Monday, January 31, 2011

devotion and the end

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Here Paul gets into thinking outside where God has specifically led him, and he's honest about that. One of the keys to understanding Paul's perspective on practical matters like marriage shows itself here. Here, he explains his thinking, "in view of the impending crisis, " and, "the appointed time is short." What he means in both cases is that the end of history is rapidly approaching. That was a conviction that not only Paul but all of the early Christian leaders held tightly. We can see why thinking the world would end in a month or a year would change the way we thought about marriage.

When Paul talks about being single as preferable, he's thinking only about how to make the best use of the short time we have left to proclaim the good news. Today, we have to take Paul's view with a grain of salt, because two thousand years later the world is still turning and the rent will still probably be due next month. At the same time, we have a lot to learn from Paul's sense of urgency. After all, tomorrow will be someone's last day. We never know how much time we have left, so married or single, let's make the most of it for ministry.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 7:25-35

25Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. 27Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that.

29I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

32I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. 35I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

slavery and freedom

Good morning friends,
In today's reading Paul urges Christians not to worry about their worldly condition but instead to focus on following Christ. He's right to counsel us to focus on Christ and to remind us that whatever our condition, we can use it for ministry. At the same time Christians are also sometimes called to seek to change their condition and that of the world around us. I think about Christians who advocated for the abolition of slavery or for civil rights. I think about Christians helping to lead people out of the slavery of substance abuse or domestic violence. I also think about Christians seeking an education to further their skills and change their position. All these things express the Christian calling as long as we keep our focus on following Jesus.

It's easy to get so caught up in education or work that we forget those things are part of our discipleship rather than discipleship being a separate part of our lives. Paul's closing advice here is particularly powerful: if we are slaves we are still free in Christ, and if we are free we are still slaves to Christ. "You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters." To that we might add, "Do not become slaves of success, or wealth or popularity or anything else."
May God bless you in your freedom and discipleship today,

1 Corinthians 7:17-24

17However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. 18Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. 20Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called. 21Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. 22For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. 24In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

walk humbly

Good evening brothers and sisters,

Our readings today recap our readings from service today. The first ends with one of the most familiar lines in the Old Testament for many of us. God is accusing God’s people in court for abandoning him and not following their end of the covenant. God brought them out of slavery in Egypt, through many dangers and into safety. Israel has failed to put God first and to love their neighbors as themselves. Our calling is the same today. Our Gospel reading is the beginning of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. These familiar words are called the beatitudes and spell out some of the people God blesses especially. Together these passages call us to humility, faithfulness and love; God will bless us as we follow our calling.

God bless,


Micah 6:1-8

1Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.

3"O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD."

6"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 8He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

marriage in the church

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today continues Paul's teaching on marriage and divorce. First he talks to married couples in the church to say that marriage is forever. His point seems to be made here in the light of others who taught against marriage or sex. Paul reminds the church that marriage is to be taken seriously. At the same time, we recognize that there are times when a marriage can not work out. In a situation like that Christians are called to make every effort to make the marriage work, but at a certain point it may be that a marriage is doing both partners real harm and they would be better off as people, parents and Christians to divorce. Paul might not have said that, but I believe it's true.

On the other hand, Paul's teaching is a little different for believers married to unbelievers. In this case the Christian spouse should still try to make things work, knowing that through their influence both the spouse and their children could be closer to Jesus than without the marriage. At the same time, if the unbelieving spouse chooses to end the marriage, the Christian should let them go in peace. They are then free to remarry. Marriage and family is such a challenging and wonderful part of life. In a family faith often grows strong, but sometimes we have a harder time living our faith at home than we do outside. In marriage and life Christ calls us to peace and love.
May it be so for you today,

1 Corinthians 7:10-16

10To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. 12To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. 16Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

