Sunday, October 31, 2010

comfort and healing

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Our reading from 2 Thessalonians is wonderfully encouraging in the beginning and end with a disturbing middle section. I love the image of this church being steadfast under persecution where faith and love for others is growing stronger everyday. I suppose in that setting the promise of divine judgment on the persecutors could be comforting as well. I prefer to think that when God's kingdom comes those who oppose it now will finally welcome God's love. In the end God will make not only believers but all people worthy of that calling, fulfilling every good resolve and work of faith.

Our story from Luke shows just that kind of welcome. Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus's house, even though, or maybe because, Zacchaeus had gotten far away from God. That invitation bears fruit in a radical show of repentance from Zacchaeus. When others object Jesus reminds them that he has come to heal the sick, not to preach to the healthy. We all need that healing love, and Jesus has plenty for all.

God bless,

Sunday, 10/31

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. 4Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

5This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. 6For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

11To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, 12so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Luke 19:1-10

1He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

7All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." 9Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

saved by grace

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Like many of our readings from Psalm 119, today's talks about clinging to God when we're in trouble. One line in particular caught my attention because of the movie we are watching with the confirmation class. The movie we're watching is about the life of Martin Luther. Early in his life as a monk his mentor in the monastery gave him a cross and told him when he felt overwhelmed with guilt or fear to think about Jesus and to pray, "I am yours; save me." The simplicity of the prayer struck me. We have a basic need to know we are in good hands; we need a place to take refuge when we feel under attack. For the psalmist, for Martin Luther and for all people of faith that refuge is God. The psalmist feels that concretely when considering God's teachings in scripture; Luther felt it when he considered Christ on the cross. How do you especially feel God's protection?
We are yours, Lord; save us,

Psalm 119:89-96

89The Lord exists forever; your word is firmly fixed in heaven.
90Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91By your appointment they stand today, for all things are your servants.
92If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery.
93I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
94I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
95The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your decrees.
96I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.

Friday, October 29, 2010

voicing our sorrow

Good morning friends,
The Psalms are a great part of the Bible for expressing human emotions: the good, the bad and the ugly. We've heard the psalmist praise God with joy and talk about the comfort of following God. Today we hear the psalmist cry out in lament for the trouble s/he is facing. Many of the Psalms raise similar issues: arrogant or wicked people oppress the psalmist, illness is a constant sorrow, the psalmist looks for comfort in God and is still waiting. Some Psalms are full of anger against God for allowing such terrible things to happen. Most of the time these laments have a foundation in hope and trust in God, but sometimes the grief is too much to see that far ahead. The great thing about psalms of lament is that when we find ourselves full of sorrow or anger these words let us express our feelings honestly. God can handle our grief and anger. God can handle our hurt. And ultimately God will bring us through trouble to a new dawn of joy.

God bless,

Psalm 119:81-88

81My soul languishes for your salvation; I hope in your word.
82My eyes fail with watching for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
85The arrogant have dug pitfalls for me; they flout your law.
86All your commandments are enduring; I am persecuted without cause; help me!
87They have almost made an end of me on earth; but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88In your steadfast love spare my life, so that I may keep the decrees of your mouth.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

the word in poetry

Good morning friends,
There's an interesting structure going on here too. Psalms are poems or songs, so the structure of the verses is often very carefully arranged. This section is sort of like a ring or a pyramid with verses 76 and 77 at the top because the first and second half mirror each other. The middle two verses both ask for God's mercy or steadfast love, in verse 76 on the basis of God's promise and in verse 77 because the psalmist delights in God's word. Working down the pyramid verses 75 and 78 talk about humility and arrogance: Lord I know you humbled me out of faithfulness/let the arrogant be put to shame because of their deceit. Still further from the center verses 74 and 79 talk about how others who fear God will rejoice about God's love for the psalmist/come to the psalmist for instruction. Finally at the base of the pyramid the asks for a clean heart and understanding.

