Monday, December 31, 2012

Teach us to count our days

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
Appropriately, today's reading is an invitation to consider our own mortality and our limits. The end of one year and the beginning of another are a great opportunity to reflect on our life and on where God might be leading us. As you take some time to reflect, let God teach you to number your days so that you gain a wise heart.

Blessings for a spiritually blessed new year,

Psalm 90:1-14
1Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2Before the mountains were brought forth, 
or ever you had formed the earth and the world, 
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3You turn us back to dust, and say,
“Turn back, you mortals.”
4For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday
when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
5You sweep them away; they are like a dream, 
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
7For we are consumed by your anger;
by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
8You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
9For all our days pass away under your wrath;
our years come to an end like a sigh.
10The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11Who considers the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
12So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
13Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

praise the Lord!

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
As we lament or enjoy our upstate New York weather, we remember that even the weather praises our awesome God. Blessings on your afternoon and your year end reflections.


Psalm 148:1-14
1Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
2Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
3Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
4Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
5Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
6He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
7Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
8fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
9Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
10Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
11Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12Young men and women alike, old and young together!
13Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
14He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!

Friday, December 28, 2012

praising God

Hi friends,
Sorry for the long lack of readings. Today's reading is a Psalm of praise, which seems appropriate in this season of celebration of God's amazing love in Christ. I especially value the reminder that human plans and power are very limited. Only God is eternal; whatever good or bad we see is only temporary. In the end God's love will prevail. Along the same lines, please keep the families and communities of Webster and the West Webster Fire Department in your prayers.

God bless,

Psalm 146:1-10
1Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
5Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
7who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
9The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!

Monday, December 24, 2012

light in darkness

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
First, please keep the community of Webster and the families of the firefighters killed and injured today in your prayers. Senseless violence seems even more shocking on Christmas Eve, but the truth is that Jesus came to be right in the middle of our craziness. As John's Gospel reminds us, the light shines in the darkness and the dark could not overcome it. Tonight we'll gather to worship our amazing God and to hear together songs and stories of Christmas. Worship begins at 7 and I look forward to seeing many of you there.
God bless,

John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joseph's story

Good evening friends,
A huge thanks to everyone who came out to make this year's Living Nativity a success. All the costumes looked great, the characters were wonderful, the hospitality was warm and the animals were themselves. What a blessing to share the Christmas story with the neighborhood in such a fun way. I hope to see many of you tomorrow evening at our Christmas Eve service at 7pm. It's a beautiful service with lots of music and a great story. Come and bring a friend.

Today's reading is the story of Joseph's struggle when he found out his fiancee, Mary, was pregnant. Joseph's story doesn't get a ton of attention, but it is a story of strong faith, love and courage.

God bless,

Matthew 1:18-25
18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Prince of Peace

Good morning friends,
I just realized that I didn't push the send button when I did yesterday's daily reading, so you'll get two in a row. Sorry about that. Today's reading is a beautiful image of restoration and promise from Isaiah. In it we see a child who will be king and who will bring endless peace to the world. I love the image of burning the bloody clothes and the combat boots because they are no longer needed. One day war will end forever and we will follow the Prince of Peace.

O Come, o come, Emmanuel,

Isaiah 9:2-7
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.

5For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Go tell it!

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Laurelton will be hosting our living nativity on Saturday and Sunday from 6-7:30 pm both nights. We could use more people who want to dress up, so if you're interested, it's a cool way to see the story of Christ's birth in a different way. The costumes are at the church so all you need is something warm to wear. Come and bring a friend to see the story of Christmas.

Today's reading finishes the section from yesterday where God announces Israel's redemption through the prophet. Today, God sends Jerusalem up the mountain to share the good news. I wonder if this is where the Christmas song God Tell it on the Mountain comes from. In any event, this is a song of praise for God's power and love.

Blessings on your weekend,

Isaiah 40:9-17
9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

12Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor has instructed him? 14Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 15Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales; see, he takes up the isles like fine dust. 16Lebanon would not provide fuel enough, nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering. 17All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

prepare the way

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
Today's reading is a prophesy of redemption for Israel. God tells the Jewish exiles that they will be set free, that their time of exile is coming to an end. Then the prophet calls for a way to be made for God in the desert. We see the call to prepare the way of the Lord in John the Baptist's preaching. We can also see a role for ourselves. We can prepare ourselves for God's coming by lining our lives up with God's love. We can also play a role by working for justice and healing in the world today.

