Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Exile

Daily reading: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Before my family came here 8 years ago, we moved a lot.  When we came here in 2009 we moved without being able to sell our home in Lack Jackson, Texas.  We went through a roller coaster of offers that fell through throughout that year, along with needing to keep up lawn work on a home that we no longer lived close by.  In Lake Jackson during the summer to give you some perspective it rains so much that you need to mow twice a week.  This passage from Jeremiah was my go to passage for that first year of ministry here.  I needed to keep my focus here and not on the place that we had left.
Every time you move, you naturally compare the new location to the places where you have lived before. The places where we come from inform our reality, our sense of normalcy, and our preferences. 
Jeremiah challenges us to seek the welfare of the neighborhood in which we are planted.  So I want to take a moment to expand our understanding of exile, beyond the biblical text, beyond the experience of political refugees and people seeking asylum, even beyond the moments when we are relocated and making our way in a new community, to also include the option that being exiled can happen even when we haven’t changed location.
Neighborhoods change, the way that we relate to one another has changed, technology has played a huge role in that.   There is a whole different way of life that lends to this feeling of dislocation, this feeling of exile without ever having to change our address.
This feeling happens at work, it happens at school, it happens with the way we do ministry, it happens within the church.  We can together remember the past fondly and perhaps hope that we could get back to the way things used to be and find that we are in a holding pattering, waiting for the familiar to come around so that we can continue on.
Yet we see even in the impossibility of the exile, when the people are literally living part from the territory where God dwells, God says I am still with you, you can be faithful where you are now, even in exile.  You can build a life there, you can teach your children about me. 

Long suffering God, may we know your presence in and among our moments of suffering.  May we take comfort that you are always present with us, even when we feel very far from you.  Amen.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Right Here

Daily reading Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Jeremiah seeks to answer the question how we go on after such a traumatic experience of being uprooted and having what was familiar, what was normal, what was home, taken away from us.
Unlike other prophets his word is not to wait for it will be over soon.  Instead he offers words of hope that the pieces of their lives can be picked up and that they can find meaning and a full life in exile.
They are to build homes, plant vineyards, celebrate marriages and the birth of children AND promote the welfare of the city where they have been sent to, even praying for the city to prosper.  They are to build a life and a community in Babylon.   
Rather than looking for a return to the way things used to be before the exile, before their lives were uprooted and dramatically changed, they are to look forward.  The exiles are to take root in their new surroundings and work for justice, righteousness and peace in their new communities.  He offers for them a framework if you will or a plan of what they are to do.  The exile was a not a time of pausing.  It would prove to be a long 70 years. 

Long suffering God, may we know your presence in and among our moments of suffering.  May we take comfort that you are always present with us, even when we feel very far from you.  Amen.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Peace on Earth

Daily reading: Isaiah 9:1-7
Friday, November 24, 2017

Throughout the years, the faithful have heard the hope of Isaiah and looked for the light to shine in their darkness.  We together wonder where is this peace on earth?  We live within the tension of here and not yet.

The world is still messy, imperfect, violent, broken and dark but there is also hope and the light of the new creation that happens through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  Through Christ we are invited to partner with God in God’s work of mending, healing and bringing about shalom peace that encompasses both the individual and the community.
Every time we repay evil with kindness and love,
Every time we bring peace to chaos.
Companionship to loneliness
Understanding to those without
Compassion to the broken
we bring light to a darkened world. 
Every time we recognize the presence of Christ in absolutely everyone, we bring light to a darkened world.
 
Every time we speak and believe resurrection into the dead places of our lives, we bring light to a darkened world.


Holy triune God, you seek us out in our darkness and bring us the light of hope.  May you shine light on the shadows of our community and within our souls so that we can see the places that are out of alignment, that are in need of your healing hope.  Mend us, and help us to be agents of healing.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A great light

Daily reading: Isaiah 9:1-7
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

There are people in our community, in our city that walk in darkness.
There are people that need a great light.  There are people that need to know that there is a way around their darkness.

Isaiah proclaims, On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
The people of northern Israel living in Zebulun and Naphtali had suffered under the Assyrian conflict and had lost much.  But those in the south, in Judah under the leadership of King Ahaz also existed in darkness.  These words from the prophet spark hope in the midst of a people that are in darkness.  They bear an oppressive yoke and rod that is keeping them down, pressing on their shoulders.   Constant threat of Assyria looms over them, while their own king incorporates the worship of foreign gods into their temple worship services.  Despair and darkness loomed in the air.

