Wednesday, August 31, 2011

temple tax

Good morning friends,
First, I'd like to remind you that there are still several tickets left for Saturday's Redwing's baseball game. The tickets are free thanks to Robyn Fitzgerald and her great knack of knowing how to ask for things. The game starts at 7:05 and will be followed by fireworks.

Today's reading is an odd one. Many of us are familiar with Jesus' response to the religious leader's question about paying taxes to Rome. In this case the question is whether or not he pays the tax to support the temple. Jesus enigmatically muses with Peter about whether it's appropriate for children of the temple faith to pay taxes. I'm not sure quite what Jesus is getting at here, but it sounds like a critique of the temple leadership. That conflict with the religious leaders is only going to get more intense as our story continues.

God bless,

Matthew 17:24-27
24When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Monday, August 29, 2011


Good morning friends,
Jesus comes down from the mountain to find a crowd and someone who needs healing. In the midst of giving his disciples a hard lesson about faith he tells them again that he will be killed. Somehow, that message is one they never seem to understand, but we can certainly sympathize that they feel distressed. How do we hold onto our faith when the world seems so scary? In the midst of everything, Jesus will never leave us.

God bless,

Matthew 17:14-23

14When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” 18And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. 19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

22As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, 23and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.


Good morning brothers and sisters,
The transfiguration is an odd story, partly because the story doesn't really tell us what it means that Jesus was "transfigured." At the same time, the disciples come down the mountain much more sure that Jesus is God's son than when they went up the mountain with him. Then they ask why teachers say that Elijah comes first. They are referring to a tradition that Elijah comes to earth before the Messiah to get things ready. Jesus tells them that John the Baptist was Elijah for their age, but no one recognized him. If we know Jesus is the Messiah, how does that knowledge change us?

God bless,

Matthew 17:1-13

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” 10And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; 12but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Good night sisters and brothers,
Paul continues this 12th chapter with practical advice for living out the Christian faith. It is still good advice for us today. Right after Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus called him the rock on which Christ would build the church. Even then, when Jesus starts talking about the cross, Peter becomes very uncomfortable. God’s rule doesn’t always look like we expect it to. How can we seek what God is doing now, seeking divine things instead of the human desires that surround us?

God bless,

Romans 12:9-21
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”; 20No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Matthew 16:21-28
21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

last chance

Good morning friends,
We skip forward a bit further for today’s reading. After Moses and Aaron first asked Pharaoh to free the Israelites and he refused, they performed miracles to show they were from God. Then God began sending plagues on Egypt through Moses and Aaron. At first, like when they turned the Nile to blood, the Egyptian magicians could keep up. As the plagues continued, including first a huge swarm of gnats and later flies and frogs, the magicians couldn’t duplicate the signs.

Several times in the sequence Pharaoh agrees to let the people go, but sets conditions Moses won’t accept. Other times he allows them to leave but changes his mind once Moses removes the plague. That continues through many plagues before we come to our final plague in today’s reading.

God bless,

Exodus 11:1-10
The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away. 2Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.” 3The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of the people.

4Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. 5Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 6Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. 7But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites—not at people, not at animals—so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that I will leave.” And in hot anger he left Pharaoh.

9The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

when at first you don't succeed...

Good morning sisters and brothers,
We skip forward in the story a little bit. Moses protests that he's not the right guy for the job, but God promises to be with him and to send Moses' brother Aaron to help him. Moses and Aaron go to the elders of Israel with God's message and then go to Pharaoh. Their first meeting, as we see, goes disastrously wrong, but that is not the end of the story. Sometimes what looks like a dead end or worse can be the beginning of something good.
God bless,

Exodus 5:1-9

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’“ 2But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.”

3Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” 4But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” 5Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!”

6That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7“You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”

disturbing call

Good morning brothers and sisters,
If you ever needed biblical proof that God works through people this is the passage. God says he has heard Israel’s cry and will save them from Egypt. Then right away God says he’s heard Israel’s cry so he will send Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt. God is going to do this through Moses.