Friday, January 28, 2011

marriage and sex

Good morning friends,
I'd like to apologize for not sending out the daily reading yesterday. There was an exciting adventure story involving spending the night in the Washington Airport that explains most of that, but that's a story for another time. To get back on track with the reading we'll read yesterday's and today's together since they complement each other well. This part of 1 Corinthians is about sex and marriage. One reminder that's particularly applicable here is that the phrases in quotations are thought to be quotes from a letter Paul received from the church, to which he is responding. The first part hinges on fornication, which really means casual sex. Paul's argument is that in baptism and faith our bodies are members of Christ's body and temples of the Holy Spirit. Any time we have sex we are joining our body with another person's body, meaning we join part of Christ's body with that person. Sex is not impure or unclean because love makes it holy. Casual, abusive, or unloving sex dishonors not just our body, but Christ's too.

Some folks in the church took matters further than Paul and felt like sex in general was not good for Christians. Paul agrees in some ways, because the deep human relationships in which sex is appropriate involve high commitment. Paul feels like that kind of commitment distracts us from ministry, as all of us who are in relationships, especially with children, know first hand. But Paul also knows committed partnership, and sex in that partnership, is a good and joyful thing allowed by God. Further, while some people, like Paul, have been given the spiritual gift of celibacy (in other words, they thrive outside of committed relationships and generally don't need intimate human contact) for most of us staying away from sexual commitment leads to temptation. That temptation is powerful and spiritually dangerous, so it is better to structure our desire in marriage or permanent partnership. The overall point here is putting our faith at the center of all of our relationships and living our faith powerfully in everything we do.

blessings in your discipleship today,

1 Corinthians 6:12-7:9

12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” 2But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6This I say by way of concession, not of command. 7I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind. 8To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. 9But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

unity in the church

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's reading again stresses how important community and trust is in the church. Christians are expected to be so transformed by Christ's love that disputes should be minor and easily solved. The way the community treats each other should be part of our witness to the world. So if Christians have a dispute, Paul advises them to appoint another member of the church to help them solve it and never to take a dispute between Christians to secular court. We have a new guideline that discusses this idea, which we will talk about at the annual meeting on Sunday after worship. We see this principle in action in the wider church as well. When the world sees denominations filled with controversy and arguing bitterly, who is going to believe that the good news of Jesus can transform their lives? Everything we do individually and collectively should show the world a glimpse of Christ's love. That's our calling today and always.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, 6but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that? 7In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

9Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

church discipline

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is a challenging one, so bear with me (and Paul). Paul raises a situation he has heard about in the Corinthian church: a man living with his father's wife. He has also heard that the church is "arrogant" about this; maybe that means they talk about how Christ has saved them and live too loosely as a result. Paul says the church should mourn because their community is made impure by immorality like this. He argues that they are responsible to put the man out of the community until he repents of his sin. By keeping him in the community it sends the message that his behavior is OK and risks "leavening the whole batch" or corrupting the whole church. The church is made holy by Christ's sacrifice, so we are called to keep it that way.

Paul's point is that the church needs to support each other in doing the right thing and call each other out with love when they do the wrong thing. That way everyone is built up in their faith and their faithful living. Notice too that he doesn't want the church to shun outsiders who are immoral. Those of us in the church are held to a higher standard because of God's transforming love. We reach out to those outside with love, not judgment. We build up our sisters and brothers by helping each other see where we might be going wrong. We do all this with great humility because we are all sinners and we never see the whole truth. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions by email or (even better) on the blog.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you? 3For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

6Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

gentleness or a stick

Good morning friends,
Tonight there will be a supper and service for Christian unity at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church (553 Humboldt St, Humboldt and Floverton). It should be a great service and a wonderful opportunity to meet our neighboring brothers and sisters in Christ. We all share many of the same ministry challenges, so it helps to work together. Also, as some of you know, my grandmother, Tina Land, died on Friday evening. I'll be flying to Durham, NC for the memorial service on Thursday morning and returning Saturday night. I'll be available by phone or email, but if there's anything you'd like to talk about it would be best to give me a call before then. I'd also appreciate your prayer, especially for my mom, my uncle Everett and my grandmother's honorary daughters Kay and Jody.