Structure is important to Psalm 119 in general. The whole psalm is an acrostic with each line in a section beginning with the same Hebrew letter and each section following a letter in the Hebrew alphabet. I don't know that the structure changes the way we understand the word; maybe it's just for fun. At the same time the structure can lead us to spend more time meditating on God's word in poetry, and that's really the point.
May the word be sweet in your mouth and nourishing to your soul,

Psalm 119:73-80

73Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

74Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.

75I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness you have humbled me.

76Let your steadfast love become my comfort according to your promise to your servant.

77Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.

78Let the arrogant be put to shame, because they have subverted me with guile; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.

79Let those who fear you turn to me, so that they may know your decrees.

80May my heart be blameless in your statutes, so that I may not be put to shame.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

crucifixion and healing

Good morning brothers and sisters,
We're moving steadily towards the climax of Luke's Gospel as Jesus and the disciples keep coming closer to Jerusalem. Jesus tells his disciples for the third time that Jerusalem will be the end of the road for his ministry as they know it. This time is the most detailed of his predictions about his death, but still the disciples don't get it. We have to imagine not understanding a message like this one has a lot to do denial.

This prediction is paired with a healing miracle. I remember Carl preaching a powerful sermon on this passage a few months ago. As soon as the blind man hears that Jesus is on his way he knows his chance has come. He shouts out to get Jesus' attention, and he keeps shouting even when people tell him to be quiet. I wonder what would happen in the church if we weren't worried about what people thought about us. What would happen if we didn't feel the need to keep our worship within the bounds of social acceptability? What if we refused to let anyone keep us away from Jesus?

Blessings on your seeking today,

Luke 18:31-43

31Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

35As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the great physician

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is one of the most challenging readings in scripture for me. In preaching this passage recently the image that came to mind was Jesus as the great physician. He looks at the man and knows what it is that's separating him from God, so he prescribes the cure. The man has a hard time swallowing the pill, which leads Jesus to say that wealth is one of the hardest sicknesses to cure: "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!" The good news is that God can make a way where there is no way.
God bless,

Luke 18:18-30

18A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.

24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” 28Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

let the children come to me

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This reading reminds us that Jesus welcomes everyone. It doesn't matter if we're young or old, rich or poor, wise or foolish; Jesus welcomes us. We sometimes read this passage at baptisms to remember the special place in his heart Jesus has for children. There's something about little kids, especially infants, that speaks to our heart about new life, possibility and love. Kids are so open to the world around them, so ready to love and to explore. Jesus announces that only those who accept the kingdom like children can enter it. Maybe Jesus is encouraging us to approach the kingdom of heaven with curiosity and eagerness, with joy and excitement and a thousand questions. Underneath it all; Jesus encourages us to trust our Father/Mother to love us and protect us. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me.
Blessings on the new week,

Luke 18:15-17
15People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

mercy and calling

Good morning friends,
Our reading from 2 Timothy has Paul reflecting on the end of his life, which he is convinced is coming soon. Paul is in prison in Rome and seems to have had his first hearing. He is able to face death with a sense of calm because he trusts God and knows he has been faithful to his calling. I love in the second paragraph how Paul talks about God rescuing him from the lion's mouth. Here he means not that God will keep him from physical death, but that God has kept him bold in proclaiming the gospel even in the threat of death. I pray we would have Paul's boldness.

Our reading from Luke reminds us that faithfulness to God isn't about religious rituals but it's about a heart longing for God. The tax collector prays for God's mercy and receives it. God reaches out to all of us with mercy and love. Go and do likewise.

God bless,

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

6As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

16At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.


Luke 18:9-14

9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'

13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spirit for everyone

Good morning brothers and sisters,
In today's reading God promises not only deliverance from the locusts, but good harvests to make up for that devastation. As the nation looks back to an economic disaster God has brought them through, Joel also points them ahead towards the "Day of the Lord." This is the day, some time in the future, when God's power over everything will be revealed. Christians tend to think of this day in terms of the second coming of Christ, but many religions look forward to a time of judgment and fulfillment, when everything wrong will be made right and we will stand at God's throne to account for our lives.

