Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day


Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20
Tuesday December 25, 2018

Focus passage: She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guesthouse. Luke 2:7

On this holy day, let us remember that God found a way to us!  Even when there was no room in the guesthouse, God found a way.  Nestled into what was probably the bottom floor of a family home, among the oxen and donkeys, this humble family brought God into our world.  Incarnation doesn’t get more real, than a long hard journey, overcrowded family gatherings, labor pains, blood, birth, and arrival.

Let us share in the fear and excitement of the shepherds who journeyed as soon as they heard the good news.  Together let us hear this word of liberation and join with God in God’s good work about redeeming our world, by bringing us peace and love. 

Emmanuel, God-is-with-us because there is no place or situation we can find ourselves in where God isn’t present.  For that we offer to God praise! 

Christ is born, alleluia, amen!

Prayer: Most Holy One, thank you for dwelling in and among us.  May we seek you out today as we celebrate and worship Your activity in the Christ child!  Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve


Daily reading: Luke 1:5-13, 57-80
Monday December 24, 2018

Focus passage: John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Luke 1:67

The active agent in Luke’s gospel is the Holy Spirit.  It is on the scene moving and shaking up the chaotic world of first century Israel.
And it’s not just Zechariah and Mary that are filled with the Spirit and speaking about it, so is Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth. 
They all echo what the prophet Joel says,

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh,
your sons and your daughters shall prophecy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)

The Holy Spirit helps Zechariah to paint the promised future.  He paints an image of the Kingdom of God. He like Mary sings in the past tense reminding us that God has been at work in our world and God continues to work in our world: Bringing to light the tension that we hold in Advent of the past, present and not yet future work of God in our world.

Let us join in God’s good work of bringing life and light to the darkest corners of our world.  Tonight light a candle in defiance against the darkness that lurks in our world and within.  Light a candle in hope that a new day will dawn bathing us in light and love.  Light a candle for those who are grieving.  Light a candle for the refugees and asylum seekers, away from home and familiarity.  Light a candle for the 1,000s of children who are in detention apart from their parents.  Light a candle for the dying.  Light a candle for the homeless poor finding shelter on our cold streets.  Light a candle for the hungry.  Light a candle for your neighbors, friends, and family.  Light a candle for the Christ child.


Prayer: Christ may your coming bring light and life.  May I be courageous enough to be transformed by it.  Amen.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Love


Daily reading: Luke 1:5-13, 57-80
Sunday December 23, 2018

Focus passage: When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a boy. Luke 1:57

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent.  So far we have explored the Advent themes of hope, peace and joy and today we explore love.
Today we finally get to a story about a baby.   I love babies.  I love holding them and smelling their new baby smell.  I love the sounds they make, even the sound of their cry.  

There is something about babies and the hope we have for their lives. I love the baby dedications we have in worship when we along with the parents promise to love and raise the child in the faith and we remember God’s blessing on their life.   There is such hopeful expectation and love in those moments.  Babies change our lives, we grow along side them as we pour ourselves into their development.

Knowing that God comes to us in ways that hold promise and expectations is amazing.  That God’s presence is something to behold, to handle with care, and allow it to change you is profound.

Brushing aside the familiarity we have with these infancy narratives, let us allow the words to bring us comfort and challenge for God’s love came down to a marginalized couple, in a remote sector of the empire, away from the spot light, apart from political, social and economic power.  Where might be God’s presence emerging in your community?  Where might you have to travel to encounter it?  How might you need to change your perspective in order to see it?

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, be born anew in my life today.  Amen.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Rejoice!