Gary commented on one of our recent readings that the feeling of that part of Paul's writing was, "Young Jedi, get your act together or I'll whack you with a stick." That feeling is even more applicable today where Paul actually talks about coming to them with a stick if they aren't careful. Notice that Paul isn't just angry; he's worried about the Corinthian church because he thinks of them as his children in Christ. This was probably the church Paul spent the most time with, so when he hears about arrogance and division there, it breaks his heart. I pray we would imitate Paul's passion for Christ and for the church today.


1 Corinthians 4:14-21

14I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me.

17For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant. 19But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power. 21What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

welcoming the world

Good morning friends,
Our readings this morning are tied because Matthew looks back to this Isaiah passage to explain why Jesus moved to Galilee. He went as a light to the gentiles and to others who had lived in darkness. Jesus welcomes all people to follow. He called the first disciples to follow and they left everything behind. He calls us still today into an adventure of love and welcome. We continue his ministry of reaching out to those in need and to those who are left on the fringes. In Christ we see God welcoming the world in a powerful new way. We respond by welcoming everyone and by loving others.

God bless,

Isaiah 9:1-4

1But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined. 3You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 4For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.


Matthew 4:12-23

12Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-16the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

18As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Good morning brothers and sisters,
First, I'd like you to keep Ted Miller's family in your prayers. Ted's funeral will be held today at Laurelton at 2 pm. I'm sure the family would appreciate your support today and in the weeks to come. I'd also like you to keep our presbytery in prayer as we meet today to discuss, among other things, an amendment to the constitution that would encourage better examinations of candidates for ministry and make it easier for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people God calls to ministry to be ordained. I pray we would consider these matters with love for each other.

Our story for this morning is about Jesus' temptation by Satan. Right after he was baptized and heard God's voice declaring him the son of God, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. He faces some interesting temptations relating to material needs, ministry and power. Do you find yourself facing similar temptations ever? How can Jesus' response to Satan help you stay faithful in the face of temptation?

God bless,

Matthew 4: 1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

humility and courage

Good morning friends,
Here we get a healthy dose of Paul's sarcasm. The sarcasm functions to reinforce for the Corinthians that true leadership is humble, not boastful. It seems like the Corinthian church sometimes had trouble with their pride and thinking too much of themselves. Beneath and through his sarcasm, Paul makes two very important points. The first is that God is the only one with the right to judge. That means we don't have to worry about what anyone else thinks about us; our goal is to seek God's will. It also means we should hold back from the temptation to judge others; only God knows the whole story. The second point is that everything we have, even our lives, is a gift from God. If things are going well for us, we should rejoice and give thanks, but we shouldn't get cocky about it since we didn't do it ourselves. If things are not going well for us, we can share our grief with God and others because we are always in God's hand. When we don't worry about recognition or blame we're free to follow God's calling with love and joy.

Blessings as you follow today,


1 Corinthians 4:1-13

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God. 6I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, “Nothing beyond what is written,” so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another.

7For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? 8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! 9For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. 10We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, 12and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

building on the foundation of Christ

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Yesterday Paul began talking about human leaders in the community and how some people were letting loyalty to one leader versus another cause division in the church. He used the image of field workers and builders for the leaders' work in building up the church. Here he develops that image further. The building's foundation is Jesus Christ and the builder/leader builds on it to the best of his or her ability. Judgment Day (as well as the smaller crises) will test the building to see if it is well built. If it is the building will survive and the builder will be rewarded. Paul doesn't want the community to forget that they are not just any building, but God's holy temple.