God bless,

Isaiah 40:1-8
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

singing praise in the dark

Good afternoon friends,
This poem/song of praise is Zechariah's Spirit-inspired response to the birth of his son, John. Not only does he look ahead to his son's ministry as a prophet preparing the way for the Lord Jesus, he also sees Jesus' role of bringing God's kingdom in a new way. It's a beautiful passage and may help us see Jesus and John in a new way.

At the same time, someone mentioned on Sunday that he might need a redefinition of God's "tender mercies" in light of the Newtown, CT shooting on Friday. There are times we wish God would just come down and fix our troubled world; then there are other times (if we're honest with ourselves) that we mostly want God to leave us alone to do what we want. We trust that someday God will make his rule very obvious and will bring the peaceful kingdom we long for. Most of me wishes that would happen soon, and part of me is afraid of what Jesus will say about how I have used my time, resources and opportunities. In all that, and in judging the world at the end, I trust God to be tender and merciful. I know that the one who rules and will judge knows our suffering not only from watching the world, but especially in Christ's journey to the cross.

God bless,

Luke 1:67-80
67Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: 68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 80The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Monday, December 17, 2012

a child is born

Good evening friends,
Today's reading tells the story of John the Baptist's birth. His father, Zechariah, had been told about him by an angel. Because of his doubt then, and perhaps to give him an opportunity we rarely give ourselves to take time to reflect, the angel took away Zechariah's speech "until these things take place." Well the child is born and he is named John, despite the community's best efforts, so Zechariah get's his speech back. Immediately he breaks out in praise for God.

My your evening be a song of praise as well,

Luke 1:57-66
57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.”

61They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

grief and light

Good evening friends,
As the details keep flowing out of Connecticut it's hard to imagine the situation or know what to do. Some horror is too deep for words. This is not God's will; it's not a test of faith for the families. It is pure and simple a tragedy with no easy explanation. Our role as Christians is to pray for strength and comfort for those who grieve.

In the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, God's love in Jesus Christ breaks in. Our reading today takes us to a small town with a bad reputation. God chose a young woman in this town to be the mother of Jesus. We see here and in the verses that follow that Mary was brave, faithful and open. She also had questions about what God was doing. Even though she didn't know everything that lay ahead, and even though her "worst case scenario, self-protective instincts must have been going off, she says "yes" to God. With all we know now about how deep God's love goes, how can we say "yes" today too?

God bless,

Luke 1:26-38
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Friday, December 14, 2012

prepare: repent

Good morning friends,
Yesterday we heard about John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord by calling people to repentance. Today we hear a little more about what he said. It's hard to beat an opening line like: "You brood of vipers...," but Luke tells us that John was preaching good news. The truth is the good news of God's love isn't just warm fuzzy comfort; it's also a call to share that love with others in tangible ways. It's a calling to be free from selfishness free for service.

My your Advent be full of good news,

Luke 3:7-18
7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

prepare the way

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today I have the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion about sharing faith in a medical setting. This will be a lunch time discussion at Rochester General Hospital from noon to 1 today in the TWIG Auditorium, which is slightly past the front desk on the left. If you're available during that time, I think you'll find it an interesting discussion. The other panelists are a patient and two doctors at RGH, each with their own perspective and experience.

Today's reading skips forward in the story of Jesus to John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, who was called as a prophet to prepare people for Jesus. We read the last couple of days about the promise of John's birth, and now we skip forward to his ministry.

God bless,

Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Zechariah and Elizabeth, part 2

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Yesterday we read about the priest Zechariah and how an angel appeared to him while he was serving in the temple. The angel told Zechariah that even though he and his wife were older and hadn't been able to have kids, they would have a son. Not just any son either; their son John would be a prophet announcing God's salvation for Israel. In today's reading Zechariah responds with some practical questions. For those of us who have questions about our faith, the angel's response seems unfair. At the same time, Zechariah keeps the promise and his months of silence must give him a new perspective on listening to God.

Blessings on your day,

Luke 1: 18-25
18Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

a new chapter

Good morning friends,
Our reading for today begins the wonderful story of John the Baptist and of his cousin Jesus. Today we meet John's parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah.

God bless,

Luke 1: 5-17

5In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.

13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

God's passion

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Our reading today is a little tough at first. There are three main ideas: first, God promises to welcome new people in the family of faith. Second, God promises to break down the pride of people in Israel so the humble might be lifted up. And finally, God promises to make the people of Israel secure. What comes across so clearly is God's love for his people. The victory God promises here comes true in Jesus Christ's incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection. God's redemption will one day be complete and peace will reign.
God bless,

Zephaniah 3:8-20
8Therefore wait for me, says the Lord, for the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed.

