Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
I've never quite known what to do with today. Good Friday Jesus dies and is buried; tomorrow he will rise again. Today, we wait. Someone once told me that Holy Saturday is his favorite day in the church calendar because it reflects our whole life. We know Jesus has come, but we're waiting for him to return. Our life is lived in the tension between what God has already done in Christ and the full redemption of creation for which we wait when Christ returns. So today we rest, we wait, we reflect.

May it be a blessed time for you,

Luke 23:50-56
50Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 

54It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Friday, March 29, 2013

amazing love

Good afternoon brothers and sisters,
We had a lovely service for Maundy Thursday last night; thanks to everyone who participated. We talked a little bit about foot washing and gender roles. Then today I saw this article on Facebook about Pope Francis causing controversy by  washing women's feet. Today's reading isn't about foot washing. It's about Jesus' amazing love poured out for us on the cross. Spend a little time with it before we get excited about Easter victory.


Luke 23:32-49
32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

prayer and arrest

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is Luke's version of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane after his last supper with his disciples. We'll hear Mark's version tonight at the close of our Maundy Thursday service. That service begins at 6 with a potluck supper in Christler Hall. All are welcome. I love that in Jesus prayer, he doesn't get what he asks for first (God to spare him from the cross), but he does gain strength from the prayer. He also prays that, no matter what, God's will be done. That's a good model for us to remember too. 

Jesus is also a model in his arrest. He goes peacefully and tells his disciples not to fight. He also forces the guards and leaders who arrest him to confront their actions. He reminds them that he's never been a threat, that he always acted openly, but they are arresting him in secret instead of in public. Most of the great non-violent protest is similar. It doesn't attack injustice on its own terms, but it does expose it to the light and call it wrong.

May our day be filled with integrity as well,

Luke 22:39-53
39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

47While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” 49When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” 50Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!”

Sam Picard
Pastor, Laurelton United Presbyterian Church
Daily Bible readings in interactive format:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

persecution and witness

Good afternoon friends,
As a reminder, we don't have supper and scripture tonight, but we do have a potluck supper and worship tomorrow evening beginning at 6 in Christler Hall for Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite days of the year because it shows us Jesus at his most human. I hope you'll be there for that service. 

In today's reading the crowd asks Jesus about the big buildings of the religious establishment and then about the end of the world. Jesus replies that we don't know when the end will come, but it will be dramatic. More than that, he warns his disciples that they can expect to be persecuted, but that even persecution is an opportunity to spread the good news of God's love. Historically, the church is most successful and faithful when we have the least amount of power. That means times of trouble are also opportunities to be embraced. That's a good word for us as we follow Jesus to the cross this week.

God bless,

Luke 21:5-19
5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 

8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 

14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

who's boss?

Good evening friends,
Remember that at 7:30 tonight there's a great worship opportunity at St. Ambrose to hear the story of Jesus arrest and execution. It's a great way to get into the story of Jesus' last week. We'll have another great opportunity to enter the story as we celebrate a potluck supper on Thursday at 6 and continue with worship remembering Jesus' last night with his disciples. 

We see the conflict brewing between Jesus and the religious leaders in our passage tonight. The leaders want to trip Jesus up so they can arrest him. Jesus is honest and clever, as we see.

God bless,

Luke 20:20-26
20So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday to Friday

Good evening friends,
We're right at the start of Holy Week, a time that covers today's story of Jesus' triumphant entrance to Jerusalem to his crucifixion less than a week later. To say it's a week of high contrast and drama is a serious understatement. Jesus was welcomed as God's servant king and then denied and condemned by the same crowd. Our job this week is to put ourselves in the story, to spend time imagining being with Jesus in those last days. We may not have walked with him then, but we can walk with him now.

Also, tomorrow night (Tuesday at 7:30) we'll be sharing a service with some of our partner churches at St. Ambrose (Culver and Empire). It's a lovely service of gathering darkness as we hear the story of Jesus' last days in a new way. I hope you can be there.

God bless,

Luke 19:28-48
28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

41As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” 45Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

Friday, March 22, 2013

stronger together

Hi friends,
Often we think about the church, especially a small church like ours, in terms of what we can't do. Fortunately, we aren't alone. We have several local partner churches in the North East Church Cluster (we'll worship together on Tuesday at 7:30 at St. Ambrose to start Holy Week). We also have the broader presbytery and especially Urban Presbyterians Together, so we don't have to do ministry alone. We are much stronger together, as the author of Ecclesiastes (traditionally, King Solomon) reminds us in today's reading.