In the Book of Acts when the Holy Spirit comes to all the disciples and they speak in other languages praising God, Peter explains that event by referring to this passage (the second paragraph) from Joel. Joel announces that when the Day of the Lord approaches God will pour out his spirit on everyone. At that time, not only priests and prophets would speak God's word, but everyone. At that time the gates of God's kingdom would open for everyone who calls on God's name. This vision is a natural fit for what Peter experienced on Pentecost. The church's ministry is about welcoming all people into the joy of God's kingdom, and we trust the power of God's Spirit to lead us in that ministry.

God bless,

Joel 2:23-32

23O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. 24The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. 26You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

28Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 30I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Friday, October 22, 2010

repentance and mercy

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Our reading from today is from the prophet Joel. When we think of prophets often we think about predicting the future. Israel's prophets were more focused on interpreting the present from God's standpoint. Their main role was to call the people of Israel back to living the way they were supposed to live. Joel probably ministered in the 400's BC, which is after Judah's return from exile. The main event of his ministry that he interpreted was a massive invasion of locusts that threatened the economic health of the nation. Joel's message is that this disaster is judgment from God for Israel's unfaithfulness. His goal is to call the people to repent, to turn back to God.

In this passage Joel appeals to the people to repent and to God to be merciful. Part of the appeal to God is based on the argument that when the nation is devastated it looks bad for God. God responds to the appeal with jealousy for the people and restores their fortunes. It can be challenging to see how God's purposes are worked out in everyday life, and some popular attempts to do that come to pretty questionable conclusions. At the same time we can look at the world around us with a view to what God is calling us to do. God's mercy gives us hope and the promise that in the end love will triumph over evil gives us courage.

God bless,

Joel 2:12-19

12Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?

15Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 17Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

18Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. 19In response to his people the Lord said: I am sending you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a mockery among the nations.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

hearing in humility

Good morning friends,
First, thanks to everyone who made it out to the Boulevard last night for the opening session of our Back to Basics series. The idea is to have a discussion about faith and scripture that makes no assumptions about what people think or know. The goal is a safe place to engage questions honestly. It's certainly a learning experience for me, but I had a lot of fun. We'll be at the Boulevard (412 Empire Blvd 14609) every Wednesday from 8-10 from now until November 17th. Hope to see you there.

Today's reading brings us back to Psalm 119, a Psalm that explores different sides of thinking about God's word. This passage picks up on humility, partly because it's hard to hear God's word to us if we believe we have all the answers. Humility is the opposite of arrogance and in this passage it comes or is reinforced by a particular experience. The Psalmist talks about being humbled: we don't know what happened, maybe a failure or an economic hardship or a grief? Reflecting back on that experience the Psalmist notices that that experience brought him/her closer to God. Sometimes it is trouble or hardship that reminds us we can't do it all and we need God. That doesn't mean God sends those things on us to do that, but it does mean God can speak to us through trouble if we're willing to listen. I pray we would be open to God's word today.

God bless,

Psalm 119:65-72

65You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.
66Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
67Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word.
68You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
69The arrogant smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.
70Their hearts are fat and gross, but I delight in your law.
71It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statutes.
72The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

actively keeping commandments

Good morning friends,
The thing that struck me in today's reading was right in the middle: "I hurry and do not delay to keep your commandments." Two things struck me about this line in particular. The first is that keeping the commandments is an active process. We often think of commandments in the sense of "Thou shalt not..." In other words we think of keeping the commandments as avoiding certain kinds of behavior: not stealing, not killing, etc. This passage encourages us to see righteousness and commandment keeping as things that we actively do: work for justice, love our neighbor in action, seek God's will for our decisions, and so on.

The other thing that struck me is that I have a long way to go here. I don't hurry and I often delay in keeping God's commandments. The session has been reading a great book in our meetings called I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church. The chapters each outline and important choice the church needs to make to grow strong and healthy. This last chapter is called "Choosing now over later." It gives all the excuses churches make about why the should wait to make needed changes, when in fact, often the passing of time makes those changes harder to make later than they are now. The same thing happens in our personal faith, at least in mine: I make excuses why later would be a better time to follow Christ more nearly. Maybe next year will be easier financially and I can live in a more sacrificial way then. I have a lot on my plate right now, later when things calm down I can start reading the Bible regularly. Our book shared a quote from "Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail" that effectively rephrases this line of the psalm and calls us to action today: "The time is always ripe to do what is right."

