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Showing posts from January, 2017

Take a break

Taking a break Daily reading: Luke 6:1-16 Tuesday January 31, 2017
Focus passage: Then he said to them, “The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:5
If the prospect of taking time each week for Sabbath seems daunting and makes you a little anxious wondering how you will be able to accomplish it, then you need a Sabbath break. In Proverbs we read “A little sleep … a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty [another word for death] will come upon you like a robber.” (Proverbs 6:10-11)  Sabbath rest is a sign of faithfulness.  It is elemental to our relationship with God.
Prayer: God of Sabbath rest, help me to find time to faithfully rest and trust that you can provide for me.  Amen.

Sabbath tension

Daily reading: Luke 6:1-16 Monday January 30, 2017
Focus passage:  One Sabbath, as Jesus was going through the wheat fields, his disciples were picking the heads of wheat, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.  Some Pharisees said, “Why are you breaking the Sabbath law?” Luke 6:1-2
This call for Sabbath rest will always reveal a tension in our lives.  I’m no statistician but I would say it is safe to say that at least 95% of children fight going to bed and probably a higher percentage of children fight having to take a nap. 
Even from the start of our development when we recognize that we are independent people, we fight having someone tell us that we need to rest.          And probably all of us understand that we need rest, that we need to balance our day and take time away from our busyness but we have a difficult time stopping, slowing down and taking a Sabbath rest.
Now Sabbath rest is more than just taking a break from working at a paying job, in its elemental form it is abo…

Sabbath

Daily reading: Luke 6:1-16 Sunday January 29, 2017
Focus passage: Then he said to them, “The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:5
Within the Hebrew Scriptures we find a call for Sabbath rest when God is crafting the newly freed slaves from Egypt, out in the wilderness on their journey to the land of Promise.  It is here that God says: unlike Pharaoh, that worked you seven days a week, I will give you a day of rest.
On this day everyone in your household, your family your servants and your animals will rest and take time to worship the God who gives you absolutely everything, even the rest you are enjoying.
How do you practice Sabbath rest? Or do you?  What shape would it take if you don’t?

Prayer:  God of Sabbath rest, help me to find time to faithfully rest and trust that you can provide for me.  Amen.

Don't be Afraid

Daily reading: Luke 5:1-15 Friday, January 27, 2017
Focus passage: Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will be fishing for people.” Luke 5:10b
Jesus responds with the words “don’t be afraid.” “ Simon,” he says, “you don’t have to be afraid any more.”  We need to hear this message.  We need to hear God say “don’t be afraid.” 
As a congregation transitioning into becoming missional, we are called to go out where we haven’t gone before, we are invited to cast our nets into the deep water and see what will happen.
What we will find is that God is already casting a vision for us that is bigger than we are. It is forcing us to go out into the community to fulfill God’s call.   When so much of the talk among congregations and the Area and Region is about what we don’t have and how we can sustain what we do on less, this is an important scripture to hear.  God sends us out and rather than coming home empty handed, we return full of grace and abundance.
Prayer:  Abundant God,…

Miracle of abundance

Daily reading: Luke 5:1-15 Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Focus passage: When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Luke 5:8
Simon’s reaction is so raw, so real, and so honest.  In this moment, even after seeing Jesus heal many others including his mother-in-law, he realizes that he is in the presences of someone extraordinary and it scares him.
In this moment of unbelievable grace and abundance, Simon is scared because he knows that he has encountered something so extraordinary, something so holy, that he feels inadequate.  Simon feels unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus.
This is what I love about this story, because this is the heart of the gospel, of the good news. When we are overwhelmed by grace we find this release in us that is contrary to everything we believe about ourselves. That we are actually worthy: and in that moment we are overcome by joy and we experience the abundance of God.  God really does love us that much:  …

Abundance

Daily reading: Luke 5:1-15 Monday, January 23, 2017
Focus passage: When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”  Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing.  But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”  So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. Luke 5:4-6
There is this abundance that is overwhelming: nets splitting, muscles straining, excitement brimming, hurried shouts for extra help from the other boat, fish absolutely everywhere, boats weighed down, almost sinking.
Can you imagine?
In this moment, Simon experiences an epiphany. 
In this moment, he does something he has never done before, because Jesus has, pardon the pun, casts a vision for him to follow, he experiences abundance.  Despite how ludicrous it is, he followed and was amazed. 

