Posts

Showing posts from March, 2017

A different ending

Daily reading and Focus passage: Luke 16:19-31 Friday, March 31, 2017
Parables by nature are meant to get us to start thinking.  They help us to see the world in a new way and they invite us in.
The challenge that they present always seeks to ask us if we can imagine a different ending. 
What did this parable teach you this week?  Does that insight help you to write a new ending to the parable?  Maybe the new ending has to begin before the actual ending, with the characters changing before it is “too late.”
Do you believe that together we can change the world?  That God is calling your congregation to make a difference so that it is an active part of the vitality of its physical location?
Do you believe that God can and will lead us into the future?

Prayer: God this week open my eyes to my own poverty of spirit and help me to let go of the allures of this world for your kingdom.  Amen.

Noticing one another

Daily reading: Luke 16:19-31 Thursday, March 30, 2017
Focus passage: “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried.  While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side.  He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me.  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue because I’m suffering in this flame.’ Luke 16:22-24
How we approach our relationship with God deeply influences the way we read any bible passage, especially with one that speaks of a great reversal of fortunes like this one does.
The subtle nuances of the parable will lead to different conclusions, in some ways, if we approach our relationship with God from a place of fear or from a place of love.  However, regardless of the approach, the parable forces us to examine our lives and to ask, have I ignored a call from help? 
Am I so focused on myself and my own needs that I do not realize…

Being rich

Background reading: Luke 16:19-31 Daily reading: Luke 16:14-17 Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Focus passage: The Pharisees, who were money-lovers, heard all of this and sneered at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves before other people, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued by people is deeply offensive to God.” Luke 16:14-15
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a response to the Pharisees “who were money-lovers.”  The rich man in the story is over the top in his wealth and self-centeredness and so we might think to ourselves. “I’m so glad I am not like him.”    I am not wealthy like him and I’m not at the other end of the spectrum with Lazarus.
But as soon as I distance myself from the rich man, reality seeps in and I find myself asking, did you have to walk miles this morning to get clean drinking water for your family?
No.  I just turned on my tap.
On a weekly basis I also go through the ritual of cleaning out my fridge which results in throwing …

Responding to need

Daily reading: Luke 16:19-31 Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Focus passage: As his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores.Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Luke 16:20-21a
Some scholars speculate about how Lazarus ended up at the gate of this very rich man.  Since he is lying there, perhaps unable to move, then how did he get there?  Did he use all of his energy to get there? If we are to believe that he is so ill that he is only able to lay and not even verbally beg for food, then we wonder if some other members of the community perhaps took him there and left him there in hopes that the rich man would have compassion on him and help him.
Now I don’t know the ends and out of the social welfare system in the ancient world, but what I can relate to in this passage is our tendency to disassociate ourselves from the needs of others.
They are not my problem, we think as we pass someone in need.  Or we hope that someone else will take care…

Motives

Background passage: Luke 16:19-31 Daily reading: Luke 14:7-14 Monday, March 27, 2017
Focus passage: “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors.  If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, cripple, lame and blind.” Luke 14:12-13
There has always been a peeking order.  I know that it tugs at my heart strings as a mother, wondering if my child will be accepted by his/her peers.  No parent wants to hear that their child does not have friends or that their child is being picked on.
Just as we don’t want to be left out we don’t want our children to be left out either.
The parable and lesson for today reminds us that we have an opportunity.  We can seek out the one that is left out and welcome them in.  It happens more often than we might care to admit and it doesn’t only happen on the school bus or in the cafeteria.  It happens among adults …

Seeing Poverty

Daily reading: Luke 16:19-31 Sunday March 26, 2017 Focus passage: “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day.  At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores.” Luke 16:19-20
This parable in many ways is unsettling.  There is poverty throughout the passage, poverty of faithfulness and physical poverty.  The challenge is to be able to be fully present with those in our community and meet everyone where they are.  We can see glimpses of the rich man and Lazarus in our daily living.  We encounter both stark, desperate need and those who are so self involved they cannot see us.    
The rich man while he knew Lazarus, had no compassion for him. How might the parable been different if it was a lesson on the kingdom of God?

Prayer: God this week open my eyes to my own poverty of spirit and help me to let go of the allures of this world for your kingdom.  Amen.