Amen, and may God bless our active discipleship today,

Psalm 119:57-64

57The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
58I implore your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
59When I think of your ways, I turn my feet to your decrees;
60I hurry and do not delay to keep your commandments.
61Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
62At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous ordinances.
63I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
64The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the arrogant deride me

Good morning friends,
The psalmist talks about being derided by arrogant people but staying firm in God's law. Often when we think about telling a friend about our faith or inviting someone to church we feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. What is it that we worry about? Are we afraid they will say "no"? We know from inviting people over for dinner or a party that people sometimes say "no" and it doesn't do us any harm. Are we afraid they will be offended by being approached about faith? We know how to talk to people and how to make them comfortable in general, don't we? Are we worried they will think we're religious nuts? If they know us already, they already know we are reasonable people. Would it really be a bad thing if they added to that knowledge the knowledge that we are serious about our faith?

There is a sense in our culture that we don't need God. That's what the psalmist means when he talks about the arrogant who insult him. Like the psalmist, let's be less worried about what arrogant people think of us; we can rest on the strength of God's word. On the other hand, and this is the part we often forget, there are lots of people around us who long for the comfort and joy of faith. People who sense that there is something missing in their lives but don't know how to find it. We have found meaning and strength in our faith. Christ's liberating word of love can free our friends and neighbors from the emptiness of a life spend chasing the wrong goals. We have something wonderful to share.

This Saturday there's an exciting conference in Lima called Voice of the Martyrs. Voice of the Martyrs is an organization that supports Christians in parts of the world where they face persecution for their faith. This is an exciting chance to hear from people who literally risk homes and jobs and their lives to share the good news of God's love in Christ. There's more information in Christler Hall and at this link. I know you'll be inspired and challenged by their stories.

God bless,

Psalm 119:49-56

49Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
50This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.
51The arrogant utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
52When I think of your ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
53Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, those who forsake your law.
54Your statutes have been my songs wherever I make my home.
55I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
56This blessing has fallen to me, for I have kept your precepts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

nourished by the word

Good morning friends,
We're back to Psalm 119 today after a bit of a break. This section makes me think of Jeremiah or Paul because there is a hint of persecution in the background and the trust that even in the midst of taunting and hardship, God's word offers strength and hope. In particular we can imagine Jeremiah when he's locked up in the palace or Paul locked up but making his appeal to governors and finally the emperor feeling sure they will not be put to shame when they trust in God's commands. Most of the time when we see heroes of the Bible in trouble they draw on a deep knowledge of scripture to keep strong. As we study and read the Bible, it takes root within us and gives us a source of hope and comfort for hard times. The more we spend time with scripture, the stronger our faith will be.

While not directly related to this passage I want to share a blog with you. As many of you know, my brother and his wife are passionate about peace in the Middle East. One of Will's friends, Tiffany, is now in Northern Iraq as part of a Christian Peacemaking Team. I'm hoping Tiffany will come to Laurelton during the winter to share her experience with us. In her blog you will see a powerful faith in action to make peace in a challenging region. I've been moved by what I've read, and I think you will be too. Please keep Tiffany, her team, and all who work for peace and face violence in your prayers.

God bless,

Psalm 119:41-48

41Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise.
42Then I shall have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in your word.
43Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your ordinances.
44I will keep your law continually, forever and ever.
45I shall walk at liberty, for I have sought your precepts.
46I will also speak of your decrees before kings, and shall not be put to shame;
47I find my delight in your commandments, because I love them.
48I revere your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

persistence and scriptural guidance

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Our reading from Timothy is one of my favorite statements on scripture. Paul reminds Timothy to strengthen himself in the scriptures because they instruct in Christ's salvation. He also reminds him to dedicate himself to scripture in his teaching because "All scripture is inspired and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness." He also warns Timothy that people will be drawn away by teachers they choose for themselves who simply tell people what they want to hear, rather than keeping the challenge and demand of the gospel in front of them.