He continues by reminding people not to boast about their wisdom or their leaders, because God doesn't care about our worldly knowledge as much as about our faithfulness. We're not called to rely on our wisdom or on our leaders. Instead we are called to rely on our foundation, Jesus Christ. By leaning on Jesus, we can do anything.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

16Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

God's field

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Paul has just finished talking about how he and other teachers do share wisdom with spiritually mature Christians, though the wisdom they share is different than the world's wisdom. Now he continues by describing that the Corinthians aren't mature yet. Paul has to feed them milk instead of solid food in terms of his teaching. The mark that they are immature is that they are divided and people make too much of who their teachers are. Paul describes teachers, specifically himself and Apollos, another important early Christian teacher, as servants of God. Like field hands, Paul planted and Apollos watered, but the growth comes from God and it is God's field. Different churches, different denominations, different political affiliations; it's easy to make too much of the subsets in our life. The point is that we belong to Christ as members of the one church, the one body of Christ. We are one in the Lord, and as one we will grow strong.

Since we're thinking about unity, this week is the week of prayer for Christian unity. During this week keep the worldwide church in prayer and pray that the unity we already have in Christ would become more visible. On Monday there will be a service for Christian unity sponsored by the North East Church Cluster at St. John the Evangelist on Humbolt St. The evening begins at 6 with a soup supper and the service begins at 7. I really hope to see you there; these ecumenical services are fun and inspiring. I've been sad in my time here how few people from Laurelton attend them. In addition, we could really use a few ushers for the evening. Let me know if you're interested.


1 Corinthians 3:1-10

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the mind of Christ

Good morning friends,
Today's reading from Paul is challenging. The essence of the reading is what God is doing in us through the Holy Spirit. He says that people can only know what it means to be truly human because of the human spirit inside them. That means that all people can figure out human nature if we spend the time and attention to get in touch with our spirit. Christians still have that human spirit, but we also have the Holy Spirit from God. It's as if God gives us a partial "spirit transplant" by putting some of the Spirit of God into us. Because of that new Spirit, not only can we get in touch with our true humanity by paying attention to the human spirit inside us, we can also get in touch with who God is and what God wants by paying attention to the Holy Spirit inside us.

Paul continues the same line of thought in terms of spiritual gifts, because God gives gifts to all of us. Here we see that not only Christians, but all people have gifts of the Spirit. The thing is, without paying respectful attention to the Spirit of God inside us, we can't receive those gifts because we won't understand what's going on. Also, by paying attention to the Spirit of God inside us and seeking to obey God's will we grow in that Spirit and become more spiritually mature. We also start to become more like Christ, developing Christ's mind, as Paul says. So spend some time getting in touch with God's Spirit inside you. Let the Spirit shape you and guide you, and God will make you more like Jesus.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 2:8-16

8None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

13And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Monday, January 17, 2011

weakness and power

Good morning friends,
In our reading this morning Paul points out that his focus was never on his power, but on God's power and Christ's cross. Worldly cleverness rarely reveals God's mysteries, instead we find God in humility and service. Paul also says that there is a wisdom appropriate for mature Christians, but it's different than the wisdom the world values. Jesus may have the same idea in mind when he tells his disciples that the one who wants to be great should serve everyone else. In service and love we see God.

Blessings on your new week,

1 Corinthians 2:1-7

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

6Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

behold, the Lamb of God

Good morning friends,
Our reading from Isaiah is another passage about God's servant. These passages are often poetic an have been an interesting puzzle for interpreters over the years. The church has traditionally understood them as pointing forward to Christ, though Isaiah certainly didn't know that. This one could also be about each of us, since each of us is called and loved by God. Our reading from John is a different take on Jesus calling his disciples than we get in the other Gospels. John shows John the Baptist recognizing Jesus and basically encouraging his disciples to follow Jesus. So this passage marks a clear transition from John's ministry of preparation to Jesus' ministry of fulfillment. We'll be reading both of these passages in worship this morning; I hope to see you there.

God bless,

First Reading Isaiah 49:1-7

1Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The LORD called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. 2He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." 4But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God."

5And now the LORD says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength- 6he says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

7Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, "Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."


