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Showing posts from October, 2017

Place matters

Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2 Tuesday, October 31, 2017
After the Ark of the Covenant is placed in the holiest place and the priest leave the room, a cloud filled the LORD’s temple prohibiting the priests from carrying out their duties.  This divine interruption shows usthat, despite all of the pageantry, the divine presence cannot be contained nor desires to be contained. But it does not negate that … Place matters.  Holiness matters. Worship matters. Because place reminds us who we are and who names and claims us.  From the beginning God is clear, this is not about the temple, it is about God and God’s relationship with us and our relationship with one another.

Prayer: Holy God, help me to be a dwelling place for you.  Where there is hatred, may I be a presence love. Where there is heart break may I be a presence of healing. Where there is strife, may I be a presence of calm. Where there is suffering, may I be a presence of comfort. Where there is injustic…

A holy place

Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2 Monday, October 30, 2017
As Israel continues its formation into a unified nation, they seek to put into place the same things that other nations have.  I spoke briefly about that last week, about how they insisted on having a king, to help establish laws and create a unified military force to protect their land and their people.  The final piece that they need is a centralized place to worship God; a holy place that is set apart where they can celebrate and honor God’s covenant with them.  The temple will stand as a constant, tangible reminder that they have been named and claimed by God to be God’s people.

Prayer: Holy God, help me to be a dwelling place for you.  Where there is hatred, may I be a presence love. Where there is heart break may I be a presence of healing. Where there is strife, may I be a presence of calm. Where there is suffering, may I be a presence of comfort. Where there is injustice, may I be a presence …

A holy place

Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2 Sunday, October 29, 2017
For the past seven years, I have traveled to the Norbertine Center in southern Albuquerque to retreat, twice a year in the spring and in the fall.  The landscape of the retreat center in New Mexico is exposed desert, with bursts of color, walking paths, and chapels.  Each year I find new places to sit and communion with God.  The moment I drive onto the property of the center, my blood pressure drops.  There is something holy about that place.  In many ways, it is the same sensation I feel when I walk into the sanctuary of FCC mid week. When it is empty, I find my pace slows and I am drawn to pause and focus.  There is something holy about certain places. Place matters.
Where or when do you feel the presence of God?  How does that impact your day?
The church building is a place where we come to hear once again that we are named and claimed by God and are called to honor the covenant God has with us and…

Actively listen

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Friday, October 27, 2017
We are called in community to listen for the voice of God, which will challenge us and comfort us.  We are called to listen for that voice through the children and youth in our community and we are called with the holy task of teaching them how to listen and to respond and to speak in faithfulness. 
 We are called to listen to their unique viewpoint that might be different than ours and to equip them with the skills they need to navigate a world that is different than the world we lived in when we were their age.  Our job is one of equipping and empowering and also listening.  Our job is also one of listening from a place of wonder fully expecting that God is and will continue to speak through their lives. 


Prayer:  God, help me to notice when I allow someone’s appearance to influence the way I treat them.  May I see each person today as you do, beloved and worthy of love.  Amen.

Expanding our vision

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Thursday, October 26, 2017
In our passage today, the climate is less than ideal, and while Samuel is grieving over the failed relationship Saul has with him, with the people and with God, God still calls Samuel to do the hard work he has been called to his entire life.  He is called to go and find that person that God wants to lead the people.  He is called to expand his vision and to see the world as God sees it.

Prayer:  God, help me to notice when I allow someone’s appearance to influence the way I treat them.  May I see each person today as you do, beloved and worthy of love.  Amen.

God centered

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Wednesday, October 25, 2017
We are called to be God centered and that often means that we take a road that is counter to popular culture.  In Christian community we can be authentically ourselves so that means we won’t always be happy or together.  It means that we don’t create barriers of inclusion based on appearance or age or any other thing we can think of that has been used to exclude someone.  Because we don’t do the calling, God does.  Into the mess of our lives, God calls us to respond, to engage in kingdom building work.

Prayer:  God, help me to notice when I allow someone’s appearance to influence the way I treat them.  May I see each person today as you do, beloved and worthy of love.  Amen.

All together

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Tuesday, October 24, 2017
A recent study showed that many twenty somethings are only posting good things on social media, FB to be specific.  They don’t want a current boss or future boss to have the impression that their life isn’t okay, or a future partner or spouse to have that impression.  We can see the same trend, in other age groupings, for instance, trying to project the image that everything is always okay.  This of course isn’t across the board, but it speaks to this idea that we always have to have it together.  That struggle, that messiness somehow is something we can control. If the standard is that we will always be okay, strong, together and happy, how does that affect us?  How does that create a culture of insiders and outsiders?