The Lost: A story about the older son

Daily reading: Luke 15:11-32 Friday, March 24, 2017
Focus passage: Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him.  He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction.  Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” Luke 15:28-29
The older son speaks out strongly for those who do not take risks but stay and do what is expected of them.  Through his rant we can hear familiar voices say, “but I followed the rules and did what I was told and HE DIDN’T, where is MY reward?” But it hits on much deeper cords in our life.  Through his voice we can hear the strain and resistance to change in our lives.  We can hear the pain of moving forward and leaving behind.  We can hear the resistance to celebrate anything other than what is familiar.  We can perhaps at times (maybe more than we want to admit) relate to the self righteous rant of the older son.
Withi…

The Lost: A story about the father

Daily reading: Luke 15:11-32 Thursday, March 23, 2017
Focus passage: Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons.  The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’  Then the father divided his estate between them.” Luke 15:11-12
Unlike the sheep or the coin, we can say that the younger son decided to leave on his own.  But we can also say that the father allowed his son to be lost.  He divided his estate and he in many ways gave the keys to the car to the son and allowed him to leave.
He cannot seek for the lost son, because he has gone to a distant land, but I believe that when his son requested the money and left that there was a part of the dad that was lost.
We can feel lost when relationships are strained or broken.  We can feel lost when a member of the family is removed.  And it is because of that loss that we feel that we are prone to celebrate when the one who is gone returns.
With growth comes loss.  In all areas of our life and that it why this parab…

The Lost: A story about the younger son

Daily reading: Luke 15:11-32 Wednesday March 22, 2017
Focus passage: “Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away.  There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.” Luke 15:13
This parable asks us who is lost? 
Clearly the younger son is lost.  He takes his inheritance and goes to a distant land and becomes completely self involved by squandering away all of his money.  A famine hits the land right as his funds dry up and he finds himself in a desperate sort of situation.  His actions have in a way made him to believe that he no longer deserves to be part of his family.
It is in many ways a story that gets played out over and over throughout history.  It is what brings anxiety to parents as they raise their children, in their deep desire to instill enough practical wisdom in their children’s lives so that they won’t make such huge mistakes as to take them off and away to make really bad decisions with their resources.
Can you rela…

The Lost Coin

Background passage: Luke 15:11-32 Daily reading: Luke 15:8-10 Tuesday March 21, 2017
Focus passage: “Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it?” Luke 15:8
In this short parable a woman with ten coins notices that she has lost one of her coins.  Unlike with the story of the lost sheep, we are hard pressed to say that the fault of the lose lays with the coin.  We all know that coins don’t lose themselves.  We lose coins.
We can all relate to this story.  We all have lost something of significance and have retraced our steps, turned on the lights, pulled up the edge of the carpet, or the couch cushions.  Depending on its value we have spent a significant amount of time in the search. 
But what we all realize is that with items that are lost, we are to blame for their misplacement and our forgetfulness in our action of misplacing them.  The focus of the short parable then is on us and …

The Shepherd

Background passage: Luke 15:11-32 Daily reading: Psalm 23 Monday, March 20, 2017
Focus passage: The LORD is my shepherd.  I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1
Anytime you see LORD in all caps it means more than the word “Lord”, it indicates in the Hebrew that we are speaking about God and God alone.  In Hebrew it is written as Yahweh.  It hints at the name of God, but isn’t so that we don’t say it, especially in a way that would offend God.  And so the psalm begins by stating that the God of the universe is my shepherd and because of that I lack nothing.
The psalm goes on to explain the day of the faithful follower and how like a sheep, they imagine God’s care throughout their entire day.  All of their needs are taken care of, even when they are in the presence of their enemies.
Today I encourage you to slowly read the entire psalm a couple of times.  Which part speaks to you?  Based on what word or phrase jumps out at you, take time to think about it through your day.  If you like to journal, then t…

Finding what is lost

Background passage: Luke 15:11-32 Daily reading: Luke 15:4-7 Sunday, March 19, 2017
Focus passage: “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them.  Wouldn’t had leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? Luke 15:4
While in Scotland, Dan and I traveled through and past many pasture lands full of sheep.  Walking past them doesn’t really teach me much about them; however I did notice that they do have the habit of wandering off.  They are either lying down or standing and eating and moving to a place where there is fresh grass to gobble down.  Often when I read this passage, I think about how it was the sheep’s fault that it got lost.  I think it must have willfully walked away.  But that story comes later in the trio of parables about things being lost and then found. 
So I have come to realize that this might not be what the earliest audience hearing the passage would have thought.  Sheep don’t get lost, we lose them.
If …

