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Showing posts from September, 2016

Reconciliation

Daily reading: Genesis 37:3-8, 12-16, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21 Friday September 30, 2016
Focus passage: 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God?20 You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today.21 Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” So he put them at ease and spoke reassuringly to them. Genesis 50:19-21
God works through this family bringing forth life and newness in what up to this point had been very dark and dead.  This is not a story of God swooping down like a Disney prince to rescue a damsel in distress, this is an honest look at how even we struggle with God’s dreams for us, how we rebel, how we try and control and perhaps even hurt the ones we love the most in the process.  It is story where we see that it takes years for the dream of God’s forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, justice and compassion to really become part of this family.  This …

Forgiveness

Daily reading: Genesis 37:3-8, 12-16, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21 Thursday September 29, 2016

Focus passage: Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all of his attendants, so he declared, “Everyone, leave now!” So no one stayed with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers.  He wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him.  Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph!  Is my father really still alive?”  His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him.  Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” and they moved closer.  He said, “I’m your brother Joseph!  The one you sold to Egypt.  Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here.  Actually, God sent me before you to save lives.” Genesis 45:1-5
There is a power play that ensues, along with plenty of trickery and we are not sure if Joseph is really going to reveal his identity or trap his brothers.  At the height of the drama, when the brothers real…

Unexpected turns in the road

Daily reading: Genesis 37:3-8, 12-16, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21 Wednesday September 28, 2016
Focus passage: When some Midianite traders passed by, they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern.  They sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they brought Joseph to Egypt. Genesis 27:28
The funny thing about life is that no one person is 100% good or 100% bad.  We all live in the in-between space and on any given day make good or bad decisions.  We hide actions to save face and we often go along with the loudest voice even if it isn’t the best path to take.  That is why this story is compelling.   As we read we wonder how the promises of God will play out in the complex family dynamics of dysfunction.
Joseph had this vision, this dream from God that one day his family would benefit from him and now he is on the long dusty road to Egypt as a slave without any freedom.  He had begun his day excited, wearing his new coat from his father, with dreams fresh in his mind of how his fu…

Jealousy

Daily reading: Genesis 37:3-8, 12-16, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21 Tuesday September 27, 2016
Focus passage: They saw Joseph in the distance before he got close to them, and they plotted to kill him. Genesis 37:18
The brothers have had enough. When Joseph comes to check on them in while they are out with the family’s flock, all dolled up in his fancy coat, they decide they need to kill him.  The oldest Reuben tries to slow them down, he offers up an alternative to killing their brother, a compromise, he says perhaps we should just throw him in a pit, thinking that they all may cool off and in the end Joseph would learn a lesson. 
Without Reuben present, things quickly spiral out of control.  They take Joseph’s coat and throw him into the pit, in essence taking his lofty, arrogant presence and placing him literally beneath them.   A caravan of Ishmaelites pass by on their way to Egypt and the brothers get it in their heads that it is a really good idea to sell Joseph for 20 pieces of silver an…

All in the family

Daily reading: Genesis 37:3-8, 12-16, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21 Monday September 26, 2016
Focus passage: Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was born when Jacob was old.  Jacob had made for him a long robe. Genesis 37:3
We all know that things don’t go well when a parent has a favorite.  This pattern of favorites continues; Jacob favors his beloved Joseph, the son of his beloved Rachel.   Joseph is 17 years old at the beginning of our passage for today.  He is confident and full of himself, which of course I am sure none of you know a teenager like that nor if you are older remember being that way.
It’s not enough to just think or even say to Joseph that he loves him best, Jacob has a special coat made for Joseph.  Can you imagine either as a parent choosing one child as your favorite or as a sibling knowing that you are the favorite, or knowing that you are not?
Clothing in the ancient near east was not easy to come by.  Clothing was the most labor intensive i…

Families

Daily reading: Genesis 37:3-8, 12-16, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21 Sunday September 25, 2016
Focus passage: They saw Joseph in the distance before he got close to them, and they plotted to kill him. Genesis 37:18
What we find in these foundational stories in the book of Genesis is that our God takes one of the most basic units of relationship, a family, and chooses to work through it.  We get is this up close and personal view into one family through the stories in Genesis, reminding us how up close and personal our relationships with our own families are.  The family God works through is nowhere close to ideal.  Assumptions are turned on their heads, people scheme, manipulate and trick and at the end of the day the hero rarely are all that heroic.  Yet God is still is faithful.