Daily reading: Philippians 4:4-9
Saturday December 22, 2018

Focus passage: Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.  Philippians 4:6

In Paul’s letters to the church in Philippi he writes in chapter four, “Rejoice in the Lord always!  Again I say, rejoice!  Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near.”  
These words were written while he was in a prison in Rome.  It’s not the message you might expect to hear from someone in prison, in fact it is his most joyous letter that we have of his.  The joy most likely comes from the hope he has in the community in Philippi and the working of the Holy Spirit despite the efforts of the government to silence him and the followers of Jesus. His rejoicing comes from a deep spiritual place that holds the promise of Advent that Christ is near and that Christ will return.  Joy to Paul was even present in the darkness of a Roman prison.
Prayer: Gracious God thank you.  Thank you for this day of life, thank that you have allowed us to wake up and draw a breath today.  We pray that you will grant us the wisdom and the boldness to live this day with courage and with commitment to the new world that you are at work bringing about in our very midst.  Give us Advent hearts; give us Advent hope, peace and joy.  Amen

Friday, December 21, 2018

Joy and weeping


Daily reading: Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4, 10-13
Friday December 21, 2018

Focus passage: But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted with joy.  Ezra 3:12

The church that I was called into ministry has changed significantly.  In many ways it feels like we are at a place where the walls are falling down around us.  It is playing out on all levels of the church, in larger manifestations beyond the local level as well.  But my perspective and voice is not on the only perspective and voice.

And so we stand and perhaps look and see rubble or maybe we see the building blocks and endless possibilities, we may see what is absent and what used to be or we see what can be and so we face a mixture of emotions collectively. 

I think what we all struggle with in this era of the church that is going through seismic changes, is the moving forward part.  We are always, and I mean always called to move from death to resurrection.  Our expectations as the body of Christ should never be that we will remain, but that we will move forward.

Prayer: Gracious God thank you.  Thank you for this day of life, thank that you have allowed us to wake up and draw a breath today.  We pray that you will grant us the wisdom and the boldness to live this day with courage and with commitment to the new world that you are at work bringing about in our very midst.  Give us Advent hearts; give us Advent hope, peace and joy.  Amen

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Moving forward


Daily reading: Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4, 10-13
Thursday December 20, 2018

Focus passage: Persia’s King Cyrus says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth.  He has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem in Judah.  If there are any of you who are from his people, may their God be with them!  They may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the LORD, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem.’ Ezra 1:2-3

The season brings to light the reality that we are carried forward each day and our future might not be as we expected. 

The rebuilding of our fragmented lives takes us forward and not backward and that can be hard.  It calls us to let go and trust that God will lead us forward.

What areas are there in your life that you need to let go of so that God can more fully work in and through you?

Prayer: Gracious God thank you.  Thank you for this day of life, thank that you have allowed us to wake up and draw a breath today.  We pray that you will grant us the wisdom and the boldness to live this day with courage and with commitment to the new world that you are at work bringing about in our very midst.  Give us Advent hearts; give us Advent hope, peace and joy.  Amen

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

More Joy


Daily reading: Isaiah 42:1-9
Wednesday December 19, 2018

Focus passage: God the LORD says – the one who created the heaven, the one who stretched them out, the one who spread out the earth and its offspring, the one who gave breath to its people and life to those who walk on it – I, the LORD, have called you for a good reason.  I will grasp your hand and guard you, and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to lead the prisoners from prison, and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon…The things announced in the past – look --- they’ve already happened, but I’m declaring new things.  Before they even appear, I tell you about them.” Isaiah 42:5-7, 9

What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

Isaiah goes about describing the up-side-down nature of our God. Who comes not as a conqueror or tyrant
but as a spirit-filled servant. 
Who does not enact power through domination
but through liberation and justice to everyone.
Rather than seek revenge, God calls the people to be a light.


In this expansive vision Isaiah re-locates Israel’s place,
in exile they are to be a light to the nations,
so that those who are blind can see,
so that those who are imprisoned in dungeons
and darkness are freed.

This is joy-filled news, worth celebrating and participating in.  How might God be calling you do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with God today?