Our reading from Luke reminds us to keep praying, even when it seems like God isn't listening. God hears us, and God wants to hear us. Never give up because God's final victory of love is certain.

On a (sort of) separate note, we are starting a new series at the Boulevard Wednesday evening at 8pm. The focus of the series is getting back to the basics of who God is and what the story of faith is about. My hope is to invite people who don't go to church to join the conversation. If you have someone in your life who doesn't believe, or believes but doesn't go to church, this may be the series for them. It's less intimidating than a Sunday school class because it's at a bar instead of the church.

God bless,

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: 2proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. 5As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.


Luke 18:1-8

1Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

the law on our hearts

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Jeremiah gives us a vision of Israel's renewal in beautiful terms. The renewal here is so complete that it is more accurate as a vision for the completion of history; God's final appearance. In those days God's ways will be so clearly written on our hearts that we will simply know what to do and how to live; we won't need to be taught the right ways anymore. Notice that forgiveness is what opens the way to know God: when we know deep down that God forgives us, we want to live the right way in response to that amazing love.

One interesting phrase I want to lift up is this sour grapes phrase. It's a strange little saying, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and their children's teeth are set on edge." The interesting thing is that this phrase comes up more than once in different prophets' writing. Almost every time it's used this same way: people won't use the saying anymore because in the future God will not carry punishment forward anymore. Instead each person will only be responsible for their own sin. The great thing for us is that in Jesus we truly know we are forgiven, both our sin and the sin we've been a part of. That knowledge frees us to live in love for others.

God bless,

Jeremiah 31:27-34

27The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. 28And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. 29In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” 30But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.

31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Friday, October 15, 2010

plans for your welfare

Good morning friends,
God speaks comfort and hope through Jeremiah to the exiles from Judah. Despite the pain of exile and judgment, God still has Judah's welfare in mind. God sent Judah into exile for their injustice and rejection of the covenant. But once the time comes, God will bring them back to their land again. God has not abandoned God's people.

That doesn't mean God brings trouble on us, but it does mean God can bring good out of evil. What might exile mean to us today? What would it mean for God to bring us home? When we seek God, we will find him. The path is not always clear, but God is with us.

God bless,

Jeremiah 29:10-14

10For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

disagreeing gently

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Here as in a few of the other passages we've read from the letters to Timothy Paul urges Timothy to avoid foolish controversy. This is such timely advise to the church since many of our denominations are stuck in controversy. The challenge is knowing how to avoid controversy while promoting the truth and standing up for justice. Many of the controversies that divide the church have to do with important questions that we can't just ignore. At the same time we can honestly try to listen to people with whom we disagree and present our side with humility and the gentleness Paul urges. In that way the disagreement can be seen clearly and without letting it tear people apart.

When we disagree gently we can also keep the focus on the fact that we agree much more than we disagree. That lets us keep the church's ministry the priority while figuring out questions on which there is controversy in the background with the assumption that we are all trying to be faithful. As we pray for the wholeness of Christ's church we move forward in witness to God's love that conquers death and human squabbling.

God bless,

2 Timothy 2:16-26

16Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, 17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some.

19But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.” 20In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. 21All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.

22Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 25correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Christ's return

Good morning friends,
Jesus continues his discussion about his return and the completion of God's kingdom in our reading for today. He uses two biblical examples of sudden disaster from God to emphasize that his return will be sudden and dramatic. We don't know when God's kingdom will come in power; elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus says even he doesn't know. We do know what God wants from us in the meantime: love God and love our neighbors, work for justice and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to invite others into the joy of Christian fellowship. I'd say we have plenty to keep us occupied until the kingdom comes. The word this passage has for us is, watch and prepare because God will come suddenly. Amen, come Lord Jesus.

God bless,

Luke 17:26-37

26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. 28Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30—it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

31On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. 34I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.” 37Then they asked him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

thy kingdom come

Good morning all,
As far back as the prophets of the Old Testament people have looked forward to a time when God's kingdom would come and set everything right. For Jewish people of Jesus' time that hope focused on the restoration of the nation of Israel and the end of foreign domination. Jesus saw his ministry as one of announcing that God's kingdom was near. Today, some Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom will come.

