Tuesday, January 31, 2012

inspired word

Good afternoon friends,
This week our theme is the blessing of scripture, which, by the Holy Spirit's power, is God's word to us. Paul reminds his friend and mentee, Timothy that often people aren't interested in living the right way and so people of faith will be persecuted. At the same time, Timothy has a strong, life-long foundation in faith and scripture. He learned this faith from his mother and grandmother, and also from God.

Christians have different beliefs about how to read and interpret scripture, but Paul's words are a landmark for me. He doesn't use confrontational words like "infallible," instead he says something most of us who spend quality time with the Bible can affirm: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness." Of course, like running shoes or a treadmill, we won't get much training out of the Bible unless we put it to use.

Blessings on your training today,


2 Timothy 3:12-17
12Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Monday, January 30, 2012

training in godliness

Good morning friends,
This week's theme is God speaking to us through scripture. Today, Paul gives Timothy some advice about being a leader in the church. Part of that advice is to focus on reading and teaching scripture, which helps us become more godly.

Blessings on your journey,


1 Timothy 4:7-16
7Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, 8for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11These are the things you must insist on and teach.

12Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. 14Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Learning to pray

Good evening friends,

Today's reading has Jesus teaching his disciples using the Lord's prayer and two examples of persistence and generosity. Sometimes we feel like we don't know enough to pray, but truly we do. With practice and some learning we will grow closer to God. God wants to hear our prayers; it doesn't matter if we have the right words or not.

God bless,


Luke 11:1-13
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 

9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Friday, January 27, 2012

beasts enlightened

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Please pray for our local presbytery as we meet today to consider issues of common concern. Our topic for today is prayer. The psalmist reflects on times of feeling far from God and feeling bitter. In wiser moments, the psalmist knows that God is always with him. God is always with us; even in dark times we are not alone.

God bless,


Psalm 73:21-28
21When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. 23Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.

25Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. 26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27Indeed, those who are far from you will perish; you put an end to those who are false to you. 28But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works.

as the deer

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is the basis of one of our songs for worship on Sunday. The writer has a strong relationship with God, but feels like God is far away. She also feels persecuted by enemies, some of whom used to be her friends. She remembers better times when she had the respect of her community, but now she feels alone and like everyone makes fun of her. People even pick on her because of her faith. The beauty of the psalm is its honesty about hardship and the psalmist's trust in God even when times are hard. I pray your day is easier than the psalmists, but that your faith would be strengthened and encouraged by hers.

God bless,


Psalm 42
1As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? 3My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. 5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help 6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

7Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts; all your waves and your billows have gone over me. 8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” 10As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

praying in the garden

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Since we're following the theme of prayer this week, you'll notice we're skipping around a lot. We move way ahead in the story of Jesus to the night of his last supper with the disciples and his arrest. Jesus spent time in prayer before his arrest. He prayed that his path might not go through the suffering and death he was preparing for. His prayer also helped him prepare for that path by allowing him to talk to his father and claim the choice that led to the cross. That way, when the soldiers came to arrest him he felt like he was following a choice rather than being forced into suffering.
May your prayer today strengthen you for the path ahead,

Luke 22:39-46
39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

praying all night

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Often in the Gospels we read that Jesus went off on his own to pray. We don't see Jesus taking much time for himself in ministry, but we do see that he made his prayer life a priority. In this case he spent a whole night in prayer before deciding which of his disciples would be the core of the ministry after he returned to heaven. How can we find time to pray on our important decisions? Is there some step you can take to make prayer a bigger part of your decision making?

God bless,


Luke 6:12-16
12Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

pray without ceasing

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This week our theme is prayer. In today's reading Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonian church with several short pieces of advice. The most familiar is to pray without ceasing. That means to keep up an awareness of God throughout the day. One thing that helps us do that is to be intentional about turning to God during the day. Often that means starting a day with some scripture reading and focused prayer and ending the day with reflection and prayer. It also includes short moments of thankfulness, perhaps at meals or other free moments. It also means spending some time in prayer when you're stuck on a question or problem or when you need to make a decision. All these intentional moments build the habit of turning to God and lead us to the constant prayer Paul encourages.

blessings on your walk today,


1 Thessalonians 5:16-28
16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil. 

23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. 25Beloved, pray for us. 26Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

perfect love casts out fear

Good morning friends,
First, I'd like to ask you to keep our secretary Maria Bennett's father in prayer for God's healing touch. He's at Rochester General with pneumonia and needs God's care. Please also keep his wife, Ginny, and the whole family in prayer.

