Thursday, January 31, 2013

gleaning to survive

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today is Rev. Judy Lee Hay's last day at Calvary St. Andrews Presbyterian Church before her retirement. Judy has been at Calvary 40 year, in which time she's been an important part of the revitalization of the Southwedge and of constant work for justice in behalf of the gospel. Judy's been a mentor for many of us and I'll miss her presence at UPT. Please take a moment to give to God for Judy's ministry and to pray for her and for Calvary in this time of transition. May her well-earned retirement be blessed and the congregation find new strength in a new season.

Our reading for today continues the story of Ruth and Naomi. In those days one of the way people in need were supported was by reaping in the fields of those who had land. That meant they would follow the harvesting workers and pick up what they dropped or left behind. God's law also called landowners to leave the corners of their field unharvested to provide further for people in poverty. So Ruth sets out to glean in a nearby field so she and Naomi can survive.

God bless, 

Ruth 2:1-12
Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favor.” She said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

4Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, “The Lord be with you.” They answered, “The Lord bless you.” 5Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “To whom does this young woman belong?” 6The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7She said, ‘Please, let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’ So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.”

8Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. 9Keep your eyes on the field that is being reaped, and follow behind them. I have ordered the young men not to bother you. If you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.” 10Then she fell prostrate, with her face to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner?”

11But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. 12May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Call me Mara

Good evening friends,
Some great discussion at South Presbyterian tonight about collaborative ministry. There will be some cool things cooking in Rochester in the coming months. We'll talk more about some of that at the annual meeting, but truly a blessing to be dreaming together.

We read yesterday about Naomi and her husband immigrating to Moab in search of food and about how her husband and sons died in Moab. Not long after that, Naomi heard that the famine in Israel was over, so she got ready to return, but wants to send her daughters in law back to their homes so they can get started making a new life. The heartbreak in the story is powerful, but one thing we learn in scripture is that God can bring beauty out of pain. A big part of the beauty in this story is the relationship among the women.

God bless,

Ruth 1:10-22
10They said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, 13would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.” 14Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15So she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” 18When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

19So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20She said to them, “Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. 21I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” 22So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Running to survive

Good evening friends,

Tonight we start a new story: the story of Ruth and Naomi. It's a story of women struggling against the odds together. The story begins with Naomi and her husband setting off with their sons to a new country because there is a famine in Israel. The Bible has a lot to say about kindness to refugees and strangers. Part of that comes out of the experience of God's people often being the strangers and learning those hard lessons.

God bless,

Ruth 1:1-9
In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. 2The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. 3But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, 5both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

6Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had considered his people and given them food. 7So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah. 8But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

saving the people

Good evening friends,
I hope your Sunday evening is relaxing and enjoyable. Tonight we finish the story of Esther. Haman, who tried to kill all the Jews in the empire is dead. The trouble is that his plot was already set in motion through letters instructing people everywhere to kill the Jews on a certain day. So Esther, Mordecai and the king have to figure out what to do. In typical fashion, the king gives Mordecai authority to do whatever seems best. Mordecai issues and order for Jewish self-defense. As it turns out, the Jews are victorious over their enemies and the people are saved, all because God worked through Esther's courage and Mordecai's wisdom. The violence of the story is disturbing, but Esther's courage is still an inspiration. What is your calling "for such a time as this?"

God bless,

Esther 8:1-13
On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews; and Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 2Then the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. So Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.

3Then Esther spoke again to the king; she fell at his feet, weeping and pleading with him to avert the evil design of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. 4The king held out the golden scepter to Esther, 5and Esther rose and stood before the king. She said, “If it pleases the king, and if I have won his favor, and if the thing seems right before the king, and I have his approval, let an order be written to revoke the letters devised by Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote giving orders to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the king. 6For how can I bear to see the calamity that is coming on my people? Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my kindred?”

7Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to the Jew Mordecai, “See, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he plotted to lay hands on the Jews. 8You may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring; for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.” 9The king’s secretaries were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews and to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred twenty-seven provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language.

10He wrote letters in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed them with the king’s ring, and sent them by mounted couriers riding on fast steeds bred from the royal herd. 11By these letters the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods 12on a single day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 13A copy of the writ was to be issued as a decree in every province and published to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

the queen's request

Good evening friends,
Tomorrow we'll be hearing about the power of prayer, especially in Hannah's prayer. It's a great story, and I hope you'll be there. As far as the story of Esther goes, we read yesterday about how she took the brave step of approaching the king, even though it was against the law. The king listened to her, but she didn't make her request right away; instead, she invited the king and Haman to a banquet, in fact to two banquets in a row. In the meantime, Haman decided to kill Mordecai even before the general plan to kill all the Jews took shape. In preparation, he had a giant gallows built to hang Mordecai.
Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter.
God bless,

Esther 7:1-10
So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” 5Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” 6Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

7The king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that the king had determined to destroy him. 8When the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. 9Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” 10So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Esther's courage

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
We read about Mordecai hearing about Haman's plot to kill all the Jews. He sends a message to Esther asking her to use her influence with the king to save her people. We'll see today that she is afraid, because people were only allowed to approach the king by invitation. Fortunately, in her courage, she is supported by her community and by God. Is there any thing you feel like Esther about? Have you come to a certain position or situation "for just such a time as this?"

God bless,

Esther 4:10- 5:4
10Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying, 11“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.”

12When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” 15Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, 16“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

5:1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, opposite the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne inside the palace opposite the entrance to the palace. 2As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favor and he held out to her the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter. 3The king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” 4Then Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to a banquet that I have prepared for the king.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

mourning and action

Good evening sisters and brothers,
We read yesterday that Haman, one of the highest officials in the kingdom, plotted to kill all the Jews because he felt slighted by Mordecai. In today's reading Mordecai finds out about Haman's plans and asks Esther to go to the king do prevent this tragic injustice.

God bless,

Esther 4:1-9
When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry; 2he went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. 3In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. 4When Esther’s maids and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed; she sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth; but he would not accept them.

5Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what was happening and why. 6Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, 7and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people. 9Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The king's Savior, but the official's enemy

Good afternoon friends,
We read about Mordecai, the uncle of the new Queen of Babylon, Esther. Today we see he heard about a plot against the king, and his warning saved the king. We also learn about a conflict between Mordecai and Haman, one of the king's highest officials. Haman gets angry with Mordecai because Mordecai won't bow down to him. Instead of attacking Mordecai, Haman decides to attack all the Jews in the empire. He talks the king into his plan by talking up the idea that the Jews are different, and thus dangerous. We'll see where this plot goes as we continue the story.

God bless,

Esther 2:21-23, 3:1-11
21In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Ahasuerus. 22But the matter came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. 23When the affair was investigated and found to be so, both the men were hanged on the gallows. It was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.

After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the officials who were with him. 2And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance. 3Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4When they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would avail; for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance to him, Haman was infuriated. 6But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

7In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur—which means “the lot” —before Haman for the day and for the month, and the lot fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 8Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them. 9If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, so that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.” 10So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11The king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, and the people as well, to do with them as it seems good to you.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

contest for queen

Good afternoon friends,
I hope your week is starting out well. I have a couple of announcements for our life together: First, tonight at St. Ambrose there will be a worship service celebrating the week of prayer for Christian unity. The week of prayer is a week focused on bringing different churches together so we can witness to Christ's love. Tonight's service will include leaders from different churches and is a great chance to meet Christians in the neighborhood. The worship service begins at 7 tonight at St Ambrose (Culver and Empire). On Tuesday, January 29th there will be a UPT follow up discussion on our New Beginnings process. If you attended the last of these (at Trinity Emmanuel) or if you have been excited by our New Beginnings process and want to learn more about working on reaching out with other Presbyterian neighbors, this event is for you. The evening begins with dinner at 5:45 at South Presbyterian Church (Mt. Hope and Crittenden, near Strong Hospital). If you're interested, please let me know as soon as possible.