God bless,

Ecclesiastes 4:7-12
7Again, I saw vanity under the sun: 8the case of solitary individuals, without sons or brothers; yet there is no end to all their toil, and their eyes are never satisfied with riches. “For whom am I toiling,” they ask, “and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business. 9Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Body of Christ

Good evening friends,
Today's reading is a familiar reflection on what it means to be the community of faith, the church. We are Christ's body. We're not just folks who gather for worship or who use the same hymnal, we are Christ's body together. Each one of our gifts are important and we need each other.

God bless,

1 Corinthians 12:12-27
12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be?

20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

community power

Good afternoon friends,
This week our theme is community. The world is scary sometimes and sometimes we don't know how the church can continue to be effective in a new time. The truth is that God is always with us and the church has always faced challenges. The way the church will be effective in the future is the same way we've been effective since the beginning. Not through fancy programs, but through prayer, faith, witness and community. Here in Rochester we're especially blessed to partner with the other urban Presbyterian churches to minister to our city. 

In this passage Peter and John have just been released from prison for preaching the gospel. The first thing they do is meet up with their faith community to share and pray. God worked then through powerful and committed communities of faith, and God still does.

God bless,

Acts 4:23-37
23After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, 25it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? 26The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’

27For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

32Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”). 37He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Monday, March 18, 2013

forgiveness and love

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is the second passage from worship yesterday and one of my favorite passages about forgiveness. God forgives us out of love. That forgiveness is an invitation to love God, love our neighbors and forgive others.

God bless,

Luke 7:36-50
36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 

39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” 41“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 

44Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Saturday, March 16, 2013

forgiven and forgiving

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading is one of my two favorite passages about forgiveness (the other one is tomorrow's reading, and both will be our worship texts for tomorrow). Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive another brother or sister in the church as many as seven times when they sin against him. The way he asks the question, he seems to think forgiving seven times is a stretch, and sometimes it is. Jesus pushes him further (what a surprise) and illustrates the point with a story about God's forgiveness for us. When we ask God's forgiveness, God is immediately willing to forgive. God also expects us to treat others the same way. Jesus warns us not to expect to be forgiven if we clutch our grudges against others to our chest. Challenging words, but also a beautiful invitation to lay down the burden of self-condemnation, because Jesus welcomes us home.

God bless,

Matthew 18:21-35
21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me,
how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. 

23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

politics and forgiveness

Good morning brothers and sisters,
It's interesting that our reading for today is about obeying the emperor, since March 15th was the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. The reading itself is challenging because it seems to be a total capitulation to worldly power as it is. Peter, Paul and other early Christian leaders didn't feel called to change the structures of power in the world because they believed the world as we know it was moving quickly to an end. Their guidance is wise in that there are things we can't change, and even the things that are wrong provide an opportunity to live and show our faith.

At the same time, we need to take Peter's language of obedience with a grain of salt. When Peter was ordered by religious leaders to stop preaching Christ, he refused to obey. When he wrote his letters the Roman Empire didn't consistently persecute Christians, but when they did outlaw Christianity, he certainly disobeyed that order as well. Living in some form of democracy as we do, our relationship to power is different too. We make the laws, which means we need to bring our faithful sense of justice and creating a better society to our political responsibilities.

Enough of that. The real reason I included this passage is the end, which focuses on forgiveness. We owe our lives to Jesus who forgives us at great cost. Now we are free to live our lives for the sake of righteousness, trusting in God's love and struggling to make that love real for everyone.

God bless,

1 Peter 2:13-25
13For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

18Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. 19For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.

21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 22“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

forgiveness and integrity

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
John's letters aren't as well known as Paul's letters, but they are wonderful little gems of our faith. In today's reading John makes three related points. First, faith is about what we do; we have to live our faith, not just talk about it. Second, when we admit our sin and shortcomings God forgives us. And finally, we all fall short, so if we claim we aren't sinners we aren't being honest. The freedom to admit our brokenness and trust Christ to heal us is one of the greatest blessings of our faith.