Prayer: Faithful God, thank you for your sure and constant presence in my life.  Help me to turn to you when I struggle with my relationships.  Amen.

A larger narrative

Daily reading: Genesis 15:1-6 Friday September 23, 2016
Focus passage: Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.”  He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Genesis 15:5
God speaks hope into what seems to be a hopeless situation for Abram.  He has left his home, is on a journey and has yet to have a child with his wife.  The story pulls us to a place where we think about the places in our own lives where we have experienced barrenness and disappointment.  Do you turn to God in those moments?  Are you 
able to find hope in those moments? God does not leave us hopeless.  Even when we think the promise has been broken because it hasn’t happened according to our time line, God remains faithful.

Prayer: God, help me to live more faithfully into your promises.  Amen.

A larger narrative

Daily reading: Genesis 15:1-6 Wednesday September 21, 2016
Focus passage: Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.”  He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Genesis 15:5
The bible is full of stories of promise and of being part of a larger narrative.  Abram sets the foundation for these stories. Within his life, he will not see his descendants like he sees the night sky.  He will only see his son, Isaac, born.  We, too, are called to participate in ministry and often our participation is part of a larger narrative.  We are called, like Abram, to remain faithful even when we cannot see the fruits of our faithfulness.

Prayer: God, help me to live more faithfully into your promises.  Amen.

Doubt

Daily reading: Genesis 15:1-6 Monday September 19, 2016
Focus passage: Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.”  He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Genesis 15:5
As we journey with Abram, we see his struggle to fully trust in God.  We see that he doubted God despite God’s promises and we really can’t blame him.  He was 75 when God called him and was well beyond the years one would hope to father children.  No one expects an elderly couple that has no children to become the parents of many nations:  yet as we know, as the story unfolds, this does come to pass.  This story teaches us that God does indeed do amazing things in our life that are far beyond what we would ever expect to happen.

Prayer: God, help me to live more faithfully into your promises.  Amen.

Limitless

Daily reading: Genesis 15:1-6 Sunday September 18, 2016
Focus passage: Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.”  He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” Genesis 15:5
When I was a teenager on our annual trip to rural Kansas in the summer, my cousin took me out with her friends into a farmer’s field.  We were far away from any lights and I saw, for the first time, the night sky in all its majesty.  To say that I was amazed would be an understatement.  I imagine this is what Abram saw when he looked up at the heavens and God spoke to him.  “See those stars Abram?  Can you count them?”  Before Abram can answer the obvious and say “No Lord, I cannot,” God continues, “That is how many children you will have.” 
We so often put limits on God: on God’s love, on God’s faithfulness, on God’s grace, on God’s forgiveness, on God’s presence and kingdom.  Today open yourself to God’s limitlessness in your life.

Pra…

Hiding from God

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Saturday September 17, 2016 Focus passage: During the day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees. Genesis 3:8 It always strikes me to think of how they really thought they could hide from God, but also hide what they did. Which gets me thinking about how we hide our mistakes because maybe we are ashamed, or maybe we don’t want to deal with the consequences, or maybe we are so hurt that we don’t mind hurting someone else?  Or, maybe we are afraid if found out we will realize that we have completely broken what we had beyond repair.  Hiding our mistakes rarely ends up well.  It can consume us and that is not the kind of life God desires for us. We find that there are consequences to the human’s actions but they do not negate God’s faithfulness and love for God’s creation. Despite the tear they create in their rel…

How sin changes us

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Friday September 16, 2016 Focus passage: During the day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees. Genesis 3:8 What should have been an idyllic evening with a cool breeze and the company of God, the sound of God’s footsteps brings anxiety and shame to the humans, because something has forever changed, they now know both good and evil. While they didn’t physically die in the moment of eating from the tree, a part of their relationship with God died.  They took a step that forever changed the landscape of their relationship, just as the tragedy of 9/11 forever changed our world. Or on a more basic level, when we convince ourselves that the lie we told isn’t a big deal and it builds as we live into not telling the truth, or when we have deiced the rules don’t apply to us and we find ourselves stepping across bounda…

Temptation

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Thursday September 15, 2016
Focus passage: The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s tress but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.  God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’” Genesis 3:2-3
The woman responds “we can eat of every tree in the garden just not the one in the middle, we can’t eat from that tree or touch it or we will die.” The tree is indeed off limits, but the woman has added that she can’t touch it.  Why does she add this part?  She makes the command even stronger than the parameters God placed on it.  It’s not just off limits, it is super off limits.  She takes it to this whole new level, ups the ante, so that when she disobeys it is so much greater.  I mean it was pretty great to begin with, but she has made it greater. The temptation to eat is so great that the woman has convinced herself that she should also refrain from touching the tree.  Don’t even go near …