John 1:29-42

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." 32And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I'll cling to the old rugged cross

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Paul explains here how God uses the cross and regular people to show the world God's love and power. Sometimes we worry that we aren't big enough or wise enough, we worry that we don't have the resources we need for ministry. The truth is that God uses our weakness in ministry as much as our strengths. We don't have what we need for ministry in ourselves, but when we lean on God we have everything we need. Sometimes the church strives for human wisdom, and sometimes we're uncomfortable with the stark and ancient story about the cross. The cross doesn't make sense to everyone, and sometimes we struggle with that.

The cross breaks all our pride because God didn't come into the world with obvious power. Jesus didn't make the wealthy and important his priority. Instead he gathered a diverse band of misfits and working people and went with them to the cross. All the money and programs and capital campaigns can't save us from sin and selfishness: only Christ and his cross can do that. The message we take into the world is about a radical, loving God who went to death for us. That message may not play well in beautiful academic buildings, but it has been reaching people, especially people who know suffering, for almost two thousand years. When we trust in Christ and proclaim his cross, God can do incredible things through us.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

Friday, January 14, 2011

unity in the cross

Good morning friends,
Paul moves from greeting right to one of his main concerns about the life of the Corinthian church. He warns them of the dangers of division within the community. In this case it seems like people were divided because they identified themselves by the teacher who had led them to Christ. Paul argues that the point is never the teacher or leader they know best; the point is always Christ. For that reason Paul says he's grateful he didn't baptize many in that community so that people won't identify themselves with him. Instead, Paul's message there was about proclaiming the gospel. Paul even says that he didn't use eloquent words because even that can distract from the power of the cross. The cross of Jesus is the center of our good news, because God loves us so much that Jesus endured death on the cross to bring us home to God. When the church keeps the cross at the center of its ministry, we stay on track. When we don't, it's much easier to fall into division over different issues or priorities.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 1:10-18

10Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 18For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

called and blessed

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is Paul's greeting to the church in Corinth. Notice, though, that he greets them along with everyone who calls on the name of Jesus. When we talk about the church, often we think about a local congregation, usually Laurelton. That's not wrong because most ministry happens around the congregation. The ministry of the congregation itself is one important part of that, but so are the different ministries each of us is involved in outside the church. At the same time, there is only one church around the world. All Christians are one in the Lord, so even though Paul is addressing the unique situation of the church at Corinth, his teaching is relevant to all of us.

The other thing I want to highlight is that, as Paul mentions, we are all called to be saints. Each of us is called to have a relationship with God through Jesus, and each of us is called to live holy lives proclaiming God's love. In that calling, even though we are far from perfect, God will strengthen us to be blameless when Christ returns. God's love in Christ frees us from our sins and keeps us holy in love. God is faithful, so we can live out our calling as God's people today.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

2To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind-6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you-7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spirit for everyone

Good morning friends,
God confirms that all people are welcome and called to faith in Christ by pouring out the Holy Spirit on the gentiles listening to Peter's words. Sometimes I feel like we've forgotten how to share God's love with others. Maybe that's because we think of faith as a private thing. Maybe we're afraid people will laugh at us. Or maybe we just aren't sure how to explain what we believe. When we look at Peter's words we notice they aren't complicated. We know the story of Jesus and the story of how God has been working in the church since the resurrection. More importantly, we can let that story overwhelm us today and look for how God's working in our lives. I pray God will lead us again to reach out with bold simplicity to share the word with people today.

Acts 10:44-48

44While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the good news

Good morning sisters and brothers,
After a Spirit led adventure that brought him to a room full of gentiles, Peter offers the good news of God's love in Christ to his hungry audience. One thing I notice about the sermons we read in Acts is that they are simple and to the point. Peter explains that Jesus was expected by the prophets, that he was full of God's power during his life to heal and free people from Satan's evil powers, that human leaders crucified him, but God raised him up again. Jesus will be the one who judges everyone at the end of time and forgives us our sins. The message is simple and powerful, and it is for everyone to hear. When we share that message, God can work through us to save others. It doesn't take a theology degree, just a loving heart for God and for others. Hear God's message through Peter, trust God's love for you in Christ, and share that love with your neighbors.

