Thursday, February 28, 2013

anger and healing

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is a follow up reading to yesterdays. Elijah heals the widow of Zarapheth's son. One thing that stands out to me about this healing is that it's not just a healing, but also a full out expression of anger by the woman and Elijah against God. God can handle our anger; he loves us even when we're angry.

God bless,

1 Kings 17:17-24

17After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 19But he said to her, “Give me your son.”

He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” 21Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

feeding and being fed

Good evening friends,
Today's reading tells the story of the Prophet Elijah in a time of drought. God sent Elijah to being the drought on Israel to expose King Ahab's sins of injustice and idolatry. For the first year of the drought, Elijah lived by a stream and God sent ravens to bring him food. But then the stream went dry and God sent Elijah to a gentile town, Zarapheth, to find a new way to live there. The story is a portrait of God's strange provision and the deep love of a mother for her son in impossible circumstances. Jesus points to this story in his first sermon in his hometown to show that God's special care isn't just for the people of Israel.

May God bless you in surprising ways this week,

1 Kings 17:8-16
8Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 

13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

prayer and parentage

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is Jesus teaching his disciples about prayer. There's lots to chew on here. The piece that grabs me most is thinking about how much we love our children (or parents or spouse) and then imagining from there how much God loves us.

Blessings on your day,

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

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

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

welcoming parent

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is a familiar one for many of us; it's Jesus' parable of the prodigal son. This week our theme is worrying about our children and trusting God to care for them. We usually read this story from the perspective of the son; it's also worth reading from the father or mother's perspective. Give that a try and see how you feel. Remember, God loves to welcome us home.

God bless,

Luke 15:11-32
11Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 

15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20So he set off and went to his father.

But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 

25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

life and death

Good morning friends,
Today in worship we're talking about end of life matters, not so much big picture ethics questions, but faith and experience questions. Part of our sermon time is going to be interactive, so I'd love it if you bring your thoughts and questions. This is the passage we'll be digging into, which is Paul's reflection on how God's power shows up especially in human weakness. That's a big part of what the cross means, but I bet it's also a lesson we've learned somewhere in our own life. I hope the passage and the worship this morning are a blessing for you. For those not in Rochester, the sermon will be online this afternoon, but it's always better in person and in community.

See you there,

2 Corinthians 4:5-18
5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

perfect love casts out fear

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading isn't so much about facing the end of life. Instead it is about God's love, which is the foundation we need to face the end of our lives or the lives of those we love with courage and confidence. We love because God loves us first. When we love others we express God's love and get to know it better.

As we move towards perfection in love, in other words, as we start to love unconditionally, we become less worried about death or judgment or any of the things that scare us about death. The more we love and the more we trust God's love, the more we can trust that in life and in death we abide in God. As we rest in God now, we know that death is just a transition to resting in him even more completely. The unknown is scary, but we know that we will be with God, and that is enough. I hope you'll be in worship tomorrow so we can talk together about facing the end.

God bless,

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

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

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

in life and in death

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,

In our passage for today Paul reflects on his own life and death in the light of facing persecution and the possibility of death. He knows that he can glorify Christ as he lives and as he dies. Part of him wants to die so he can be with Christ; the other part of him wants to stay to continue serving the churches in ministry. The truth is that in every moment of our life, God is with us. We are never alone and we can trust God's love.


Philippians 1:20-24
20It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

teach us to number our days

Good morning friends,
Just a reminder that if there are any particular questions or concerns you'd like me to touch on in the sermon on end of life matters, today or tomorrow would be great times to give me a call or an email. Of course, there will be other opportunities, I'm sure, but this is a good one. Today's passage is a Psalm traditionally credited to Moses. It's a reflection on the fragility of human life. Even though the days sometimes drag, our life passes quickly. In the rush and frustration of that, we put our trust in God, who is eternal. When we remember how short life is, we realize each moment, each opportunity to love and share and savor is precious.

God bless,

Psalm 90:1-17
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands— O prosper the work of our hands!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be still and know

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's Psalm is a favorite of mine for facing change, and aging is a change. No matter what happens, we can trust God to be with us and to guide us. Whether we listen to that guidance is up to us.