Hope is then placed on a new king that will be faithful and just.  Historically speaking the prophet is pointing to the child Hezekiah who will become their king.  But one thing is clear, the action in the passage comes from God.  It is God who brings the hope, it is God who breaks the yoke of oppression.


Holy triune God, you seek us out in our darkness and bring us the light of hope.  May you shine light on the shadows of our community and within our souls so that we can see the places that are out of alignment, that are in need of your healing hope.  Mend us, and help us to be agents of healing.  Amen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Those who walk in darkness

Daily reading: Isaiah 9:1-7
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Who are these people that are walking in darkness?  What is the darkness and what light has dawned upon them? These are some of the questions that drive our curiosity.
Isaiah was a prophet that wrote during the 8th century BCE, in Jerusalem in the southern kingdom during the time that the northern kingdom had been defeated by the Assyrians and the upper class had been deported and when the southern kingdom existed as a vassal state to Assyria.
When I read this portion of Isaiah I am reminded of images that I have seen of war torn Syria, of cities in ruins, with rubble, smoke and chaos, a place where people have no hope and so have fled as refugees from their homes.  I think of what was happening in Juarez at the height of the drug war, when city streets were vacant even during the day and children played indoors behind pulled curtains.  

When I read this passage I think of those who have been trapped in the human trafficking industry.  For those who are trapped in cycles of addiction, and for those communities that are trapped in overwhelming generational poverty.  I think of those who are trapped in situations of domestic violence.  I also think of those who struggle with mental illness and often speak of their time of suffering as one in which there is great darkness in their life.  I think of those who are fighting terminal illnesses. 


Holy triune God, you seek us out in our darkness and bring us the light of hope.  May you shine light on the shadows of our community and within our souls so that we can see the places that are out of alignment, that are in need of your healing hope.  Mend us, and help us to be agents of healing.  Amen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Lament and Joy

Daily reading: Amos 1:1-2, 5:14-15 and 21-24

Amos reminds us that we are all called to partner with God in God’s work of establishing justice in our world and when we fail to do this, justice dries up and creates a parched land of scarcity for us all. 
I usually take Monday’s as a day of study and sermon writing.  Not even 24 hours after the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas I scrolled through my FB feed.  As I looked through images and thoughts friends had posted, I took a moment to pause and notice how wide the spectrum of thoughts and images were.  There were professional photos of kids, all dressed nicely, posed to perfection.  There was a dimly lit image of a child blowing out her birthday candles.  Photos of brides and grooms, articles on helping kids with ADHD, images of dinner cooked with recipes attached, I saw images of fall foliage in the Midwest.  Sprinkled throughout the feeds were thoughts regarding mass shootings in our country.   And that is our reality, a mixture of celebration and lamentation.  Where we join our voices of lament and rage against that which breaks our hearts, our communities and our sense of safety and where we celebrate milestones and good food.   We live in a messy, complicated world and as people of faith we are called to embody the faith we profess.  This is not a time to be silent.  This is a time to pray and to act.

Prayer: God break open our hearts for the things in this world that break yours.  Help to bury our pride so that we are able to hear the voices of the voiceless and be about your Kingdom building work.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Let justice roll down

Daily reading: Amos 1:1-2, 5:14-15 and 21-24

Amos speaks so that the people know that they have been named and claimed by God for so much more than who they are in the moment. 
We too need to hear this.  We too need to be reminded as disturbing and uncomfortable as it is, that we do not exist in isolation; that our words mean something; our actions do as well.  We are called to embody the presence of God in our lives and sometimes we get it right and other times we don’t.  We choose to participate in systems that push some down and lift others up and that creates a disconnect, a fragmentation in our relationship with one another and with God.  When we chose to treat others as if they are lesser than we are, when we presume that we deserve more, it also creates brokenness within ourselves. 
Our sense of justice is grounded in our belief that all that we have has been given to us from God and we are called to be stewards of our gifts.  Israel is founded on this concept of justice, where deep needs are met and provided for.  The king is to take special care to make sure that the widows, the orphans and the resident aliens are cared for.  Farmers are to take special care to make sure that those who are hungry are allowed to glean from their fields.  Forgiveness of debts so that poverty does not become systematic is set as the standard.  Much thought is put into guidelines with the marginalized and those who are easily taken advantage of so that they are not overlooked and set aside.
Who are the overlooked ones, the forgotten ones in our communities?  In what situations is there an absence of justice; where certain voices are drowned out by more powerful ones?