Prayer:  Abundant God, help me to trust in your guidance so that I can be filled with your Hol…

Miracle of abundance

Daily reading: Luke 5:1-15 Sunday, January 22, 2017
Focus passage: When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”  Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing.  But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”  So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. Luke 5:4-6
Jesus asks for a favor and through Simon’s hospitality and generosity, his world is forever changed.  After Jesus is finished talking, he asks Simon to row out farther into the deep water and drop his nets.
Simon rows the boat and then says “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing.  But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
I wonder if Simon says what he says because he is exhausted and is done with his night shift and is ready to go home and rest.  I wonder if Simon agrees because after all this is the guy who healed his mother in law and he feels that he owes him o…

Restored Sight

Daily reading: Luke 4:14-30 Friday January 20, 2017

The good news is that God loves us and sees us.  God invites us to be part of this kingdom where we experience grace, and forgiveness and shalom peace.  Even more than that, God loves us enough that God will challenge us to see everyone.
It is the same concept we share with our children when they face a particular challenging task in school or at home, that we love them enough, that we refuse to give up on them, that we know that they can rise to the challenge.  God refuses to give up on us and invites us to help with this Kingdom work that adjusts the scales in our world.
Because, you see, when we begin to see everyone, even those hidden ones, or discarded ones, or overlooked ones, our world expands and stretches and pulls out of our comfort zone and narrow focus.  It offers a space where your story and my story are shared and equally honored.  It allows us to mend our fragmented world.  Rather than listening for what we expect to hear,…

God sees you

Luke 4:14-30 Thursday January 19, 2017
Empowered and filled by the Spirit, Jesus tells that God’s power is different from our world’s power because it causes us to notice not only those who are overlooked, hidden, or forgotten, but it also calls us to question the power structures that allow some to be overlooked, hidden or forgotten. 
The amazing thing is that Jesus tells us this good news is for those on the margins and the invitation then is set wide.  Because no one lives in a vacuum, this good news is not just for those on the bottom, it is for us all because there are areas in all of our lives that are in need of this good news.
We need to hear and know that no one is unworthy of God’s good news so that we can hear and know once again that we are worthy.
Prayer: Compassionate God, help me to fully see other’s that have been hidden from my sight.  Help me to be present in their struggles and empower me to be moved by the Spirit.  Amen.

Empowered

Daily reading: Luke 14:14-30 Wednesday January 18, 2017
Jesus has been empowered by the Spirit to tell us that everyone matters.  Not just the people that make it, or get the highest grade, or land the best job.  Not just the ones who are famous or accomplished, or wealthy, or privileged, or born on the right side of a border, absolutely everyone has value and worth.  And God sees them, even when we turn a blind eye and refuse to see, God sees them.
Prayer: Compassionate God, help me to fully see other’s that have been hidden from my sight.  Help me to be present in their struggles and empower me to be moved by the Spirit.  Amen.

Together

Daily reading: Luke 4:14-30 Tuesday January 17, 2017
The power of the Spirit builds up collectively.  It meets us in our brokenness and offers healing.
How different this understanding of power is from those in our contemporary society?
Prayer: Compassionate God, help me to fully see other’s that have been hidden from my sight.  Help me to be present in their struggles and empower me to be moved by the Spirit.  Amen.

The Great Reversal

Daily reading: Luke 4:14-30 Monday January 16, 2017

Luke helps us, from the beginning of his gospel, know what kind of power we are talking about.  It has been stated rather obviously in Mary’s song, in Zechariah’s prophecy, and in John’s words that he spoke in the Jordan River. 
Now as Jesus stands in his home town synagogue, he reads from the prophet Isaiah from the 61st chapter. 
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news To the poor, To proclaim release to the prisoners And recovery of sight to the blind, To liberate the oppressed, And to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
When we look at the list of who Jesus has come to send good news, the one thing they have in common is that they are ones that do not have power.
Jesus has been sent to bring good news to the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed.
In theological circles, this is what we call the great reversal, the moment when we acknowledge that things in our world …

Power

Daily reading: Luke 4:14-30 Sunday January, 15, 2017
Focus passage: Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  Luke 4:1
The passage for today begins with these words “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.”
Luke tells us that after Jesus was baptized, he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and there he was tempted for forty days by the devil.
After the forty days Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit.”
Jesus’ actions from the moment he emerged from the baptismal waters of Jordan River have been because he has followed the Spirit.  It sustained him in the wilderness for forty days as he fasted and was tempted and it now sends him to his home town of Nazareth to preach in their synagogue.
This same Spirit has been on the move, even before Jesus began his public ministry.  It overcame Mary, it filled her cousin Elizabeth, it rested on Simeon and then Luke tells us that it came down on Jesus the mom…

Living a grace filled life

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Saturday January 14, 2017
Focus passage: 10 The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.” 14 Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?” He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.” Luke 3:10-14
Ordinary people like you and me came to him, out in the wilderness, and waded into the waters of the Jordan River so they could take a moment in time and realign themselves with God, so they could be filled with grace. Prayerfully consider what spiritual practice you want to resolve to adopt this year.  What action or what intention that helps you to turn toward God daily did you take up?  In what area of your life are you more fully following Christ?  How migh…