Lenten Journey

Daily reading: Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 Friday March 17, 2017
Part of our Lenten journey is a journey of stripping away all of the pretenses that falsely inflate our egos.  It is about letting go of all of the expectations that we place upon ourselves that reflect the person we want to project to the world, so we can be loved, or accepted, or perhaps even feared, rather than the person we really are. Christ desires to meet you where you are:  To embrace the person that God has created you to be, the authentic self that is worthy of love, empathy, forgiveness, grace, mercy and respect. To fill you with that love and grace so that it is overflowing so that you are able to courageously go to the broken and fragmented places in our world and bear witness to the gospel message of love and acceptance.
Prayer: Welcoming Savior, thank you for being with us no matter what, for loving us and others even in the face of rejection.  Pour your love and acceptance into us today.  Amen.

Deep Love

Daily reading: Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 Thursday March 16, 2017
Focus passage: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.  But you didn’t want that.” Luke 13:34 Jesus had made this wide welcome; he had gone beyond the socially acceptable boundaries to meet people in their suffering.  Each healing offered an opportunity for deeper healing in the community.  Those who had been placed outside were now welcomed in, bread was broken and shared without exclusion, fruit of Kingdom living began to sprout where seeds had been planted. In Christ, we find Emmanuel, God-with-Us, would not shy away from entering the full darkness of our world.  There is no place of suffering that Jesus would not go, even to that place that kills the prophets. Jesus goes because there is no other road to take.  He goes because of his deep love for God and for humanity.

Prayer: Welcoming Sa…

Vulnerability

Daily reading: Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 Wednesday March 15, 2017
Focus passage: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.  But you didn’t want that.” Luke 13:34
What strikes me is the sheer vulnerability Jesus displays at the same time he is embodying fierce determination and courage.  It is as if you cannot be this courageous to take on the challenge of suffering without making oneself vulnerable.  Vulnerability means being capable of or susceptible to being wounded. Jesus chooses the image of a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings to offer protection and safety and likens this image to his love and compassion for God’s people.  Jesus chooses to use one of the most vulnerable and courageous relationships we have in life, that of a parent and their child.  To become a parent is to be willing to have your heart broken, because you find that while you …

Courage

Daily reading: Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 Tuesday March 14, 2017
Focus passage: Jesus said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Look, I’m throwing out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work.” Luke 13:23
The second half of our reading for today is one of my favorite Lenten passages of scripture.  It reveals the fierce determination and courage Jesus had.
And as we know the character of courage, just like compassion or love, or forgiveness is a trait that has to be developed over time.  Which I think it is why we notice when someone is courageous because it is a reflection of a concerted effort. Courage shows up in both in spur of the moment times, like when someone pushes someone out of the way of oncoming traffic, or runs back into a burning house to save a life, but it also shows up when someone is anticipating a significant challenge that just thinking about it creates anxiety or fear and causes a struggle of conscious.  In these moments rather than t…

Hard Questions

Daily reading: Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 Monday March 13, 2017
The first half of the passage for today shows us that Jesus won’t shy away from diving into those questions that keep us up at night …those questions of why bad things happen to good people.  We try our best to make order out of the chaos in our lives and to take the precautions we believe we need in order to be safe.  Every time something tragic happens, our perceived order in the world is upset.  While we can certainly create chaos when we choose to sin, Jesus explains that sin is not the reason behind every tragedy. Rather than try and keep ourselves out of harm’s way, Jesus encourages us to be faithful.   He tells a parable about a fig tree that for three years does not produce fruit.  Rather than give up, the gardener asks for one more year of adding fertilizer and care before it is discarded.  Despite our faithlessness, God is faithful and patient.  What area of your life do you need God to tend to?  Pray for God’s presence an…

A Wide Welcome

Daily reading: Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 Sunday March 12, 2017
During our Lenten season, we are invited to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem.  Leading up to today’s passage, Jesus has been traveling throughout Galilee and his actions point to what God is up to in our world.  God’s welcome is wide and is present in Jesus’ actions.  He has been casting out demons, preaching, healing the blind and lame, stilling storms, dining with outcasts and with opponents.
In the second half of today’s passage, the Pharisees approach Jesus and warn him about entering Jerusalem.  But Jesus is “not on a journey to get away from it all.  He is on a journey to get into it all” (David Lose).  Despite of the fact that “it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem” he courageously heads there, showing us that Jesus will go absolutely everywhere to widen the welcome of God. How does it impact you to know that there is no situation that bans you from God’s presence?