Not surprisingly, Moses has some hesitation about this plan. God promises to be with him and gives him God’s name to take to the Israelites. God’s name is I am who I am, which points to constancy and mystery. God also tells Moses that the people will worship God at the very mountain on which he and Moses are speaking. Moses isn’t entirely convinced, but the conversation continues.

God bless,

Exodus 3:7-15
7Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. 11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

13But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

out of the water

Good morning friends,
As you think ahead to Labor Day weekend, Robyn Fitzgerald has secured a block of tickets for Saturday's (September 3) Red Wings game for the church. It's always a fun night out together, so let Maria or Carl know if you're interested (I'll be away this week) or let me know next week. I hope a good sized group of us can go.

We read this as part of our Old Testament reading yesterday in worship. Moses' mother seeks a way out of Pharaoh's horrible, genocidal policies for her son. Ironically, it's Pharaoh's own daughter who ends up taking him in. I wonder if in the time Moses' mother nursed Moses for his adoptive mother she also taught him about Israel and God's story with them. We never know who God will use to bring light and hope into dark times. I pray we would be open to God's surprising grace each day.


Exodus 2:1-10

1Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

5The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said.

7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

living sacrifices

Good morning sisters and brothers,
We've been following Romans for some time. Paul has made a case that God reaches out to save a sinful world as a gift through Jesus. He discussed the relationship between that grace and God's eternal covenant with Israel. Now he goes on to spell out what grace means for us in more practical terms. Today he writes it means being on God's side, not the side of worldly sin.

We also see Jesus and the disciples talking about what people think about Jesus. Peter finally puts it together and discovers that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus promises that the church the apostles will build will never be destroyed. That's a powerful promise we can claim today as we seek to follow in the disciples' footsteps.

See you in church,

Romans 12:1-8

1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Matthew 16:13-20

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Friday, August 19, 2011

a new king

Good morning brothers and sisters,
We fast forward a little bit here in Israel's story. Joseph has brought his family, 73 people in all, to live in Egypt. The family is reunited and Joseph forgives his brothers for their crime against him. Everything goes well for Jacob's family, the tribes of Israel for quite a few years. Then the story takes a sinister turn. As is often the case, difference is scary. As more Israelites are born, the Egyptians start to fear their power, so they make them slaves and institute increasingly oppressive laws against them. What will God do for his people?

Blessings on your weekend,

Exodus 1:8-22

8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh.

12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites. 14and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

into Egypt

Good morning friends,
Pharaoh joins with Joseph in welcoming Joseph's brothers and extended family to Egypt, showing how honored Joseph really is. I have a hard time imagining how his brothers must have felt as they returned home to get their father to travel to Egypt. It must have been a strange mixture of guilt and joy and nervousness. No wonder Joseph tells them not to quarrel during their journey. The stage is set for Jacob (Israel) and his family to move to Egypt as favorite guests of Pharaoh himself.


Genesis: 45:16-28

16When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. 17Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. 18Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.’ 19You are further charged to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’“

21The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. 22To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. 23To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Do not quarrel along the way.”

25So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26And they told him, “Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.” He was stunned; he could not believe them. 27But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

family reunion

Good morning friends,
I've been remiss in sharing some sad news with you. This past weekend Graham Andrus, a counselor at Camp Whitman, died while swimming in the lake. Obviously this has been very hard on the rest of the camp staff and I ask you to keep the staff (including our own Nate DelleFave) and campers of Camp Whitman in your prayers as well as Graham's family, friends and the Bath Presbyterian Church.

In yesterday's reading Joseph's brothers arrived in Egypt to buy grain during the famine. Joseph recognized them but they didn't recognize him. He tested them in several ways before today's passage, when he finally reveals himself. Notice that instead of being angry with them he sees God's hand at work in his presence in Egypt. I don't believe that God causes evil or disaster, but God does work with us to bring healing out of trouble.

