out the lonely and the suffering and be present with them. 



Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2016

God is faithful

Daily reading: Job 42:1-6
Friday August 12, 2016

Focus passage: You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?” I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders beyond my comprehension. Job 42:3

Like a good parable the answer isn’t obvious. Like Job, the encounter with God leaves us with a new perspective, with an expanded understanding of God and God’s relationship not only to humans but to all of creation.
 
Humbling as the response is, it is not meant to belittle Job’s question in the least.  While the question of suffering and why bad things happen to people is left unanswered, Job is not left empty handed and neither are we. 

God never abandoned Job in his suffering, not once, because God is faithful.  God is right there in the midst of our suffering.  God does not abandon us, no matter what we encounter because God is faithful.

God turns Job’s focus on his inward suffering and expands his focus on the complexity and intricacy of our world.  God shows Job that while God loves him deeply, the world doesn’t revolve around him. 


Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Suffering and Faithfulness

Daily reading:  Job 40-42:6
Thursday August 11, 2016

Focus passage:  Would you question my justice, deem me guilty so you can be innocent? Job 40:8

God asks Job, “would you question my justice, deem me guilty so you can be innocent?”

Job wonders why he is suffering and God responds, “Job if you don’t even understand the question, how could you begin to understand the answer to your question?”

Job’s response to God is “I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders, beyond my comprehension.”  He says “My ears had heard about you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore, I relent and find comfort on dust and ashes.”

The word translated as relent in Hebrew is often translated as to “change one’s mind and setting out on a new path.”

God’s response to Job has allowed him to change his mind about the role of suffering in a faithful person’s life.  Job doesn’t say any more, but his silence opens a place for us to contemplate, and ponder and be in a place of wonder.


Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

God answers Job

Daily reading: Job 38-41
Wednesday August 10, 2016

Focus passage: “Where were you when I laid earth’s foundations?  Tell me if you know.  Who set its measurements?  Surely you know.”  Job 38:4-5

In the book of Job, after the friend’s voices are quiet, God’s voice emerges and God’s response to Job isn’t what we would expect.  If we followed the logic of his friends, God would speak to Job and tell him what sin he committed that resulted in the loss of everything that mattered to him in his life.  Instead he gets a response that expands and pushes against Job and his understanding of God in the universe.

God speaks up and asks Job a number of questions beginning with “Where were you when I laid earth’s foundations?  Tell me if you know.  Who set its measurements?  Surely you know.”  (Job 38:4-5)

Over and over, God asks questions like “From whose belly does ice come; who gave birth to heaven’s frost?” (Job 38:29)  “Who put wisdom in remote places, or who gave understanding to a rooster?”  (Job 38:36) “Is it due to your understanding that the hawk flies, spreading its wings to the south?” (Job 39:26)  To all of the questions Job knows the answer is not me. 


Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Struggling with suffering

Daily reading: Job 42:1-6
Tuesday August 9, 2016

Focus passage: You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?” I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders beyond my comprehension. Job 42:3

The book of Job provides for us a raw glimpse into the depths of our suffering.  When we face chaos, we desperately try to assign a reason in our minds for that chaos that will help us to create some sort of order out of the suffering we have encountered.

We all know too well the depths of suffering that happens in our world and we find ourselves asking the same question.  We may even wonder why if God is so loving does God allow suffering to happen?

We want to know so we can prevent misfortune from happening again.  But the reality is that life throws us curve balls.  Bad things happen to good people all the time and it breaks our hearts at the depth of suffering that we can experience. 

What if the question we are asking “why do bad things happen to good people” isn’t the question we should be asking? 


Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  Amen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Struggling with faithfulness

Daily reading: Job 42:1-6
Monday August 8, 2016

Focus passage: You said, “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?” I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders beyond my comprehension. Job 42:3

While faithfulness is an important part of our relationship with God and with our community of faith, it is something that we at times struggle with maintaining. 

The bible over and over again paints the picture of God’s people struggling with faithfulness contrasted against the never ending faithfulness of God.

We can resonate with these stories because the reality is that it is hard for many people to have faith in God.  Maybe they have never felt supported by anyone in their life and cannot imagine or trust that God would support them.  Others find it hard to remain in a faith community when they encounter members that are struggling with faithfulness and whose actions are hypocritical or who put limits on who is accepted and loved.

Other people may find once they really dive into the stories of the bible they cannot handle the questions over the inconsistencies that they find.

Others wonder if God is loving and God is just, then why do bad things happen to good people?

This is one of the central questions of the book of Job.

This parable of Job allows us to see how faith does not take us away from the struggles of life but can help to guide us through them.  It allows us to realize that faith that isn’t stagnant will be molded and will grow and ultimately change us.

Take time to think about the times you have felt God’s presence in your suffering.


Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  Amen.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Faithfulness

Daily reading: Job 42:1-6
Sunday August 7, 2016

Focus passage: My ears had heard about you, but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore, I relent and find comfort on dust and ashes.  Job 42:5-6

While on vacation, I had the pleasure of finally meeting one of my neighbors.  My kids and husband had met him probably about a year ago, but I was always away from the house when they had their conversations over the fence that our yards share.

He asked what I do for a living and our conversation blossomed.  What was intended to be a quick question at our front door ended up with a conversation around our dinner table.  He really wanted to hear what I thought about the life of the church in this era of what seems like a mass exodus from faith communities.  I won’t go into the details of our conversation, but will highlight a common theme.  Laced throughout the conversation was the theme of why faith and faithfulness is important and how we live our faith is vital not only for ourselves but for our community.

Take time today to explore with someone else why faithfulness is important to you and learn from them why it is important to them.


Prayer:  God of the suffering Christ, I praise you for you have never abandoned me.  Your faithfulness is beyond comprehension.  Help me to accept my current reality and find your loving presence in the now.  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...