Prayer: Gracious God thank you.  Thank you for this day of life, thank that you have allowed us to wake up and draw a breath today.  We pray that you will grant us the wisdom and the boldness to live this day with courage and with commitment to the new world that you are at work bringing about in our very midst.  Give us Advent hearts; give us Advent hope, peace and joy.  Amen

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Putting the pieces back together


Daily reading: Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4, 10-13
Tuesday December 18, 2018

Focus passage: But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted with joy.  Ezra 3:12

What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

What we find in Ezra is a snap shot of what happens when the exiles returned home and how that affected the community.  Not everyone was taken into exile, some were left to live in the ruins.  Some remained behind and stitched life together as best as they could. 
Together they worked to mend what was broken when the soldiers from Babylon came in and tore down their walls and their sacred temple that housed the very presence of God.

A few years ago a treasured ceramic Christmas ornament was broken.  It was difficult to put the pieces back into place.  We weren’t even able to find all of the pieces so there is a sizable hole in the back of the snowman figure.  My husband searched the internet for a replacement and came up short.  

I found myself with a mixture of emotions of rebuilding the ornament and gluing together the fragments.  I felt both joy and sadness in the moment of piecing it back together.

God is present in our everyday living, ready to help us to mend what has been broken, knowing that the path of restoration can be mixed with both joy and weeping.

Prayer: Gracious God thank you.  Thank you for this day of life, thank that you have allowed us to wake up and draw a breath today.  We pray that you will grant us the wisdom and the boldness to live this day with courage and with commitment to the new world that you are at work bringing about in our very midst.  Give us Advent hearts; give us Advent hope, peace and joy.  Amen

Monday, December 17, 2018

Returning Home


Daily reading: Ezra 1:1-4, 3:1-4, 10-13
Monday December 17, 2018

Focus passage: Persia’s King Cyrus says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth.  He has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem in Judah.  If there are any of you who are from his people, may their God be with them!  They may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the LORD, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem.’ Ezra 1:2-3

What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

Cyrus conquered the Babylonians in 539 BCE and allowed those captured under the Babylonians to return home.  He created a new political reality for the Ancient Near East. He is noteworthy because of his immense compassion toward those he ruled, his respect and tolerance he showed to those who had a different faith than his own.  He helped to rebuild the temples of his conquered subjects and encouraged communities to worship freely.

This event is so significant in Jewish memory for it signaled the rebuilding of the temple and the returning home. Returning home can bring about a mixture of emotions.  Take time today to reflect on how God is present in the moments when you find yourself returning home.

Prayer: Gracious God thank you.  Thank you for this day of life, thank that you have allowed us to wake up and draw a breath today.  We pray that you will grant us the wisdom and the boldness to live this day with courage and with commitment to the new world that you are at work bringing about in our very midst.  Give us Advent hearts; give us Advent hope, peace and joy.  Amen

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Joy


Daily reading: Isaiah 42:1-9
Sunday December 16, 2018

Focus passage: God the LORD says – the one who created the heaven, the one who stretched them out, the one who spread out the earth and its offspring, the one who gave breath to its people and life to those who walk on it – I, the LORD, have called you for a good reason.  I will grasp your hand and guard you, and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to lead the prisoners from prison, and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon…The things announced in the past – look --- they’ve already happened, but I’m declaring new things.  Before they even appear, I tell you about them.” Isaiah 42:5-7, 9


Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  It is the Sunday that we celebrate the Joy of the season.  The Advent candle of Joy glows a rosy pink because in the midst of our waiting, introspection, repentance and turning toward God, we remember that spiritual growth happens in this season and that is a cause to celebrate.

Isaiah’s words will be reimaged by the gospel writers
who saw God once again God turning the world up-side-down,
by anointing Jesus to bring good news to the poor,
release the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
removing the shackles of oppressing and declaring the year of the Lord’s favor. 
These concepts are grounded in the spiritual, economic, social and political welfare of the nation.

On this, the darkest week of the year,
we too are called to be a light to the nations. 
To ask the centering question, what is God up to the world and how are we being called to participate in it?