Today's reading follows up on the story of Esther that Trina shared with you on Sunday. The story takes place during the Babylonian exile of Judah. Esther is a really interesting story and rare in that it never mentions God. After firing his queen, King Ahasueras decides to choose a new queen through a beauty pageant. As we'll see, the winner and new queen is a Jewish woman named Esther, whose courage will save her people.

God bless,

Esther 2:1-10, 16-18
After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. 3And let the king appoint commissioners in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel of Susa under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; let their cosmetic treatments be given them. 4And let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.

5Now there was a Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite. 6Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried away. 7Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the girl was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter.

8So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. 9The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food, and with seven chosen maids from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem. 10Esther did not reveal her people or kindred, for Mordecai had charged her not to tell.

 16When Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, 17the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18Then the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers—“Esther’s banquet.” He also granted a holiday to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
We've been reading about how Hannah and Elkanah gave their son Samuel to God at the temple of Shiloh. Today we hear about the state of worship at the sanctuary. While Eli was a faithful priest, his sons were not. As the story continues from there we'll see that Samuel is God's instrument for renewal and reform in Israel's faith.

God bless,

1 Samuel 2:11-21
11Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, while the boy remained to minister to the Lord, in the presence of the priest Eli. 12Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord 13or for the duties of the priests to the people. When anyone offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14and he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.

15Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the one who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast; for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.” 16And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take whatever you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now; if not, I will take it by force.” 17Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord; for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt.

18Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home. 21And the Lord took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

singing praise

Good morning friends,
At our cafe on Saturday a week ago one woman said she would like to come to church but needs a ride. She lives near Laurelton in the Merchants/Winton area. If you'd be willing to pick her up this Sunday or another Sunday, please let me know by phone or email.

We've been following the story of Hannah and her prayer for a son. As she promised, when God granted her a son she brought him to the sanctuary at Shiloh to serve God under Eli the priest. Our passage for today is Hannah's song of praise to God. Many scholars believe Mary's song of praise in Luke 1 was influenced by Hannah's song. We see similar themes like God favoring the poor and bringing down the proud. What does Hannah's song teach us about God's justice?

God bless,

1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. 2“There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 3Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. 5Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.

6The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. 8He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. 9“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. 10The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

asked of the Lord

Good afternoon friends,
We read yesterday about Hannah's prayer for a son; today we see that prayer fulfilled. Hannah in tern fulfills her promise to God. As soon as she weans her son, Samuel, she brings him to the temple in Shiloh and leaves him with Eli, the priest. It's hard to imagine giving a child to someone who is almost a stranger to raise and care for. It's hard to imagine wanting a child so badly and then trusting him to someone else. But somehow, that is how God's story continues. What can we learn from Hannah about loving a child and loving God?

God bless,

1 Samuel 1:19-28
19They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” 21The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.” 23Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the Lord establish his word.”

So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” She left him there for the Lord.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"May God grant your petition"

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
We continue the story of Hannah today. We read yesterday how Hannah was upset because she wasn't able to have children and because her husband's other wife mocked her about that. In today's reading she goes to the temple to pray. Her prayer is so passionate that Eli, the priest there, thinks she is drunk. I love Hannah's passion in prayer. As a pastor I also appreciate that Eli makes a mistake, but that even then, God can bring ministry out of that conversation. May your prayer life be strong today.
God bless,

1 Samuel 1:9-18
9After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

12As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hannah and Peninah

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today we're starting the beginning of the story of Samuel, which is the story of Hannah. The Books of I and II Samuel bring Israel from being a loose affiliation of tribes to a kingdom. This part of the story gives us some insights into the religious life of early Israel. It also shows us some of the conflict that can happen within families. Several times in the Bible we encounter families where the husband has more than one wife. It doesn't ever seem to work well. In this case the two wives think of themselves as rivals, which can't make for a good home environment. As is often the case, God can do surprising things to move the story towards justice.