9At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. 10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, my scattered ones, shall bring my offering. 11On that day you shall not be put to shame because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. 12For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord— 13the remnant of Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths. Then they will pasture and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.

14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?

Good evening friends,
First, a huge thank you to all the folks who made a successful dinner and talent show possible. Especially, I want to thank Karen Kingsbury, Bob Hicks, Donna Gipner, Karen Simpson, Lea Smith, Gabby, Scott Fralick, Amy Nowack and Michelle Hicks. It was a really fun evening with opportunities to watch many different talents and share great fellowship with the community.

Today's reading is a look at trusting God from a different angle. We need to trust God most when things are not going well, and we can trust God. Even if all our friends abandon us, God will not leave us alone. Both the opening and closing lines of this Psalm are favorites of mine, words I turn to when I am confused or afraid: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?...Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.

May we learn to trust and wait in this season and always,

Psalm 27:1-14
1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. 3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.

4One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

6Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. 7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 8“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. 9Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.

11Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. 13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

be still

Good evening friends,
Sorry this is getting out so late today. Since Advent is about waiting and preparing for Jesus, and especially since Sunday's sermon is about making time to wait when the world seems like it's moving too fast, I thought some Psalm's about waiting would be appropriate. Today's Psalm is about trusting God to take care of us. The closing stanza is a word of hope for many people in tough or confusing times. God says to us, "Be still and know that I am God."

It's hard to be still when everything is in motion. It's hard to know that God is God when everything seems uncertain. But when we just trust God to be God, it takes an enormous weight off our shoulders. When we trust God, we realize that a lot of our worry comes from trying to take God's place in different areas of our lives. God is God, and we are in God's hands. Don't you feel more relaxed just remembering that?

God bless,

Psalm 46:1-11
1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. 9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

10“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” 11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

patient endurance

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Advent is a season dedicated to waiting and preparation. That can be hard to do for us, especially in our fast-paced world. It often feels like we don't have time to do the practical things we need to do, let alone make time for something fuzzy like preparing our hearts for Jesus. Living at a fast pace we also get used to a short distance between plan and execution. With the fulfillment of Christ's promise to return, on the other hand, almost two thousand years have passed, but we're still waiting. Both in Advent and in our lives in general, the waiting is an opportunity to prepare. What do you want to change or accomplish before Christ comes again?

God bless,

James 5:7-11
7Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

the fig tree

Good afternoon friends,
Jesus continues his preview of the end by reminding his listeners to stay ready. When generation after generation passes but the end Jesus expected so soon doesn't come, it's easy to think the world is always going to keep going as it is. The truth is, we don't know when things might change dramatically. We can trust that one day God will make everything new. If we remember that there is more to life than we see, it helps us keep the everyday in perspective. When the world ends or we die it will matter a lot more how we have cared for others than the things we have.
God bless,

Luke 21:29-38
29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” 37Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. 38And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

Monday, December 3, 2012

signs of the end

Good morning friends,
In today's reading Jesus describes the signs of the end of history. He warns his disciples that they will be persecuted, but that their persecution will also be an opportunity to share the good news. The early church took that seriously. They did face persecution, but they used that and other opportunities to share about God's love in Christ. Through suffering and service, combined with fearless witness, the message spread and the church grew quickly. We don't face persecution for our faith here, but we can still use our challenges as opportunities today.

God bless,

Luke 21:5-19
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Good afternoon friends,
Today's worship and potluck lunch was a lot of fun. Thanks for everyone who took part by bringing or eating food, decorating the sanctuary or sharing time with others. It's good to be together. The challenge in Advent is that we want to slow down and enjoy the season, to focus on Jesus and our faith journey, but there's so much stuff we have to do, so that's hard. Having said that, there's a great opportunity to slow down and focus tomorrow evening at Third Presbyterian Church (in their chapel). It is a UPT Taize style Advent service. Taize worship is about singing and silence, reflection and meditation. It's about creating a pocket of stillness in a crazy week. If that sounds like something you would like, I'd love to see you there at 7 tomorrow evening (Meigs and East). If you don't have time or are not interested, that's fine too.