Radical realignment

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Friday, January 13, 2017
Focus passage: This is just as it was written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet, A voice crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled,
and every mountain and hill will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
and the rough places made smooth.
All humanity will see God’s salvation.” Luke 3:4-6
John uses words from Isaiah 40 to re-imagine a passage that was first spoken to exiles returning home, exiles that also entered into the waters of the Jordan.  A grace-filled community culminates in the filling of valleys and the smashing down of the mountains so the crooked can be made straight and the rough ways made smooth. When Dan and I were on a short term mission in Nicaragua, once we left the city of Managua, we learned quickly that you cannot get from one town to another, let alone around town, without going over hills and around sharp curves.   The narrow u…

Receiving Grace

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Thursday, January 12, 2017
Focus passage: John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.  Luke 3:3
God leads John the Baptizer to invite the repentant into the unsure waters of the Jordan, at a place where the current can take you under and toss you around, much like life, but in the end, John confidentially lifts each person out of the water, holding them and reminding them that God offers us forgiveness and release from our past so we can set our eyes more clearly on God in the future.  In the messiness of our human lives, God offers this divine grace that puts us back together in a different shape. While the baptism of our Lord is briefly mentioned; Luke doesn’t even tell us who it was that plunged him under the waters; but it is also the place where he begins his public ministry.  In the wilderness. In a place where the current…

Repenting

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Wednesday, January 11, 2017 Focus passage: John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.  Luke 3:3
John invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord with repentance.  In Hebrew is the word “shuv” which means to turn around or return.  I like this imagery, to think of repenting as an act of turning around and facing and following God once again.  In Greek it is metanoia, which means more than saying you are sorry, it means a transformation of the heart and mind. It is an offering of release so that grace can permeate one’s life.  The longer we live in a grace-filled community, the more we understand that we all are going to end up disappointing one another.  We all end up doing something stupid and hurtful, either intentionally or unintentionally.  That is a given in life, but what isn’t necessarily a  given is living in a grac…

In the wilderness

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Tuesday, January 10, 2017 Focus passage: John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.  Luke 3:3
God comes to an ordinary person, to do something very extraordinary; he offers a way for people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. It is away from the seat of power and control of the Roman Empire that John offers hope.  He invites and meets people at the river Jordan where their ancestors would have crossed on their journey home from Babylonian captivity.  God calls them out and away, much like the freed slaves from Egypt were called out into the wilderness to begin a new chapter in their life, as children of God and not as slaves of Pharaoh. It is out and away that God invites us, so that we are free from the distractions of the day, away from the points where we lose perspective and become bogged down with the task at hand, when …

Light in darkness

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Monday, January 9, 2017
Focus passage:   In the fifteenth year of the rule of the emperor Tiberius—when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea and Herod was rulerover Galilee, his brother Philip was rulerover Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was rulerover Abilene,2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—God’s word came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. Luke 3:1-2 It was a time of great darkness and despair.  And it was during this time that God spoke to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness: in a place beyond and untamed. There is foreshadowing everywhere. First, with the build up at the beginning of the story, explaining the political environment. Then we hear a voice coming not from Tiberius the Emperor, or from Pilate or Herod, or even from the high priest Caiaphas, it comes from a Jewish peasant, in a remote sector of the Roman Empire, away from the seat of power, in the wilderness.  I wonder what it means that the activity of …

Grace

Daily reading: Luke 3:1-22 Sunday, January 8, 2017
Focus passage: John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.  Luke 3:3
Grace is such a rich word; it doesn’t happen in isolation, it happens in community. 
The gospel writer, Luke, likes to ground his testimony in history, a place and time, when someone can see the movement of God, a moment of grace.
Whenever I read the third chapter of Luke, I always think of the beginning of a Star Wars movie.  (Not Rogue One, which doesn’t offer you the scroll to place you in a particular time and place, but you know what I mean, you see the yellow letters in a black outer space scene scrolling; saying: “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away” and then you read a bunch of details.)
Luke begins by listing names of political and religious leaders so that we can pinpoint a specific time in history.  He is setting the stage…

Waiting for God

Daily reading: Luke 2:22-40 Friday, January 6, 2017
So much of our faith walk isn’t about a check list, it is about waiting.  Today we begin a new year and we wait to see what will unfold this year.  We wait and we pray that God will be present in our lives to move us and mold us.  Perhaps our resolutions should be more about what God wants for us, and for us to do, to accomplish rather than what we want for ourselves.
Perhaps what we wait for in the coming year is for God to help us to let go of the things that are harming us, of unhealthy habits, of destructive patterns and circles we constantly engage in, or of tuning out what matters.  You see, I don’t think God desires that our hopes for the coming year to be so short lived that by February we can’t remember what it was we resolved to change this year.