Blessings on your freedom and honesty today,

1 John 1:5-10
5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

living our faith

Good afternoon friends,
Today's reading reminds us that our faith isn't just something we believe, but something we're called to live. When someone treats us the wrong way, we should think first about how God has forgiven us and figure out how we can forgive other people. Forgiveness is hard, but it's a lot easier when we remember that we have been forgiven. Above all, Paul writes, love is the mark of a Christian. How's your week going in terms of living your faith?

God bless,

Colossians 3:12-17
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

seeking the lost

Good morning friends,
I hope the day is off to a good start. Today's story is a funny story about a short man who wanted to see Jesus but had to climb a tree to do it. At a deeper level it is about how things like wealth or career can get in the way of our relationship with God, but how God always tries to calls us back. As Jesus puts it, his ministry on earth was to seek and save the lost. That ministry of seeking out those who are separated is still the church's mission today. How can we do a better job opening ourselves to those who feel separated from God and from the church? If you feel separated, what can the church or I do to make you feel welcome?

God bless,

Luke 19:1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 

7All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

humility and religion

Good morning brothers and sisters,
This week we're talking about forgiveness, one of the most important parts of our Christian faith. In today's reading Jesus teaches that God values honest humility more than religious devotion with the wrong attitude. The point of the church is to help us grow in faith and witness to that faith together through welcome and service. Religious life isn't about impressing God; it's about living out our gratitude. This is one of my favorite short stories from Jesus about what really counts.

God bless,

Luke 18:9-14
9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 

13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Saturday, March 9, 2013

wealth and judgment

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
I hope you're doing well. When we think about money in the biblical perspective there are several passages that really challenge our culture's priority on wealth. There's nothing wrong with success. At the same time, at a certain basic level when we have too much and others don't have enough there's a strong obligation to do something. After all, everything we have comes from God, and we are called to share with others. When I read passages like this I feel challenged. The question is how to take that challenge and use it productively, rather than just feeling guilty.


Luke 16:19-31
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 

23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Good afternoon friends,
Today reading is a reminder that money is part of how we show our faithfulness to God. It is not God, nor is it the most important thing in life.

What do we do with our anxiety?

God bless,

Luke 16:10-18
10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” 

14The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. 15So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God. 16“The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped. 18“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

remembering our gifts

Good morning sisters and brothers,
This week we're focusing on money and our anxiety about having enough. Our passage today is part of Moses' farewell sermons as he prepares the Israelites for their new life without him in the promised land. He knows that having enough can be dangerous spiritually, because we often give ourselves the credit. He tells them to remember that that everything they have comes from God. That's always a good thing for us to remember. Even though we work hard for what we have, it comes from God, who gives us the strength and ability to work. We tend to worry about having enough, but God calls us to be grateful for what we have. That's a good place to start.

God bless,

Deuteronomy 8:12-18
12When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

Monday, March 4, 2013

become like children

Good morning friends,
Today's reading is a great picture of Jesus and children. There's threat and promise here for us.

God bless,

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 6“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

10“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

children and the kingdom

Good evening folks,
Today's reading is a reminder that Jesus is more ready to listen to children than his disciples. That also reminds us that Jesus is always willing to listen to us. And it challenges us to hear and pay attention to children with genuine respect. Sometimes our adult preoccupations keep us from seeing God's kingdom.

Blessings on your openness,

Matthew 19:13-15
13Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Friday, March 1, 2013

learning wisdom

Good evening friends,
Happy March to you all. This week's theme is parenting, and many of the Bible's Book of Proverbs (in fact many cultural proverbs in general) were written to instruct young people in the right way to live. This section from Proverbs talks specifically to a son about the dangers of getting in with the wrong crowd. In this case, wrong doesn't mean people who dress the wrong way or listen to the wrong music, but rather those who prey on the weak for profit. Blessings on your wise choices today,

Proverbs 1:7-19
7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
 8Hear, my child, your father’s instruction,
and do not reject your mother’s teaching;
9for they are a fair garland for your head,
and pendants for your neck.
10My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
11If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us wantonly ambush the innocent;
12like Sheol let us swallow them alive and whole,
like those who go down to the Pit.
13We shall find all kinds of costly things;
we shall fill our houses with booty.
14Throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”—
15my child, do not walk in their way, keep your foot from their paths;
16for their feet run to evil, and they hurry to shed blood.
17For in vain is the net baited while the bird is looking on;
18yet they lie in wait—to kill themselves!
and set an ambush—for their own lives!
19Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.