God bless,

Psalm 46:1-11
1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, 
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; 
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; 
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God! 
I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

aged servants of God

Good evening brothers and sisters,
As we continue looking at aging and end of life questions we meet a great but little known character named Simeon. Simeon was an old man with a strong faith who was coming to the end of his life when Jesus was born. Notice that for Simeon, as for many older people, death is something he welcomes rather than something he fears. Often thinking about the end of life is scarier for friends and family than it is for the older person. In every season, God has new blessings for us.

God bless you today,

Luke 2:25-35
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

a time for everything

Good afternoon friends,
Today we start a week looking at aging and end of life questions as we prepare for a sermon on end of life perspectives. If there's anything you particularly would like me to focus on in my preparation for the sermon, feel free to send me an email or give me a call. Appropriately, I'm sending this from in front of a nursing home. It was comforting for me to see the staff and other residents welcome our patient back home after a hospital stay. Today we read a familiar passage reminding us that there is a time for everything. As much as our culture tries to deny or ignore it, we will all die someday. We can't change that, but if we accept and embrace it, I suspect there are blessings in every season.

God bless,

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
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.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

family misunderstandings

Good evening friends,
Today in worship we talked about conflict. Today's passage shows that even Jesus faced misunderstandings in his own family. His family heard about his preaching and must have started worrying. Jesus doesn't exactly reject his family, but he implies that faith is more important than family. That's a hard message to hear, but a good reminder that faith is a core commitment, not an extra curricular activity.

blessings on your evening,

Mark 3:20-35
Then he went home; 20and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"How the mighty are fallen"

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
We're skipping ahead a good bit in our story of David and Saul. In yesterday's reading David and Jonathan find out that Saul definitely wants to kill David, so Jonathan and David say their good byes and David leaves. He spends some time on the run with a couple of momentary reconciliations with Saul. During that time people from all over Israel who were in trouble came to stay with David. This motley crew became the core of David's power as he moved towards the throne.

At one point David came to the Philistines and lived there, even though Israel and the Philistines were at war. As I Samuel ends, Saul and Jonathan go to war with the Philistines and are killed in battle. When David hears the news he composes this song of mourning. We can believe easily that David is sad about Jonathan's death. His grief over Saul's death may be less genuine, but very useful to establish for Israel that David didn't have a hand in Saul's death. This feeling of innocence will be important as David seeks to cement his rule over all Israel in the coming years. Plus, it's quite a lovely, melancholy song.

God bless,

2 Samuel 1:17-27
17David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18(He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said: 19Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! 20Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

21You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. 22From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty. 23Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 

24O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. 26I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 27How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

Friday, February 15, 2013

the truth comes out

Good afternoon friends,
In yesterday's reading David told Jonathan that Saul still wanted to kill him. Since Jonathan and his father had talked about that earlier and Saul had decided not to kill David, Jonathan thinks David is mistaken. They arrange a plan to find the truth. Unfortunately for both, David's fear is correct. We'll see how the heartbreaking story continues.

Blessings on your weekend,

1 Samuel 20:24-35, 40-41
24So David hid himself in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat. 25The king sat upon his seat, as at other times, upon the seat by the wall. Jonathan stood, while Abner sat by Saul’s side; but David’s place was empty. 26Saul did not say anything that day; for he thought, “Something has befallen him; he is not clean, surely he is not clean.” 27But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. 

And Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast, either yesterday or today?” 28Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem; 29he said, ‘Let me go; for our family is holding a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your sight, let me get away, and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.”

30Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? 31For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32Then Jonathan answered his father Saul, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33But Saul threw his spear at him to strike him; so Jonathan knew that it was the decision of his father to put David to death. 34Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food on the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him. 

35In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy…. 40Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” 41As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

another problem

Good morning and happy Valentine's Day!
It's not much of a surprise, but the reconciliation between David and Saul doesn't hold up. Again, David has to run from Saul. This time, like before, Jonathan is ready to go between them to make peace. We'll see how this plays out. Think about situations in your own life where you need healing and reconciliation. Pray about what next step you can take to make the situation better.