Jesus answers the question in two ways here: on the one hand, the kingdom is among them now because the kingdom comes in Jesus. Interestingly, the New International Version of the Bible (which is also an excellent translation) translates that sentence: "The kingdom of God is within you." This translation points more towards our participation in God's kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is also true. Jesus also looks forward to his own return, which we expect to bring in the final victory of God's love and justice. His point here seems to be that there's no need to speculate about times and places, because when he returns it will be obvious to everyone. Our job now is to build up the kingdom now by taking part in God's mission while we look forward to the day when Christ comes in power to set all things right.

God bless,

Luke 17:20-25

20Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” 22Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

giving thanks in our lives

Good morning friends,
Carl preached a good sermon on this passage yesterday; I was sorry more people weren't there to hear it. Jesus heals ten people who have leprosy. Of those ten, only one comes back to thank Jesus. We receive amazing gifts from God every day; how often to we stop and give thanks for our everyday blessings? Thanksgiving has an amazing way of transforming our lives because it reminds us how much we depend on God and how connected our lives are with others. When we remember our many gifts, we are humbled and reinvigorated to serve others in gratitude for what we've been given. Think of today as an opportunity not only to give thanks for your blessings, but to live with gratitude in your actions.

God bless,

Luke 17:11-19
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

seek the welfare of the city

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Our reading from Jeremiah is the scriptural motto for many people involved in urban ministry. At this point in Judah's history the defeat Jeremiah prophesied has come; most of the political, cultural and spiritual leaders of the nation are in exile in Babylon. God has Jeremiah write a letter to these leaders. The letter doesn't say to mourn (though the people are doing that too); it doesn't say to seek rebellion; instead, it tells the leaders to live life fully in exile. Even though they are in a hostile and strange land they are to engage in ministry and life there fully because that's how their lives will get better in the short to medium term. In the long term God will bring them home, but they shouldn't put their lives on whole to wait.

Our reading from Timothy remind Timothy of the gospel to proclaim, which is Christ himself. Paul also advises Timothy to avoid wrangling over words, which is always timely advice for the church. We can and should talk openly about our differences, but we must not let those differences divide us. We have work to do for God's kingdom, and we can work together instead of fighting over our differences. Even when we are chained or tired or confused, the word of God is not chained. If we take that hopeful, loving word into the world God can do amazing things through us.

God bless,

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

1These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

4Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.


2 Timothy 2:8-15

8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David-that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, he remains faithful-for he cannot deny himself.

14Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

commitment and openness

Good morning all,
Paul gives Timothy two basic instructions: to stand firm and committed to Christ and to empower other leaders for ministry. In terms of commitment Paul uses the image of a soldier to illustrate the way Christians are to be focused on the work of ministry. As a soldier focuses on the mission and on pleasing his or her superior, so the Christian, a soldier for Christ, focuses on the mission of the gospel and pleasing our Lord without getting distracted by the demands of everyday life. Paul illustrates the same idea further with the image of a farmer working hard for the harvest and an athlete focused on doing what needs to be done to win.

Paul has less to say about empowering leaders for ministry, but the point is always worth hearing. The phrasing here is a little confusing, so I'll rearrange it: "Entrust what you have heard from me (through many witnesses) to faithful people who will be able to teach others." Paul's letters to Timothy are meant to encourage him for leadership in the Christian community. An important part of leadership is sharing leadership with others. Teaching isn't just the responsibility of the pastor, or the discipleship team, but the responsibility of those who are faithful to God's calling and able to teach. The same is true in other areas of ministry. We all have gifts to share with others and the more we all get involved in ministering, the stronger and more effective our church will be. Think about what God has made you able to do and imagine ways those gifts can further the mission of the church. When we connect our gifts with others needs the result is energy and joyful service.

God bless,

2 Timothy 2:1-7

You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; 2and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. 3Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. 5And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. 6It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.