Prayer:  God, help me to notice when I allow someone’s appearance to influence the way I treat them.  May I see each person today as you do, beloved and worthy of love.  Amen.

Our hearts

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Monday, October 23, 2017
One by one, Jesse’s sons are brought before Samuel and Samuel responds “No, the LORD hasn’t chosen this one.”  After seven have been brought before him, Samuel must be perplexed, he asks “Is that all of your boys?”
“There is still the youngest one, but he is out keeping the sheep”  implying that he is more useful out in the field than with the family at the sacrifice with Samuel, the man that anointed their king on behalf of God.
Samuel has them send someone for David because they cannot proceed with the ceremony until he gets back.  When he arrives, God speaks to Samuel and says, “that’s the one.  Go and anoint him.”

Some scholars believe that the part about his reddish brown hair, beautiful eyes and good-looking appearance were a later addition to the text. 

This story is one of the quintessential call stories in the bible.  David is called as the least likely out of all of his brothers, into an existing conflict that does not end …

Sent out

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Sunday, October 22, 2017
God sends Samuel to Bethlehem, a village not far from the high rock of the Jebusites, later named Jerusalem, but quite a distance from Gilgal and Gibeah, places associated with King Saul.

By this time, it is no secret that Samuel is in conflict with Saul, even those in the small towns have heard and so when the city elders see Samuel approaching, they begin to get nervous and wonder if they will get mixed up in the mess and power play.  Anxiously they ask, “do you come in peace?”  Samuel assures them that he has and is only there to perform a sacrifice.

The elders, as well as Jesse and his sons, are to be made holy so they can attend the sacrifice.  It is there that Samuel sees Eliab, whose names means ‘my God is father’, the oldest of Jesse’s sons. 

Samuel is sure that he is one God has sent him for, but if we have been paying attention to the patterns set up in the narrative, we know it isn’t going to be that simple.  Israel’s sto…

Claiming our calling

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21 Thursday, October 19, 2017

What would our lives look like if we scheduled in time daily to be present with God?  To take time to read scripture, to spend time in prayer, to spend time listening?  Because we believe deeply that we have been called to live a faithful life and that is worthy of our time and energy? What would our lives look like if we scheduled time to practice non judgmental listening with a family member for 15 minutes a day? Or schedule coffee with a friend where you listen from a place of deep wonder rather than entering the conversation knowing what you are going to share and anticipating their response? What would our lives look like if we took the time to seek out someone who is radically different than ourselves so that we can hear their story and hold it as something sacred? What would our lives look like if we left our preconceived notions and judgments at the door so that our God who is still speaking can be a part of our ongoing conve…

Making time for God

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21 Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Rather than squeezing God between appointments, only really having enough time to have a one way conversation with us doing all the speaking to God, we need to take the time to listen, to bear through the difficult silence, to quiet the noise in our own heads, so that we can hear that we all are called.  Our children are called to be children, to be brothers and sisters, to be grandchildren, nieces and nephews.   We are called in our daily work, we are called to be family members, to be students, to be neighbors, partners or spouses.  We are called to be friends, to be colleagues, to be citizens of God’s kingdom.  We are called to be the embodiment of God’s Spiritual fruits. 

Prayer: God, you call us out of our barrenness into places of abundance.  Help me today to embody your call so that I can be focused on your presence and a faithful witness to your abundant love in my life.  Amen.

Silence

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21 Tuesday, October 17, 2017
In the silence Samuel hears, but at first thinks it is Eli, calling for him. In the silence we learn to listen but it is hard to find silence since we often have constant noise around us.  One of the central questions of this text is whether or not we want to be called.  Whether or not we want God’s guidance in our living, or do we want to forge a way forward on our own? Like in the story of Jacob and the stairway dream he had, Samuel hears God because he has slowed down and is listening. Fred Craddock once said, “that the voice of God in Jesus was not a shout.  In him, the revelation of God comes to us as a whisper.  In order to catch it, we must hush, lean forward, and trust that what we hear is the voice of God.” I wonder how often we miss the voice of God, as the voice of someone else, not so much intentionally but because we either have not learned to listen, or because we are too busy to listen and so we find another outlet to f…

Called in the middle of the night

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21 Monday, October 16, 2017
When Samuel hears his name being called in the middle of the night, he assumes it has to be his aging mentor, Eli, who is calling him.  And what ensues is the stuff children’s Sunday school curriculum is made of.  You have repetition, you have counting, you have mystery, and you have a message for the children, you have easily memorized or repeated lines. It’s perfect. The story is fascinating and memorable, it is all quiet in the house there is a young Samuel lying down sleeping, who hears a voice, gets up and runs to Eli and says “I’m here.  You called me, ?” “I didn’t call, my son, go and lie down.” Samuel returns, falls asleep, a second time is woken by a voice, gets up and runs to Eli and says “I’m here.  You called me?” “I didn’t call, my son, go and lie down.” Samuel returns, falls asleep, a third time is woken by a voice, gets up and runs to Eli and says “I’m here.  You called me?” Eli now realizes that God must be calling him…

