Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a time for everything

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's reading compliments yesterday's. While there can be a sense of futility in the fact that life repeats itself, there is also a rhythm. There is a time for everything, so take this time to reflect and also to enjoy. Whatever we have is a gift from God. We need to be wise with our gifts, but also to find joy in our work and in our rest. 

God's blessings for the year gone by and the year to come,

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 

9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 

12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

Monday, December 30, 2013

year end perspective

Good evening friends,
Ecclesiastes is a great book for perspective. While it seems pessimistic, it really just helps us see the limits of human work. The end of a year is a time to set goals, but especially to think about lining our life with what really matters.

God bless,

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.2Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.3What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun?

4A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. 6The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. 7All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. 8All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing.

9What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. 10Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in the ages before us.11The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

connected to Christ

Good evening friends,
Today's reading stresses the connection of Christians to Jesus. All that we are comes from him, and cut off from him we can do nothing. This very much goes against the grain of our culture's focus on self-reliance, so spend a few minutes with the challenge that presents to you. 

God bless,

John 15:1-9

”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 
2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 

4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 

7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

blessed to be a blessing

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This passage might be the essential passage about God's calling. God calls Abraham to an adventure he doesn't understand. Like all of us, Abraham is called to follow God into the unknown. God choses Abraham and blesses him to be a blessing to others. That's our calling now too.

God bless,

Genesis 12:1-3
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

light for others

Good evening friends,
As we continue to reflect on the Christmas story, this week we also think about what Christmas means for us. If Christ is light in the darkness, how can we be light to other people? 

God bless,

Matthew 5:13-19
13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

shepherds keeping watch

Good evening friends,
I hope your Christmas was wonderful, as mine was. Today's reading tells the first announcement of the birth of Jesus. I love that God chose to announce this wonderful event first to shepherds, folks just working for a living, not anyone society considered important. May Christ break into your life in some unexpected way today too.

God bless,

Luke 2:8-20
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good morning friends,
Merry Christmas to you! Tonight, I hope many of you can join us for Christmas Eve worship at 7pm. It's a joyful celebration of God's love with music and the wonderful story of Jesus' birth. Our reading today tells a piece of the lead up to that story. Joseph and Mary were engaged and Mary became pregnant, but not by Joseph. Mary knew this was from the Holy Spirit, but Joseph had to make the obvious assumption. As often, God doesn't leave this story the way it was going. Joseph is a character we don't learn much about, but this small story gives us some insight into this brave and faithful man. May you find new strength in the amazing gift of Jesus this season.

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 21, 2013

a house of prayer for all peoples

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is a great reassurance for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or outcast (probably all of us). God's plan in restoring the temple and bringing home the exiles of Israel and Judah goes wider than a chosen people. All people are chosen. Whoever wants to follow God and be part of God's family is welcome. There is a place for everyone.

God bless,

Isaiah 56:1-8
Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. 2Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.

3Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” 4For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. 

6And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

feasting, hope and repentance

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,

First, as many of you know, our living nativity is this Saturday and Sunday from 6:30-8:30 both nights. We need actors for all roles and no training or rehearsal is needed. We'd also love folks to bring some snacks since we'll host a simple open house in the narthex both evenings. The Outreach team is working really hard this season and they could definitely use a hand with anything from sound, set up, clean up and such. No matter what, it would be great to see you out to check out the scene for the evening. It's a great chance to remember what Christmas is really about.

Today's reading is about God's ability and desire to save us from evil and give us new life. Too many people are hungry for food and for hope. God invites us to be part of making a better world for everyone.

God bless,


Isaiah 55:1-13

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

6Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;7let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

of crocus and new life

Good afternoon friends,
First, a reminder: Saturday morning at 9:30 we'll be putting together Christmas baskets at Laurelton for distribution to local families. If you'd like to come for breakfast or to help out, that would be great. This weekend we're also hosting our annual live nativity. It's a great chance to see or participate in the Christmas story from a new perspective. Every year I've been part of it, I have seen a different aspect of Christmas. The nativity runs from 6:30-8:30 Saturday and Sunday evening and we can always use more actors.