Prayer: God break open our hearts for the things in this world that break yours.  Help to bury our pride so that we are able to hear the voices of the voiceless and be about your Kingdom building work.  Amen.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Listening God

Daily reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Friday, November 10, 2017

The amazing thing here is that Elijah, just like Jacob, just like Samuel, took the time to listen.  When we find ourselves in the wilderness, listening is so important.  Even when the sound is thin and quiet.  Even when the world seems to be against us.  Especially when the fear is based on something VERY real. Even when we experience absence, we continue to listen.

We listen and we tell this story in community so that we can be present with one another in our wilderness experiences, so we can remind ourselves that God calls us out of our isolation, out of our fear, and provides for us.

When life gets hard, when our patience is strained, when someone we love is suffering, when the diagnosis is more than we can handle, when we find ourselves with no good option moving forward; we may be open to God’s provision for strength and companionship along the way.  We listen so that we don’t miss the presence of God who may present God-self in a different way than before, in the unexpected and surprising.

Faithful God, thank You for patiently waiting for me, for pulling me into your loving presence when life is hard, for helping me to see the places where there is great need.  Amen.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

You are not alone

Daily reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Elijah isn’t just running from someone he is also headed toward someone.  God has provided for Elijah and God will continue to provide for Elijah.  So God instructs Elijah to go to the entrance of the cave. And there “a very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the LORD.  But the LORD wasn’t in the wind.  After the wind, there was an earthquake.  But the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake.  After the earthquake, there was a fire.  But the LORD wasn’t in the fire.  After the fire, there was a sound.  Thin.  Quiet.”
A second time Elijah is asked, “why are you here?”
Elijah repeats what he has already said, he has been faithful and passionate for God while the rest of Israel has turned toward false gods, he is the only one left and now they want to kill him.

God’s response is for Elijah to keep going. He is not the only one, there are 7,000 faithful remaining in Israel and there is a man named Elisha who is also a prophet that is waiting for him.  God continues to call Elijah to partner with God even when the world seems to be against him, God will still provide a way forward. 


Faithful God, thank You for patiently waiting for me, for pulling me into your loving presence when life is hard, for helping me to see the places where there is great need.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Provision for the journey

Daily reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

When Elijah is awoken by a messenger from God, he finds flatbread and water has been provided for him.  He sleeps, and again is awoken to find food has been provided, he is refreshed by that meal then travels for 40 days and for 40 nights in the wilderness to Mt. Horeb.
There are some substantial things being said here.  The number 40 has biblical significance.  It marks a time of transition and growth.  When you hear 40, know that something important is going to happen.
The other significant thing to note is the destination.  Elijah goes to Mt. Horeb, which is also known as Mt. Sinai, where Moses encountered God and where God is revealed in fire and a pillar of smoke.
After arriving and sleeping, God asks Elijah, “why are you here?”
Elijah responds, “I have done what you have asked me to do and I am the only one left and now they want to kill me too.”

In this moment, Elijah believes the whole world is out to get him.  So as to not doubt the depth of his faith, let it not be lost on us that he goes to a place of profound significance.


Faithful God, thank You for patiently waiting for me, for pulling me into your loving presence when life is hard, for helping me to see the places where there is great need.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The absence of God

Daily reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Here is the greatest prophet that Israel ever had and he is struggling with the absence of God in his life.  Perhaps you have been there, too.  When life gets hard, when our patience is strained, when someone we love is suffering, when the diagnosis is more than we can handle, when we find ourselves with no good option moving forward; we may, too, wonder where God is.


Faithful God, thank You for patiently waiting for me, for pulling me into your loving presence when life is hard, for helping me to see the places where there is great need.  Amen.