Barrenness

Daily reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21 Sunday, October 15, 2017
Out of a barren situation, we find God working in Hannah, the mother of Samuel.  It begins in the first chapter of 1 Samuel where Hannah weeping and fasting and praying because she is barren. In a remarkable way she is able to rise above the barren situation she found herself in. There is a barrenness of understanding when the priest Eli supposes Hannah to be drunk when she is praying to God.  There is, if you will, a barrenness of faithfulness in the story when we look at the priest Eli and his sons.  In the midst of heart break and sorrow, in a place where she is not understood by her family or even by the priest Eli, God hears and God responds.  Her interaction with Eli is a microcosm of what is happening in Israel, where there is barrenness of faithfulness and barrenness of hearing the voice of God.    Into this barrenness Hannah prays, “remember me God.  Re-member me.  Put me back together God.  Re-member my disjointed family Go…

Provision

Read: Exodus 16:1-18 Friday, October 13, 2017
God responds to their complaining by giving them what they need, quail and manna. For 40 years, God provides.  Now what we don’t know is if the quail and manna were already there before they starting mumbling, but out of their fear and lack of faithfulness they were unable to see it, in the same way that when we are panicked and looking for something that we have misplaced we are unable to see that it is right in front of us.  Maybe, just maybe, since it is not what they expected and they were fully enmeshed in scarcity thinking that they could not see the divine abundance all around.   
We like the wandering Hebrews, mirror their fears when we look at what was and compare it what is and expect life to be like it was.  We begin to doubt that the God who created the universe is able to meet our needs. God responds to their complaints and takes this opportunity to further mold and shape the people.   God gives them instructions that will help t…

Fear

Read: Exodus 16:1-18 Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Out of fear, they want to go back and they begin to convince themselves that the past wasn’t all that bad, they repaint it with a nostalgic glow, remembering the good ole’ days. The problem is that what they are held captive by is a past that didn’t exist. They have gone down the dangerous road of failing to trust in God, after they have begun the journey.  There really isn’t any turning back, yet much like the landscape of the 21st century, they cannot depend on yesterday’s certainties. 
God calls us to trust that God is out in front of us leading us forward, always making a way through our desert wanderings so that we can realize the abundance around us that we have often overlooked.

Prayer: Abundant God, help me to see your provision in my life, fill me with gratitude and purpose to be faithful in my love for you and for my neighbor.  Amen.

The story of the underdog

Read: Exodus 16:1-18 Monday, October 9, 2017
This passage begs us to acknowledge that this isn’t how we tell our story.  History is usually told by the winning side, yet Israel is determined to tell their story, warts and all, revealing that they are no better than anyone else; they even admit that there was a time when they couldn’t remember to be faithful for even a month.  They tell the story because the lesson is in the journey, in the mistakes and miss-steps not in some blind faithfulness because ultimately the story is not as much about them as it is about the God they are following.  At a point where a parent might pull the car over to yell at the kids to stop whining and trust that they will eventually get to where they are going, God responds with provision.
Prayer: Abundant God, help me to see your provision in my life, fill me with gratitude and purpose to be faithful in my love for you and for my neighbor.  Amen.

Complaining in the wilderness

Read: Exodus 16:1-18 Sunday, October 8, 2017
Our passage begins with the narrator establishing that it is the second month of the Hebrew’s journey out of Egypt and the people are complaining against Moses and his brother Aaron and ultimately against God because they are hungry.  Their journey to freedom proves to be more challenging than they ever imagined.  Each time they complain and desire to go back, God responds with provision.  And their satisfaction with God’s provision does not last long.  We read, "The entire congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by YHWH's hand in Egypt, when we sat down by the flesh-filled pots and ate bread until satiation. But you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger!'"  Wow, how quickly they have rewritten their narrative.  It is almost laughable and maybe it is supposed to be.  The reality is that…

Continuation

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17Saturday, October 7, 2017
God in effect says to Moses, I was Abraham’s God, I was also Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God and I am your God.  Each generation needs to know that God was faithful to the past generation and the past generations were faithful to God but that God is also faithful to your generation and you are called to be faithful to God.  Meaning that our relationship with God is not stagnant, we are not called to replicate the past, but to actively partner in community with God, to respond to the deep needs and solutions that are available to us in this place in this time.  God will continue to reveal Godself to us and God will continue to speak in extraordinary ways and also in quiet ordinary ways, in the midst of everyday living, in the midst of suffering and oppression, God sees and God invites us into the struggle. 
We then are called to cultivate practices that allow us to see and hear the presence and voice of God in our live…