Our reading from 1 John tells us that God is love and the only way we know God is through love. God allows us to love by loving us. We respond by loving God, but even more, by loving other people. How we treat others is the test for whether we truly love God. When we really do love God and others, and we know that God loves us, fear will vanish because we know that love wins.

Blessings on your love today,


1 John 4:7-21
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

God first

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This morning's readings remind us to put God first. Our first reading is called the Shema, from the Hebrew word for "hear." It is the core of Israel's faith and is followed by a warning from Moses not to forget God's love when Israel is finally safe in their land and secure. Moses knew that comfort can be a real risk to our faith, so we have to remember that everything we have comes from God.

Our reading from Matthew reminds us that God cares about our material needs and that worrying doesn't help anything. If we seek God's kingdom and follow Jesus faithfully, the other things will fall into place. That doesn't mean we'll have fancy cars and houses or that our life will be easy. Instead it means that God will give us what we need and we will probably learn to want less as we serve God and our neighbors.

God bless,


Deuteronomy 6:4-16
4Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, 11houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, 12take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. 14Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, 15because the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the Lord your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth. 16Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Matthew 6:25-34
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

first things first

Good morning friends,
Today's reading reminds us that we need to make time to just sit at Jesus' feet and listen. Our culture is so busy we can easily get overwhelmed by all the things we feel like we have to do. Many of the things we do are important, but it's also important to make time to just be. We are beloved children of God no matter how far we are on our "to do" list. Take time, slow down, rest in the master's hand.

God bless,


Luke 10:38-42
38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

heart of discipleship

Good morning sisters and brothers,
In today's reading a lawyer asks Jesus what the most important thing about following God is. Jesus turns the question around on him and gets the correct answer: love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. When the lawyer wants to explore the limits of what it means to be a neighbor Jesus tells the familiar story of the good Samaritan. The truth is that everyone is our neighbor, so we are called to love everyone we come across as we love ourselves. That's quite a challenge, but when we look at Jesus life we see him doing just that. So our word for today is, "Go and do likewise."

God bless,


Luke 10:25-37
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

the cost of discipleship

Good morning friends,
One more reminder about tonight's ecumenical service for Christian unity at St Mark's and St. John's Episcopal Church on Culver at Rosewood. The service is at 7pm tonight and will feature pastors and musicians from several different churches. It should be a great time. I'd also like to ask your prayers for healing for Lindsey, a young woman from my last church who suffered a brain aneurism almost 2 weeks ago. She's doing very well, but still has a long way to go in her recovery.

Today's reading almost feels like a slap in the face. Three people come up to Jesus and want to follow him, but he leaves each with a warning that only total commitment is enough to follow him. I know my commitment needs work, but Jesus still loves and welcomes us. Sometimes I think we take his welcome too lightly and forget that discipleship is serious business.

God bless your following,


Luke 9:57-62
57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

carry your cross

Good morning brothers and sisters,
I wanted to remind you of a great worship opportunity tomorrow evening. We'll join our neighbors from other denominations to celebrate our unity in Christ and pray for greater unity in the church. The service will take place at St. Mark's and St. John's Episcopal Church on the corner of Culver and Rosewood. Worship begins at 7pm and will feature leaders from several different communities of faith. I hope you can be there.

Our reading this morning reminds us that being a Christian isn't casual; it's a commitment that shapes the rest of our life. Jesus faced death for our sake and he warns us that to follow him we have to accept that risk as well. In giving up ourselves we find true freedom in Christ.

God bless your journey today,


Luke 9:18-27
18Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” 21He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

23Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

on the rock

Good morning friends,
The theme this week is making Jesus our foundation for life. In our passage today Jesus has finished teaching a crowd of people and challenges them not to be entertained but transformed. The important thing about following Jesus isn't just listening to what he has to say; it's doing what he says. The analogy Jesus uses is simple but effective; how can you take a step to put Jesus' words into action today?

God bless,


Matthew 7:24-29
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

specks and logs

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Jesus again reminds us that being forgiven by God calls us to forgive others. Judging is only God's job, our job is to direct any criticism at ourselves first and then, very carefully and only when necessary, dare to help others see their faults. It's often much easier to see what others are doing "wrong," but when we do that we're probably missing something at least as major wrong with our own life that keeps us from seeing our neighbor clearly.

God bless,


Matthew 7:1-5
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

forgiveness and the golden rule

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's first reading is a wonderful Psalm about the freedom of confessing our sins and being forgiven. Forgiveness will be our theme in worship today, and it's an area that always needs attention. Our second lesson is Jesus' familiar golden rule: "treat others how you want to be treated." As usual, Jesus doesn't let that be just general advice for a happy life; instead he insists on applying it to the most difficult people we encounter. One of the hard things with words this familiar is to try to hear them fresh again. The message is a powerful one.