The Wilderness

Daily reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Monday, November 6, 2017

Elijah goes to place where faithful followers before him have been.  He is now, figuratively and literally,  in the wilderness. 
Elijah sits under a solitary broom bush, longs for his own death and says, “It’s more than enough, LORD!  Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” 
Elijah is back in the wilderness …

Wilderness experiences can put us in a funky space emotionally.  It is important to acknowledge that in ourselves and in one another and to allow space for us to doubt and grow.


Faithful God, thank You for patiently waiting for me, for pulling me into your loving presence when life is hard, for helping me to see the places where there is great need.  Amen.

Fearful

Daily reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
Sunday November 5, 2017

Fearful of his life, Elijah is back on the run, he is full of fear.
Just one day prior, he had this amazing day and now he is having a horrible day; full of fear and doubt.  Perhaps he is full of regret, knowing full well that there are consequences for his actions.  He is scared to death.
Perhaps you have been there, too.

When you have an amazing day one day and a bad day the next, cracks in your resolve allow doubt and fear to creep back, in flood like fashion.
The beautiful thing about this being part of our canon of scripture is that it shows us that even amazingly faithful followers have their bad days, they even have pity parties.  Following God does make us immune to doubt or fear.

Faithful God, thank You for patiently waiting for me, for pulling me into your loving presence when life is hard, for helping me to see the places where there is great need.  Amen.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

An offering to God

Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2
Saturday, November 4, 2017

As you begin this week, think of the places that you will be going, think of the ways that you can stop and pause and reflect.  Think of how it is that you can “take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking- around life – and place it before God as an offering.”
How might your words and actions convey a deeply held belief that you have been named and claimed by God and so is every single person that you encounter? 
Let us endeavor to seek out the presence of God who refuses to be contained in the joyful and sorrowful moments of our day and in the moments when we struggle and when we find ease. 

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 of justice and a voice for the voiceless.  May I be an active participant in your holy kingdom building this week.  Amen.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A living sacrifice

Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2
Friday, November 3, 2017

What makes a place holy and set apart is marked by how we are different in that place than in other places.  We need a place to come together, but it is more than that. 
In Romans, chapter 12 Paul writes, “I encourage you to present you bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God.  This is your appropriate priestly service.  Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is – what is good and pleasing and mature.”
Paul urges us to see our bodies as living temples, so that our pause from our hectic lives, our worship of God isn’t just a weekly occurrence, but rather our lives are living, breathing response to the reality that we have been named and claimed by God. 
Yes, a place of pause is good and necessary.  We all need a place to go to feel connected to God.  We all need to take time away from our busy schedules to come and be in community to worship.  But we are called to much more than that; God calls us beyond the bricks and mortar of our houses of worship.  God is not only contained here!  As the psalmist proclaims, there is no place where we can go that God is not.   We are called to be that living presence, living lives of sacrifice and praise so that others can find refuge in our actions and words.  How that manifests itself is as varied as we all are. 

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 of justice and a voice for the voiceless.  May I be an active participant in your holy kingdom building this week.  Amen.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A holy place

A holy place
Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Israel will struggle to understand its relationship to the temple and to God through numerous kings which allow the worship of other gods within its walls, of the cleansing of this practice and the lapse back into it.  They will struggle to understand their relationship to God through the temple when it is destroyed and they are taken into exile.  It is during this time that third Isaiah writes, The LORD says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.  So where could you build a house for me, and where could my resting place be?  My hand made all these things and brought them into being, says the LORD.  But here is where I will look: to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.  (Isaiah 66: 1-2)  Isaiah echoes the passage from 1st Kings.  God cannot be contained.


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 of justice and a voice for the voiceless.  May I be an active participant in your holy kingdom building this week.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Caution

Daily readings: 1 Kings 5:1-5, 8:1-13: Psalm 139: Romans 12:1-2
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We enter here into a constant struggle between our attempts to create something lasting that honors God, something tangible and our lapse into idolatry:  where the object or the structure becomes more important than God.  There is a constant need to deconstruct what it is we do in community, to make sure that we are not lapsing, so that we are aware and so that we do not place anything before or above the God we worship.


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 of justice and a voice for the voiceless.  May I be an active participant in your holy kingdom building this week.  Amen.

Easter ... ready ... set ... go!

Matthew 28:1-10 About three years ago I committed to the Narrative Lectionary.   It is a four-year cycle that takes the congregation t...