Noticing God

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17Friday, October 6, 2017
Moses, in living into his call, turned aside, stopped his daily activity and noticed the presence of God.  Unlike most if not all of us, Moses struggled with what God was calling him to do and to be.  Our call to follow God is something we grow into.  We grow into our call to be faithful stewards of our household resources, of our income, of the shared resources our congregation has in common, and in our collective call to embody the gospel.
As we enter into this season of stewardship, I encourage you to take time to notice what you have, what can you offer to our community so that we can more fully live out the call that God has placed in our lives.  

Prayer: God who reveals Godself in extraordinary ways within our ordinary days, help us to stop and notice you, help us to stop and notice those who are suffering, and may we partner with you in your call to liberate our world from bondage.  Amen.

Sight

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17 Thursday, October 5, 2017
Notice the emphasis on sight in this passage of scripture.  Moses saw the bush and decided to check out this amazing sight, then the LORD saw that Moses was coming and called out to him and God introduces Godself relationally as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses then hides his face because he is afraid to look at God.  Then God says “I have seen my people oppressed in Egypt.”
There is such power in seeing, in noticing, in looking at what is happening around us.
It is why at the end of our inter-generational class I insist that we look at one another in the eyes as we say our blessing.  Moses, in this instance, is captivated by the mysterious burning bush and God is there because God has seen the oppression of God’s people and God remembers the covenant God made with them and chooses to remain faithful to that promise.

Prayer: God who reveals Godself in extraordinary ways within our ordinary days, help us to s…

Excuses instead of faithfulness

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17Wednesday, October 4, 2017
We come up with a lot of excuses as to why we shouldn’t partner with God in God’s continual work to liberate the world from bondage.  Maybe we don’t want to seem to be too political, or we don’t want to offend someone, or we really just don’t believe we are qualified and there has to be someone more qualified.  What happens is that we convince ourselves that our gifts and talents, as meager as we may believe they are, are ours and ours alone.  What happens when we don’t believe we are enough and that our worth is based on our inabilities rather than on the reality that we are beloved children of God, that we as the Genesis poet says are “good” before we have ever done anything?  
What I find fascinating is that God does not ignore what Moses says, instead God responds to each objection that Moses gives.  Even his speech disability isn’t a barrier to being the voice of God to Pharaoh.  God isn’t looking for perfec…

No quick fix

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17Tuesday, October 3, 2017
As the story plays out, we see that there is no quick fix to the problem, even for God.  We have all been there, life is full of situations that offer no quick solutions.  We ponder and pray and stumble our way forward when life gives us lemons.  If only it was as easy as turning them into lemonade!  And we also walk along side one another when someone we love has found that there is no easy solution.  Complex problems require time, attention and collaboration. 
What is compelling about this story is that God does not devise a solution by Godself, instead God seeks out someone to partner with and that says volumes about the nature of God.  In the first creation story we are told in poetic form that God partners with us to care for creation.  We are entrusted with the earth to care for it along with God and this partnership extends into complex problems between one another. God calls Moses to partner with Godself to …

Suffering Seen

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17 Monday, October 2, 2017
The story of the Exodus can be summed up in Exodus 3:7-8, which repeats the core of the passage I just read.  “Then the LORD said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt.  I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters.  I know about their pain.  I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey …”
In this moment something profound happens and it is no coincidence that this is the pivotal story in the Hebrew Scriptures. God knows the suffering of God’s people and God willingly enters into the suffering and seeks out a way to end the suffering.

Prayer: God who reveals Godself in extraordinary ways within our ordinary days, help us to stop and notice you, help us to stop and notice those who are suffering, and may we partner with you in your call to liberate our world from bondage…

The call of Moses

Daily reading: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17 Sunday, October 1, 2017
We have been exploring the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of the providing God.  Two weeks ago we explored the story of God promising Abraham and Sarah to become the patriarchs and matriarchs of a great nation, to live in a land of promise and for their family to be a great blessing.  The family has grown in three generations to be quiet large; Jacob had a total of 12 sons.  Joseph is one of the youngest and is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  Despite the famine that hit Canaan, the family is preserved through the work of their brother Joseph.  We read in the beginning of the book of Exodus that the family of Abraham has grown numerous and strong, the new pharaoh doesn’t know Joseph and sees the growing people as a threat rather than a blessing and enslaves them.  For close to 400 years, the people cry out to God to deliver them.
We then jump to Moses who is born into the family of Levi, …