God bless,


Psalm 32:1-11
1Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

6Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. 7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

8I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 9Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

10Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. 11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart. 

Luke 6:31-38
31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Christ's love and our love

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
Today's reading comes from John's first letter. We don't spend a lot of time in John's letters, but they are very rewarding and present a somewhat different perspective from Paul. In this reading John makes the point that we know love by how Jesus loved us. That love is what saves us, not our actions. But when Christ's love makes us right with God, we naturally respond by loving others. So if we don't find ourselves driven to help others, we should pause and reflect on why. Further, love is about real actions, not just pretty words. Our calling is to live love in the world.

Blessings as you follow you calling today,


1 John 3:14-19
14We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

putting on Christ

Good evening friends,
Today's reading reminds us that when we become Christian it means finding our identity in Jesus and rejecting those parts of our old identity that are opposed to God's kingdom. That means taking off the prejudice, selfishness and consumer identity the world encourages us to wear and putting on the love, openness and justice Jesus stood for. It also means putting forgiveness at the heart of our relationships with others. Jesus forgave us, so we forgive others; seeking love in all that we do. Letting our faith transform us can be hard because the world keeps bombarding us with contrary messages, but if we allow God to do so, the Spirit will work inside us to make us new in Christ.

God bless,


Colossians 3:8-17
8But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

forgiven to forgive

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This is one of my favorite parables because it makes our situation and calling to forgive others so clear. God is merciful and forgives us all our sin. In turn we are called to forgive others for the ways they have hurt us. At the same time, even when we know we've been forgiven it can be tempting to hold on to our old grudges. May we find freedom to forgive in the knowledge that God loves us.

God bless,


Matthew 18:21-35
21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.

31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

sin and forgiveness

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This whole week our theme is forgiveness and reconciliation. Today's passage reminds us that God is always trying to forgive and bring sinners back home. Jesus also gives the church guidance on how to deal with sin inside the community of faith. This guidance goes counter to much of the world's wisdom about leaving others to do what they want. The goal here isn't interference, but reconciliation. If someone sins against you, the first step (if it's safe) is to speak to them one on one, where it's least likely to escalate the situation. If that doesn't work you need to enlist the help of other trusted Christians. If the person who has hurt you consistently won't change their ways at a certain point they need to be removed from the church. That's a hard situation to imagine, because God's forgiveness usually does win out if we really give it a chance. At the same time, truly harmful behavior left unchecked can poison a community and needs to be addressed openly and lovingly.

If there's a situation in your life that needs repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, this is a good week to pray on it and seek a solution.

God bless,


Matthew 18:12-20
12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Monday, January 9, 2012


Good evening friends,
I'm sorry I didn't send this out earlier today, but since it's so late and since today and tomorrow's reading go together, I thought I would combine them into a single reading. Our reading is Psalm 51, which tradition says is King David's prayer of repentance after he had his officer Uriah killed to steal his wife, Bathsheba. The psalm is a beautiful reflection on God's forgiveness and our need. Many phrases in Psalm 51 are familiar and it is worth reading often when we feel lost of far from God. God already knows our shortcomings and loves us anyway. Don't let your sense of sin separate you from God; God is ready to hear you and heal you. 

God bless,


Psalm 51:1-19
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; 
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
5Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
6You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

baptism and calling

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today in the church year we celebrate Jesus' baptism and reflect on our own baptism into Christ's body. The passage from Isaiah reminds us that God loves us and calls us by name; even in hard times God never leaves us alone. Our passage from Luke tells the story of Jesus' baptism and his temptation in the desert before he began his ministry. As we start a new year it makes sense to reflect on who we are as God's children. These passages invite us to do just that.

God bless,


Isaiah 43:1-7
1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
3For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.
5Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6I will say to the north, "Give them up," and to the south, "Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth —
7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made."

Luke 3:21-22, 4:1-13
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

slaughter of the innocents

Good morning sisters and brothers,
The wise men didn't know it at the time, but the reason King Herod asked them to give him information about Jesus was not so he could worship him, but so he could eliminate this perceived threat to his power. God warned the wise men about Herod's bad intentions, so they slipped out without being noticed. Herod is disappointed, but doesn't give up easily. Instead he casts a wide net and kills all the babies in Bethlehem. This terrible episode is known as the slaughter of the innocents. The Christian church has honored these unknown babies by considering them the first Christian martyrs. They didn't make choices that led to dying for their faith like most martyrs we think of, but they still died in some way for the sake of Christ. It's a sad story and sadder still that fear and faith still can lead to death. Let's pray and work for a day when innocents will no longer be slaughtered.