Acting on our choices

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Wednesday September 14, 2016
Focus passage: The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” Genesis 3:1
The snake enters the story and he is the most intelligent of all of the wild animals.  In almost every ancient culture the snake represents cleverness or craftiness.  The snake gives voice to what the humans were already curious about.  Sometimes, when we move from thought to spoken word, we are birthing movement, in the right or wrong direction.
He knows just the right question to ask.  He says out loud what the humans are already wondering about,  “So God said you can’t eat from any tree, huh?” The question, if we are to believe the snake is clever or intelligent or both, is really one that challenges the set up the humans have with God. It’s like saying to kids, “so you don’t get an afternoon snack when you ge…

Choices

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Tuesday September 13, 2016
Focus passage: The LORD God commanded the human, “Eat your fill from all the garden’s trees; but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!” Genesis 2:16-17
This ancient story speaks to the reality that we all have choice.  God creates this amazing garden and asks them to serve it, but instead the humans make a different choice, they choose their own path.  Rather than serving God, by serving the garden they entertain their curiosity and serve their own desire to know.  While we are filled with the divine breathe, we are not made to be like God, there are things that are too great for us to know or comprehend.  We were not created to be God.
Prayer: God, help me to make good choices today that show love and respect to you, myself and my neighbor.  Amen.

One limit

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Monday September 12, 2016
Focus passage: The LORD God commanded the human, “Eat your fill from all the garden’s trees; but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!” Genesis 2:16-17
There is this amazing, promising, beginning.  God creates this ideal place, a garden with everything you would need and it is very good.  God is even present in this garden and notices that the first human was lonely and creates a companion for him.   And there is only one limit. Can you image only having one limitation, one rule in life?  You can eat from any tree, just not this one. 
With everything that God has given them, we wonder what more could they possibly want?  They want the one thing they cannot have.  We all know what that feels like.
We all have this tendency to want what we cannot have. Curiosity and a need to know if boundaries are really boundaries move us forward.
Prayer: God, help me…

Broken

Daily reading: Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 Sunday September 11, 2016
Focus passage: - the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils.  The human came to life. Genesis 2:7
This second creation story is a story of brokenness.  Today is a fitting day to retell this story; on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we all know too well that we live in a broken world.  We know too well countless stories of broken lives and the long journey to healing and wholeness. In the beginning, God crafted us from the clay of the ground and filled us with God’s breath.  We are both created in the image of God and from the dust or clay of the ground.  This story highlights the reality that we are fragile and fallible but also capable of making really good choices.    We have been given freedom to choose between good and evil and when we choose evil we break our relationship with God and with our neighbors.
Prayer: God, help me to make good choices today th…

Salvation from oppression

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Saturday September 10, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
The prayer concludes with a petition to not be led into temptation, another way to say that is to pray for salvation from oppression.
We pray that God will help us to stay away from situations that can rob us of hope and faith.  For each of us, these situations will vary, but we know when we have stumbled into them.  They lead to moments where we create breaks or fractures in our relationship with God, ourselves and our neighbors. 
The final petition points to the reality that God’s kingdom is not yet in our world and as people of faith we live in both worlds.  We all experience the struggle to remain faithful, to seek the kingdom and to choose God first.
Forgiveness helps to mend the fragments in our lives and in our community.  We practice it and live into it because on any given day we experience broken…

Restoration and liberation

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Friday September 9, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
We pray for help in practicing the spiritual discipline of forgiveness because at the heart of forgiveness we find restoration and liberation. 
We actively choose in the moment of receiving and of offering forgiveness not to be defined by our past mistakes or injuries. 

Prayer: God help me to practice forgiveness today, help me to forgive myself and others.  Lead me down a good path today and help me to make good choices that honor you.  Amen.

Forgiveness is a spiritual release

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Thursday September 8, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
Forgiveness frees us to love the world as God does.  It creates room for grace, mercy and love in community.  The words to forgive and to release are interchangeable in this biblical context.  Forgiveness is a moment of spiritual release. Forgiveness means that we don’t give up on one another. We practice forgiveness because we embrace the forgiveness that God has given to us.  God forgives us even when we don’t believe we deserve it because God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 
Prayer: God, help me to practice forgiveness today, help me to forgive myself and others.  Lead me down a good path today and help me to make good choices that honor you.  Amen.