God bless,

1 Samuel 1: 1-8
There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. 3Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.

4On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

song of victory, part 2

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
Today's reading continues the song of Deborah in praise to God after Israel's victory over Sisera and the Canaanite army. I mentioned a few days ago that Israel at this point was a fairly loose assembly of tribes rather than a solid nation. Here we see discussion in the song about which tribes came to fight and which ignored the call. We also see God's army given credit for the victory.
May your friends always stand with you in trouble.
God bless,

Judges 5:12-23
12“Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, utter a song! Arise, Barak, lead away your captives, O son of Abinoam. 13Then down marched the remnant of the noble; the people of the Lord marched down for him against the mighty. 14From Ephraim they set out into the valley, following you, Benjamin, with your kin; from Machir marched down the commanders, and from Zebulun those who bear the marshal’s staff; 15the chiefs of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar faithful to Barak; into the valley they rushed out at his heels.

Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. 16Why did you tarry among the sheepfolds, to hear the piping for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. 17Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he abide with the ships? Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, settling down by his landings.

18Zebulun is a people that scorned death; Naphtali too, on the heights of the field. 19“The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo; they got no spoils of silver. 20The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera. 21The torrent Kishon swept them away, the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon. March on, my soul, with might! 22“Then loud beat the horses’ hoofs with the galloping, galloping of his steeds. 23“Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord, curse bitterly its inhabitants, because they did not come to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

Friday, January 11, 2013

victory songs

Good afternoon friends,
We read yesterday about Deborah and Barak's victory over the Canaanite's who were oppressing them. We also read about Jael finishing the battle by killing Sisera, the Canaanite general. Today Deborah and Barak respond with songs of praise to God. The song is hard to understand, but interesting.
Blessings on your afternoon and weekend,

Judges 5:1-11
Then Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying: 2“When locks are long in Israel, when the people offer themselves willingly— bless the Lord! 3“Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel. 4Lord, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens poured, the clouds indeed poured water. 5The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai, before the Lord, the God of Israel. 

6“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, caravans ceased and travelers kept to the byways. 7The peasantry prospered in Israel, they grew fat on plunder, because you arose, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel. 8When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel? 9My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the Lord. 10“Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets and you who walk by the way. 11To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the triumphs of the Lord, the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel. “Then down to the gates marched the people of the Lord.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

not the best hiding place

Good morning brothers and sisters,
The last two evenings we read about how Deborah and Barak led Israel against the Canaanite army of King Jabin who was oppressing them. Last night we read how Barak defeated Jabin's army, led by Sisera and how Sisera ran from the battle on foot. Today we see what happens when he looks for a hiding place. Remember that Deborah told Barak that he would win the victory but not the glory, because God was going to give Sisera into the hands of a women.

May you be strong in righteousness today.
God bless,

Judges 4:17-24
17Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. 18Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. 20He said to her, “Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’”

21But Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground—he was lying fast asleep from weariness—and he died. 22Then, as Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went into her tent; and there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent peg in his temple. 23So on that day God subdued King Jabin of Canaan before the Israelites. 24Then the hand of the Israelites bore harder and harder on King Jabin of Canaan, until they destroyed King Jabin of Canaan.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

God saves

Good evening friends,
Tonight's reading picks up where we left off yesterday. God is leading Israel to victory through the leadership of Deborah and Barak. At the close of yesterday's reading Deborah invited Barak to lead the army and Barak responded that he would only go if Deborah went as well. Deborah agreed to go, but said the glory of the victory wouldn't go to Barak, but instead, God would defeat the enemy leader, Sisera, through a woman. In today's story we see the military side of the story. It doesn't matter that Barak is outnumbered; God is with him, so victory follows.