Friday, October 8, 2010

following past the distractions

Good morning friends,
The psalmist continues to give thanks for the joy of following God's path. The law is seen here as a gift because it guides our lives and helps us stay faithful to the one who loves us. The psalmist admits that s/he faces temptations, especially wealth and "vanities," but desires to follow God instead of focusing on these things. The world is full of distractions and forces that pull us away from God, but God keeps calling us back, and in following we find the rest of our life coming into its proper balance.

God bless,

Psalm 119:33-40

33Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.
34Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
36Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
37Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.
38Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you.
39Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good.
40See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

enlarge my understanding, Lord

Good morning sisters and brothers,
We begin today's reading with the psalmist feeling beaten down, calling out to God from the dust to be revived. We were talking last night about times that we felt close to God and one person noticed feeling closer to God when times are hard or when we're sad. Sometimes God is closest when we are most in need. The truth is that God is always ready to hear us, but we are not always ready to receive God's presence. Sometimes it is hardship or sorrow that opens us up to God.

The psalmist also tells us that s/he has "chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me." We often think about faith in terms of belief, and in some important ways we do choose to believe in God or not, but the Bible talks about faith more in terms of faithfulness. Here the psalmist chooses to be faithful to God and so keeps God's commandments in front of him/her. S/he also notes that through following the commandments, God enlarges his/her understanding. Faith isn't about turning off our brain to doubt, but about opening our brain and heart to what God will teach us. May we be open to God's word and presence in the world today.

God bless,

Psalm 119:25-32

25My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word.
26When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes.
27Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
29Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law.
30I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your ordinances before me.
31I cling to your decrees, O Lord; let me not be put to shame.
32I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

rooted in the word

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Our Psalm reveals hints of trouble today. The psalmist feels like a stranger in his home and considers princes plotting against him. Sometimes the life of faith can feel like that; sometimes we have a sense that powerful interests are opposed to our faith individually or as a church. It has always been this way from Israel's slavery in Egypt to Christ's persecution and the persecution of the early church. Sometimes our hardest opposition comes from times when the world around us is accepting of our faith, at least in words. Acceptance tends to make us complacent and lets us imagine that the social order and the gospel have more in common than they really do.

Other times our hardest opposition is within us. We want to follow God's path; we want to meditate on the word, but we let other commitments get in the way. Often our temptations are so subtle we don't notice them as opposition, so we find ourselves gently drifting away from the path God calls us to follow. We pray that God would open our eyes so we can see the wonders of God's law; we pray God would open our hearts to feel a longing for the word; we pray God would open our minds to meditate on God's commandments. Then God's decrees will be our delight and our counselors as we grow strong, rooted in the word. As we talk about meditating on the commandments, I'd like to invite you to supper and scripture at Laurelton tonight and every Wednesday. We begin at 5:30 in Christler Hall with a wonderful supper, and share about an hour of fellowship and discussion of scripture. For the next several weeks we'll be taking a look at the Ten Commandments and how they can guide us today. Dinner is free, but you are welcome to make a donation towards the cost of food. I hope you'll join us and bring a friend.

God bless,

Psalm 119:17-24

17Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word.
18Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
19I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me.
20My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.
21You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments;
22take away from me their scorn and contempt, for I have kept your decrees.
23Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.
24Your decrees are my delight, they are my counselors.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

guarding our way

Good morning friends,
I like the opening question to this section of Psalm 119: How can young people keep their way pure? Put a different way, since purity speaks to me less than integrity or moral strength: How can young people stay on the right path? Reading this right after hearing from Geoff and Sandy Smith from Youth For Christ really speaks to me as their ministry is very much about helping kids find and stay on the right path. The life of faith in general has a lot to do with keeping ourselves and our children on the right path, living the way we know we should.

The answer to that question the psalmist gives is exactly what we would expect: Guarding their way with God's word. We all read the Bible, at least occasionally, but where the Bible usually starts to really come alive is when we think about how scripture fits with our everyday life. Sunday worship is great, but if our faith doesn't impact the way we live the other six days of the week it won't be the powerful, life changing force that it should be. If we read scripture expecting it to help us make decisions and letting it guide us, God will keep us on the right path. Scripture truly can guard our way during the week. In that we will find not only faithfulness to our calling but also delight as we feast on the Word.