God bless,

Acts 10:34-43

34Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ-he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

Monday, January 10, 2011

following in faith

Good morning friends,
Here Peter's vision presses into real life as God makes it clear that when he showed Peter unclean animals and told him not to call any of God's creation unclean, he meant the same for people. I'm always struck by how when the men arrive looking for Peter, he invites them to stay the night. The culture of hospitality practiced in the Middle East generally and by early Christians in particular always blows me away. I'm so grateful in this passage for God's clear signs, by how the visions of two men line up, how they follow what their dreams invite them to do. I imagine Cornelius, who doesn't know who Peter is or if he will show up, but still gathers his friends and relatives to hear a word from God. I think about Peter who grew up distrusting pagans, perhaps especially Roman soldiers, and still went because he could see God was doing a new thing. I pray God would change our hearts to be more open to others and to God leading us in surprising directions, because amazing things still happen when we trust God.

God bless,

Acts 10:19-33

19While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 21So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. 24The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. 26But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” 27And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; 28and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”

30Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. 31He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

baptism and inclusion

Good morning friends,
As we begin our day this morning we keep the families of the victims of violence in Tuscon in our prayer. Events like that remind us that we are all responsible for building a better, more peaceful world.

Our reading from Acts continues the story of Cornelius's journey to Christ. As his ambassadors approach Peter's temporary home, Peter has a vision from God that changes the church's future. Our reading from Matthew tells the story of Jesus' baptism by John, which began Jesus' ministry. We read in Advent about John's ministry of preparing the way for Jesus; here we see him passing the torch.

God bless,

Acts 10:9-18

9About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven. 17Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there.


Matthew 3:13-17

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Good morning sisters and brothers,
This passage begins one of my favorite chapters in the book of Acts. The tenth chapter tells the story of the first gentile convert to Christianity, an officer named Cornelius. We learn in this passage that Cornelius was generous and a worshiper of God. In this period many former pagans became drawn to the Jewish religion and the God they worshiped. Some eventually converted to Judaism, undergoing ritual circumcision as part of the process. At this point Cornelius is what was called a "God-fearer." He went to synagogue and prayed to God, but had not converted. As he's praying one day an angel from God appears and a new adventure for Cornelius and for the church begins. I pray God would keep leading us to welcome new people into the community.

God bless,

Acts 10:1-9

In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3One afternoon at about three o”clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

Friday, January 7, 2011

the servant song

Good morning friends,
Our passage for this morning presents one vision for how God will call all people home. When God redeems the world we will all be healed and freed from the things that bind us. We will see clearly and move freely. We see this redemption beginning in Christ’s ministry, both during his life and in his spirit with us. There are several passages in Isaiah where Isaiah, speaking for God, talks about God’s servant. Several of these passages refer to the servant suffering, so Christians have traditionally read these passages as looking ahead to Jesus.

Here we see that the servant will be gentle: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.” Alongside that gentleness there is an amazing tenacity and power: “He will not grow faint…until he has established justice in the earth.” Christ keeps working gently, patiently and tirelessly through the church. God will not give up on us until justice is established and the world is made new.

God bless,

Isaiah 42:1-9
1Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

wise men from the East

Good morning brothers and sisters,

Today we hear the story of the Epiphany, or revelation of Jesus, because today is Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. In the European American community Epiphany isn't usually very important, but in the Latino community it really is. It's common to see parades and celebrations in Latino neighborhoods to celebrate the arrival of the three wise men or three kings. I guess the compelling part of this story is that the birth of the Messiah isn't just important for Jewish people; it's important for the whole world. It's also exciting that these three important men from far away come to a stable in a small town to honor the baby Jesus. It's beautiful too that Matthew tells us the wise men were, "Overwhelmed with joy," when they saw the star come to rest over the stable.