God bless,

Judges 4:10-16
10Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and ten thousand warriors went up behind him; and Deborah went up with him. 11Now Heber the Kenite had separated from the other Kenites, that is, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had encamped as far away as Elon-bezaanannim, which is near Kedesh. 12When Sisera was told that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13Sisera called out all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the troops who were with him, from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Wadi Kishon.

14Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day on which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. The Lord is indeed going out before you.” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand warriors following him. 15And the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and all his army into a panic before Barak; Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot, 16while Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-ha-goiim. All the army of Sisera fell by the sword; no one was left.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Deborah judges Israel

Good evening sisters and brothers,
Judges is a book we don't read from often, but there are some great stories in it. The book takes place soon after the people of Israel came into the Promised Land. Joshua, who led them in has died and the book tells the stories of the struggles the new people had. It seems that the tribes had some organization, but the the nation wasn't really unified. Time and again the people turn away from God, often to the gods of the other inhabitants of the land. When they turn away God allows them to be defeated by their enemies for a time. Before long, God can't bear seeing them oppressed and raises up a leader, called a judge, to lead Israel back to faithfulness and to victory.

Tonight's reading begins the story of the only woman judge, a woman named Deborah. Deborah is also the only judge who also acted as a judge in the way we think of it. This passage tells us that she settled disputes for the people before becoming a leader in the political and military sense. It's an interesting story, so I hope you enjoy it.

God bless,

Judges 4: 1-9
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, after Ehud died. 2So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. 3Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

4At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. 5She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment.

6She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. 7I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’” 8Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9And she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Monday, January 7, 2013

power of fear

Good evening friends,
Today many of our Orthodox brothers and sisters are celebrating Christmas, so it's a great night to give thanks for their rich tradition of faith and ritual. Our reading for today continues yesterday's reading about the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus. We see King Herod's desperation to hold on to power. The power of fear is a terrible thing. May we trust God and leave fear aside.

God bless,

Matthew 2:13-23
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.”

19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

welcome for all

Good evening brothers and sisters,
Tonight's reading is not Paul at his clearest, but he makes an important point. God has always loved the world and welcomed people into covenant relationship. Since Abraham's calling by God, his family, the people of Israel have had a special role in that covenant. That will always be the case because God's covenant is always true. In Jesus Christ's life, ministry, death and resurrection, the close covenant of love is extended to the whole world in a new way. Gentiles were welcomed into the family of God. That unlimited love and welcome is what the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ is all about. It's also the church's mission to live and share that love with the world in our words and actions.

God bless,

Ephesians 3:1-12
1This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — 2for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

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

Friday, January 4, 2013

praying for a leader

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading continues the Psalm praying for the king. Again we see the importance of care for the poor and oppressed. We also see an emphasis on prosperity for the whole society. I pray we show more of these characteristics in our society.

God bless,

Psalm 72:10-19
10May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
11May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.
12For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.
13He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.
15Long may he live! May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all day long.
16May there be abundance of grain in the land;
may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field.
17May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
may they pronounce him happy.
18Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

the king's justice

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is a prayer for Israel's King. Reading a prayer like this gives us a sense for how the writer imagines power should be used. The king should promote justice for all with special attention to those in need. When we think about Jesus as the King of creation, we see these same traits. How do we live these values in our lives and as a community?

God bless,

Psalm 72:1-9
1Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
3May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
4May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, 
and crush the oppressor.
5May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
7In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
8May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Arise, shine

Good afternoon friends,
Happy New Year! I hope the year wrapped up with celebration for you and your families. Today's reading comes from Isaiah. It looks forward to a time when Israel would be restored and surrounding nations would come to see God. We see these hopes come true in Jesus Christ, who not only fulfills the promise of a savior and a king from David's line, but also welcomes all nations home to God. Our job today is to share the light of Christ with others through our words and actions.

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.