Prayer: Welcoming Savior, thank you f…

Hope

Background passage: Luke 10:25-42 Daily reading: Luke 1:67-79 Saturday, March 11, 2017
Focus passage: “Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
Have you ever been without hope? It is a heartbreaking experience.  To believe deep within that there is no hope, like Zechariah says, it is like sitting in darkness.  I liken that to deep darkness where we cannot rely on our own vision to find a way out.  Where we cannot see how close others might be to us.  When we feel like there is no way forward. I believe we are meant to relate to the injured man on the side of the road in the parable of the Good Samaritan, because we have all been there in one form or another.  Maybe it happened on the play ground when you got shoved down, or maybe in the locker room when someone insulted you with words, or maybe like my parents it happened at gun…

A Dangerous Road

Background passage: Luke 10:25-42 Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 11:22-27 Friday, March 10, 2017
Focus passage: “I’ve been on many journeys.  I faced dangers from river, robbers, my people, and Gentiles.  I faced dangers in the city, in the desert, on the sea, and from false brothers and sisters. 2 Corinthians 11:26
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a well known dangerous road.  When the hearers of Luke 10:25-37 heard that a man went on that road, they would have known that something bad was going to happen.  The foreshadowing happened in the mere mention of the road. It’s like when we hear that the three little piggies left home to build their own homes.  We know that the Big Bad Wolf is on his way to get them. Paul reminds us that his journey of faithfulness in spreading the Gospel message took him down dangerous roads also.  Our life of faithfulness is not void of danger.  We are called to step outside of our zones of comfort to share and to help others. When have you stepped outside y…

Love your enemy

Background passage: Luke 10:25-42 Daily reading: Matthew 5:43-45 and Luke 6:32-35 Thursday, March 9, 2017
Focus passages: “Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return…” Luke 6:35a
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you.” Matthew 5:43 Here Jesus breaks from the mold and speaks radical words to those that would listen.  He teaches us that we are called to love and pray for our enemies. This might be quite possibly the hardest lesson we can hear, learn and practice.  It is witnessed in the strength of the non-violent strain of the civil rights movement.  To be able to not return violence with violence, to hope and pray that mutual respect can develop, is an act of true faithfulness.  In our polarized society, Jesus calls all of us to be part of God’s family.  Do you have a story to share of loving one’s enemy?  Who do you consider to be an enemy?  Write their names down and say a prayer for them and pray for God to soften your hear…

Love Your Neighbor

Background passage: Luke 10:25-42 Daily reading: Leviticus 19:1-4; 18 Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Focus scripture: You must not take revenge nor hold a grudge against any of your people; instead, you must love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
How do you define neighbor?  The definition changes and shifts throughout the bible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the people who live in close proximity to you.  It can mean those who also worship the same God that you do. 
I can remember back in school being somewhat shocked to find out that back in the good old days that people knew their neighbors.  I was shocked mainly from the revelation that I didn’t know all of my neighbors.  Like the family that lived to the right of my house.  They didn’t have small children so I didn’t know them.  In fact the only neighbors I knew where those who had kids my age.  In a way we knew those who we had something in common with.
Our refusal (now maybe that is too strong of a word, but follow …

Loving God

Background passage: Luke 10:25-42 Daily reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9 Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Focus scripture: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
The center piece of a life of faithfulness hinges on this passage of scripture.  Our faithfulness begins with a love for God.  This love is all encompassing.  We are to love God with everything we have within us.  The passage further highlights how the love for God precedes every word we say, every action we perform.  We are to teach the children in our lives about loving God, we are to talk about them at home and when we are out and about.  Reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham  who has the main character trying the dish over here and over there and simply everywhere!  We are to carry that love of God that comes from within where ever we go! This love is grounded in the memory of our God who heard the cries of the oppressed Hebrew slaves in Egypt and rescued them and brought them…

What Must I Do?