God bless,

Genesis 45:1-15

1Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

4Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

9Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11I will provide for you there —: since there are five more years of famine to come — so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’

12And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

family ties

Good morning brothers and sisters,
We've followed Joseph's rise to power, now the camera turns back to his father and brothers in Canaan. The famine has spread there too, so Jacob sends his sons to buy grain in Egypt. When they arrive, Joseph recognizes them but decides to test them. Maybe he does this to figure out if they have changed for the better. As the passage points out, it seems that Joseph's dreams of his brothers bowing down to him, the dream that made them so jealous they sold him into slaver, has come true.

As we talk about dreams, please pray for the choir and music director search team as we interview candidates tonight.

Blessings on your day,

Genesis 42:1-15

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? 2I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. 5Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan. 6Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.

7When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 10They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. 11We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” 12But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 13They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” 14But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! 15Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

olive branches

Good morning friends,
Paul continues his argument that the purpose of Israel turning away from God is to give the gentiles a chance to come into the kingdom. At the right time, Israel will all be saved because God's promise is always sure. Paul points out that even though gentiles are coming to Christ, Israel is the original tree and we are transplants. Gentile Christians should have a sense of humility and gratitude not only towards God, but also towards Israel. After all, there faith in God goes back thousands of years. One day, God will bring all things together and redemption will be complete. We will recognize the God who seeks us out and we will recognize each other as sisters and brothers in God's house. May that day come soon.

God bless,

Romans 11:22-36

22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

25So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” 27“And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”

28As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; 29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

33O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

church and Israel

Good morning friends,
This passage continues the conclusion of Paul's musing about the relationship between Israel and the gentile Christians. We heard part of this chapter in worship, and the main idea came across very clearly in The Message version. The question Paul is addressing throughout chapters 9-11 is why do so many Israelites not believe in Jesus. Here he writes that their rejection of Jesus is part of God's plan to bring the gentiles to faith. Paul hopes and believes that the gentiles coming to faith in God through Christ will stir up jealousy and faith in Israel so that they too will be part of the one church. As we'll see, in the end Paul believes Israel will complete the church and we will all be one in faith and love. God's love and covenant are eternal. Thanks be to God.

blessings on the new week,

Romans 11:11-21

11So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry 14in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! 16If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, 18do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

gentiles and Israel

Good morning brothers and sisters,
First, for our vacation Bible school celebration today I would like to remind everyone to bring a non-perishable food donation for Cameron today. With the kids we've been focusing on "Kid friendly" foods, but any non-perishable food is welcome. Jelly should be in non-glass jars for safety.

Paul continues this important section of Romans that deals with how Israel fits into God's plan, not that gentiles are included in God's kingdom as well. He is clear throughout: God's covenant with Israel stands, even though when Paul was active many Israelites opposed the church. In this challenging passage from Matthew, the point is also on who is part of God's mission. For Jesus and the early church the question was: are gentiles a part of God's ministry. Here, reluctantly, they are. There will be more about this in worship today; I hope you'll be there.

God bless,

Romans 11:1-10

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8as it is written, “God gave them a sluggish spirit, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and keep their backs forever bent.”


Matthew 15:21-28

21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Joseph's rise

Good morning brothers and sisters,
We all love an underdog, and this is one of the great underdog stories. Through God's wisdom and revelation Joseph not only interpreted Pharoah's dream, he also proposed a plan for dealing with the famine the dream predicted. With that, Joseph goes from imprisoned slave to second in command of Egypt. God continued to care for Joseph and make him successful in spite of many obstacles. God never leaves us alone. God's care for us is usually not as obvious as it was in this case, but in different ways God looks out for us. Often that care comes through friends and family, but no matter what, we are not alone.

God bless,

Genesis 41:33-43

33Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. 35Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

37The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” 39So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. 43He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

interpreter of dreams

Good morning brothers and sisters,
We read how Joseph's master had him imprisoned because his wife accused Joseph of making a sexual advance toward her. Even in prison God blessed Joseph. After some time had passed Pharaoh had a dream that puzzled him, and no one could explain it to him. Pharoah's cup bearer had been in prison with Joseph and remembered Joseph's gift for interpreting dreams. He brought Joseph to Pharoah's attention and we will see where the story goes from there.