God bless,

1 Samuel 20:1-8
David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?” 2He said to him, “Far from it! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!” 3But David also swore, “Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.’ But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.” 4Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” 

5David said to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. 6If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.’ 7If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. 8Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Good evening sisters and brothers,
I hope you've found some time to reflect today for Ash Wednesday. In our crazy, fast-paced world we rarely have time to slow down. Today is a great chance to do that. There are still lots of slots open for silent prayer during the prayer vigil. If you're a night owl, you can come tonight from 9-midnight. Or if coming in tomorrow morning is better, maybe for a quiet hour of prayer before work, I'll be here starting at 5, so you can be too. We'll be open for prayer from 5am- noon tomorrow. The sanctuary is very peaceful and I've put out a few prayer books to stir your spirit if that helps. We know the world, our families, and our congregation need our prayer. We need that time to reflect and open ourselves to God as well. 

Our story of Saul and David continues today. As in many abusive relationships, it's not always as simple as violence and threats. Sometimes there are efforts to do better, attempts at reconciliation, promises of a change. Those moments make it harder for the abused person to leave. This isn't really a story about domestic violence, but it bears some similarities. In today's story, David's best friend, Saul's son Jonathan tries to bring Saul around to living peacefully with David.


1 Samuel 19:1-7
Saul spoke with his son Jonathan and with all his servants about killing David. But Saul’s son Jonathan took great delight in David. 2Jonathan told David, “My father Saul is trying to kill you; therefore be on guard tomorrow morning; stay in a secret place and hide yourself. 3I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; if I learn anything I will tell you.” 

4Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him, “The king should not sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; 5for he took his life in his hand when he attacked the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against an innocent person by killing David without cause?” 6Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” 7So Jonathan called David and related all these things to him. Jonathan then brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

in laws

Good morning sisters and brothers,
We've read a little bit about how David came into the royal household, first on a part-time basis as a singer for Saul. Later, after killing Goliath, he was with Saul all the time as a military commander and general advisor. At the same time, Saul was jealous and afraid of David, making for a dangerous situation. Today we find out that Saul's younger Daughter, Michal, falls in love with David. Instead of bringing Saul and David closer, this too is a threat to Saul.


1 Samuel 18:20-29
20Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. Saul was told, and the thing pleased him. 21Saul thought, “Let me give her to him that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” 22Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘See, the king is delighted with you, and all his servants love you; now then, become the king’s son-in-law.’” 23So Saul’s servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?” 24The servants of Saul told him, “This is what David said.”

25Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no marriage present except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged on the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. 26When his servants told David these words, David was well pleased to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, 27David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. 28But when Saul realized that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, 29Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward.

Monday, February 11, 2013

trouble begins

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Yesterday we finished a sermon series on women in the Bible. On Wednesday Lent begins with a prayer vigil from noon to noon Thursday and a short and simple Ash Wednesday service at 6:45. In Lent we face our mortality, we reflect on areas we need to improve on, and we follow Jesus' journey to the cross. The theme for our Lent sermon series is "Facing the Darkness." We start on Sunday with a reflection on difficult relationships. If you have any questions or thoughts or particular areas you'd like to reflect on under that heading, I'd love to hear from you. 

We begin with a classically difficult relationship: the relationship between David and his father in law, King Saul. Our story picks up after David has killed Goliath and has become part of the royal entourage. As we'll see, David immediately connects with Saul's son, Jonathan, but Saul feels threatened by David's success. Behind the scenes we know that God has abandoned Saul and has chosen David to be the next King of Israel, so Saul's fears are actually well founded.

God bless,

1 Samuel 18:1-12
When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

6As they were coming home, when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. 7And the women sang to one another as they made merry, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” 8Saul was very angry, for this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands; what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9So Saul eyed David from that day on.

10The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11and Saul threw the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. 12Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul.

Friday, February 8, 2013

women in Acts

Good morning brothers and sisters,
Today's reading takes us to the Book of Acts, to a passage telling a story of one of Paul's missionary journeys. This is one of a few "we" sections in Acts where the third person narration of most of the book becomes first person. The best explanation is that these sections may have been the parts of the story Luke was actually present for, while the rest is an account he has woven together from research and listening to other people's stories.

This passage highlights the important and varied role of women in spreading the gospel. In the first paragraph the apostles preach to a group of women, one of whom becomes their host for their stay. The second paragraph is an odd one. Paul's healing seems to be a strange one. It reminds me a bit of how evil spirits always recognized Jesus too, but Jesus didn't want them to speak.