Practicing forgiveness

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Wednesday September 7, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
When we practice forgiveness we remember that we all are beloved children of God, you and me, everyone and so we choose to treat each other with respect and dignity even if we are not being treated that way. There is a power in forgiveness because when we don’t forgive we allow the person who wronged us to have power over us.  And maybe this has happened to you, someone has done something to you and it hurt you, maybe physically, maybe spiritually, maybe emotionally and you hold onto that hurt and that moment.  Perhaps what happened even begins to control you, the hurt and the anger begins to change you, it can rob us of our joy and make us bitter. Bad experiences can begin to own us.  We can become weighted down and find that our heart becomes calcified and hard.  Our perception of the whole world, of the…

What forgiveness is not

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Tuesday September 6, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
Forgiveness is not saying that what someone did to us it o.k.  To forgive is different from condoning.  Forgiveness is not forgetting.  When someone has abused you, forgiveness does not mean that you are going to let them continue to abuse you over and over again.  Forgiveness is not the magic pass that allows people to continue to abuse and cross boundaries.
Forgiveness does not always mean reconciling and it doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to our actions.   
Forgiveness does mean that we will choose not to seek revenge or to treat the person who has wronged us in the same way they are treating us. 

Prayer: God help me to practice forgiveness today, help me to forgive myself and others.  Lead me down a good path today and help me to make good choices that honor you.  Amen.

Embracing forgiveness

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Monday September 5, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
Forgiveness is a central component of our faith and our understanding of God’s working in our world – yet it may be one of the most difficult concepts to live out in our lives, because when we forgive we give up our natural tendency to seek revenge – to remain angry – to lash out – and to fuel our rage.  In order to live fully in Christian community, we must embrace the spiritual discipline of forgiveness.  

Prayer: God, help me to practice forgiveness today, help me to forgive myself and others.  Lead me down a good path today and help me to make good choices that honor you.  Amen.

Praying for forgiveness

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Sunday September 4, 2016
Focus passage: Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.  And don’t lead us into temptation.  Luke 11:4
Why, out of all of the things we could pray for, would Jesus teach us to pray to live into forgiveness? Forgiveness and living in right relationship with ourselves in relation to God and to our neighbors are essential components of a faithful life.  Our denomination’s slogan states that we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.  We collectively recognize that there are abundant opportunities to practice forgiveness, because our world is fragmented. 
Prayer: God, help me to practice forgiveness today, help me to forgive myself and others.  Lead me down a good path today and help me to make good choices that honor you.  Amen.

Enough

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Saturday September 3, 2016
Focus passage: Give us the bread we need for today. Luke 11:3
As you share a meal today, remember the presence of Christ.  Thank God for giving you enough for today.  If you have more than enough, ask God to show you what to do with your abundance. Remember the presence of Christ in your trials and in your celebrations.  Remember his presence in the faces and lives of those you break bread with.  Remember so that what has been fragmented can be brought back together and re-membered.  Remember that Christ broke bread and shared cup with absolutely everyone that he possible could.  Remember that he died on the cross.  Remember that he rose from the grave.  Remember that he will come again and it is more than enough.  It is more than enough. Give us this day our daily bread. 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 s…

Remember

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Friday September 2, 2016
Focus passage: Give us the bread we need for today. Luke 11:3 In seminary, a professor made something quite ordinary extraordinary.  She pointed out that the word “remember” means to bring together, to re-member.  It is sacred, it is holy, it is bringing together the ordinary with the sacred. Remember how God gave us something to do, an outward sign of an invisible grace.  We break bread together, we share cup together, not just here, but at every meal we are offered the same opportunity, to remember. 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..

Sharing holy bread

Daily reading: Luke 11:2-4 Thursday September 1, 2016
Focus passage: Give us the bread we need for today. Luke 11:3
We recognize that God has called us to come to this neighborhood because we too are hungry.  We have hungry souls that long to be filled by sacred words and holy conversations.  We also come to participate in the divine act of sharing bread, in the real physicality of growing food and in the real physicality of sharing communion bread and wine together. Jesus teaches us to pray for God to give us each day the bread that we need.  In the prayer, we recognize that we do need daily nourishment but we don’t pray for excess, we don’t pray to have enough so that we can hoard it.  We pray that we have enough for the day and in that gift of enough we recognize the presence of 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…