God bless,

Genesis 41:15-32

15And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

17Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; 18and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt. 20The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, 21but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before. Then I awoke. 22I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good, growing on one stalk, 23and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouting after them; 24and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.”

25Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. 28It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. 30After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. 31The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. 32And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.

trouble and care

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Joseph's mistress sees an opportunity to get revenge on Joseph for refusing her advances, and Joseph ends up in jail. Even there, God's care follows Joseph and he prospers. Even when everything seems to be going wrong for us, God won't leave us alone. God's care isn't usually as obvious as it is in Joseph's case, but we are never alone.

God bless you with your day,

Genesis 39:13-23

13When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14she called out to the members of her household and said to them, “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; 15and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” 16Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, 17and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; 18but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”

19When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. 20And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. 21But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

success and danger

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Joseph's brothers sold him into slaver in Egypt because they were jealous. Here we follow Joseph to see what happens next. Everything went well for him at first, even in slavery, because God was with him. Before long, a complication comes up in the form of his master's wife. We'll see how this turns out for Joseph. Unfortunately many people continue to face sexual exploitation in their work place. The vulnerability is greater for those who are already vulnerable in other ways: workers with less education, women, minorities and those whose immigration status (in whatever country) makes it hard for them to change jobs or go to the police. As Christ's people we are called to stand up for the vulnerable.

God bless,

Genesis 39:1-12

Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. 7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 10And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. 11One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, 12she caught hold of his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

food and speech

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Jesus continues his response to the Pharisees who criticized his disciples for eating with ceremonially unclean hands. He argues that eating with unclean hands doesn't make someone unclean because the food that we eat goes into our stomach, not into our soul. The same argument held up later as the church was figuring out how to relate to "unclean" food or sharing the table with gentiles. Food is just food. Where the mouth reflects and impacts our spiritual lives is in what we say. This passage reminds me again of the power of words and my own need to be more careful about how I use them.
God bless,

Matthew 15:10-20

10Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”

15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

tradition and calling

Good morning friends,
Jesus makes a distinction here between religious traditions developed by people and doctrines given by God. He makes this point in response to criticism from the Pharisees about his disciples failing to perform traditional hand washing before eating. Jesus argues that the Pharisees make up traditions that interfere with God's guidance to people. The example he uses is gifts to God. Jesus claims that by emphasizing gifts to God in the wrong way the Pharisees end up discouraging people from taking care of their parents in their old age. In this way human traditions get in the way of God's command to honor our parents. This passage is a great reminder that, while tradition can help us come closer to God it can also be a barrier to vibrant faith.

God bless,

Matthew 15:1-9
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” 3He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. 6So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: 8‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 9in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Joseph and Jesus

Good morning sisters and brothers,
As we read yesterday, Jacob's sons were jealous of Joseph because he was the favorite son and because he told them his dreams about them bowing down to him. Their jealousy grows to the point that they want to kill him.

In our Gospel passage Jesus spends time alone in prayer and then walks over the sea to meet the disciples. Peter tries to walk on the water too, but his fear blocks out his faith. How do we put fear aside and trust Jesus?

God bless,

Genesis 37: 12-14. 18-28

12Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron....18They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

21But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” &mdsh; that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Matthew 14:22-33

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

more family dysfunction

Good morning brothers and sisters,
When we last heard about Jacob he was about to meet his brother Esau after many years apart. He sent presents ahead to soften his brother up since he was afraid his brother would still be angry about Jacob stealing his birth right and blessing. Their reunion turns out to be touchingly friendly. Esau immediately embraces Jacob and obviously forgives him. Jacob in a moment of humility says that to see Esau's face is like seeing the face of God since he has been favorably received. Shortly afterward the brothers go their separate ways and Jacob settles in Canaan, the land God promised would eventually be home to Abraham's descendants.

Now we see how Jacob's family grows up. If we remember, Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel, only had two sons, one of whom, Benjamin, is either not born yet or very young. Joseph is her Rachel's sons and his other sons Leah's and the two servants, Bilhah and Zilpah. This story is important because eventually it will bring Jacob's family into Egypt, setting up their slavery and the exodus, which is really the birth of Israel as a nation.