Our reading today presents a vision of God's redemption of the world. Today's world is far from perfect, so we need the hope God gives us for a better, more peaceful world. As we keep that vision in our heart, we can be part of moving the world closer to that vision.

God bless,

Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”

5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

hope for the future

Good afternoon friends,
Our reading today reminds us of the hope we have in God. These words come to a nation facing the likelihood of defeat for their sins, but Isaiah reminds them that even after disaster, there is hope. Whatever you're facing today, you are not alone.

God bless,

Isaiah 25:1-9
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. 3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, 5the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.

6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Friday, December 13, 2013

a strong foundation

Good evening friends,
Today's reading talks about the wisdom of putting our faith in action. Jesus compares those who listen but don't do what Jesus says to someone building a house on sand. Faith isn't just what we believe, it's especially how we put our beliefs into action. So how's your foundation?

God bless,

Matthew 7:21-28
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ 

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.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Good evening friends,
First, a couple of announcements. One, on Saturday after the cafe we'll have a group singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood. It should be a lot of fun and is open to everyone. Come for breakfast, bring a friend and share the joy of song at 11 on Saturday. Two, next Saturday and Sunday (12/21 and 22) from 6:30-8:30 pm we'll host the living nativity. We need all kinds of characters, so come on in and see the Christmas story from a whole new angle.

Our reading for today is a collection of sayings about wisdom and foolishness. While not accurate in every case, it is pretty insightful.


Proverbs 13:1-16
A wise child loves discipline,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
2From the fruit of their words good persons eat good things,
but the desire of the treacherous is for wrongdoing.
3Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives;
those who open wide their lips come to ruin.
4The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing,
while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied.
5The righteous hate falsehood,
but the wicked act shamefully and disgracefully.
6Righteousness guards one whose way is upright,
but sin overthrows the wicked.
7Some pretend to be rich, yet have nothing;
others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth.
8Wealth is a ransom for a person’s life,
but the poor get no threats.
9The light of the righteous rejoices,
but the lamp of the wicked goes out.
10By insolence the heedless make strife,
but wisdom is with those who take advice.
11Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle,
but those who gather little by little will increase it.
12Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
13Those who despise the word bring destruction on themselves,
but those who respect the commandment will be rewarded.
14The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
so that one may avoid the snares of death.
15Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the faithless is their ruin.
16The clever do all things intelligently,
but the fool displays folly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

humbling the arrogant

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading continues the thought we started yesterday. The idea is that God used the King of Assyria and his army to punish Jerusalem. Assyria, however, gave itself the credit and got arrogant. We need to see ourselves clearly. We are part of the story, but not the center. It is not all about us.

God bless,

Isaiah 10:12-23
12When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. 13For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I have removed the boundaries of peoples, and have plundered their treasures; like a bull I have brought down those who sat on thrones.14My hand has found, like a nest, the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing, or opened its mouth, or chirped.” 

15Shall the ax vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood! 16Therefore the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. 17The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame; and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day. 18The glory of his forest and his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when an invalid wastes away. 19The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down.

20On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. 23For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in all the earth.

Monday, December 9, 2013

who's using whom?

Good afternoon friends,
First, there is a small but important meeting tonight for some folks in Urban Presbyterians Together, the Rochester church consortium we're most active in. We'll be thinking about how we can strengthen each other for ministry. Please keep this meeting in prayer for God's wisdom and creativity to shine through.

Our reading today is both a critique of the wealthy and powerful of Jerusalem and the beginning of a critique of the King of Assyria. God used the Assyrian Empire to punish Israel and Judah for their injustice. But the Assyrians didn't realize they were God's instrument, so they thought they were really in charge. God says Assyria isn't going to get off the hook either.

God bless,

Isaiah 10:1-11
10:1 Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, 2to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! 3What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, 4so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.

5Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger— the club in their hands is my fury!6Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few. 8For he says: “Are not my commanders all kings?9Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? 10As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols whose images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,11shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols what I have done to Samaria and her images?” 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

song of the vineyard

Good afternoon folks,
Today's reading is something we don't see so often, an Old Testament parable. This parable from Isaiah compares Israel to God's vineyard. The point is that God has done everything for God's people and therefore expects them to bear the fruits of righteousness. Instead, they have allowed injustice and the oppression of the poor to flourish. 

This parable is interesting too, because later in his ministry Jesus also tells a parable about a vineyard with a different story but a similar point. It's not a stretch to imagine that Jesus may have had Isaiah's parable in mind, and his hearers, the religious leaders of Israel, might have remembered this parable as well.

May we bear righteous fruit in our life,

Isaiah 5:1-10
Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 

5And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

8Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land! 9The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.10For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield a mere ephah. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

study war no more

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is a truly beautiful image of God's coming kingdom. One day the nations of the world will seek peace in God. Instead of fighting over borders or power or religion, all peoples will seek peace and the knowledge of God. It's true that religion, like any powerful idea has often been the cause of war and other kinds of evil, but true faith in God is about love for others. One day that love will free us all from hatred and war. O come Emmanuel: God with us, and save us from our evil ways.

God bless,

Isaiah 2:1-5
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

called back home

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading looks at both the judgment and redemption of Israel. It's a hint to what God values and how we should act. Notice the emphasis on doing justice for the weak and oppressed. Notice also that God wants to turn Israel (and our) heart back to justice even though we often go astray. God is always trying to bring us back to the right path; that's what Christmas is all about.

God bless,

Isaiah 1:16-31
16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.18Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

21How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her— but now murderers! 22Your silver has become dross, your wine is mixed with water. 23Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them. 

24Therefore says the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes! 25I will turn my hand against you; I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. 26And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning.

Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. 27Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. 28But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed. 29For you shall be ashamed of the oaks in which you delighted; and you shall blush for the gardens that you have chosen. 30For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. 31The strong shall become like tinder, and their work like a spark; they and their work shall burn together, with no one to quench them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

worship and life

Good morning friends,
Today's reading gives us more of the Prophet Isaiah. Speaking through Isaiah, God warns Israel that all the worship and sacrifice in the world can't make up for the violence and oppression the people are committing. God cares more about our actions than our religious ceremony. That doesn't mean worship is useless, only that we have to practice what we preach and live our faith all week.

God bless,

Isaiah: 1:1-15
The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.2Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. 

4Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who deal corruptly, who have forsaken the Lord, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged! 5Why do you seek further beatings? Why do you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.6From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil. 7Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. 8And daughter Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a shelter in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. 9If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.

10Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; 13bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. 14Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.15When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

bear witness

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
Today's reading follows up on John's prologue and shows us John the Baptizer's ministry of bearing witness to Jesus. John is really clear that he is not the main idea; his role is preparing the way for the Messiah.

God bless,

John 1:15-27
15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.

24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

Saturday, November 30, 2013

light in the darkness

Good afternoon friends,
We've talked about suffering, so now we turn to Advent and how Jesus comes to us like light in the darkness. This passage, known as the prologue to John's Gospel, sets the stage perfectly to understand the story of Jesus. Carl will be preaching on this passage tomorrow.

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.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Good evening friends,
Today's reading is striking for the images of Israel having been forsaken by God and now redeemed. Even in the deepest darkness, God's love can shine again. 

God bless,

Isaiah 62:1-9
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. 2The 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. 3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

6Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest, 7and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth. 8The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have labored; 9but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving and justice

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Happy Thanksgiving! As a church we have a lot to be thankful for: growing community outreach, loving fellowship, active members, openness and welcome to name a few. I'm grateful today for the Dennises hosting Thanksgiving dinner at the church. Our reading today may be familiar; in Luke's Gospel when Jesus first appears in public, this is part of what he reads. This passage continues the vision of redemption, peace and wholeness we've been reading about. It also displays God's special concern for the poor and oppressed, a commitment clearly continued in Jesus' ministry and a constant calling for the church. As we are thankful, we're called to reach out to others and serve the world in Jesus' name.

God bless,

Isaiah 61:1-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; 6but you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory. 7Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs. 8For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

10I 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. 11For 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.