What pockets of our world are in chaos and turmoil?
Where do people feel abandoned by God?
Who is blind to the movement of God?
Or maybe more aptly, how am I blind to the movement of God?
Where is there injustice and how are we being called to bring freedom?
Where are people watching and waiting?

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Hiddenness of God


Daily reading: Esther 4:1-17
Saturday December 15, 2018

Focus passage: Esther sent back this word to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and tell them to give up eating and help me to be brave.  They aren’t to eat or drink anything for three whole days, and I myself will do the same, along with my female servants.  Then, even though it’s against the law, I will go to the king; and if I am to die, then die I will.”  Esther 4:15-16

What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

Throughout the book of Esther there is this undercurrent theme of hiddenness.  The name of God is never mentioned in the book,
it is implied yet hidden.  Esther for a time too hides her full identity
from the king and his court.

I can imagine that Esther believed God was calling someone else to step up and speak.  God had not visited her in a dream or vision,
she had not heard God’s voice direct her toward action. 
Esther’s call came through her cousin under the veil of the hiddenness of God.

We spend a lot of our lives living with the hiddenness of God.  We may feel we are not called because we have not been visited by an angel as Mary and Joseph were. Or because we have not been dazzled by a heavenly host of angles at our work place like the shepherds were, or we have not been following a star like the Magi.

Esther’s story provides a counter balance to so many stories within our cannon of scripture that show clear communication.  It is necessary because so much our lives reside in the hiddenness of God.

Yet God is not silent in the book.  God speaks through Mordecai and eventually through Esther in her courage to speak up for her people despite the cost.  Peace comes through courageous communities willing to stand up against injustice and violence. 

How do you experience the hiddenness of God?

Prayer: Holy One offer us courage to seek you out, to not be afraid to speak the truth to power.  Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Promises


Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Friday December 14, 2018

Focus passage: Here is the LORD God, coming with strength, with a triumphant arm, bringing his reward with him and his payment before him. Isaiah 40:10
What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

We all make promises and when someone makes one for us, we expect action.  Broken promises erode trust while promises that are kept set us in motion and cast the future for us.

When God promises to make a way to us, it sets us in motion.
We are to actively wait, trusting in God’s promise to bring us comfort and peace.  We are to live into the reality that God is already present removing the obstacles that are in the way of us receiving God’s peace and comfort.

Reflect on how God is drawing near to you.  How might you prepare room for God’s action in your life?


Prayer: God who calls us away from our daily routines, who desires us to follow you on unknown paths, open me to your presence today.  Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Preparing the Way


Daily reading: Mark 1:1-8
Thursday December 13, 2018

Focus passage: Look, I am sending my messenger before you.  He will prepare your way. Mark 1:2b

What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?


John announces a construction project in the desert, echoing the words of Isaiah.  There is to be a highway in the desert where there once was none, valleys are to be lifted up and mountains are to be made low, the rough places are to be smoothed, in other words there is to be a massive removal of obstacles.  So I have to wonder what obstacles might be in our way? 

Notice in the passage it says that the messenger will prepare the way, God will do the hard work of removing the obstacles, we just have to be willing to let them go.

What obstacles do you put between you and God?  Do those obstacles create unrest in your life?
How might God be leading you down a new path free of obstacles that will bring about peace in your life?

Prayer: God who calls us away from our daily routines, who desires us to follow you on unknown paths, open me to your presence today.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Peace


Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Wednesday December 12, 2018

Focus passage: A voice is crying out:  “Clear the LORD’s way in the desert!  Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!  Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened.  Uneven ground will become level, and rough terrain a valley plain. Isaiah 40:3-4


What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

What separates Babylon from Jerusalem is mountainous desert.  And while we might think the path is for the people to take back home, it isn’t.  The path they will take will be different it, it won’t be through the Syrian Desert that is void of rivers and water. No, this is the path for God to take metaphorically.  The obstacles that have been put in-between God and the people through their unfaithfulness, captivity, military occupation and forced exile for certain residents, are to be taken away. Exile has been hard on the people.  They have lost their faith, they have experienced great trauma. 