God bless,

Psalm 119:9-16

9How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.
11I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.
12Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes.
13With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.
14I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches.
15I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.
16I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy are those...

Good morning friends,
For some of the next few weeks we'll be reading from Psalm 119. This is the longest of the Psalms and one of several Psalms about the joy of following God's way. There are lots of different words the psalmist uses to talk about God's way: ordinances, commandments, decrees, law. The term the Old Testament often uses to encompass all of these ideas is Torah, usually translated Law. We talk about the Torah as the first five books of the Old Testament since that's where most of the religious law is found. Law is only part of what Torah means, however. It also means instruction or teaching.

As we can see from the psalmist's enthusiasm as we continue in the days to come, following God's law means more than sticking strictly to a rulebook. It means rooting our whole life in God's word and God's way for our life. We were talking yesterday afternoon about how confirmation is a great opportunity for kids to dive into the Bible. We were also wishing there were more opportunity for adults to do the same, but time is always a challenge in making that happen. Anyone who spends a lot of time with the scriptures can testify that the word is sweet and nourishing for our life. I pray this Psalm will help us appreciate that sweetness and encourage us to find the happiness of God's instruction.

God bless,

Psalm 119:1-8
1Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
2Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,
3who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
4You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
6Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.
8I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

faith and proclamation

Good morning friends,
Today is world communion Sunday, a day we celebrate that despite everything that divides the church, despite language and distance and history and politics, in the Lord Jesus we are one. We celebrate that unity at Christ's table and we celebrate it in our giving as we support the PCUSA Peacemaking Offering that helps spread God's peace in the world. Our second reading is fitting for that day as Jesus reminds his disciples that it's a terrible crime to hurt the faith of anyone. We should watch our behavior to make sure it doesn't get in the way of anyone coming to Christ. Jesus also reminds his disciples that if we really live into our faith, even a little faith can go a long way.

I keep finding myself touched by our first reading. We see Paul's deep care for his young colleague Timothy and we see strong presentations of the meaning of the faith. Paul's language is at once intimate and soaring. We learn that Timothy is a third generation Christian and we are reminded that God comes to us not because of who we are but because of his amazing grace. May you hear and believe that God is calling you to walk with Christ today. We all have a role to play in proclaiming the gospel.

God bless,

2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3I am grateful to God-whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did-when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. 6For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

8Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, 9who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, 12and for this reason I suffer as I do.

But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 13Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

*Luke 17:1-10
Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

hope in the darkness

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This morning's reading marks the turn from lamentation to hope. Jerusalem is in ruins and the poet knows that Judah's sin is to blame for the terrors of judgment. Still, in the midst of that horror and grief there is hope because God is faithful. God loves us and even though disasters may hide that love from us for the moment, nothing can defeat God's love.

God bless,

Lamentations 3:19-26
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Friday, October 1, 2010

blessed are those who mourn

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is from the Book of Lamentations. This book is also known as the Lamentations of Jeremiah because traditionally it was thought to be written by Jeremiah. Modern biblical scholars aren't convinced of this, and the book itself doesn't make that connection. Lamentations is a collections of five poems or songs of mourning for the fall of Jerusalem. They pour out the grief of watching the mighty city of God fall, remembering the siege and the final defeat. Themes of guilt for the injustice that led to the defeat as well as grief and anger run throughout the book. There is also a hint of trust in God, who is always faithful even when things look hopeless.

As in many poetic passages about Jerusalem the city is presented as a woman: in this case a daughter and princess of the King. Jerusalem's other name, Zion is also used in the passage. The notion of her lovers could refer, as it does in several of the prophets, to idols; it could also refer to Judah's attempts at alliance with other countries like Egypt before this defeat. Lamentation is not only this book, but a whole genre of poetry of grief that allows us to weep before the Lord. Like our anger, God can handle our grief, and God will be with us when we mourn.

God bless,

Lamentations 1:1-6

1:1 How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.

1:4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.