Prayer: Patient God, help me to allow Your presence to work within me, so that I can grow in faithfulness.  Amen.

Letting Go

Daily reading: Luke 2:22-40 Thursday, January 5, 2017
When we choose to follow God, to follow Jesus, we really give up our ability to be in control.  We have to be OK with God’s ‘we’ll see.’  Have you ever had someone say that to you?  We’ll see?  My parents did that all the time when I  was growing up and normally in response to something I wanted 10 seconds ago and their ‘we’ll see’ put my want into the infinite space of waiting.  The ‘we’ll see’ reminded me that I was not in control. After all, isn’t that at the heart of waiting:  of recognizing that we are not in control, of when something will happen and so many other things in our lives?  We wait for response, for reaction, for time to pass.  And while we may be waiting to accomplish something or to be able to check it off of our to do list, what Simeon and Anna were waiting for was just a glimpse.  They just wanted to know that their prayer that God would come near had been answered, nothing more, nothing less. 

Prayer: Patient Go…

Seeing Jesus

Daily reading: Luke 2:22-40 Wednesday, January 4, 2017
In their waiting, Simeon and Anna were able to recognize the holy family.  And we may wonder what have Simeon and Anna really seen?  A baby, who has not yet done anything, he has not accomplished anything, he has not spoken yet or performed a miracle?
Yet Simeon is ready to die, right now, not in 30 years when Jesus will emerge on the scene.  Anna is already old in age and will not see or even hear Jesus speak of this new Kingdom they are praying for to come.  In fact, most of the characters we see at the birth will have long been gone by Jesus emerges some thirty years later.  Simeon first praised God as he held the baby in his arms, surely warming the hearts of Mary and Joseph.  But then he says something to them that sets the stage for the rest of Jesus’ earthly life, words that I am not sure we want to hear when our baby is only eight days old.  He says “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and…

Simeon and Anna

Daily reading: Luke 2:22-40 Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Simeon’s waiting is a spiritual practice that helps him to deepen his faith in God’s activity in the world.  Each hurdle he over comes only deepens his ability to wait and trust that much more.  In the space of waiting he has allowed God to mold and shape him. Anna is a widow and has dedicated her life to praising God for most of her adult life by living in the temple, fasting and praying night and day.  She has made a career out of actively waiting.  The scripture says she was married for nine years and then has spent the rest of her life in the temple and she now is 84 years old.  This waiting has prepared them to recognize Mary, Joseph and Jesus as the Holy Family.  It is not as if the Holy family wore a sign stating it, or that they were doing anything out of the ordinary.  No, they were a poor young family that came to the temple as ordered by Mosaic Law to give a sacrifice as part of the required ritual of purification.  This was…

Faithful waiting

Focus passage: Luke 2:22-40 Monday, January 2, 2017
The first thing that strikes me about this passage is the patience that is witnessed in the lives of Simeon and Anna.  We can chalk it up to a more simple time, but I think that does the story somewhat a disservice if we leave it at that.  I think that while technology is wonderful, it has changed the pace at which we make decisions and has blurred the lines of when we are available and when we are not.  We now expect instant answers and have shrunk our discernment time.   We wait for test results from the doctor, we wait to see if treatments will work, we wait for the news of future possibilities, we wait for our favorite TV show to come on, we wait passively and we wait actively and while the time of waiting might be getting shorter, it only heightens the reality that God’s timing is not our timing.

Prayer: Patient God, help me to allow Your presence to work within me, so that I can grow in faithfulness.  Amen.

Waiting

Focus passage: Luke 2:22-40 Sunday, January 1, 2017
What are you waiting for? So much of our experience in our daily living comes from either meeting our expectation of what we are waiting for or not meeting it.  Let me explain.  We wait for the bus to come, or for the teacher to start class, or for the waitress to bring our food, and if they don’t show up, then what we were waiting for didn’t meet our expectations. We wait for our computers to turn on and if there is no internet connection, we are disappointed, yes? And I’m not just thinking of our passive waiting but also our active waiting where we work toward the completion of something. In anticipation of New Year’s Day, we have been waiting and thinking how might this year be better than last year? Today’s scripture passage gives us a glimpse into the lives to two people, Simeon and Anna who have been waiting their whole lives for the birth of the Savior and they remind us that Christmas matters.

Prayer: Patient God, help me to allow …