The comfort comes in the promise for peace that will soon come. God imagines a world where mountains are made low, and valleys are lifted up, so there can be a level highway, a pathway free of obstacles.

The eventual return from exile then is imagined and lived out as a second Exodus, a second returning to the Promised Land. 

Where do you see obstacles toward peace in your own community?  How can you be an agent of God’s peace in response to those obstacles?


Prayer: God who calls us away from our daily routines, who desires us to follow you on unknown paths, open me to your presence today.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Comfort


Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Tuesday December 11, 2018

Focus passage: Comfort, comfort my people! says your God.  Speak compassionately to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended, that her penalty has been paid, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins! Isaiah 40:1-2

What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

We all have bad days. Sometimes our bad days turn into bad weeks that turn into bad months.  Sometimes life hits us with such a bad blow that we find it hard to recover and we find ourselves in a space where God seems very far away.

The exiles in Babylon had this experience.  God was far away in Jerusalem and they were utterly alone.  In the passage God brings a message of comfort to the people.  They have paid the price for their unfaithfulness and God is ready to bring them home.

Is there a place in your life that needs to hear the comfort of God?  Take time today to meditate on God’s comforting presence in your life.

Prayer: God who calls us away from our daily routines, who desires us to follow you on unknown paths, open me to your presence today.  Amen.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Waiting


Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11
Monday December 10, 2018

Focus passage: Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion!  Raise your voice and shout, messenger Jerusalem!  Raise it; don’t be afraid; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” Isaiah 40:9


What was the high point of your day?  What was the low point of your day?

What are you currently waiting for? 


Have you ever noticed that there are different kinds of waiting?  There is the somewhat pointless waiting that happens when we are standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for our turn to check out.  There is the waiting that happens at a red light, or in the car line waiting for kids to get out of school.  In those instances you are only paused for a moment until you move forward.  And depending upon how quickly you need to get somewhere, it can be anxious waiting.

Then there is kind of waiting that matters.  It is the waiting that makes it hard to focus on everyday tasks because you are waiting to find out an answer. This type of waiting happens when you are waiting for the doctor to give you test results.  There is the waiting that happens when you wait to hear if you got the job.  There is the waiting to see if you will be chosen for jury duty.  This type of waiting carries more weight because the news of what you are waiting for has the potential to change your life or that the very least your day.

Advent is a time of active waiting, of preparing for God to come and do something new and amazing in your life.

Take time today to think about what you are waiting for God to do in your life.

Prayer: God who calls us away from our daily routines, who desires us to follow you on unknown paths, open me to your presence today.  Amen.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Longing for Peace


Daily reading: Esther 4:1-17
Sunday, December 9, 2018

Focus passage:  But who knows?  Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family.” Esther 4:14b


When was the last time you embodied courage?

As Queen and as a Jewish woman, Esther is in a unique position to save her people.  What Esther has so carefully hidden now needs to be revealed. Through Mordecai’s wise counsel, Esther receives the courage she needs to work for the peace for her people when they are under imminent threat.  

She seeks out the support of the Jews in her own community to join her in fasting and prayer as she prepares to approach the king without being summoned, an offense that can result in death. In the chaos of the court, Esther is able to speak truth to power, changing the course of action which allowed the Jews to defend themselves on the day of attack.  Revealing the reality that the solution rarely is a complete reversal. It is always almost always layered and complex.

This passage of scripture causes us to pause and ask when we need courage “for such a time as this.”   When might we need to come out from the shadows and be an agent for peace?

Who might be speaking to us reminding us of God’s still small voice?

Longing does not mean inaction. Rather it often is the basis for seeking faithful responses in moments of unrest and chaos, “in a time such as this.”

Prayer: Holy One give us courage to speak out for the vulnerable and for those in need.  May we help to usher in your peaceable kingdom.  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...