Background passage: Luke 10:25-42 Daily reading: Luke 18:18-25 Monday, March 6, 2017
Focus scripture: “A certain young ruler asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?” Luke 18:18
This story is very similar to our focus passage for the week.  Here a rich ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.    What he is really looking for is to hear from Jesus that he is righteous.   His focus is on himself and Jesus can see right through it so he tells him to let go of all that he owns and give the proceeds from selling everything to the poor.  We then read that he goes away sad. He like the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37 believes that a life of faithfulness is marked by doing something so that they can obtain eternal life; in the same way that we make a to-do list for our day.  We go through the day finishing tasks.  Faithfulness however is a lifestyle not a task to be completed. What if instead of asking what we need to do to obtain eternal life, instead we focus on…

Mercy

Daily reading: Luke 10:25-42 Sunday, March 5, 2017
Focus passage: “What do you think?  Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered the thieves?”  Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37
In the parable the man injured and robbed on the side of the road, who is for all intents and purposes dying, is someone we are suppose to relate to.  The way Jesus sets up the parable is in a way where we are to identify ourselves with him.  We know all too well that if we journey down that dangerous road, or go to that shady part of town after dark, that something bad might happen to us, and our fears are realized when they do.  Who then is our neighbor? 
The one who shows us mercy, the neighbor then isn’t identified by who he is but by what he does.  Geographical proximity to the injured man’s home, or being part of the same synagogue, or country club is not the measure for how he has become thi…

Remaining faithful

Daily reading: Luke 9:28-45 Friday March 3, 2017
Focus passage: Focus passage: As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here.  We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – but he didn’t know what he was saying. Luke 9:33
When we aren’t wishing for something to be over or pining for something new to begin, we are able to see and hear more.  The challenge is to remain faithful at the top of the mountain and at the bottom of it as well.  And I think this is really important, even when we feel super close to God and have an “ah ha” moment, our response should always first be to listen to God.  The thing with mountaintop experiences is that we have no control over when they are going to happen, yet they do tend to happen when we are actively following Christ, as the three disciples were.  They happen when we understand and proclaim Jesus to be our Messiah.  And while we might scramble and try to respond …

Something permanent

Daily reading: Luke 9:28-45 Thursday March 2, 2017
Focus passage: As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here.  We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – but he didn’t know what he was saying. Luke 9:33 Peter offers to build three dwellings for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.   He wants the moment to become permanent, he wants it to last and that is the thing with mountaintop experiences, they are not meant to last forever, they happen, we hopefully learn what we need to learn or experience what we need to experience, and then we find ourselves back in the valley.  Peter wants to make a dwelling for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, so the moment does not pass by too quickly.  But that is not what he is supposed to do.  Jesus did not invite him along with James and John so that they could do something.  He invited them along on this adventure so they could catch a glimpse of who Jesus really is. And as Peter …

Give It Up for Lent!

Ash Wednesday begins a 40 day pilgrimage that draws us closer to God.  Make time this week to begin the season of Lent in community.  We will have our annual Ash Wednesday worship service this Wednesday, March 1 at 6 p.m.  Be in prayer as to what activity/item you plan on giving up this season, so that you can create more space/time for God in your life.  Here is a list of things to consider giving up for Lent: you may choose to do them for a week or a day or to take one on for the entire season.

1. Instead of fasting, eat only beans and rice for dinner, once a week. Then donate what you would have spent on a meal for your family to a local food pantry or charity of your choice.
2. Fast from electronics for the evening and have a family night of reading and playing board games.
3.  Take a walk in the morning or the evening and be in prayer for your city and your neighborhood.
4.  Arrive 10 minutes early to worship on Sunday and be in prayer for your congregation, its mission, the leader…

Transfiguration

Daily reading: Luke 9:28-45 Tuesday February 28, 2017
Focus passage: As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning.  Luke 9:29
Peter, James and John are taken up the mountain with Jesus, perhaps to gain a sense of what lies ahead as followers of Christ, to see who they ultimately are following.  When Jesus is praying he is transfigured before their eyes.  His face shone and his clothes became dazzling white.  Then Moses, the giver of God’s law, and Elijah, the greatest prophet in the Old Testament, appear and are talking to Jesus. As Moses and Elijah are about to leave, Peter senses that this amazing experience is about to be over.  And I love Peter’s response, because I can see myself saying the exact same thing.  He has been on this extreme adventure with Jesus and he doesn’t want it to end.  Peter wants to do something!     Peter represents this mindset we wrestle with, when we try to preserve, set the parameters and wall in a moment…