Today's reading is about giving, but it's about how God sees giving. We often think that more is better, and there are some ways that's true. Certainly I'm grateful for our strong pledges of financial support for the coming year. At the same time Jesus reminds us that the same gift means something very gift to different people. Interestingly, this passage comes right after Jesus criticizes the religious leaders for "devouring widow's houses," or taking advantage of the vulnerable.

Blessings on your afternoon,

Luke 21: 1-4
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I have caled you

Good morning brothers and sisters,
In today's reading the Prophet Isaiah reflects on God's glory and power. He also reflects on Israel's calling to serve the world and work for justice. That's a calling we share today as well. Like Israel, God has called us to free the oppressed and be light to the world.
blessings as you seek God's calling for you,

Isaiah 42:5-12
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. 10Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains. 12Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands.

Friday, November 30, 2012

let the same mind be in you

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's reading is a great example of thinking theologically about life. Paul urges his readers to base their lives and the way they treat others on Jesus' life. In this case, he's especially thinking about how we use power and how we approach others. Some scholars believe that the second paragraph was taken from a hymn the congregation would have known. Whether that is the case or not, it's certainly one of the most powerful images of Christ's ministry and one I hold dear and hope to live.

God bless,

Philippians 2:1-11
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 

5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a more excellent way

Good morning sisters and brothers,
The church in Corinth had great faith and powerful spiritual gifts, but they struggled with unity. We've been reading Paul's writing to them about the importance of spiritual gifts and how each gift is important to the whole. He also focused on the importance of unity in a diverse community and talks about how the church is Christ's body and each member has a place. In today's reading he takes it a step further by describing how love is much more important than any other spiritual gift. Love is the calling of all Christians, because it is God's way. When we put love first, everything else falls into place.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

gifts for service

Good afternoon friends,
First thing, tonight we'll be back at the Boulevard to talk about big questions of life and faith. All questions are welcome and the only rule is respect for all. We start at 8:30 and go to about 10. On Sunday after worship we'll host a potluck lunch to sustain us as we decorate the sanctuary for Advent and Christmas. We'll also touch base on where we are with our mission redefinition as a part of New Beginnings as well as an update on where other congregations are.

Today's reading is short and sweet. Paul reminds his readers that different people have different gifts. A big part of our job as Christians is to prayerfully figure out what gifts God has given us and how we can use those gifts to serve God and help others. As Paul lifts up some specific gifts, he'll continue tomorrow with the most important gift God gives all of us.


1 Corinthians 12:27-31
27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

one body, many members

Good morning friends,
Today's reading continues Paul's meditation on the church. The church is the body of Christ. Even though we are all different, we are part of one body. Our differences strengthen the body as a whole. So when we think about someone who is getting on our nerves because they see things very different than we do, try thinking about how that person's difference adds something the church needs. We are all part of Christ's body and we need each other.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 

22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Spirit's gifts

Good morning sisters and brothers,
In today's reading Paul makes two main points. The first is that the Holy Spirit is connected with Jesus Christ. The Spirit never leads us against Jesus. The second point is that even though the Spirit makes itself known in many different ways, especially through a wide variety of gifts to people, it is always the same Spirit. There is one Holy Spirit, known in a variety of ways. So even though the Spirit encourages diversity, it is a diversity that leads to unity.

May the Spirit be with you in your day,

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

words and conflict

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Anyone who has ever had a hurtful conflict with another person will probably recognize the truth in James's words. While our words have power to heal, they also have power to hurt. James talks about both the danger of our words and some of the other forces that cause conflict in our lives.

God bless,

1 James 3:3-18
3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. 

The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. 

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

faith and works

Good morning brothers and sisters,
The Protestant Reformation was a time of debate over the core beliefs and structure of the church. The main idea for Martin Luther and those like John Calvin (the father of the Reformed tradition the Presbyterian Church is a part of) is that we are saved by God's grace through faith alone. The Roman Catholic point of view is that our good works are also part of our salvation. This passage from James was very important in supporting the Catholic argument. Of course, like most arguments, both sides overstated their disagreements. Catholics believe faith is important and Protestants believe that faith leads to good works. No matter what tradition we identify with we know that God calls us to live our faith, which is what James is saying.

God bless,

James 2:14-26
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and you're getting a chance to relax today. James continues his train of thought about living our faith with an example. He talks about the temptation to play favorites, while God calls us to treat everyone equally. The church should be one place where everyone is welcomed and everyone's gifts and questions are accepted.

Blessings on your day,

James 2:1-13
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

5Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

8You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.