God bless,

Genesis 37:1-12

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

5Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. 9He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Friday, August 5, 2011

the messengers are sent

Good morning friends,
Paul emphasizes the breadth of God's love and calling: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." From there he reminds us that God's grace gives us, those of us who know God's love, a responsibility to share that with others. People can't feel the assurance of God's love if no one shares it with them. Sharing God's love means first knowing it for ourselves and being able to put our experience into words.

Paul then returns to the irony that sometimes the people who seem furthest away are more receptive than those we expect to hear the message. He hints that God is using that dynamic for a purpose. God says, "I will make you jealous with those who are not a nation..." He'll talk more a little later about why God tries to make those close to him jealous. The message of God's love goes out far and wide. How do we respond to God's love? How do we share it with others?

God bless,

Romans 10:12-21

12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 14But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

18But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

faith and works

Good morning friends,
Today Paul makes a crucial distinction between faith and works and between faith and the law (law and works go together for Paul). When we try to follow the rules to be righteous we are really trying to establish and control our own righteousness. This almost inevitably leads to self-righteousness and pride as well as judging others. That's why the law, even though it comes from God, can't save us; it is a system we try to use to define our terms of following God.

In contrast Paul commends the righteousness that comes from faith. That simply means not trying to build our own righteousness, but instead trusting God's love in Christ to make us righteous. In this case it is not about us; it's about God. It doesn't lead us to self-righteous pride, but humble gratitude. That righteousness through faith is always available because God loves us, as Paul writes, "The word is near you..." God is always near. To be righteous all we have to do is ask.

God bless,

Romans 10:1-11

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

5Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

faith and works

Good morning friends,
First, I'd like to remind you that as part of our Vacation Bible School series on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9 we are hoping to have a portion for adults as well. It would be great to have interested adults take part tonight; the kids have been having a great time.

Paul's point today is that God calls some surprising people to follow and sometimes the people we expect to hear the word don't listen. Part of the problem is that those who grow up with a knowledge of God sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we can earn our salvation through our deeds or by belonging to the right church. In reality coming to God is about our faith in God's grace; it has nothing to do with earning God's love. Our calling is to accept God's love and to live that love for others.

Blessings on your day,

Romans 9:25-33

25As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.” 27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” 29And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.”

30What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written, “See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

clay pots

Good morning sisters and brothers,
At the end of yesterday's reading Paul approached the question of why many Jewish people didn't follow Jesus with the idea of God's choice. Today he fleshes out that argument a little bit. He argues that God chooses who will open their hearts to God and whose heart God will harden. He uses the image of clay to illustrate the same point. God shows power and mercy in many different ways, including choosing surprising people to lead the way. When we look at Paul's life we see one way this works: God hardened Paul's heart to persecute the church and then showed the depth of his grace by calling him as the most famous apostle. God's calling is surprising, and he is not done with any of us yet.

God bless,

Romans 9:14-24

14What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

19You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Monday, August 1, 2011


Good morning friends,
Today Ramadan begins. During Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to dusk to refocus their lives on God. Reflection, prayer and serving the poor are important components of Ramadan. This Ramadan, the Yemen Peace Project, an organization my brother helped found, is encouraging people to skip a meal per week during Ramadan and donate what we would have spent on food to humanitarian relief in Yemen. There's more information here, and I'm happy to answer any questions I can. I hope you'll join me in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Yemen.

Today's reading begins an important section in Romans. The first 8 chapters have discussed God's grace in Christ at length. Chapters 9-11 deal with a question close to Paul's heart, why have most Jewish people not accepted Christ and what does that mean? In this first section Paul talks about how being part of God isn't just about your family line or community. That's an important word for us too. Being a member of a church isn't what faith is about. We are called to live our faith and nurture our connection to God through active discipleship. Soren Kierkegaard puts it well: "Sitting in church doesn't make one a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes one a car." Let's use this Ramadan to recommit ourselves to faith and justice.

God bless,

Romans 9:1-13

1I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit — 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

6It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.”