Blessings on your day,

Acts 16:11-18
11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

16One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

the elect lady

Good morning sisters and brothers,
Today's reading is a reminder that even though men usually get the spotlight in the Bible, women were important in the early Christian community. The Apostle John writes this letter to someone he refers to as "The elect Lady." We don't know who she was, but we can imagine that she was a leader in the community in some way. Women hosted churches in their homes, they hosted and assisted traveling Christian teachers, they prayed and taught and strengthened the community. Some traveled to share the gospel.

In this letter John repeats some of his common themes about trusting in Jesus and thus connecting with the Father. John's community seems to have been threatened with opposing teachings, so sometimes his writing seems very defensive or even aggressive. On the other hand, the story goes that John lived into very old age and always preached about love. In his last years they say the only message he had was love.

blessings on your day,

3 John 1:1-13
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, 2because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: 3Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, in truth and love. 4I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father.

5But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another. 6And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning—you must walk in it.

7Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! 8Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. 9Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

10Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; 11for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.
12Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13The children of your elect sister send you their greetings.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

healing on the Sabbath

Good morning sisters and brothers,
One of the ways women often appear in the New Testament is as people Jesus heals. In this story, Jesus takes the initiative, by noticing the need for healing and performing the miracle. The religious leaders get upset because Jesus heals on the Sabbath, but Jesus explains that the Sabbath is a day for untying burdens so all can rest. The passage asks us when we have used tradition or religious teaching to limit people or ourselves in unhealthy ways. Faithfulness isn't about blindly following rules, but about looking for God's intention and following that. It's not as simple as following a checklist, but it is the better way Christ calls us to. Most of all, the rule of love for God and love for others leads us in the right direction. At the same time, notice that Jesus doesn't say we shouldn't follow the Sabbath commandment, only that we need to understand it more fully.

God bless,

Luke 13:10-17
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 

15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

choosing the better part

Good afternoon friends,
This week we focus on women in the New Testament. Our passage for today is a favorite of mine because it reminds me of two important instincts we have. We want to sit and listen and we want to get things done for other people. How do we make time to sit at Jesus' feet?

God bless,

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

Saturday, February 2, 2013

legal settlement

Good evening friends,
In yesterday's reading Ruth basically proposed to Boaz as well as asking him to protect and support Naomi and her. Boaz tells her he will perform his obligation as next of kin, but that there's someone else even more closely related, so he has to talk to him first. We'll see how that conversation proceeds tonight.

God bless,

Ruth 4:1-8
No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin, of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, “Come over, friend; sit down here.” And he went over and sat down. 2Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here”; so they sat down. 3He then said to the next-of-kin, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. 4So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.”

So he said, “I will redeem it.” 5Then Boaz said, “The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.” 6At this, the next-of-kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” 7Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. 8So when the next-of-kin said to Boaz, “Acquire it for yourself,” he took off his sandal.

Friday, February 1, 2013

a longer term plan

Good afternoon friends,
I hope your week has been a good on. We've read how Ruth has been gleaning in Boaz's field to keep her and Naomi alive. Now Naomi looks for a way to give Ruth some longer term security, which in this case means a husband. Her unconventional match-making makes for a good read. When you read threshing floor, think fishing trip: some time when men get together to work and celebrate. The next-of-kin stuff is hard for us to understand, but the short version is that in biblical Israel the next of kin had the obligation to buy the land for family in need so the land stayed in the family. In a case like Ruth's where she is a widow without children, her husband's next of kin also has the obligation to marry her so she can be provided for and to provide an heir for her dead husband. That way his family line and land are preserved and the widow would be cared for.

Blessings on your weekend,

Ruth 3:1-14
Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. 2Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. 3Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. 4When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” 5She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

6So she went down to the threshing floor and did just as her mother-in-law had instructed her. 7When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came stealthily and uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8At midnight the man was startled, and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman! 9He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.”

10He said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. 11And now, my daughter, do not be afraid, I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman. 12But now, though it is true that I am a near kinsman, there is another kinsman more closely related than I. 13Remain this night, and in the morning, if he will act as next-of-kin for you, good; let him do it. If he is not willing to act as next-of-kin for you, then, as the Lord lives, I will act as next-of-kin for you. Lie down until the morning.” 14So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before one person could recognize another; for he said, “It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”