Herod, on the other hand, is not overwhelmed with joy. Early on in this story we get a hint that Jesus is not going to be welcomed by the powerful of the world. After all, Herod is (by virtue of a deal with Rome) King of the Jews. It's no surprise then that the announcement by these strangers of the birth of the king of the Jews would make him afraid. Herod plays it cool, hoping the wise men will find his rival for him, but since they are wise, they listen to their dreams and steer clear of Herod. What new hope is being born for us today? Can we hope that God is bringing about a new peace in Sudan? We can certainly pray with our brothers and sisters at First Pres. Caledonia at 6 pm tonight that the star of God's peace would shine more brightly. And God may be bringing to life a new spark in each of us as well.

God bless,


Matthew 2:1-12

1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

the variety of God's wisdom

Good morning sisters and brothers,
In our reading for this morning Paul explains why he is a prisoner, which is that he has shared God's grace in Christ with the gentiles. In Christ God's love is breaking into the world in a bold, new way. Paul has been given the honor of proclaiming that love to gentiles. One line here particularly catches my attention as it speaks to the power and diversity of the church's calling: "Through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." The church is full of such a variety of people and experiences, and there is an even wider array of gifts outside the church that God wants us to welcome in. Our calling is to help make the church reflect the dizzying variety of God's wisdom so everyone, even the rulers and authorities who are used to pandering to their "base" can see what real diversity looks like.

May God bless our next steps,

Ephesians 3:1-12

1This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

kings shall come

Good morning friends (it's morning in California anyway),
First I want to remind you of an important worship opportunity in our presbytery. On Thursday, January 6 at 6 pm First Presbyterian Church of Caledonia (3080 main Street Caledonia 14423) is hosting a prayer vigil for the people of Sudan. The struggles of the people of Darfur have been in the news in the last couple of years, but the southern section of the nation has faced amazing hardship and oppression as well. As part of a ceasefire agreement ending (or maybe only pausing) the civil war between northern and southern Sudan, the nation is holding a referendum vote on independence for the southern part of the country. There is a great deal at stake here, and apart from the political complexities involved we are called to hold our Sudanese brothers and sisters in prayer.

Like the prayer vigil, our reading for today comes from the lectionary readings for Epiphany (Thursday). Epiphany is when we celebrate the arrival of the three wise men to worship Jesus. Our reading for today looks to Isaiah's prophecy of renewal for Israel. That renewal of faithfulness doesn't just mean freedom for Israel but also light from God for the whole world. That new light of God's love for the world has always been part of God's plan, and it comes to fruition in Christ. The wise men from the east symbolize this because they come from a far away land and recognize that God is doing a new thing in the birth of Christ. May the nations continue to see and recognize the light of God's peace, and may that peace grow strong in each of us.

God bless,

Isaiah 60:1-6

1Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

4Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms. 5Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Monday, January 3, 2011

One in Christ

Good morning friends,
This morning's reading continues Paul's thoughts on God's love for us in Christ. As you can see from the passage, Paul is writing to a mostly or even entirely gentile congregation. This passage focuses on how that division between Jews and gentiles that used to be so important is now gone among God's family. In Christ we all become one family and are brought close to God. Since Christ makes the whole church one body, all the things that threaten to divide us from one another loose their meaning. Nothing should divides us anymore because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. That doesn't mean we are all the same, but it does mean we are one in love. That's a promise the church often has trouble with, but our calling is clear.

God bless,

Ephesians 2:11-22

11So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

new year, new challenges

Good morning and Happy New Year,
I have a love/hate relationship with this passage. I love it because it speaks truth about how God values justice more than worship or sacrifice or church attendance. I fear it because by this yardstick I always come up short. So for the new year God gives us a challenge to strive for. Let us feed the hungry more this year. Let us give water to the thirsty more this year. Let us welcome strangers and visit the sick. Let us visit those in prison and seek Christ in those people society sees as least. Let's make this year a better reflection of our love for God and for others. The Laurelton Cafe is a good start, especially since we expect to find new ways to minister to the community through it. Let's listen for God's calling and serve the children of our heavenly father/mother.

God bless,

Matthew 25:31-46

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

37Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

41Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."