God bless,


Matthew 2:12-18
12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Good morning/evening friends,
Today is the festival of Epiphany or Three Kings Day when we celebrate the arrival of the wise men to welcome Jesus. We see too that Christ's birth is a political event: King Herod immediately feels threatened by the announcement that a king has been born. While Herod's response is fear, the wise men respond with worship, worship for a child who will change the world. At Epiphany we are invited to consider the gifts God has given us. How can we use our gifts: our skills and passions as well as our treasure, to worship and serve Jesus today?

God bless,


Matthew 2:1-11
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

kings to the brightness

Good morning or evening friends,
Today's reading is a prophesy of restoration for Israel. From exile and despair God will make Israel a beacon to other nations. We read this passage when we think about the Christian celebration of Epiphany or Three Kings Day. The connection is that the epiphany celebrates the visit of the wise men to see baby Jesus. That symbolizes that Jesus is the savior for the whole world, not just for Israel. Part of our job as Christians is to keep that same spirit of openness, to shine the light of Christ's love so people outside the church will see it. God wants everyone to be part of the family, so we need to open the doors wide so the world can come in.

God bless,


Isaiah 60:1-6
1   Arise, shine; for your light has come,
          and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2   For darkness shall cover the earth,
          and thick darkness the peoples;
     but the LORD will arise upon you,
          and his glory will appear over you.
3   Nations shall come to your light,
          and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4   Lift up your eyes and look around;
          they all gather together, they come to you;
     your sons shall come from far away,
          and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
5   Then you shall see and be radiant;
          your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
     because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
          the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6   A multitude of camels shall cover you,
          the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
          all those from Sheba shall come.
     They shall bring gold and frankincense,
          and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

born again

Good morning friends,
Nicodemus was a pharisee and a religious leader. He also wanted to know more about who Jesus was and what he was about, so he goes to see him at night. He opens the conversation by acknowledging that Jesus must have come from God because the powerful signs he does couldn't happen otherwise. Jesus replies with this paragraph about how no one can see God without being born from above (also translated "born again.")

This idea of being born again has been powerful both for good and for ill. On the positive side, Jesus' teaching emphasizes the new life and radical transformation that happens when we make God the center of our life. On the negative side, some Christians have tried to limit what it means to be "born again" and insist that one is not a real Christian without a very specific kind of rebirth experience. I believe that coming to Christ feels different for different people and not everyone has a shining light moment of rebirth. At the same time, our faith isn't the powerful force Jesus is talking about if it doesn't really change us. Sometimes being born again is sudden; other times it is subtle, but there is always change as we grow closer to Jesus in our new life.

God bless,


John 3:3-8
3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Monday, January 2, 2012

one in Christ

Good morning (or evening) sisters and brothers,
Today's reading reminds us both of the new life we have in Christ and the bond of baptism. In Christ we are made new and we are formed into a community of faith. The bond of that community supersedes the claims of class, race, country, even family. Christ's calling claims us and sets us free.
Blessings as you live out your calling today,

Galatians 3:23-29
23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

new year, new creation

Good morning friends,
The new year is a new beginning. God also gives us a new beginning in Jesus Christ. In Christ we are forgiven and given the chance to be new people through God's love. We have the opportunity to be reconciled to God and to become God's ambassadors in the world. Ambassadors do their best to represent their country favorably and to communicate the message their country sends to the world. As ambassadors of God, our job is to live in such a way it reflects well on God and to help others understand the message God wants them to hear: the message of love and reconciliation. That's our mission as Christians in this new year and always.

God bless,


2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

prophets and ritual

Happy New Year,
Our first reading reminds us of God's loving care and the second reading tells the story of Jesus being presented as an infant at the temple. I love reading about the two old saints recognizing Jesus as God's salvation come to earth. I'm excited to begin a new year with you following God's calling together.

New Year's blessings,


Isaiah 61:10-62:3
 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
     my whole being shall exult in my God;
   for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
     he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
   as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
     and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
     and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
   so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
     to spring up before all the nations.
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
     and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,
   until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
     and her salvation like a burning torch.
2  The nations shall see your vindication,
     and all the kings your glory;
   and you shall be called by a new name
     that the mouth of the Lord will give.
3  You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
     and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Luke 2:21-40
21After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.